Monday, November 27, 2006

Into Each Life, Some Snow Must Fall

This week's One Deep Breath prompt is legacy, a term that refers to something handed down or inherited from generation to generation. My contribution is a bit loaded, so forgive me for waxing poetic before I get to the actual poem.

My father passed away two years ago. He was not a rich man, nor a particularly popular man. Like all of us, he had flaws...and gifts. Like many of his generation, he didn't like to talk about himself or his feelings very much. Oh, he'd freely discuss his frustrations and the things that upset him, but he didn't frequently discuss the things that made him proud or that he wished he'd done differently.

After Dad passed away, my step-mom carefully chose things she should thought I would want or should have. As a result, I have several boxes of letters, tons of photographs (many of which I had not seen before), and various thingamagigs and geegaws. Some of these were important to Dad, but many belonged to his mom, my Grandma. For example, I have his family's World War II ration books. (My Dad was 16 months old when Japan surrendered). I have a book that describes the cattle brand my grandparent's farm used during the 1940's, as well as two books of history of the county where Dad was born. My Dad was a man with a heart, though one unknowingly seeking a voice.

Thus, my legacy is more symbolic than practical; it consists of memories and memory triggers. Things that have value only when seen in context. Oh, I'm sure I could get an interesting price by placing the ration books on eBay, but the true value of those paper packets lies not in their history, but their in sentiment. They are, in some ways, a chance to connect across generations, if only for a heartbeat.

I'm thinking about all of this because it snowed tonight. We don't get a lot of snow in the Great Northwest (at least, not on this side of the mountains) and it usually melts rather quickly. However, tonight, we're going to be left with at least a couple of inches.

One of my earliest memories of snow involves my grandmother's house in Iowa. I was a year older than DD is now and we'd just spent three days driving there. It was the middle of winter and when I looked outside the morning after we'd arrived, I discovered more than a foot of snow, just waiting to be played in. We hadn't brought a lot of cold weather gear (it had been a hastily planned trip) and I begged and begged to be allowed to play in it. Grandma finally won the battle with my Mom and told me I could go outside, but only for ten minutes. I was very upset at having my time restricted so unfairly, but had to admit that it was pretty darned cold when I got out there. (If memory serves, it was about ten degree below zero, Fahrenheit.)

I rolled a small snowman and made a couple of snow angels. I had a mock snowball fight with invisible antagonists hiding behind a tree in the yard.

When I came back in, Grandma had just finished making a pot (as in sauce pan, not coffee) of hot chocolate for me (warmed on the wood stove). When she gave me a steaming cup filled with marshmallows, I felt all grown-up. My cup steamed just like the coffee the adults were drinking.

As you might expect, this memory is bittersweet. Yes, I really enjoyed playing in the snow; however, we drove to Iowa to attend my grandfather's funeral.

At eleven, death was pretty abstract. I remember seeing Grandpa resting in his coffin, a slight frown on his face. I recognized that he was gone and that I wouldn't see him again. But, we hadn't been that close to begin with. We lived several states away and Grandpa wasn't the kind to play with a young child. No, there were too many chores for that. Sure, he'd rustle my hair, but as soon as he did so, he'd put me to work doing something simple, like throwing seed for the chickens. His farmer's life didn't allow for many moments of connection or conversation.

My Dad died two years ago...and I know there were a lot of things that were left unsaid. We didn't see much of each other after he and my mom divorced. She moved to another city and he didn't have the money to fight her.

I know he loved me and that he was proud of the person I had (somehow) managed to turn into. However, I had to figure that out on my own, reading it between the few things he would say. Dad would rather tell you a dirty (and completely inappropriate) joke than talk about something sensitive. He would only say "I love you" on very rare occasions, usually after he'd had a couple of "snorts."

I wish to leave a different legacy for my children. I want them to know that I love them, that I am more than proud of them, and that they are loved unconditionally for the people they are and the people they are struggling to becoming.

When the snow started falling earlier this evening, in tiny little specks of cold, Pouncer tried to grab flakes out of the air. I called DD over to watch. She giggled.

Twenty minutes later, the backyard was covered in white. When she saw the snow, DD bundled up and wanted me to play with her. I resisted. It had been a long day and I really wanted some time to decompress and relax. She kept after me and I eventually capitulated, sneaking out the front door and through the gate to attack her from behind. We tore around the back yard, thowing snow at each other, laughing and giggling.

When she's older, I hope she remembers snow days with some fondness. Actually, I hope she remembers many of these days with a certain amount of fondness. I hope her childhood memories are primarily of peace, happiness, and laughter. No matter what legacy she eventually inherits, I truly hope that, with JP's help and the help of her other parents, DD remembers her childhood fondly.

And so, with that prelude, here's my response to this week's prompt.

Snow falls. Home today!
A child sees and wants out.
"Play!" Laughter ensues.

8 Comments:

Blogger paris parfait said...

This is such a touching and well-written piece, rich in layers of family history and sentiment - and ending with the delightful haiku. Wonderful work!

2:14 AM  
Blogger Shaz said...

I was really touched by this, divorce and death can leave some people bitter and with unresolved issues, always asking why or what if. I love your understanding of your dad and I am sure your right about him being very proud of you just as you are of your little one. You are obviously passing on wonderful memories to your babe, what a blessing your family unit is. Shaz :)

2:37 AM  
Blogger Shaz said...

I was really touched by this, divorce and death can leave some people bitter and with unresolved issues, always asking why or what if. I love your understanding of your dad and I am sure your right about him being very proud of you just as you are of your little one. You are obviously passing on wonderful memories to your babe, what a blessing your family unit is. Shaz :)

2:38 AM  
Blogger Deb R said...

This was a lovely post.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Tim ID said...

Very nice post FP. Made me want to actually like our snow :)

3:09 PM  
Blogger susanlavonne said...

This is indeed a beautifully written account and I must admit having to grab a tissue when reading about your Grandpa. Thank you for sharing this with us and certain you save a copy someplace safe for your daughter...you explained the reason so well yourself in the first several paragraphs :-)

(hope you continue to join us at ODB!)

7:01 AM  
Blogger Shandi said...

Susan put it perfectly. You need to show this post to your daughter one day. Maybe she will remember that very day in detail. Great post!

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Bice Sagan said...

no offense to the 'ku... but I loved your prose more. meaty, filling... nudging a few memories loose for me as well. well done.

12:17 PM  

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