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  • Writer's pictureJayne Lisbeth

Past and Future Christmases

It was the day after Christmas, 2013. My family had departed the day before. The

day was quiet and Tim and I are lazy. We are exhausted after trying to keep up with two-year-old Sarah for the past three days. She ran circles around us gleefully, adeptly, chirping her beautiful words. I remembered Sarah's favorite game.

"Peeese? Daddy? Are you ready, Daddy? Are you ready?” Sarah sang into her father's ear, perched on his shoulder, coaxing him to run. Then, she would excitedly voice her command, “One-two-three BLAST OFF!” She screamed in joy as they raced through the house. Sarah’s laughter left a trail of joy behind them as they ran.

At bedtime, even at two, Sarah knew the value of time. Delaying the inevitable, but with great authority, she would advise: “two minutes, Mommy (or Daddy)...two minutes more?”

Her music is a a warm song, repeated in my sleep after her departure. The melody erupted from her beautiful rosebud lips, which could be pouty, stern or smiling. Her song is her barometer, her comfort level, advising us all of the moment. Sarah is a tiny bird singing words to a story only she knows.

After their visit the house was quiet. No chirping song. No voices mixing and laughing, mingling together in a symphony, celebrating the music of a happy home filled with my well-loved family.

I wander through the rooms, picking up random memorabilia from the stay. I discover the toy stethoscope, partly hidden under the couch. I recall Sarah placing it to our chests, saying, “bomdabom, bomdabom” the heartbeat of our lives.

The dollhouse sits forlornly on our parquet floor. I loaned this beloved and worn dollhouse to Sarah. It was a gift to my daughter in 1985. The dollhouse has journeyed through eight moves and across 3000 miles over twenty eight years from California to Tampa. Here it has landed, enjoyed by our newest family member. I bend over to pick up the little pieces and tenderly place them back in their fabric bag so they will be ready for the next visit.

As I pick up the doll house I notice some silver glitter on the floor. The memory of Tim, Caroline and Sarah doing an art project brings me another smile. A random thought from Caroline floats into my memory. “Art relaxes me. I need to do more of this.” I could see she loved the feel of the paint on the brush relaying color onto paper, with her mind letting go. I noticed the way the colors of Caroline’s imagination took over. She worked a painting in pointillism, intent and engaged in her project. I understood her love of art and need for relaxation entirely. I tucked that thought into my memory bank for future visits.

I almost trip over Baby lying haphazardly in the hallway. Baby is a doll which Tim’s mother loved in the last years of her mind-muddled life. The antique doll had been adopted by Sarah. She loved Baby and cared for her as any mother would. I laugh at the memory of Sarah cradling Baby, singing to her. Baby’s dress, underwear, socks and shoes are in a sweet little pile in the highchair, left there by Sarah.

I empty the dishwasher and am reminded of all the meals we shared. Making special favorites for my family is my most basic gift of love. I had thought of the menus for days, weeks before the visit. I always tell visiting family before they arrive, “Remember, it’s all about the food. I want to make all your favorites.”

Sarah provided me with the greatest compliment of my culinary history with her praise of my pasta. I had prepared my famous tomato-basil sauce accompanied by my special mozzarella-stuffed meatballs. They graced Sarah’s bowl of penne pasta. My latest lover of Italian epicurean delights looked up from her bowl of pasta after amazingly consuming half its contents. She gravely pronounced, “Tank oo Gamma, I like dis.” My heart knew no bounds! She then plunged back into her pasta, spearing a pretty noodle with her adult fork. The following day this chef was doubly rewarded when Sarah dropped her book in the midst of storytelling with Daddy and Grampa.

“Dinner, Sarah, pasta" was all Caroline had to say. Those words propelled Sarah to the dinner table, dropping everything, including Baby, book and attention. She required no coaxing other than that sacred familial word, ​pasta. Yes. It’s in the genes.

Parting is such sweet sorrow but also such perfect joy in the love of family and renewed relationships. This is only one love-fun-art-song-filled visit. There will be many more. Sarah is so much more than one small person. She is an important daisy in the chain of life.

The night of December 26 I slept soundly for the first time in weeks. The songs of Sarah were a lullaby to my dreams. As I drifted off to sleep I wondered about our next visit. Should I introduce my latest chef’s invention, a fennel infused sausage grilled with fresh tomatoes or stick to my mozzarella stuffed meatballs? The future is wide open.

“Tank oo gamma. I like dis.” Me, too, Sarah.

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