The air above the beach was cold and still Saturday afternoon when I drove over with a collection of family members for a picnic and a stroll. Our shadows were long, because in the morning I’d kept everyone busy doing repairs and assembly and various other jobs for me. It’s not often one has two handy and willing sons-in-law on the property at once, not to mention their wives whose presence holds me up in every practical way.
But get away we did, and the first order of business on arrival at the coast was to eat our late lunch of sandwiches and Jelly Bellies, on this promontory along the Kortum Trail in Sonoma County.
About seven bodies were squeezed on to a little picnic cloth, so I sat nearby on something passing for a tussock and examined the tiny vegetation around me, plants that get walked on frequently, and have to make do with fog for precipitation these days. Their roots must be even sturdier than their micro leaves.
Thin blue sky, the open and fresh air, wide sweeps of dry grasses and bushes leading up to the hills and down to creek beds….the children scrambling on rocks and cliffs, a centipede in the path, the gorgeous ocean….We walked along the bluffs trail for a while, then returned the same way, and even little Ivy didn’t need to be carried, though she often liked to walk along with me and hold my hand. In her aqua fleece (as at top) she makes a bright spot against the grey-brown landscape in many of my pictures.
Before we got back to our cars, the sun had set.
I used my camera liberally all day, then came home to discover that my lens had a smudge on it, smack dab in the middle where I focused most of my shots. I’ve done a bit of cropping, but that doesn’t always work, so I am sharing some of the smudged pictures anyway. If you see something fuzzy just pretend it is an unseasonable wisp of fog.
Yes, we had gathered for Thanksgiving and this was the overflow. It was the happiest of long weekends, stretching out for me from Wednesday through Sunday, with Kate and Tom coming from D.C. first, and most of the other children and their families gathering for at least the day at Pearl’s new place in Davis. She hosted 22 people for a fine dinner. Kit was with us, and two other extra guests on top of the kinfolk.
Her tables were beautiful, with fresh lemons and limes from the garden, and the lemon tree shining through the window, too.
Before we sat down to dinner Soldier and I stood and read alternate stanzas for the group, selected from the Orthodox hymn of thanksgiving, “Glory to God for All Things.” It made me very happy to read verses like the following with my friends and family who are all of this mind and heart:
I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee, who call upon Thy name.
Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavour and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on Thine earth. It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.
Another highlight of the holiday was gathering in the living room after dinner to talk about the dear person who was missing this year, and share stories about him, stories from his sister, his children and their spouses, and from me. This was my idea, because I knew that many of us would be acutely aware of his absence, and it seemed only right and helpful to bring that part of us into the open — I think I’m not the only one who is comforted by hearing other people talk about my husband.
One of my stories was about the apple pies I had baked this Thanksgiving. After we married, it was probably in the 70’s that I made my first pies, for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Early on my husband had told me about how his grandmother, just before she put her fruit pies in the oven, would sprinkle sugar on the tops. So I did it as well, always, and he liked that I kept the tradition.
Last Wednesday I had been running all day, cooking and greeting guests and making gardening decisions. The pies were the last thing to get done, and by the time I was assembling them everyone else in the household had gone up to bed. When I came to that last step, it crossed my mind that the sugary finish didn’t matter now, he wouldn’t be eating the pies. Maybe I shouldn’t bother.
But it only took a split second for me to know that I did want to bother, for his memory and for him. “This is for you, Mr. Glad,” I said, as I brushed on some water, and then scattered sugar from a spoon. When we bit into them the next afternoon we found them to be really good pies. They were a bit lopsided with drooping crusts, but that is also traditional with me.
From Wednesday to Sunday I got help with a slew of household tasks — or more precisely, my family completed these tasks without any help from me! Some of the work that was done:
- Watering new plants.
- Assembling tricycle.
- Assembling quilt rack.
- Assembling a floor lamp.
- Hanging mini LED light strings.
- Rearranging bedroom wall decor.
- Troubleshooting my laptop, desktop, phone, and Kindle — yes, all of them!
- Drilling 2-inch holes in half barrels for strawberry plants, then moving dirt and filling the barrels.
- Repairing the curtain rod in the playhouse.
- Fixing a door latch.
I’m sure I’ve ungratefully forgotten to list just as many other tasks that they did. In recent weeks friends and family have accomplished many more jobs that could fill out a very long list, too.
Other satisfying recreational and/or heartwarming and bonding activities we enjoyed:
- Six women cleaning up the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner – so much fun and togetherness!
- Ten people sleeping in my house for a couple of nights, and children’s happy voices.
- Introducing Scout and Ivy to the playhouse. Ivy was overheard saying, “Grandma built this playhouse just for me!”
- Pulling the children up and down the street in the new cart, because the back yard paths aren’t ready yet for the kids to play with it there.
- Cooking more meals together, and picnicking on the bluffs at the coast. I made another batch of sticky rice and Kit whipped together a rice snowman to delight us and to decorate the table.
- Reading before sleep with Maggie beside me in the bed, each of us engrossed in her own book.
- Playing dead bugs: When I reminded Kate and Pippin how to do the dead bug position for back health, I demonstrated with my calves resting on the couch. ( I just learned by way of images that no one else does it this way.) Soon the children joined in and lined up next to the grownups. Ivy couldn’t do it properly that way because her legs just stood straight up with knees locked against the front of the couch.
- Playing the spoons, with inspiration from this lady. The children continued with the spoons into the next day, and Scout almost took a pair of my best teaspoons home with him.
- Clapping: Kit taught us the cups-and-clapping game, which was very satisfying to play or merely to observe. I could have watched all night. I got a short video of them along the lines of this one (except that my people appeared to be having a lot more fun.) The little children were mesmerized by the cups game, but found it far easier to keep clapping their spoons together trying to keep time.
- My favorite video that inspired us that evening doesn’t even have cups. It is a clapping song that was very satisfying to me because the message of its lyrics seemed to sum up the net positivity of my first Thanksgiving as a widow. The celebrations were both harder and easier than I expected. If you watched the YouTube video I linked to above you’ve already heard the words, in their upbeat musical context, but here they are plain for posterity.
I’ll think of you as I go, so when I leave, you’re not alone;
and no matter where we are, we will never be that far
‘cuz I will think of you as I go.
I’ll think of you as I dream,
so when it’s dark, you’ll be with me,
and no matter where we are, we can look up to the stars
and I will think of you as I dream.
I’ll think of you when I’m down,
when my heart is on the ground;
and I will never lose my way even when the skies are gray,
‘cuz I will think of you when I’m down.
(refrain) O it’s a long and winding road, but you don’t have to walk alone,
‘cuz no matter where we are, I will keep you in my heart
and I will think of you as I go.