Tamara Jorell

Writing life and the neighborhood

Writing life and the neighborhood

 

Sprucing up

It happens like this every year.

The snow isn’t even gone, and here I am, thrashing out of crusty Old Man Winter’s clutches. I take out my pent up energies on my house, swiping on new coats of paint and tending to repairs we’ve ignored. Does that sound like you too?

Here’s a story—first published on May 14, 2015—about repairs, replacements, and fresh outlooks through new windows. Enjoy!

***

I noticed water dribbling from a line in the basement one day. After listening to my description of the problem, the gas company sent over a technician to inspect our air conditioner, but the unit was fine. I had simply forgotten one all-important task: to change the furnace filter right after we had sanded our wood floors the previous week. Because of my oversight, the filter had clogged, forming condensation on the line, and water had dripped and pooled on the basement floor. Now I stood outside—the technician next to me—staring at the side of our house.

“See? You’re gonna have to do a patch job right there,” he said with a sniff, pointing at a small area on the stucco near the foundation.

I furrowed my brow. “Does this have anything to do with our air conditioner?”

“Naw. I’m just letting you know what you’ve gotta fix at some point.”

He moved on to the next item—a new furnace—on his for-us-to-do list.

“That thing’s gonna conk out soon,” he said, bobbing his head in a series of nods, maybe hoping his steely eye contact would break me. “Better replace it now.”

“We’ll see,” I said, brushing away his intensity. My mind flitted back to a different technician from just a few months earlier who had checked our furnace and pronounced it good. “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Don’t replace it until it totally dies,” he had said.

The current technician’s words pelted me, and before he left, I agreed to a duct cleaning. Even though it had first been my idea, his face grew the smug look of a successful hawker.

Not all of the repair people visiting our home were so crafty. Over the years, I noted the differences in technicians. There were those who got the job done in little time with minimal small talk, and then those who wove stories into their work, their visits leaking into my day.

“You wouldn’t believe the stuff I see in people’s basements,” said one technician as she swapped out our old water meter for an updated one.

“Oh? Like what?” I said, not sure I wanted to know.

“A lady I met had shelves lining her basement walls. Kennels of dogs on those shelves. Sometimes even a couple of dogs per kennel.” She pried off a bolt.

I cringed. “That makes me sick.”

“At least forty of them, I’d guess. Maybe more.” She rigged the new equipment in place and tightened the bolts again. “I told her she’d better let them go. Give them away to good homes and all that.” She swiped her arm across her forehead. “I reported her to Animal Control as soon as I left her house.”

“Oh, good.”

The repair woman finished the job, leaving me with a shiny, new meter. But I also had a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes it’s better not hearing stories from strangers.

 

Husband and I had evaded window washing for eight years, and in 2010, we decided to replace the windows altogether. The installation guys were efficient and meticulous. Along the way, they pointed out the miniscule details of their work—the hidden nooks and crannies no one would ever see. And at every turn, they tidied up after themselves.

Spurred on by the call of hospitality, eleven-year-old Flicka whipped up a baked treat for the workmen, since they were doing such a good job. I was out plucking weeds in the garden when she later emerged from the house and delivered a small plate of fresh goodies to one of the men. She stood there—awkwardly fiddling with the edge of her shirt—eyeing him as he chewed.

“Wow,” he said, smacking his lips. “These are good.”

I smiled and ducked into the house to taste one of her treats. The hot, fresh mounds looked like muffins, but they tasted so bland I skimmed through her recipe, wondering if she had forgotten the vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar too.

But all around, it was a job well-done. The windows were beautiful and clean, the fastidious workers were gracious about the baking, and Flicka honed her hostess skills.

 

Four years after the new windows, we eagerly awaited the installation of a new metal roof. Early-morning pounding on the house—the perfect pairing with my French Roast—had never sounded so sweet. I spoke with the workmen, but my questions were met with only smiles and shrugs. I soon learned the only English-speaker on the job was the supervisor.

My mind skipped back to the roofers of my childhood. Their overly-tanned skin—slick with sweat and oil—melded with the hard rock, Hair Band anthems thrumming from their boom boxes. But the workmen on our roof in 2014 kept their shirts on—a lesson or two learned about the ozone since the 1980s, I suppose—and blasted Vivaldi, Corelli, and Handel.

While I scratched my head at the choice of music, Ricka and Dicka were focused elsewhere and saw the chance for some entertainment. They scrambled upstairs to their bedroom, slid open their window, and peeked out at the workmen tearing off the old roof.

“Yoo hoo!” they called, then ducked under the window when the workmen looked their way. After repeated teasing from the girls, one of the men at last threw a tarp over their window. The girls inched it aside to again chirp at the workers before crumbling to the floor in laughter.

“Oh, girls,” I said, shaking my head. “You might be getting on their nerves.”

But just then, one roofer lifted the tarp and warbled back at the girls.

No one watched any television during that three-day job. And I heard more classical music than I had since my childhood piano recital days.

 

Interesting people are tucked away everywhere. We venture out and see them in stores or on the streets. We learn from them in different settings. But sometimes fascinating strangers come right into our homes and add spice to our lives. And if we’re lucky, they’ll fix the air conditioner while they’re at it.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

The weather

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Charles Dudley Warner

 

The Marcy Open School Plant Sale flier mocks me from its place on the buffet. I want everything the online order form offers, but I live in Minnesota where a six-month winter is a possibility, and this year, a reality.

A garden? Pfft! Riiight.

One year ago, the average temperature for April was fifty degrees, with a high of seventy-three. It’s still cold this year, and I look out the window, scowling. The snowbanks in my yard are creeping away, but I don’t believe them. And Husband’s phone call from work doesn’t help their credibility.

