Yes, I am surprised that it is nearly 2023. So much has happened this year in our world, while at the same time so much has not. In my personal life, though? So much change. I celebrated my second Christmas without Mom and my eighth without Dad. As I share and listen with friends, more often than not we can’t believe it’s been that long since we last saw our loved ones who have died. I made a big job change that filled me with stress, certainty and relief. And, biggest of all: it’s my last year not being a grandma. I am reminded over and over of that circle of life: those who left and others we have yet to meet. And those precious moments we have together.
I’ve been a lifelong reader like most authors, squeezing books under the dinner table as a kid, and always finding ways to get book time even if they hit me on the forehead at night as I lie in bed too tired to read another word. Yet it’s only been recently that I consciously recognize the serendipity of reading books that beautifully correspond to what’s going on in my life. It’s hard for me to figure out if I am choosing them because they relate to ideas I am processing, or if I process ideas spurred by what I read.
I found the two books I most recently read in two different Little Free Libraries. I’ve written before about my near compulsion to stop by any Little Library I pass on my walks and rides: there are many! I have begun characterizing the different libraries based on the range of books they carry, sometimes challenging its readers by sprinkling the books I have into their mix, often diversifying its typical genre. But back to that serendipity. As I read Lisa See’s Peony in Love, it supported the design of my current work. In See’s historical novel, Peony returns in sprit to her family and loved ones, in the end contributing to a written work. In Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Said To Tell You She’s Sorry, we are whisked away into the fairy tale land shared by Grandmother. Is it not a bit odd or merely serendipitous that my current Work in Progress will include Mom’s writings and that in it I share two short fairy tales, the one Mom published and mine, newly crafted. (Stay tuned, my good friends at BINK.)
It too amazes me that this favorite photo of Mom and me was taken on this exact day two years ago. I read to her the prologue of this 1994 book she wrote and the fairy tale she crafted about herself. She died on March 6, 2021.
Closing out 2022, I too have thought about how our family’s holiday messages have evolved over the past three plus decades. Sometime after college I began sending out a few selected handwritten cards, including to a favorite high school teacher. Once we had kids it turned into a photo card of our cutest-kids-in-the-world-to-us; before the kids were no longer little and we began the holiday newsletter which often made me uncomfortable as if it sounded like life was perfect even though it wasn’t. We stopped those when the kids moved out of the house if not before, and I decided I would handwrite notes to the smaller number of friends that I didn’t see on a regular basis and cared so deeply about, responding to the cards I received first. For nearly a decade now, I have stopped buying cards and instead “recycle” the free (junk?) blank non-profit cards that come in the mail.
It has become a scavenger hunt, not so different from my Little Library book searches, in which I select the best card for the receiver: this one appreciates a Christmas message, this one nature or this, a card with a cute dog. A mutually exchanged Christmas card each year is with “Mr. J.”, that high school teacher. My guess is this guy was well liked by some and not liked by others but for me I look back at him as a key mentor for me, someone who pushed me to understand that it was good to be different and to do so confidently. Over the years I’ve loved following his family’s news. This year I learned in his Christmas card that he was in charge of the Little Libraries in his Portland neighborhood. The next day I mailed off a package with a copy of My Music Man and Humanity’s Grace. I’m excited knowing that they will find themselves in a Free Little Library yet unseen by me.
Life is one big serendipitous beautiful mess. Cheers to 2023.
Dede’s 2023 events so far:
Journaling for Well-Being, Friday, January 13, 2023 at 5:30 pm, White Rabbit Books, Oregon City, OR
Read Local Author Fair, Saturday, March 11, 2023 from 12-2 pm, West Linn Public Library, West Linn, OR