Archive of ‘Musings’ category

The Christmas Hamster


It was such a simple request. A simple gift. It was the gift that saved Christmas….

My son Ryan wanted a hamster. The idea had made me cringe. I imagined the creepy-crawly mice that my childhood cat, Tracy, smuggled into our house when I was young … the captured victims that he would delight in pawing up to the highest point on the slanted dining room table leg and watch slide down. Over and over. Until the body lay limp from fright, exhaustion, or lack of gentle handling.

But Ryan wanted a hamster. And when your sweet 8-year-old gives you that dreamy-blue-eyed and long-lashed-mommy-can-I-please-have-a-hamster look that reminds you of the day he was born, what can you do?

We had tickets to see “The Nutcracker” in Boston on Christmas Eve. Ryan, Ben, Emma and I picked up Grampy. My husband was away and would be home late Christmas Day. Creating the magic of Christmas for our children was mine alone.

Anticipation was also weighted with exhaustion. This particular Christmas I had knitted an it-took-me-a-year-but-I-did-it-XL Irish-knit cardigan for my father, a green-and-white-reindeer sweater for my niece Sarah, my husband, Jim’s Norwegian sweater and wrapped the various gifts for my extended family.

Prior to meeting my sister and her family at the theatre, I called my neighbors. Ever the c’mon-over-for-dinner-kind of neighbors, Raymond said, “Of course I’ll pick up Ryan’s hamster!”

As I drove back to the suburbs from Boston, the chills began. I fought the body aches while putting Ryan, 6-year-old Ben, and 4-year-old Emma to bed after reading one of their favorites, “The Texas Night Before Christmas”. Then I collapsed on the couch downstairs in the living room and thought about the presents hidden in the basement. Many still unwrapped. Separated by child into sacks. I couldn’t imagine how I would find the strength to go down to the basement and retrieve the gifts. And wrap them, too. Maybe a bow would suffice for Emma’s used skis we had gotten at Sportsworks..

I heard a quiet knock. Dragging myself to the kitchen door, I opened it to find Raymond toting Ryan’s caged snowball-white hamster looking questioningly with pink beady eyes. I remember mumbling my sincere appreciation and something about feeling feverish, with presents yet to wrap.   Thoughts ran through my mind…who do you call on Christmas Eve…everyone I knew including my sisters were busy with their own families….

I must have looked especially pallid and pasty-white because not long after that, I awoke to see Lisa standing in front of me with her mother. “You need to go to bed”, Lisa had said so kindly. ‘Go upstairs and take a warm bath. We will take care of everything.’

Tears began to stream down my expressionless face, and still do even now as I recall the Christmas I realized there is a Santa and the spirit of Christmas is real. I stared in disbelief. ‘There really is a Santa,’ was all I remember saying to Lisa and her mother before I climbed the stairs.

The next morning, I shared in my children’s experience of Christmas magic and ‘Santa’s visit’, silently nodding next door with so much love and thanks in my heart.

Which didn’t end there. Still unwell, at lunchtime, dinner arrived.

Two weeks later, my sweet Ryan turned nine. He said, ‘Mommy, for my birthday will you hold Snowball?’ What could I say? From that night on, I never went to bed before cradling sweet-Christmas-saving Snowball in my cupped hands and whispering good night.


Happy Birthday Poems…When did it start?

I don’t remember how old my children were when I wrote the first ”birthday poem”. I do remember that they were young enough that they danced excitedly around me as a birthday approached and asked, ”Mommy, are you going to write the birthday letter?”

The “letter” was the birthday poem that I wrote, sometimes as a weary, blurry-eyed mom at about midnight, using every last second to compose a poem recalling the birthday child”s year, and hang it from dangling ribbon fastened to the ceiling above the birthday child”s bed.

Just this morning, my oldest son, Ryan, asked me to find and email to him a photo of him and his brother, Ben, whose birthday is today.

So I ventured up to the attic and pulled out Ben’s blue accordian file folder and began the melancholy path down the proverbial memory lane. I say that because now that my children are in college (and one a graduate), I”m still getting used to my empty house.

BenMothersDayPoem325-copy-761x1024I found a couple of photos for Ryan — and I found a couple of ”gifts” as well.

It seems our stories and actions do get noticed and heard by young eyes and ears.

I found the poem Ben wrote to me Mother’s Day 2005.

And, tearily, I found the essay he wrote the same year about my deceased brother Paul, entitled “My Hero”.

Both of these, penned by Ben nine years ago, I share here, as well as his newest poem/collage (the collage first) — which had to be emailed to my study-abroad-son in Vietnam.

Happy 21st Birthday, Ben! You make my heart smile.

You’re like a like a lion and like a lamb

My son my child you have become a man 

Heart of passion, heart of gold

Playful spirit, strong and bold 

Adventures call and you respond —

Pack your bag and take challenges on 

Saigon streets I walked with you

Your confident spirit shining through 

We look with awe at what you’ve done —

Another man, another student would turn and run! 

You’ve made us so proud and continue each day

So grateful we feel and for your safety we pray 

On this your birthday — twenty-one!

Be joyful, be proud — you are one of ONE! 

We love you so much our hearts do swell

With so much pride I think you can tell!

My Ben, be safe in all that you do

Know that God is always watching over you

I count the days til December twenty

–On that day celebration will be plenty!

When you, our second son returns to us

–Our Christmas gift — we’ll be so joyous! 

So spread your wings, this adventure devour–

Enjoy each second, each minute, each hour!


Scituate Memories

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Painted wooden rockers

Soldiered on the wrap-around porch

Glider round the corner,

Relief found from the summer scorch!

Wide-leafed, bold-striped hostas

Climbing purple wisps

Summer breezes set them dancing

Dandelions blown from curled up lips

Passing cars in colored hues

A rainy day summer game

One against each other’s color

In the swishing sound of rain

Grammy dining at the table

Predictable, it came to be

“Don’t slam the screen door”

She’d say between Welch’s and her tea

Barefoot and sundresses

Climbing high in the apple tree

Shinnying up the grape arbor

In the garage ‘Henrietta’ we’d see

Harbor walking, swimming, splashing

Painted beach-found rocks

Rainbow colors, summer wonders

Bold-colored stripes and dotted dots

Labor Day, it came too soon

The parade at the Lighthouse, all

Costumes, hair like Peanuts’ kids

Charlie Brown was brother Paul

A thousand summer evenings

and a thousand summer morns

Never will the memories fade

Of days so long ago gone.