“Did you hear about the twelve to eighteen inches of snow we’re supposed to be getting this weekend?” he says, chuckling. “And the 45-mile-an-hour winds?”

It’s not funny.

I’d like to think I’m immune to the weather forecast and its fallout. But I’ll admit my physical makeup sets my post-Christmas outlook to bleak and my attitude to droopy. And while March twentieth (or so) might declare a new season, the weather in Minnesota rarely practices what the calendar preaches.

I search for the shiny side—because there must be one—and in time, I find it: the persistent snowcoldgrey has numbed me, muffling my responses to adversity.

“Mom, I bumped into a parked car when I drove around the corner,” one of my teenagers says on an icy day, “but it’s just the front corner of our car that got bashed in. The other car is fine.”

My pulse stays at resting rate. “Oh.”

“Mom, I just vomited,” my middle schooler says over the phone from the nurse’s office at school.

My heartrate is even. “On my way.”

“Mom, the U of M might have waitlisted me because I got my application in so late,” another teenager of mine says.

No hitch in my breath. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“There’s another winter storm on the heels of the one that’s going to slam us this weekend,” a friend says.

I level my gaze at him, feeling nothing. I’m probably not ready for flip-flops and watermelon anyway.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Relics

The April sky layers the cold, white stuff onto my life and maybe assumes I didn’t get the message with the first couple of inches, because here comes more to drive the point home: There’s nothing outside for you to do. Deal with your baggage.

It’s literal baggage this time, and I know right where it is.

I descend to the basement where the years are snapped away behind plastic bins I said I’d deal with later.

And ‘later’ stares at me now.

Of all the containers, there’s one I can’t face. It holds history and smells like the years and the struggles of immigrants—and my guilt of stowing it away for so long. But its contents are too rich to flaunt, too delicate to display, too precious to use, and let’s face it: I’ve never lived in a museum house.

We’re always taught things go away, but people last for eternity. As I peel back the tote’s lid, though, I only see the opposite: Grandma Dyrud is gone, but her possessions remain.

I sift through the contents again: a Bible in Norwegian, measuring five inches thick and pushing eighteen pounds; a rolling pin made in Fitjar, Norway, in 1909 for Great-grandma’s new life in America; a confirmation portrait of Grandpa’s sister; a wooden cheese board and knife; the White House Cook Book, published in 1911, with newspaper clippings and a pamphlet of wartime recipes tucked into its pages.

When Grandma handed me these antiques in the early nineties, she hoped I would share them with my future children. But Grandma’s world was durable, and my girls’ world is disposable. The Bible is portable now. I have a new rolling pin, dishwasher-safe cutting boards, and sharp knives. And my girls don’t need recipes geared toward conserving flour, butter, sugar, and eggs.

I replace the lid on the box. I’ll phone some relatives today. Someone will want to learn something new while holding something old. Someone will want to breathe in history and imagine a young woman and her rolling pin in a boat, sailing across the ocean for America.

Someone new will turn the relics back into treasures.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Visitors

“I keep thinking about Keyondra and Antoine,” Husband said one day at the beginning of March.

His thoughts seemed out of nowhere, but I knew better. When it came to the neighborhood kids, every encounter meant something.

Keyondra and Antoine. For years, the kids came over to our place to play basketball. Their presence had carved grooves into our souls, and we never fully recovered.

But now I worried my brow. It had been months since we last saw them. Were they okay? Or was life scuffing their efforts, battering them—even right this minute?

Together we lifted them in a quick prayer.

A memory from six months earlier zinged me. A knock had sounded at the back door one day. My hair was gooped with hair dye at the time and piled on my head, a ratty bath towel circling my shoulders. Of course I couldn’t entertain a visitor in my condition, smelling like a science lab. But curiosity nibbled at me, and I peeked through the kitchen window anyway.

Keyondra.

The girl shifted from one foot to the other and waited. At almost twenty years old, she didn’t pop over often anymore, but here she was. I glanced at the timer; twenty minutes left to cover the grays. And enough time to see our kid.

I opened the door. “It’s you!” I pulled her into a hug, taking care not to drip on her. I pointed to my head. “Sorry about the stink. Hair dye.”

Her smile broke loose, then she swallowed it again. But her eyes kept dancing like they always did.

Husband came up behind me and grinned at the sight of our guest. “Hey, what’s going on?”

We learned about Keyondra’s new life in Wisconsin, her living situation, her romantic relationship. And then I rolled out all the things I needed to say in case I never saw her again: I miss you. You make me happy. You’re a good kid. I love you.

She eventually sauntered away that day, and I watched her go through the back gate, a pang ripping through my chest.

I mulled over Husband’s words—his thoughts about the kids—and they were contagious; now I kept thinking about Keyondra and Antoine too.

Two days later came a rap at the front door. I peered out the picture window.

Antoine. And a girl.

I called to Husband, a smile curving my words. “Come see who’s here.”

I opened the door. “It’s you!” I hugged Antoine.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Husband clapped the boy on the back. “I’ve been thinking about you.”

 We turned to his friend.

“This is my girlfriend,” Antoine said.

We learned the girl’s name and about her dream of working with little ones in a daycare, and we heard all about Antoine’s new job.

“How old are you now?” I asked our kid.

“Nineteen.”

“And you started coming over to play basketball at what—eleven?”

He nodded. “Something like that.”

Then I rolled out all the things I needed to say in case I never saw him again: I miss you. You make me happy. You’re a good kid. I love you.

Antoine and his girlfriend eventually strode away, and I watched them walk down the sidewalk, a pang tearing through my chest.

