Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Misty-eyed Christmas Pops

Friday night we attended the Ann Arbor Symphony’s Christmas Pops at Hill Auditorium where I’ve enjoyed many AA Symphony concerts with my aunt. Friday my husband sat on one side of me but there was an empty seat on the other side.

I was lucky enough to hear Sleighride and Christmas Festival again, pieces I play every year with my own community band. I have to say I think CCB’s whip instrument was more effective than the one used Friday night, but having strings really makes those pieces extra wonderful.

At one point Silent Night was filling the auditorium, voices and instruments singing softly, the sound rising up to hover near the ceiling and I thought about my aunt and how she would have loved this concert. I wished she could be there, I could imagine her, dressed in holiday red, grinning back at me as we silently acknowledged just how good it all was.

I got sort of misty-eyed.

Then I noticed some movement in the lights up near the stage. One of the big round lights near the ceiling was flickering faintly. And, as I watched, it blinked. Twice.

And I grinned.

Because I knew right then and there that my aunt had figured out a new way to grin back at me. Merry Christmas, Aunt Becky, I think you had the best seat in the house.


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It’s not goodbye

I’ve been thinking about the best way to share this, some eloquent words that capture the loss our family experienced this week. But there is no easy way.

My last post, Wordless Wednesday is an image I captured in May when my aunt and I were walking through Hudson Mills Park. She was looking for dogwood and trillium. I was trying to capture as much of the experience as she’d let me.

Which means most of my images were taken from behind.

We walked slower this spring than we had the year before, took the shorter trails, gauged whether a hill was too steep or manageable. We stopped to rest on convenient benches more often. There was, after all, no hurry. In fact there was more savoring the moments because we both knew it was our last spring together.

She’d been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and she had chosen not to take any treatment. They told her she’d have a good summer, and, right on schedule, she did.

My sister and brother came up, then my sister came up two more times. We visited her as often as we could. We attended her last symphony, brought her simple suppers rather than expecting the elaborate meals she has made for us our entire lifetimes. We swam with her at her community pool, walked in her beloved Mathi gardens and the University of Michigan Arboretum.

On our last visit, she sat in a wheelchair, pulling sheets of music for my sister and me to play, music she had written when her children were small. She sang along. We played music until she seemed tired, and then we talked just a bit. “Say Hi to Dad,” my sister said, “He’ll surely be waiting for you.”

It was a gift, she said, that she had these past months to spend with her children, with us, with her friends. And so that she could plan and arrange to make things as easy as possible for her family to carry on without her.

We all cried a bit, and then had a long, last hug.

This past Monday morning she left us to say hi to her brother, my dad, and to her husband, her mother, my mother, and so many other family members who had gone on ahead. And on Saturday we all said “see you later” at the most beautiful funeral I’ve ever attended.

She had, of course, planned it all, including her own words to all of us, the hymns to be sung, the prelude and postlude played by the incredible pianist, and the bagpipes played by my sister.

The time she spent with us was our gift as well. She was a gift to all of us, her family, her friends, musicians in her beloved symphony, her neighbors, the students she taught, the community band in which she played.

I can’t be sad, though I will miss her so much; she had a wonderful and joyous homecoming on Monday morning. And, as someone said at the funeral, she’s probably up there organizing heaven right now.

Thanks for all the good times, good meals, good conversation and good company, Aunt Becky. I’ll see you on down the road.


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Spicy aha moment

I needed to take an “interesting” cookie to a dinner. Something that would go with the orange ice the hostess was serving for desert.

Hmmmmmm.

In 2009 I worked in a library and a new cookbook arrived called “Cookies to Die For.” I loved looking at the beautiful images of perfect cookies, so I bought a copy for myself.

I’ve never actually baked anything from the book. But I like to look at the pictures and dream, so it’s never been donated to our local library book sale. This week I decided to find something interesting, yet doable, in the book to take with me to dinner. And I found it.

Gingerbread streusel thins.

This perfect cookie was pictured near the front of the book, a small dollop of fresh whipped cream adorning the thin, crispy square of goodness. A tasty work of art.

I was sure I could replicate it.

But it called for molasses and I’d been out for awhile. So had my local Kroger, the last few times I’d ordered my groceries for curbside pickup. Maybe I should go in and see for myself, you know how these young shoppers are, they might not even know what molasses is.

Nope. No molasses on the shelf at Kroger.

So I drove to another store and darned if they didn’t have a whole lot of it. Confusing, but not so much that I wanted to stand there and think about it. Time was short. But, wait. When was the last time I baked anything with powdered ginger. Or allspice? Better pick some up while I was at the store.

When I got home I checked the expiration date on the small tin of ginger. Hmmmm… November of 2017. Not too bad. After all, what’s 4 years among friends’ baked goods? And the allspice? December, so I’m good, right? What? What year you wonder? Well….December of 2001.

I tossed them both.

And how did the cookies turn out? Well, note there are no beautiful images of my cookie. No artfully lit square of spicy goodness. No dollops to be found.

No…my cookies turned out spongy. You might say soggy. You could probably scrape them out of the pan and into a bowl over which you could spoon the more elegant orange ice.

I took a few of them to dinner anyway, because I believe homemade cookies should always reside in the no judgement zone. Plus they tasted amazing, likely because of those fresh spices.

OK, I’ll show you my result. Not crispy. But certainly thin.

But…I felt I needed to hide the evidence of my soggy failure.

So I ate the rest.

Yum.


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Thankful

One of my brothers flew into town last Wednesday, and on this last night of our Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for all the family time I’ve had these past five days.

Thanksgiving yummy food and big smiles.

My husband, brother and I spent Thursday with my dad’s sister, my aunt, talking about people from generations before, and eating traditional Thanksgiving fare.

The rest of the weekend we hung out around home, watching the nature in my backyard…

Hey! Are you guys going to share any holiday treats with me?

…and today I took him out to Kensington to experience the bird in the hand phenomenon.

Artsy-fartsy bird in the hand image.

All of it was so much fun.

I’ve got my eye on a treat!

He goes home tomorrow, his own dog is anxiously waiting for him, but Katie sure loved having another admirer in the house. We played together in the new snow a couple of times, and she was all smiles.

Uncle Paul took this picture of me. He didn’t know about my treat policy, but I let him off with a warning.

I’m not looking forward to telling her that her new loyal subject won’t be around to wait on her after tomorrow.

I think I’m late leaving for a warmer climate. Maybe I’ll hitch a ride with that Paul guy.

She and I are both going to miss him.

See ya later, Uncle Paul! Come back any time!