Easters past

Easter has become much like Christmas, a widely celebrated event marked with the gathering of family and friends, sumptuous meals, and of course, the much anticipated appearance of the Easter bunny. For most it’s also signaled the arrival of spring and an end to the long dreary days of winter.

I remember as a child waking up Easter Sunday to find a small basket on my bedside table and in it would be a few small chocolates, sometimes a fruit scented lip balm, nothing big of course, Easter is not a gift giving kind of holiday. My mother would roast a turkey and my grandparents would come bearing sweets. It was always the same, always fun, and it made me smile.

When my children were young I too would prepare each a basket of goodies and inspired by the whole idea of an egg hunt, I would make them work for their basket. I’d hide clues all over the house (and sometimes outside) that would have them searching for a good hour (this bought my husband and I another hour of much needed sleep – these kids were up at the crack of dawn!) Their last clue would inevitably lead them to a crossword puzzle I created for each, personalized to their specific interests. My sons focused on hockey, one daughters on soccer, and the other, who was a reader, on books. On each crossword there were select boxes of a different colour. The letters within these boxes then needed to be unscrambled to spell the location of their basket. It took us weeks to get this organized and a good hour for us to hide all the clues the night before but we so enjoyed the anticipation, and it made us smile.

That was many years ago. My children are all grown and gone and there’ve been no Easter hunts for some time. Recently I was going through some old boxes and came across a set of clues from an Easter past. I can’t imagine why I kept it but finding it brought back so many wonderful memories. If I closed my eyes I could hear the squeals of laughter and the sound of little feet running room to room, and I had to smile. Those were magical times and they passed too quickly.

The arrival of my grandchildren brings the hope of rekindling these old traditions, or maybe starting new ones. After a period of ‘no children’ over the holidays I now find myself longing for the childish delight that warms the Easter celebration. My granddaughters are still too young to manage an Easter hunt but they happily enjoy their little basket of treats and it’s only a matter of time before they grow into a more challenging tradition. Time to fashion new memories, I tell myself….and I smile.

Happy Easter

The Addled Mind

When I was growing up my parents were good friends with a family that had two daughters. Both were several years older than my sister and I so we had little in common from a ‘play’ perspective, at least as far as the elder sister was concerned. The younger of the two, Ruta, was older than me in years but because she had Downs Syndrome her mind was very much in tune to mine. In my own childish little world I saw nothing wrong with this child/woman. She wanted to play dolls with me, she thought like I did, and she was fun. That’s all an innocent kid wants.

As I aged I obviously came to see the situation more clearly and eventually when we’d visit the play would stop, not by Ruta’s choice. I simply outgrew ‘play’. Ruta however, did not, and never would. When we arrived she’d greet us at the door with the same childish enthusiasm, eager to bring me to her room full of toys but I no longer had interest in playing with dolls. I was kind and patient; she was a sweet gentle soul, but I somehow didn’t fit in to her world anymore.

The visits eventually stopped; I married and moved on in life and I never saw Ruta again. I heard recently that she passed away in her early fifties some years ago.  After her mother passed, her older sister took her in and cared for her lovingly. She’d had a good life. Maybe even better than I could’ve imagined.

Ruta’s condition reminded me of others in my life whose minds were somewhat addled, not by the same illness, but the end result was the same. I’ve written at length about my own mothers’ battle with Dementia. Her brain has been so ravaged by the disease, reducing her to a simple minded and fragile being. She is not unlike the child Ruta was all of her life. The only difference is that I remember my mother when she was lucid and of sound adult mind. I suppose that’s what makes dealing with her illness so difficult – it has changed her so much, but only we are aware of that. That’s the beauty of her addled mind – she is completely unaware of all she has lost. She too, plays with dolls, giggles like a toddler with her friends, and gazes with childlike wonder at a bird outside her window. As painful as it is too see, you have to acknowledge that she is not suffering at all. For that matter neither did Ruta. My mother lived a full and accomplished life. That her later years have to be spent in a childs fantasy world is a problem for me, not her. She could be in pain, but she’s not. In fact, physically she’s in excellent health.

I’ve little knowledge of Downs Syndrome and I know it is only one of many brain related illnesses but in my experience it is not debilitating, at least not like tumors or neurological disorders. The children born with Downs can go on to live relatively normal lives within their scope of abilities, and they can live functioning lives. They have ‘jobs’, belong to groups and communities, and they can be happy with their lives. There is a blissful innocence in their world that, on one hand, makes you grateful for their addled state, and on the other almost makes you envious. They are happy because they don’t know anger, or violence, or poverty, or corruption, or stress, or worry.