 

We’re not the parents of our visitors, so there’s no obligation for them to see us. We don’t have their contact information, so there’s no way to get in touch. But when thoughts of them come, we hold them up. And when they knock at our door, we answer.

(For past stories about Keyondra and Antoine, click here and here.)

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

 

Lala's favorite things

Time was short this week, so I gave Lala, our dog, my cell phone, and she snapped some pictures for the blog. I jotted down her thoughts: 

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

More dreams

Last week, I asked my readers about their nighttime dreams. Here’s what you wrote:

*****

I have a dream where I’m outside, and I’m sprung off the ground and into the air. I go super high—probably too high—and I realize eventually I’m going to have to come down. I start to fall, but like I’m flying down. I don’t hit the ground, but sometimes I get really close and I kick off and keep flying. I almost hit the tops of houses or big cement beams by a body of water. There’s usually a dock on that body of water where someone I know is standing, but I keep flying. And then it’s kind of over.

Inga, Minneapolis, MN

 

*****

As a child growing up, our Gramma lived in a big old house in rural Stearns County. When they were all younger, during the War and post-war, there were 8 kids 2 parents in that house. When my generation came along she was living on her own. Big house, lots of empty. Very old things. Military uniforms, high school letter jackets, and lots of cardboard boxes. Mysterious but not scary. 

Flash forward to college. Huge house, 10 guys living in it. Classic 3-story structure. A wealthy Doctor once owned the house and raised a large gaggle of kids there. Now was the time for undergrads to slowly ruin it. My recurring dream is this. 

In my dream for some reason I keep going back to grad school to finish off my advanced degree. It started when I was in my early 20's. I keep meeting new young people, but I keep getting older. The first couple of years I could hide the age difference. Then it becomes obvious. Now at age 55 it's.......... part nightmare. In this dream I've convinced myself that I can finish this grad degree in a snap. The ridiculousness of moving into the college housing scene with young students never sways my mind. I 'logic' and rationalize the attempt. And of course, I don't complete the task. So the next time I have the dream, my subconscious is aware of the failed previous attempts. And each time I have this dream, parts of both houses from my past figure prominently in the story. Kind of a merged house. I'm living in them, or parts of them. Then my subconscious takes me off to another dream. 

Craig, Minneapolis, MN

 

*****

My current reoccurring dream is traveling. Always trying to get somewhere. Sometimes on foot in a big city, sometimes on a freeway in a car, many times in rural areas. There are always detours and distractions that keep me from getting to my destination. Sometimes the destination is known, such as Bible Camp or a conference, and sometimes it is unknown. In one of the latest I was in a forest with my son. The road became sandy and forked. Either way we would get stuck with our Buick. We were already stuck. We thought about walking, but 5 young (teenage) black bears were playing on the road ahead, and I worried about the mama bear being around. My boy was trying to give me a solution, but I wasn’t listening because of my fear. Later, after waking, I asked him what he thought he would have said. He said, “Wait until the bears leave, then we can walk.” (And for the record, I think the bears are his final subjects in homeschool, which are a trial for him as he just wants to be done! I may be wrong. Lol)

Linda, Eben Junction, Michigan

 

*****

I have a reoccurring dream—different scenes with the same concept. I’m driving somewhere. I’m on a wide road like a highway. I want to go one way but I end up going the complete opposite. I end up going over a bridge—it’s always over water. The bridge then turns into a county road, which turns into a dirt road, which turns into a wagon wheel road, and I’m stuck out in tall grass.

Then I have reoccurring dreams of zombies, and I’m the hero in every episode.

Shantell, Corcoran, Minnesota

 

*****

There are two dreams I have regularly. The first is that I’m in a warehouse, and I’m being chased by a bunch of clowns—five to ten of them—that look like the Insane Clown Posse. So not friendly-looking clowns. I’m running down the halls and I’m getting very tired, and I can’t seem to get away from them. I run around the corner, and there’s an elevator at the end of the hall. I run into the elevator—that turns out to be L-shaped—and I’m trying to close the door, but somehow all the clowns are able to make it in with me. The door closes and they attack me. But I always win. The End. (But it never really ends.)

The other dream I have is even more of a nightmare. I dream that I wake up to realize that I left the garage door open, and sometimes I catch the people stealing stuff out of my garage, and sometimes I just go out and find my garage completely empty.

Scott, Minneapolis, MN

 

*****

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

 

Shelter

We humans either have it, or we don’t. Either way, the issue permeates our lives—if we’ll see it.

We’ve tried to make a dent in the needs around us, writing housing grants for young adults who have aged out of foster care, or temporarily hosting children whose parents lack a front door of their own to lock each night.

A wave of gratefulness soaks me again today. The roof over our heads never gets old.

Shelter.

Here’s the story—first published on September 25, 2014—of how we found ours.

*****

On a glowing recommendation from my sister, we hired Mr. Brylcreem—a chain-smoking, sixty-something realtor with a high tolerance for hood living. Mr. B lived in a grand, old Victorian in a sketchy neighborhood in south Minneapolis, so he knew what he was doing. Right away, I liked his blue eyes and warm, fatherly manner. 

Husband and I sat down with him in a coffee shop in April, 2002, and told Mr. B our real estate hopes and dreams. I wanted to stay home with the little ones, and Husband supported me, so we would have to swing this thing on one salary. We gave him our price range—an easy mortgage for us. We wanted an old house, an inner-city experience too, we said, and would he please restrict his search to Minneapolis proper? Mr. B was happy to comply and started sending us leads immediately.

Husband and I printed off the first four listings from Mr. B and got in the car to go and take a look. After ten years of marriage, we were excited to hunt together for our first house. I gazed at Husband’s profile as he drove, committing the moment to memory.

