Thursday, December 24, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods

Today I took a little drive.

I was on my way to our new house, and instead of staying straight on the highway, I made a very familiar right turn.

A right turn that had been made hundreds of times in the past, but not for 10 years.

A right turn that would always be made on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in years past.

I stopped by my grandparents' old house.

There was about a foot of snow still left on the ground from last week's blizzard. And as soon as I made that turn, there was no going back.

Over that river, and through those woods.

The neighborhood had barely changed. There were a few tree-forts added, a couple of newer cars in driveways, but that was about it. The same last names appeared on mailboxes. The same fences lined the road. That old cow complete-with-udders mailbox was still there. Rusty, but there.

I finally made it down the long winding road to Grandma & Grandpop's old house. 7521. Same mailbox, just painted differently. I hesitated for a moment. The snow lining the drive was so welcoming. I decided to turn into the drive, to get a better view of the house. I drove about half-way up the drive and just sat and stared.

The boxwoods were still lining the driveway and path to the house. I was grateful, Grandpop worked hard to plant and maintain those. The porch looked the same, just different furniture and perhaps a new railing. It was beautiful. I could practically smell Christmas dinner cooking in Grandma's double oven. A turkey and a ham. I caught myself looking twice swearing that I saw a few of my cousins as children running across the front yard chasing each other. It was then when I felt the warm tears run down my cheeks.

I felt as though I had every right to drive up the rest of that driveway. Why shouldn't I? These were my memories. My grandparents owned this house first. It was my cousins that grew up here. We spent every Christmas here for nearly 20 years. This wasn't someone else's house now. I should just be able to walk right up to the door, ring that familiar doorbell, and give Grandma that apple pie I'm holding. I should be able to go inside and place my gifts underneath of that Christmas tree. I should be able to sit at that childrens' table that is set up in the kitchen.

But I couldn't. It may be the same house, but it is no longer the same home.

Grandma, Grandpop, Uncle Mark...they all lived in that house. And they have all passed on to eternal life. And for some unknown reason that cannot be explained in this lifetime, those days had to end. But I will forever hold their beautiful, sacred memories. The memories of the moments that happened within property boundaries of this house.

And for now, I can drive and visit this sacred spot whenever I desire.

I liked the house better when it was green.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Love Remembers

A dear friend of mine recently asked me:

"When did you first know that you were in love with Jim?"

The question caught me off guard and made me stop and think. When did I first know that it was love? It seemed like love from the very beginning. I took it, ran with it, and never looked back. The question would call for me to retrace my steps.

We met in early September, 2005. We started dating in early November that same year. It was somewhere in between, as I remember, when I first knew that not only did I love him, but he was going to be my husband.

Our dating life took a traditional path early on that continues into our marriage today. We never spent alone time together, we watched movies with friends and sat on opposite sides of the room, and we went out on dates with groups. I was happy at the time (and looking back) that that's the way it was. It gave me a chance to see how he interacted with others. It gave him the opportunity to pursue me.

It was one of these date nights when I realized that I was in love with him. It was rugby date night. Each member of the team asked a girl to escort him to a night of fun in Pittsburgh. We went to an Italian restaurtant in downtown Pitt, and then went ice-skating. It was at dinner that night when my rush of emotions took me completely off guard. There we were, a group of about 60 of us, about to dive into the delicious pastas and mouth-watering chicken that had just been served. At this moment, Jim stood up at the table we were at, and said "Gentlemen, it's time to pray."

I can barely even remember what words he spoke as he asked the Lord for His blessings. I was just sitting there, head bowed and hands folded, trying to comprehend what had just happened. Here I am, in the midst of wonderful, Christian people, with a man who is pursuing little unworthy me, and he just asked everyone to pray. My heart took over what my mind couldn't figure out, and became in-charge from that moment on.

Ever since then, I have often been subtly reminded of that moment through the actions of my now-husband. The corned-beef feast he made for my birthday that same year. The reminders to say my rosary. The insistence that we give to the church each week, even when it's hard. The willingness to drive me 9 hours to Lake George whenever I feel "home-sick". Holding my music for me when I play the violin at special events. Turning our bedroom into a special Christmas-wonderland last year when I was sick. The list goes on and on. It amazes me what one prayer spoken in Pittsburgh several years ago, has foretold.

Merry Christmas, my love. Thank you for that prayer 4 years ago, and thank you for the gift of you.

**Let it be noted that at least 3 other couples who got together that rugby date night have since married, as well. Thank you for that prayer, Jim.