Yesterday, began gently without an alarm clock. It was the first of a twelve day winter break from teaching and school. My teenagers and husband weren’t home, so I treated myself to some extra relaxation with one of the many to-be-read books on my nightstand. The sunshine beamed through the blinds targeting my dogs who basked in the extra brightness, snoring in warm-and-fuzzy harmony
Because of the upcoming holidays, I certainly had more to do than read for pleasure. Checklists still needed checked: wrapping, ribboning, baking, tasting… Many lists required my attention, but I left them unread, a bit longer.
Instead, I took the time to make an egg and cheese bagel, slice lemon for my ice water, and drink an extra cup of coffee. Oh, and I got rid of a few of the Christmas cookies I deemed were obnoxiously too big and gooey for guests.
My usual seat at our kitchen island overflowed with unopened mail, baking ingredients, and Amazon boxes, so I ate breakfast in our dining room, at the table of my childhood. My mother gave us this table about ten years ago when she sold her house and moved in with my sister.
During my pensive morning, I was reminded of how often I used to sit there, especially as a teenager. It was the perfect spot to talk on the telephone (one of those old time rotary models that hung on the wall, leashed with a cord). It was also a good place to build puzzles, play cards and board games, do homework, and complete word searches. We had meals there too, but beyond birthdays, holiday gatherings, and Sunday dinners, we didn’t use the table much for eating.
Then in high school, I had my daily breakfast there while I studied. I abandoned my TV tray because I needed more room to make sense of my vile chemistry and calculus notes. I’d nosh and get hyped up on Pop-Tarts, Lucky Charms, or milk and cookies (six Oreos, to be exact, dipped into a mug featuring Big Bird). My father, who served as my alarm clock and ride to school, always encouraged a more substantial, warmer breakfast. One day, when we were low on “good” groceries, I finally took him up on his offer. At that table, I graduated from physics and sugar highs in exchange for his specialties, scrambled eggs and rye toast.
While avoiding my current tasks and lingering over breakfast, I recalled the first dream I had of my father, Frank Thomas Snyder, since his passing in 2006. It came to me six months later, during the Christmas season:
We were back in my parents’ house, and my father appeared in the kitchen and walked over to me sitting alone at the dining room He looked like he did when I was a teen, with darker hair, black rimmed glasses, and a straighter back. I was grown up though, probably thirty-three, my age at the time of his death. He handed me what I perceived to be a gift. Looking up at him, I uncovered it from its snowflaked, paper towel and discovered a true treasure: a buttery, cheesy egg sandwich. It was lightly toasted with his special touch, the eggs as fluffy and yellow as the bird on my milk mug. We smiled at each other, but no words were spoken or needed during this offering of love. The dream ended with me taking a creamy bite.
Upon waking, I took great comfort in seeing my father who I was missing so much. It was a chance to relive a memory full of color, flavors, and love. Some dream of sugarplums; I prefer eggs.
That dream came to me during the hectic hustle of holiday prepping, when our girls were just ages two and four. I bustled through and zipped past precious moments to get ready for festiveness that morphed into stressfulness. That short dream, a gift of grace filled with layers of beautiful realities, continues to reaffirm the power of patience and presence, the free offering of one’s present company and attention.
Our father’s patience and presence is reflected in a picture my brother created as gifts for me and my mother and sisters. He redesigned Norman Rockwell’s “Triple Self-Portrait” to feature our father and his favorite things (that weren’t actually things). My brother appropriately included the following words he found highlighted in one my father’s old church bulletins: “Yes, time can be a gift: interest, concern, love, tenderness, appreciation, respect, care, forgiveness, silence, self-control – What wonderful Christmas presents these would make!” This was my father’s daily plan.
His foremost love languages were to give quality time and service to others. Even though, he had his own checklists, he never acted like he was too busy for us. His movements were relaxed, calm, and attentive. He genuinely wanted to share his clock and never made others feel like obligations.
Yesterday, I made very little dents in my checklists. Instead, I ended up having a solid conversation with both of my girls (then ages fifteen and seventeen). We talked about school, plans, friendships, family, Star Wars… Then I took my youngest and her friends skiing for the evening. I blew off the tasks and had a peaceful night in the ski lodge.
Today is Christmas Eve, and the girls promised to help me wrap, bake, and clean. The stuff that needs to get done, will get done. If there are loose ends and untied ribbons, who cares? The holidays will be filled with festiveness. Bah Humbug to stressfulness.
May you and yours have a beautiful Christmas celebration where you enjoy the time you’re blessed with today.