We pulled up to the first listing—a house right off 35W. I liked the vintage. Then we drove through the alley to inspect the unattached garage. Gang tagging marked its side, and the word “blood” was in all caps. We sighed and crossed it off the list.

My stomach leapt with excitement at the second house on our hunt. Charming, old, and near Uptown. Perfect. Until we got out of the car and read the sign affixed to the door. UNFIT FOR HUMAN HABITATION: Condemned due to lead paint. Undaunted, I cupped my hands around my eyes and peered through the front door’s beveled glass window.

“How long until it becomes fit for human habitation, do you think?” I said to Husband.

“Too long. Let’s go.”

We got in the car and drove to our meeting spot with Mr. B. He had the keys for the next couple of houses we’d see.

The house in listing #3 didn’t have any discernible right angles; the floors slanted in every room. The pedestal ashtray overflowed with cigarette butts. The mirrored ceiling tiles in the kitchen were impressive, but what about greasy spatters? I pictured tomato sauce accidents or heaven forbid, the explosion of a pressure cooker. What if one of the mirrors broke, and a shard of glass impaled me while I washed dishes? We shook our heads and moved on.

I liked what I saw when we pulled up to the curb in front of house #4. Old charm again. This time, a Tudor style. I envisioned Christmas lights twinkling through the windows, a snow-covered sidewalk, and a wreath hung jauntily from the door in December.

I heard a dog bark as we climbed the front steps. Mr. B wiggled the key into the lock.

“I hope they put the dog away when they left,” he said over his shoulder.

He pushed open the door and took a few steps into the living room. Like two eager kids, we followed close on his heels. A snarling Rottweiler appeared in the kitchen doorway a room away. In a split second, the animal clawed his way, lips flapping, across the expanse of the living room’s wood floor, bent on meeting us as soon as possible. Just before the dog could introduce himself, though, Mr. B hustled us out, yanking the door shut. He secured the lock and smoothed his hair.

“So that house’s out,” he said cheerfully.

We got back in the car and called it a day.

Husband resumed his work schedule for the week and continued his temporary living arrangements, couch hopping between my brother’s and sister’s houses in south Minneapolis. Homeless, I headed back up north to Mom and Dad’s. With both little ones in diapers and one breastfeeding, the six-hour trip took eight.

Husband fielded house listings from Mr. B. I couldn’t hop on the road for home tours at the drop of a hat, so he would weed out the undesirables and tell me about the promising ones, which we noticed were immediately snapped up. I told Husband he knew what I liked and to just pick one and make an offer if he got the chance.

Early in May, Mr. B contacted us with another lead. This time, the house wasn’t going to be advertised. It belonged to his son’s best friend, and he’d consider selling it for the right price. Husband made an appointment to see it. Afterward, he called me.

“It’s good,” he said.

“As in, I’d like it?”

“You’d love it. Might be your dream house.”

His description sounded like the house my grandparents had owned in south Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood. He sent seventeen pictures by email, and excitement bubbled up in me. A small Craftsman-style meets bungalow. The kind Sears Catalog sold back in the day as a kit house. And yes, my dream house. I urged him to make an offer, and he did. The homeowners accepted.

Soon I was making the trek back down to Minneapolis. Husband and I parked the car in front of our future house. The homeowner, Brian, fresh scrubbed and smiley, walked us through it for Husband’s second viewing and my first.

“My wife had two babies in this house,” Brian said. “I mean, in this house. Don’t know what’s so bad about the hospital.” He showed us the two main level bedrooms that had hosted the home births.

“Wow,” Husband said.

An overloaded coat rack obstructed the view through the living room window and a massive dog kennel blocked movement in the tiny kitchen, but none of that tainted my first impression; I could envision our future there. Back again in the car after the tour, my heart was on fire.

By the end of May, we signed the papers. We were homeowners. And on June 1, having moved all our furniture and boxes in, we looked out at our north Minneapolis neighborhood from windows that belonged to us.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Finding Boaz

Husband snipped the ends from a dozen roses and divided them into four vases. He placed chocolates next to each, then strode to the kitchen, ready to spend the next four hours preparing a surprise Valentine’s Day dinner for the girls and me.

Curry chicken with garlic cooked over the fire in the pit in the back yard. Then came oysters with chorizo butter, mashed potatoes and gravy, and an assortment of cheeses and olives. 

The five of us at last settled into our places at the table. I surveyed the feast, moved by the effort.

“This is delicious,” I said to Husband. “But you’re not a fan of curry.”

“I’m a fan of you.”

He reminded me of someone just then, and I wanted the girls to hear it—again.

“Girls, I have a story for you,” I said.

Between bites, my three teenagers watched me.

“There once was a very kind man. He was a respected landowner too. One day, a young immigrant woman came to his field during the barley harvest. Poor people back then were allowed to pick up the grain left on the ground by the harvesters. So that’s what she did.”

“Mom, we already know this story,” Ricka said, resting her fork for a beat.

I nodded and kept going. “The man asked his employees about the young woman. They said her name, Ruth, and where she came from, and it was a country most people despised. So she was an outsider from a hated place. Then they told him Ruth had lost her husband, and she lived with her mother-in-law who had also lost her husband. She was taking care of the older woman when she could’ve just left her. Two women living together, trying to make ends meet in a time when widows had no options.

“The landowner caught up with Ruth. ‘I’ve heard about how kind you’ve been to your mother-in-law. I hope God blesses you for everything you’ve done. By the way, don’t go to another field. Stay here and you’ll be safe. I’ve told my men not to touch you.’

