Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gratitude and reconciliation


By JOELLEN COLLINS

Thank goodness I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, as the guilt about breaking them is too overwhelming; thus I am berating myself less than I would be otherwise! I have discovered, however, that the ending of another year prompts thoughts about what has occurred during the past 12 months and what I might find next year, if I am lucky enough to notch another period of time on my increasingly big belt. I have found it useful to contemplate the good things that have happened as well as the lessons learned from unhappy episodes; somehow when bad things happen to others I usually think why not me, instead of why me?

So, in compiling my gratitude list for the gift of another year, that is first. I have lived 16 years longer than my mother, who led a wholesome life, except for her rich Swedish cooking. Every Christmas I re-create some items from that cuisine, and my home is filled with the smells of my childhood. So, Huzzahs for Hezzie (Mommy’s funny nickname used by only a rarefied few). I was fortunate to feel beloved.

Secondly are the lives of my children and their families. There was a time I thought I couldn’t give birth (I was adopted and had a strange idea that I would be barren, as my mother, the woman who adopted me, had been). So, hurray for the blessing of motherhood and for the gift I have ever day knowing that my progeny and theirs (my two grandchildren) are doing well right this minute, thank you!

Of course, my granddaughter’s birth last February was more blessed than I ever anticipated. Little Goldie Margaret (my middle name) brightens my life as Bibi (Swahili for “Grandmother”) Jo and the days of all who meet her.

That moniker is tribute to something I did a few years ago that has enriched my life in untold ways. Initially I went to Tanzania to Theresa Grant’s orphanage to assuage my need for travel and new experiences, and to feel that somehow, in the progress of this journey, I would find more meaning to the later-life trek I had already begun. More than anything, I was not disappointed. Now I have been there twice, hope to go again this summer, sat with Diane Fossey’s gorillas and pondered the hard lessons of the genocide museum in Rwanda. Mostly I shared my love and concern with all the “Kili kids,” but especially Neema, “my girl,” as I have become her “bibi.” Though well-traveled over my footloose life, I have been rewarded with this strong connection, one to enlighten my final years. Now I have a group of friends who make the girls’ dresses every year and we have expanded to sewing skirts for the St. Thomas Episcopal Church Micah project for kids suffering in Haiti. What more could I ask for in terms of the lessons I need?

Along with these gifts, according to international statistics of wealth and poverty, I am just doing fine. I live in a beautiful area and with a loving and intellectual community filled with music, theater and art; my small condo right in town allows me to bump into people I admire every day when I go to the market and post office. I am even allowed to continue part-time work with teenagers whose curiosity and open-mindedness keep me thriving every class period. I dare not “grow old!”

I have friends who have been with me throughout most of my life, recently reconciling with one of the dearest of them. Though I have said goodbye to too many of them this year, I honor the close times, the laughter and the richness of my life as a result of their friendship. So, Marty, my ex-husband and father of my children, who died last June, I hope you know how the gift of our continued respect and friendship was rare and magical—and a dominant part of my life.

Most of life’s surprises, after the initial shock, are essential. I was even able to apologize to a very dear high school friend whom I didn’t treat well in my callow youth. I would never have known how to reach him if it were not for web connections and for the death of my former pastor, whose son called me and while reminiscing, gave me the name of his contact, who told me where to find my old friend.

Welcome to all of it!




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