They Clean up Nice

For those of you that own my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: a Memoir, youbirdanddragon_frontcover_33 know my husband, Sy and I raised five teen and preteen girls in a blended family. We had been together for several years and had just moved into our new house on Lakeview after spending the summer in the back yard—ah, but I give away a bit of the story. The Lakeview house had a Cape Cod facade but inside the front of the house, it consisted of an open plan dining room and living room with a wood paneled cathedral ceiling rising above both rooms. At the second floor level there was a balcony running along the back of the house allowing access to the girls’ bedrooms. This particular year we decided, or maybe it was me, no it was me and the girls, that we needed a really big tree because we now had a cathedral ceiling that would accommodate a BIG Christmas tree. As you have read, we as a family usually went searching for and would cut down the perfect tree. Then Sy got the job of trying to get it into the house. He did caution us, but women—you know how they listen. When the tree was finally upright it filled the bay window and blocked half of the seating area on the couch. We had half a living room that Christmas.

But the challenge now became how to get the star on the top of the tree. Teen girls in their rag-tag, grubby, torn jeans and mustard smeared sweat shirts raced up to the balcony and I don’t remember which dare-devil it was but one of them was about to try and reach out from the balcony to put the star on the tree while another sister held her legs. I can’t remember if they achieved their goal or if our parental screams from the living room floor brought them back onto the balcony. I think it turned out that Sy went and got the extra tall ladder from the garage to put the star at the top of the tree. What I do remember is the silliness, the laughter, the scare to both parents and the joy we all had in that over large Christmas tree.

Holding that scene in my head, I now jump ahead a few years to the weddings and see the girls cleaned up and sparkling for a sister’s wedding. Beautiful women—all of them even May (but she is not in these pictures because I have so few pictures of her)–and I am filled with wonder, love, and amazement at what lovely women they have become.

This season of Christmas brings with it the underlying question for many children in a family—“Do you love me?” Some families try to answer that question with counting presents and trying to make them all the same in price or size or value, which brings me to my central thought. I’ve often been in a situation where someone asked the mother of a blended family, “How do you love all of these children?” And I hear her respond, as I cringe, “Oh, I love them all the same!”

To me the “Oh,” on the front of the sentence gives her away. One can’t possibly love them all the same. They are all different from one another! They come with different gifts, talents, emotions, agendas, and personalities which they share with you if you will foster the exchange. When you are really honest with yourself you realize that some days you certainly do love one more than another and on another day the feelings reverse themselves. Each child gives to us different gifts feeding different needs in us if we will but be open to receiving. And I feel the love in our family as ever changing and ever growing stronger. Cora, the sister to the far right in the pictures below asked me if I loved her when I had only known her for a few months. You’ll have to read The Bird and the Dragon to find out what I told her. But what I can tell her now, and all of her sisters, is that I am so proud to be their mother and they each one–natural born daughters, step-daughters, and adopted daughter–in their own unique way have all of my love this day and always.

Christmas isn’t about present size and big Christmas trees, it is about learning to truly love and communicate who we are with one another—and sometimes that means stopping to listen and comment and truly share. Wishing you an honest and happy holiday season!!

Elizabeth, Jessie and Felicia before Felicia's First Wedding
Elizabeth, JessieMay, Felicia and 
Annie and Cora at Felicia's first Wedding
Annie and Cora at Felicia’s First Wedding
















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