“Later, he invited Ruth to rest and have lunch with him. When she went back to work, he pulled his men aside. ‘Leave extra grain on the ground for her to pick up, okay?’ he said. And that’s what they did.

“Ruth went home that night and told her mother-in-law all about her day, and the older woman said, ‘That’s Boaz! He’s a relative of my husband’s. You should go back again.’ And so she did. Eventually the kindness of Boaz won Ruth, and she did something daring: she asked him to be a covering for her. ‘You’re my family redeemer,’ she said one night.

“Boaz accepted and lavished her with honor and compassion, and they married. The End,” I said, my vision going blurry.

“Oh, Mom,” Flicka said, tilting her head, her eyes soft.

If prayers travel a path to heaven, mine—that each of my girls would find her Boaz—have worn the trail smooth by now.

Last night we celebrated the pink and red plastic holiday a greeting card company invented by enjoying a fancy meal together. But true love doesn’t waltz in for one day in February. Instead, it sticks with the mourner. It leaves extra grain for the immigrant. It cooks a curry dish when it doesn’t like curry.

And it covers another with its own life.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

The Loppet

“Should I register our family for this?” Husband asked, pointing at the Luminary Loppet event on the computer screen. “We’d do it on snowshoes, of course.”

Different sizes and shapes of candlelit ice sculptures and lanterns illuminated a magical winter race on frozen Lake of the Isles, one in Minneapolis’ chain of lakes. The video showed cross-country skiers gliding past glowing pillars of ice in the purple dusk. The beauty washed over me.

“Absolutely,” I said.

As the event neared, though, I checked the weather. The forecast said the temperature would hang around fourteen degrees on February 3, the day of the race, and the wind chill would be dangerous. Frostbite could occur in minutes. Would my Canada Goose jacket cut it? I’d wear snow pants too, of course, and all the extras, but would I survive this supposed-to-be-fun time with my family?

Two days out, we scrambled to order ourselves face masks and ski goggles. Husband picked up a box of hand warmers. We lined up our five pairs of snowshoes. When the evening of the event arrived, we donned many layers of clothing for our romantic date with Mother Nature.

At Lake of the Isles, we stepped into the excitement of a winter festival. Vendors smiled out from tents, strung with lights, at the check-in. We met up with our friend Joe and together the six of us struggled past our bulk to wrestle on snowshoes. At 7:30 p.m., our trek began.

The word ‘race’ is a strange word for our wintry wanderings with hundreds of other outdoor enthusiasts across a frozen lake. No one tried to blow past anyone else. We snowshoed or skied or walked together, enjoying the luminaries. Our clothing was warm, and the winds backed off. Instead of water pit stops, this “race” had a hot chocolate stop. The sky—never completely dark in a city—whispered, What about me? And I acknowledged the loveliness of her muted orangepurplegrays.

After several miles, when our legs and hips told us it was time, we headed in the direction of the car, crossing a portion of Lake Calhoun on the way. This lake wasn’t lit up like the other. I shivered at its haunting magnificence, most of its snowy expanse untouched by humans.

And that night, we all won the race.

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Breakfast

A knock at the back door.

From the other room, I hear Husband’s footsteps pass through the kitchen. The deadbolt clicks, then our alarm system’s computerized female voice announces, “Back door,” to let us know it’s open. A real woman speaks now and Husband answers, their voices muffled by walls. Curious, I saunter into the kitchen.

“Hang on,” Husband says to our visitor. He grabs an empty plastic Target bag from the dispenser and heads for the fridge.

When adults come to our back door it’s usually an emergency, like the time a woman pounded on the glass, begging us to quick call the police. But she didn’t need to say it; her bruises and blood quickened my steps to the phone.

I glimpse the woman outside our door now. This one isn’t bloodied, but she shifts her weight from one foot to the other like she’s struggling to balance on a paddleboard, on waters that are too bumpy. She darts looks around her. Her mouth sags.

“Where’s the peanut butter?” my man asks me.

I pluck it from the cupboard and hand it to him. He bags a partial loaf of bread too, the remainder of the milk, a fistful of granola bars, and a few apples from the bowl.

He gives the bag of food to the woman, and she passes out of our lives by way of the back yard’s gate.

Husband pours himself a cup of coffee.

“So?” I say. “That lady? Was she okay?”

“She didn’t have food for her kids for breakfast.”

I nod and pour myself a cup of coffee too.

We don’t talk about the event again, because life is made up of small things, and this is just another one.

Sometimes the blaring needs around us turn into white noise. We treat the symptoms of pain when they knock at our door, or when they cross our path outside our property lines. But they don’t go away.

We can’t fix people—I can’t fix people—but we try anyway when the invitation comes. Now I imagine what an emergency room doctor feels like: serving the injured but not seeing the healing—if there is any—after the patients return home.

I could live a different life, one where I don’t see wounds as often as I see breakfast. But that’s not real, so I’ll stick with this one.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Snow day

The wind rattled our Ranch-style house in Middle River. Had our place been a victim of a snowball fight in the night? It appeared so; great clots of snow stuck to my bedroom windows, obscuring the view.

I flicked my gaze to the clock. 5:35 a.m. The blankets on my bed usually kept me in their cozy clutches on a school morning, but not today. Maybe they sensed my excitement at what was to come.

I padded into the kitchen. Outside the window whiteness swirled, and the crabapple in the front yard was an apparition in the dim light. A gust picked up a load of snow from the roof and flung it off, blotting out any sign of the tree. My siblings and I wouldn’t be expected to brave these conditions to go to school, would we? Was fifth grade really that important for me to risk my life getting there?

