December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas! Prickly Pear & Fruit!

"We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We with you a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year!"

Christmas Day swiftly approaches but, because I was in Arizona for six weeks this fall, I did not make a Christmas card--and so extend instead to everyone on my list this snapshot of my five little elves and me, taken last Friday at my daughter's house. Merry Christmas!

The bad-so-sad news of 2009 was that my much loved Jeep died en route to Phoenix last October. I buried her under a rainbow in San Jose, CA, at a car cemetery called Pick and Pull. What a ignoble death to something so loyal and brave as was my jeep, 220,000 miles old. With the grand total of $241, which the junkyard, I mean cemetery! gave me, I rented another car and limped into Phoenix, distressed over not just the loss of my wonderful car but the financial difficulty this had put me in, now eighteen months unemployed. Blake, my youngest son, had this to say over the phone however: "Mum, you enjoyed sixteen years of a long and loving, monogamous relationship with that car. You loved that car. You will never love another car quite like that one. But, Mum, it's time now for you to start sleeping around." Perspective restored, two friends from high school helped me go car shopping. I now own a 2005 Toyota Scion which, after a few hurdles, runs like a charm.

The good news of 2009 is that my son and daughter-in-law have received word that we now have a Chinese baby to add to my grandchildren list. "Alice" was abandoned January 2 a year ago. The only information we have on her is from last August, and is cause for concern. She's already suffered two broken thighs and is suspected to have brittle bone disease. In my expression of worry over what this will cost emotionally as well as financially, my son said, "We could not hear of her and not go get her." My other son said, "Think of what her life would be like if left in China."

I did think. A few years ago Blake was in China teaching. He knows what her life would be like. I do too because Blake flew me over for ten days. I saw the plethora of beggars in the streets, suffering all manner of deformities and disease. Blake never passed a single one without dropping to his knee and rolling wadded-up yen into the beggars' cups. He touched them, spoke with them, let them know he saw them, that he cared. Would Alice, without Phil and Katie in her life, grow up with nothing to look forward to but broken bones and perhaps the streets?

And so Phil and Katie are waiting to go get her, and I suspect that our little Alice will bring the same wonder and joy to my family as did my little sister fifty years ago, born with a severe heart defect. For you cannot live with an ill child without seeing a bit of God. I once heard a minister say God does not intervene in the affairs of the world. I agree that at times he seems to utterly vacate, to leave us entirely to ourselves (which isn't necessarily a bad thing!) But my sister, born to die, undeniably brought the divine into our home. Sometimes life is not so much how much we can get out of it but how much we can put into it.

The highlight of my year was the momentous--but wonderful--journey to Arizona this fall, forty years after first moving there as a seventeen-year-old kid. I drove down through California and stopped both coming and going to see friends at the ranch where I lived as a ten-year-old and in San Jose where I lived as a young mother. These are friends who are the same wonderful people they were "way back when" and it did me good to bask in their love and our memories of each other. In Phoenix itself I was surrounded by numerous friends--from the church I once attended, from high school, from college, from when I worked at First National Bank of Arizona. How is it, I kept wondering, that friendship can survive long years apart? I don't know. But I am grateful.

I sign off with a picture or two taken of my Thanksgiving morning. My friend Wayne (BFF from high school) planned it all. His sister Carol and I arrived at his house at the same time, breathless and happy, nine o'clock sharp. I'm gluten intolerant and all fall Wayne had been introducing me to various grains indigenous to the Southwest Natives that are gluten free; he surprised me Thanksgiving morning by preparing breakfast appetizers of tepary beans and two new grains. Carol and I lapped them up and I thought, isn't it wonderful to have such two fine friends?

Anyway, we headed out for our hike up South Mountain to see more petroglyphs (I have fallen in love with the ancient symbols) and to eat a breakfast of prickly pear cactus fruit. I've never enjoyed a better Thanksgiving. Do you see Wayne teaching us how to get past the prickles to the fruit? Now isn't that a metaphor for life?

It's good to have Thanksgiving right before Christmas, instilling a sense of gratitude for family and friends. There is no better gift, I think, under any tree. In that spirit, then, I wish all my family and friends everywhere a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  1. Dear Brenda,
    Thank-you for sharing your experiences, both good and bad, I am so sorry about your Jeep, cool color and all. But, San Jose is not such a bad area for a final resting placing. Welcome back to the Pacific Northwest and I trust that Arizone was fertile ground for your writing. Have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I am leaving for a week in Zion the an open ended photographic oddysey in Utah, Arizona, etc.until I tire of blue skies.

  2. Jerry4:28 PM

    Loved your card - and the great post. Fun to see the pix too. Have a merry...

  3. Rachel4:32 PM

    Merry Christmas to you too Brenda, you have beautiful grandchildren and you look too young to be their grandmother.

    I am looking forward to coming home soon, but not to the weather. Thinking Chris and I should buy something down here while prices are low. I'm getting tired of the gray skies.

  4. La Donna7:14 PM

    Merry Christmas my friend.

  5. Merry Christmas - see you tomorrow!


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