I am back with my parents in western New York State for the week. Ben is with me this time, a holiday visit to stretch across the space between Christmas spent apart from Nana and Papa this year as they continued their current journey with convelescence. Instead of making the kuebies (one of Dad’s favorite Christmas cookies) that are typically made on Christmas Eve, I made them on New Years Day, and the tin now sits on the table here as a reminder of traditions we have shared for so many years past. It’s not that that we haven’t had a Christmas apart in our individual homes ever before. It’s just that Mom and Dad coming to us in Massachusetts these past twenty years had become a tradition of its own. This year was just different, bittersweet as Molly Ben and their father John cocooned in my country home with the snow and peace of the day.
Still, feeling the difference on Christmas Day, worried, Ben asked if his grandparents were going to die. We all did our best to reassure him that they just needed to heal from their repsective surgeries, that it would be too hard for them to travel this year. Ben is no stranger to death. He remembers his Grammy K and Great Gramma Gigi, both had come to live in our community when they needed more support, both eventually moving to nursing homes where Ben would visit and provide comfort before they passed. One of us added philosophically that as human beings, we all age, just like Grammy K and Gramma GiGi, and we all die someday, trying to put the cycle of life into perspective for Ben. We even talked about Desi, our very old cat who now lived with John and was beginning to fail. Little did we know that the process of Desi letting go would begin so soon, that she would stop eating the day after Christmas, that Ben would be witness again to the poignant process of death.
I now sit for hours in my favorite chair here in the wee hours knitting, waiting for the sun, my view out to the woods at the side of my parents house, and remember the sunrise captured here a month ago.
I took the image home and let it simmer. There is something about the contrast of red on dark with glimpses of hills and sky between a tangle of bare winter branches that had captured my attention. My new stock of hand-dyed cloth made there in the fall, in the same hills as this image, was now sitting here on my studio work table alongside piles of commerical cloth scraps. It wasn’t long before I began to experiement with contrasts here too.
The developing blocks went up on my design board and it took only days to piece together a composition that evoked for me, the feeling of being there, watching for the sun’s playful presence. Now back here, sitting in the chair, waiting for sunrise, I travel across the space of my imagination between here and there, to my studio there, to time spent sewing it all together, knowing that my heart will be holding the essence of being here with my beloved parents at the same time.
Desi died the day after we arrived here. She was a beauty. My last image of her was in John’s lap New Year’s Day, a skeleten with fur, still emanating her beauty as John stoked her gently, back and forth, back and forth.