My 80-year-old parents stayed with Bill and me for the week before Christmas. We sat for hours at the dinner table retelling old family stories, drank chocolate-glazed-donut coffee while we nibbled Middle Eastern pistachio “sweets,” and worked on a horrible 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle with 999 pieces in slightly nuanced shades of soft green. (No, Bill and Dad didn’t work on it and no, Mom and I didn’t finish it). Shauna and Henry came to visit several times, and Todd took Mom and Dad on a tour of the company where he works in downtown Chicago. We went to two of Willow’s Christmas services—one in English and one in Spanish. None of us speak Spanish but we wanted to experience the feeling of the evening; we did and we loved it.
My dad, a former sheet-metal worker who fixed cars as a hobby, visited Willow’s CARS ministry, where volunteers repair cars for single moms. (Handyman Dad also fixed our fireplace flue that hasn’t worked properly for 29 years—thanks Dad!) The three of us also visited the Willow Creek Care Center. I’d told Mom and Dad about the food pantry for years, but they’d never seen it in action. Three days before Christmas it was a festive madhouse, a chaos of volunteers and guests preparing for holiday meals with family and friends. Mom and Dad were moved and awed and filled with questions for Armando and Patsy and Jorie, three of the leaders who make the pantry “happen.”
I didn’t realize until this week that my parents caused a bit of a stir at the pantry. “You should have heard the volunteers,” Patsy told me this week. “’Who was that with Lynne Hybels?’ they asked. ‘Did you see how that man had his arm around his wife the whole time? Weren’t they cute? Wasn’t that sweet?’”
Yes, it was sweet. In fact, the whole week was sweet. I wrote in a December blog that I was doing Christmas 2010 differently, more slowly than in the past. One result of that choice was the freedom to hang out in an unrushed way with my parents, something I haven’t done at Christmas for years. I suspect it didn’t feel unrushed to Mom and Dad—I think I dragged them to too many places—but it was relatively unrushed and it was fun! I hope we can do the same thing next year.
I also hope that next year I can have as much fun with Henry as I had this year. One of my favorite 2010 photos is Henry in his Hanna Andersson Christmas pjs nestled in the fort we made and perusing my pink travel Bible. I don’t know why he is fascinated with that particular Bible, but he often “reads” Bible stories to me or flips through its pages and makes up “Bible songs” that he sings at A VERY HIGH VOLUME.
Often when I’m playing with Henry I inadvertently call him Todd. Henry’s middle name is Todd, but I don’t think that’s why I slip up. I think it’S because often Henry and I are playing with Todd’s old toys—the very same Legos, Lincoln Logs and Micro Machines that Todd and I played with thirty years ago. The two of them play very differently. Todd was an usually quiet little kid while Henry rarely stops talking. But those little boy toys—how they take me back in time!
Speaking of Todd, he bought me an extremely practical, yet thoughtful Christmas gift. Early on Christmas morning, he suggested I open his gift before I made the scrambled eggs for our family breakfast. The incredible Scanpan nonstick frying pan simplified our Christmas morning—no messy frying pan to soak in sudsy water—and it continues to make my morning routine easier.
The Scanpan logo says “for the love of good food.” A gift from my assistant, Brannon, continue that theme. The Improvisational Cook promises to help me “embellish, adapt, change, alter, modify, and experiment” with recipes and ingredients, and guarantees “a fun, more spontaneous way to cook with whatever is on hand.” I do tend to go with “whatever is on hand,” but the results are not always pretty or tasty. I’m counting on my new cookbook to turn me into a kitchen improviser extraordinaire.
A friend gave me a bracelet that echoes this calling. It has found a nearly permanent home on my right wrist. Especially during this past week, when hatred, violence and death have been so much in the news and in the collective consciousness of Americans, I have been profoundly drawn to this simple word etched in silver on a leather band.
Peace. May it begin with me. With you. May God write peace on all our wings.