I scurried to my parents’ room. The only one in the world who had the power to call off school that day was still in bed next to Mom, his arm curled around his transistor radio. The brown, leather-covered box crackled out weather updates, and my heart lurched with hope.

“Dad, Dad,” I said, making prayer hands, “please call off school today. Please.”

The superintendent of three small schools in northern Minnesota, wearing boxers and a v-neck undershirt, threw his legs over the side of the bed and stood. “We’ll see.”

I pranced back to my bedroom, a smile splitting my face in two. The day was mine—I just knew it. Adventures beckoned, and I tugged on my snowsuit.

 

On Monday, January 22, 2018, I navigated a snowy city to collect my girls. I thought of Dad calling off school decades earlier when blizzards blasted our tiny town near the Canadian border. On stormy days, he got dressed in the wee hours and drove the country roads a few miles in each direction to see if they were passable. He would make a decision about school and report it to KTRF, the radio station in the neighboring town of Thief River Falls.  

Winds whipped up the falling snow as I sat in the Honda at Target Field waiting for my high schoolers to emerge from the train. I scrolled through my phone for weather reports. The girls soon tromped through the precipitation to the car. When they opened the doors, snowflakes and exuberance blew into the warm space.

“I asked Mr. Aponte if we could have a snow day tomorrow,” Ricka said.

I chuckled. As if the principal of one city school could alone make the decision. “And?”

“He said, ‘We’ll call you.’”

Nature worked hard that night to put a halt to our plans—to pull us into an adventure. And true to Principal Aponte’s word, they called us.

After the shoveling the next morning, the girls donned bikinis and bolted into the back yard for The Snow Dive Challenge, which wasn’t a dive at all, but instead a quick roll through the nine-inch deep accumulation. Drawn by all the shrieking, the dog zipped outside too, probably hoping to join in on all the reindeer games. Within seconds, though, it was over. The girls dashed back inside, leaving the animal cocking her head at the back door.

 

Dad and the local radio station announced the weather cancellations of my childhood; robocalls and the internet announced my girls’. A hallmark of my snow days? Snowsuits. A sign of my girls’? Swimsuits—at least this time. But whether announced by airwaves or on a website, whether we’re bundled up or bared, a snow day is a free day.

And there’s always adventure.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

The birth announcement

Infant cries floated to me as I folded laundry in the basement. I dropped a towel back into the basket and listened.

“Did you hear that?” I said to Husband.

He muted the TV. “Hear what?”

The cry drifted to me again. I pointed up, indicating the floor above us. “A baby crying.”

“No.”

Three-year-old Flicka and almost two-year-old Ricka—our only children at the time—were asleep. I already knew their sounds, and neither mewled like a newborn anymore.

I shrugged. Husband resumed his TV show. The laundry again beckoned.

Throughout the early months of 2003, I heard the sound of a baby a few more times—always at night. What could it be? The Crying Baby Kidnap Lure flitted into my mind. As the story went, a serial killer meandered about, playing a recording of a fussing baby outside women’s windows in an attempt to draw them out of their homes. But the claim had been refuted, and the cries I heard came from inside our house. What else? The girls didn’t own any noise-making dolls. But I read online that cats could sound like babies. Likely cause, if we had any.

My days overflowed with the stuff of life: laundry and dishes, groceries and cooking, parks and story times, Flicka and Ricka. And I forgot about the mysterious crying in our house.

One night, when Husband was on an overnight trip for work and my little ones were fast asleep, the phantom baby cried again.

This time, I offered it up. I don’t know what this is, but it’s Yours now.

A month later, we learned some news: baby #3 was in the works. The cries in our house ceased—until Dicka emerged, and then the sounds belonged to her.

Ruling out insanity, I puzzled over the phenomenon I had lived. Some would call it a premonition, others a flash of the prophetic, still others a subconscious desire. I thought of Sarah, Mary, and Elizabeth—three mothers from ancient times—told in advance that babies would be born to them.

Maybe the gift of a birth announcement can come in any way at any time to anyone. And maybe it had come to me too.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

 

Flu season

Husband sneezes five times in a row, and I cringe at the forceful outbursts. They’re so loud I want to cup my palms to my ears. This might be the start of something, and I make a beeline for the kitchen, heading straight for my box of Emergen-C. And do I have enough Fighting Five to slather on the bottoms of my feet tonight, just in case? Husband scoffs at Thieves Oil, but I know better.

We’ve made it so far, so good this flu season. His sneezing done for now, Husband reads me an article online.

“There’s a new killer Aussie flu,” he says with the same emotion as when he tells me he’s heading out to shovel snow. “They’re calling it H3N2.”

I furrow my brow, remembering the H1N1 flu and how it gained traction in the United States—and in our house—eight years ago.

“I’m too sick to drive you to school,” I had said to Flicka, my third grader, one day in early June of 2009.

She was sick too, it turned out, and so was Ricka, my second grader. We languished on our beds for a while, the girls missing their last two days of school before summer break that year. Preschooler Dicka would’ve been there with us too, of course, but my sickness had muffled my memories of her.

When we visited the doctor, he informed us we most likely had H1N1, the Swine Flu. Right on cue, and despite her fever, Ricka made a joke about Miss Piggy.

“So what about this new thing? This H3N2?” I say now. “How bad?”

“You might not make it,” Husband says, his eyes sparkling with humor, “because you’re weak.”

I toss him a look. “Hey, what about you?”

“I’ll be fine, because I’m constantly testing the boundaries of my genetic capabilities.”

“Right.”

I was hardy and generally healthy, except for when I contracted Scarlet Fever last spring.

“Didn’t Beth in Little Women die from that?” I asked the doctor.

“Maybe?” She shrugged, then patted my arm. “But you’ll make it.”