I spent many years feeling sorry for those who suffer some form of brain deficiency because I didn’t see things from their perspective. Maybe an addled state of mind isn’t so horrible – they certainly don’t seem to think so. They’re happy in their own little world. They appreciate everything and everyone. They don’t judge, they simply accept, and they love unconditionally. Maybe there’s a message here for the rest of us. Life in whatever form it comes to us is precious and any perceived limitations can be overcome with a change of perspective.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

I love stuff!

Is that a crime?  Is that a female thing? I love to shop (it just feels good!) and I always manage to find something new to bring home, whether I need it or not. I wasn’t consciously aware of this habit until the last few years, as I got older, when I felt the need to minimize on the clutter (and yes, I do see the irony here)

If I see a nice throw pillow that inspires me I’m tempted to buy it, then redecorate a room to match it. Now that’s not a bad thing to do every decade or so because every house needs a refresh periodically. My problem is that I could do it every season (I think I need a hobby that doesn’t involve shopping)

Since retiring I have grudgingly started to filter through my clothes to eliminate what is ‘business attire’ because I don’t need it anymore. The problem for me is I have a hard time letting go of my ‘stuff’. I really like it, and the fact that it is no longer useful to me is irrelevant. I like it and I want it, and this wouldn’t be a problem if I had unlimited space in which to store it, but I don’t.  I already forced my husband out of our walk in closet and had another storage closet built in my basement for ‘off season’ clothing, mine. And when my children moved out, I slowly started seeping into their rooms with my stuff until finally I had to buy more hangers because I had none left in the house (is that a bad thing?)

And it doesn’t stop with clothes. I also collect shoes and handbags because I can never have enough. (walking into a shoe store is like returning to my mother ship) I love them, all of them – they are my ‘thing’ and while I will eventually force myself to start to relinquish clothing and household items, I will never give up my shoes and purses. I just can’t.

I have countless placemats, napkins, table cloths and candle holders because I love to set a nice table and merchants keep producing new and interesting things I can’t resist. When I run out of room to store them all I find a dresser or closet (not mine of course) to empty out to accommodate my ‘stuff’.

When my vacuum needed more bags I bought another vacuum cleaner that didn’t need bags citing we’d never need to buy bags again. (practical, yes?) Then I realized, this bagless vacuum is upright and doesn’t easily do stairs so I still needed my old vacuum after all….oh, and some new bags…..until…..I found a handheld portable vacuum perfect for stairs AND it can do the car, so I bought it. (Surely three vacuums is enough?)  It turns out the portable vacuum runs on a charge that doesn’t last long enough to get the stairs done. (buyer beware) It’s in a closet somewhere.

I have countless throws and ornamental pillows stored in my basement closet because over the years I’ve redecorated and they no longer match but they’re too good to throw out. I have rice makers and ricers, blenders, mulchers, juicers, two mix masters, and a variety of food processors but I still cook rice in a pot, mash potatoes by hand, and dice my vegetables with a knife. You’d think then I could part with my gadgets, but no. I rearrange them every so often, test to make sure they work, and make countless resolutions to put them to good use. Then I put them back on the shelf and ignore them for another season.

I realize all these things could be of use to someone and would be better served elsewhere, yet I can’t bring myself to let go. Everything I have was acquired for a reason, and it wasn’t just ‘want’. The shoes I wore at my sons’ wedding. I’ll likely never wear them again, but how can I give them away? (isn’t there a museum they should be in?) I guess as long as we deem something to be useful or sentimental we are reluctant to release it, until we’re forced to because we have placed a value on it that renders it priceless.

I know that one of these days we are going to move from this old house and that will prompt a major purging (one I’m not looking forward to!) Or, I could just stay here until I die and let my kids deal with it? (this brings about visions of a trail of dumpsters filled with my treasures parading down the street) Somehow I don’t think they’ll be as attached as I, to my ‘stuff’.

Now as I scan my overflowing cupboards and closets I feel overwhelmed at the task before me. Where do I begin, and how do I steel myself to do the unthinkable? I need a plan, I determine. I need to think this through, strategically,,,,, and nothing clears my head like a little retail therapy…so I call my friends (rally the troops) and arrange a shopping day because I need to buy some hangers, or pillows, or something……

cluttered room