Since the recovery from my archaic-sounding illness, I hadn’t suffered even a sniffle.

Husband unleashes another series of sneezes so violent I’m afraid he’ll shake his brain loose.

Who’s the weak one now?

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Words

Trixie and I sat in her living room on New Year’s Day, scrolling through our phones, each of us searching for just the right word.

“How about ‘manumission’?” she said after trying on a handful of others.

“I don’t know that one,” I said.

She read me the definition. But the word wasn’t mine this time—or hers.

Our New Year’s celebrations together at her home had hit the seventeen-year mark. Her family and ours had been friends for so long our blood ran together, mingling our holidays along with it. And these two-day gatherings at the end of the year birthed new ideas for Trixie and me.

In the past, while we lazed around in pajamas, she and I talked about exercise and fitness. While we munched on cheesy bacony things, we discussed tips for healthy eating. But in recent years, while waiting with our families around the TV for the ball to drop in Times Square, my friend and I enjoyed a new pursuit: words.

The words we selected for ourselves at December’s end would set our vision for the new year. Sometimes they stuck; sometimes they didn't. One time, Trixie chose ‘release’ and liked it so well she held onto it for a couple of years; I toyed with ‘surrender,’ but gave it up right away.

This year as usual, our families lounged around while Trixie and I hunted for words. But life at her house had changed.

“Mom, would you like a cup of tea?” my friend said, rising from her chair. “I have mint.”

Her mother lived with them now, and the older woman’s growing needs altered the family’s home life, blurring their future. Challenges had crept onto their calendars and confusion into their days.

Trixie delivered tea and patience anyway.

What word for 2018 would fit my friend’s life? And which one would fit mine?

The memory of a yellow glass candle holder—a gift from an aunt and uncle for my last birthday—flicked into my thoughts. The company that crafted the piece had assigned it a word: FEARLESS.

The idea of fear—or not fearing—flowed through me like my ethnicity. I would speak at a women’s conference in March. The theme? “Fear Not, He is With You.” The verses I stumbled on almost daily? “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid…”, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline…”, “Do not fear for I am with you…” I didn’t need to strain to hear my word for the year.

On the evening of January 1, we packed up our things and said goodbye to Trixie and her family.

“I have my word,” she said, pulling me into a hug. “It’s ‘grace.’”

“And ‘fearless’ is mine,” I said.

Goosebumps speckled my arms. I blinked hard to clear my vision.

This year, our words had chosen us.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

52 weeks, 52 sentences

“What are you writing for the blog this week?” Mom asked me as she washed the last of the dishes at her kitchen sink.

After our three-hundred-and-thirty mile trip to her place on the farm in northern Minnesota, we were snug. I had initially hoped for some snowshoeing time over a few days, but the minus twenty-seven degrees outside—and now Mom’s nudge—warmed me to the idea of staying inside and writing.

“I’ll come up with something,” I said. “Any thoughts?”

“How about pulling together a story using one sentence from each of your blog entries this year?”

“I like it.”

***

Here’s the incoherent outcome (and if any sentence piques your interest, visit the blog for the full—and hopefully clearer—story):

I had first encountered the three little ones years earlier when their dad dropped them off in our yard—along with their dog Daisy—for an unexpected visit, then disappeared. This wasn’t the first time my teen and the first-grader had sparred. I took my struggle to the mat and sat in the presence of the One who owned it all. Maybe blessings would come in the form of no more home break-ins or packages stolen from our front steps.

While I was trying to imagine the reason for a woman jumping, nude, from an upstairs window in The Barn by John Wilde, voices interrupted the gallery’s silence.

“From back there, you looked much younger.”

“Hm,” I furrowed my brow. I flopped an arm over the end of his kayak and gagged all the way to the riverbank.

Then he did a double-take. “Twenty-seven years,” said the man, motioning for the dog to sit.

At 11:30 that night, Husband and I heard voices outside on the street.

“Get out of your vehicle and put your hands over your head,” he said, his amplified voice resonating throughout the alley. He bends down to pluck a long stick from my yard, and I hold my breath. So much for sleeping late.

If only I had known then what was to come. Usually I look out on a brownish lawn, seeing cars flash by as people begin their way to work.

“A guy just stole a t-shirt.” They covered it with blankets and tarps and ran three straps lengthwise and two from top to bottom, securing it for the trip.

“Okay, you’re off the hook,” I announced.

After a busy weekend of running loads over to the new place, Dallas phoned me on Monday morning.

I sigh now because of The Incident in that ancient garden. “Time to go, honey.”

On this side of eternity, though, I don’t see anything new. Advanced cases of head lice, trips to Urgent Care for fungus or urinary tract infections, burs stuck in Afros, cussing two-year-olds.

“Let’s run to Blockbuster,” Husband said when I returned to the chalet. We’ve all done it.

“ARE YOU GOING TO WATCH THIS MOVIE?” she said.

Are you looking for a volunteer activity for a group? And that’s where everything started to go wrong. I peeled off the bandana blindfold.

“Here you go,” Husband said, handing the kid a hotdog. And I’m glad I’ve never made rules around it that could’ve quashed the fun.

I think of a little girl who once stayed with us. She hauls a cardboard box across the alley to my house and unloads its contents onto my dining room table.

“Okay, go,” I finally say, and she lopes toward my new white couch.

Hardship probably creates the best memories. And stuff is only stuff, so use it. Then it came to me.

“Here, catch,” I’d say, tossing marshmallows to my little passengers in the back seat.

“Wow,” Husband said.

Two months after the break-in, a salesman came to our door peddling security systems. Why me? I thought of how little I cared about my toenails. Sometimes the silent messages are the loudest.

“It itches,” I howled to a nurse.

There’s definitely a scar there.

“My heart is beating, and I’m breathing.”

But life wasn’t always so good between Mr. Neighbor and us. After all his trouble, I wouldn’t be courteous if I didn’t order a half pint. And for a week, I forgot all about David Joy, my up-until-then favorite doll. But rest assured, the new object of her affection will lend a hand and save her from herself.

And that’s the end of this thing.

***

Happy 2018, readers! May the New Year be one of clarity, humor, and good ideas.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Movie time!

In late November, I phoned Comcast about the amount of our cable bill, which had crept up on us like holiday weight gain. An employee assured me that yes, they could lower it, since we had been loyal customers for fifteen years. In a sudden craving for something sweet, I asked if they could also add a cable package, simply for the Hallmark Channel and only for the month of December. My wish was granted, and I invited the family to join me at our new holiday entertainment buffet. But only one person accepted my invitation: Flicka.

“Let’s see if we can watch one Christmas movie every day in the month of December,” I said in the Triple Dog Dare tone of Schwartz in A Christmas Story.

My girl accepted the challenge, and her stamina matched mine. She and I devoured movie after movie—and not just on Hallmark. We dipped into Netflix and Amazon for some seasonal saccharine too.

“Have we seen this one?” I asked her last week, scrolling through Hallmark’s movie schedule.

She squinted at the offerings. “They’re all starting to look alike.”

“There are only a couple of plot lines,” I said.

“Yeah, I noticed.”

I grabbed a notebook. “Let’s make a list of common themes.”

The following are our findings in holiday movies (and we may or may not have discussed these at length over goodies):

1.      The main character, always a female, is most likely young, pretty, single, white, and blonde. She’s often a workaholic and lives in a city.

2.      She takes an ex, co-worker, or friend (who’s attracted to her, but she’s oblivious) home for the holidays to fake that he’s her boyfriend/fiancé to please her mother who constantly pressures her to find a man. And a tangled mess ensues. (Plot #1)

3.      She goes back to the small town of her upbringing to plunge herself into a cause like saving a bakery, inn, or other, from destruction or commercial redevelopment. She rediscovers the spirit of Christmas and a sense of community, while reigniting feelings for a past love. Her city boyfriend/fiancé surprises her with a visit, and her life unravels—for like five minutes. (Plot #2)

4.      A funeral or inheritance brings her back to her hometown at the holidays. She doesn’t want to be there and has long ago lost her Christmas spirit. But things change when she finds love and cheer in the place of her childhood. (Plot #3)

5.      The young woman’s mother—if not desperately wanting her married—is dead, and her father has remarried a woman who’s very nice, although the younger woman doesn’t think so. (She hasn’t gotten over the loss of Mom yet.)

6.      The idyllic and festive small town often has a holiday-related name: Evergreen, Snow Falls, or Hollyvale, to name a few. Flicka and I wonder how a wintry name for a town feels for the characters in July.

7.      The city man she ultimately rejects (in favor of the small town guy) has undesirable qualities, but they’re not too bad. The small town love interest has a past she’ll have to get over, but that’s not really too bad either. The new man (small town guy) is single, because he never found the one, or his wife died; he’s never divorced.

8.      The main character is lovably clumsy, adorably bad at cooking, or inept in some other cute way. But rest assured, the new object of her affection will lend a hand and save her from herself.

9.      You can count on an elevator scene. And who gets stuck in the elevator? That’s right; the woman and her new man—probably before they even like each other!—and there’s mistletoe hanging in there. Uh-oh.

10.   In the final scene, the new couple embraces outside at night. They suddenly look up. It’s snowing! And they act like they’ve never seen snow before.

Holiday movies are as delicious as the cookies we nosh while we watch, because there’s love at the end. But remember that story about the man and his young pregnant wife looking for a place to stay, and they’re out of options? They end up giving birth to their baby in a barn, and shepherds come over for a visit.

There’s love at the end of that one too. And it’s my favorite.

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

Judy

Forty-four years later, that new rubber smell still reminds me of Judy. And the long wait.

But it was all about waiting back then.

The shininess and sparkles of December helped take the edge off the slowest possible passage of time. For one month, miniature elves glided up and down the drapes—by magic!—on the dining room window. Red felt and cotton stuffing transformed old Folgers cans into Santa’s boots to hold caramel corn. Mom threaded our mittens, one on each end of a long string, through our coat sleeves. Red hots and those little silver balls, now deemed inedible by the FDA, speckled the green cornflake wreath cookies. When I was school age, chocolate milk replaced the usual cartons of 2% that last day before Christmas break. The cafeteria morphed into a theater, the movie projector spitting out flicks like The African Queen or Wait Until Dark.

At home, the Scotch pine in the living room squatted over mounds of paper-covered packages for a little too long; the anticipation was as agonizing as a stomach filled with too many Spritz cookies.

I was three years old in 1973, and the wait for Christmas was grueling. Finally, it was time. I shredded the wrapping paper on a box that cradled the best doll in the whole wide world. I named her Judy. Like a real mom, I sniffed her head. That new rubber smell! I bathed and dressed her. I kissed her face. And for a week, I forgot all about David Joy, my up-until-then favorite doll.

I think of another wait—humanity’s grueling wait—spanning thousands of years, with no commercial shininess or sparkles to distract it. Finally, it was time. And the angels shredded the sky with the best news of all. A baby! But it was no ordinary baby, this one. This one wore both divinity and flesh and smelled like a better way—and the cure.

Take heart this Christmas: The wait was worth it then. And it’s worth it now.

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

 

© 2014 Tamara Jorell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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