Today is Christmas tree day. We are in the car, Mike, Emmett & me, on our way to a farm upstate where we can cut down our own tree. I insist on this, every year. It is one of the small ways I hang on to my brother.
One of my favorite memories of him is the years we went, just the two of us, and chose the perfect tree to cut down and bring home. We would walk circles around every tree, examining them for flaws from all sides. Argue over what attributes mattered most in a tree. Eventually settle on one we both approved of. We both loved doing that, just him and me.
I miss that, so much. My heart longs to choose a tree together with him again, even still. Even as I move forward and forge new, happy, family traditions, this one still pulls at me.
We are a family, out to joyfully choose our tree and begin the holiday season of celebrations. That we will do, but there will be a moment, out on that tree farm, which I will take just for Greg and me, to remember and reflect, and to ask him to point me toward the very best one.
It's been so long since I've been here. Blogger has even changed its site - I logged on and it took me a minute to find my blog and figure out how to post something!
There are big things happening around my house... things I am not quite ready to talk about here just yet. Which is mainly why I've been absent. Soon, I will be ready, but I'll leave it at that for the moment.
In the meantime, we've had lots of family time lately. We had a big picnic in our backyard in June with about 60 family & friends, which was wonderful despite the stifling heat. We went to a baseball game with Mike's family and Emmett had playtime with Alli & Aaron.
We went up to Vermont for a family reunion with my Dad's family and had a great time with cousins, playing games, swimming and catching up.
In the past week, we've had an overnight visit from Katherine, Julia & Sam and then a 2 day visit from Maresi & Maria. These were both so great. I had lots of time to catch up with Kat & Maresi, and Emmett had plenty of cousin time. Both Julia & Maria had sleepovers in his room with him, and they did a great job. It was such a joy to have them!
Sadly, on Monday we lost Mike's Grandma Violet. She was a really special lady, and we miss her. We'll be driving down to PA tomorrow so that we can celebrate her life with family there on Friday. It is a sad occasion, but we will be glad to see cousins and family there.
Saturday, we begin our summer vacation with my family. Gram & Grandpa used to own a house on a lake, close to their home. It was their summer house, and my mom & her siblings grew up there, spending summers from the day school closed each year. They sold it many years ago when Grandpa was sick. The current owner of the house invited Gram and her children to come and see the place last summer. It turns out she rents it occasionally - and offered to give members of our family first option for renting it. We'll be there next week with my parents and Gram and Grandfather. It is a special place and I am really looking forward to spending the week there. Mike will unfortunately have to work during the week next week but is going to join us as much as he can.
It's a busy summer, as usual!
Six years, as of yesterday. Six years. It feels a moment and a lifetime. A fresh, angry, gaping wound and a dull, ever-fading scar. I didn't really mark the day yesterday. I acknowledged it briefly and then I tamped it down, powered through and pretended it wasn't happening. I survived the day. It is an ugly, ugly day and it is just a day like any other. As I'm sure I've said in past years, my little brother is just as dead today as he was yesterday. The anniversary technically makes the number of years he's been gone continue to tally up, but it's arbitrary, really.
And you know what? I was fine yesterday. By evening, I felt I'd been bottling up the feelings of the day, and I was afraid I wouldn't fall asleep easily. I knew if I didn't settle to sleep, the flood gates would open and I'd probably end up crying late into the night. I did, though. I fell asleep and I slept fairly well. For the first time since Greg died, I marked the anniversary without falling apart AND without feeling guilty about not falling apart. Being okay doesn't mean I miss him any less. It doesn't mean I am less sad or less hurt. It doesn't mean I won't still have bad days, sad days - I definitely do - but it does mean I'm healing. It means I am making my active, conscious decision, every single day, to live life and to move forward.
My senior recital was nine years ago last week. It's hard for me, now, to imagine this time in my life when I was so focused on music, and so prepared, skilled and confident that I could stand on stage and totally kick ass. It was an honor for me to share the stage time with my friend and recital partner, Courtney, and every year around the end of March I think of the hard work and the laughs that went into preparing for our big day. I am taking this as inspiration now, as I struggle to regain my skill and confidence as a trumpet player.
After we moved into our house last May, one of the first things I did was dig up a section of flower garden to plant seeds for a small vegetable garden. Homegrown veggies make me so happy. I put in six tomato plants, which grew beautifully and gave tomatoes until a couple of storms did some damage and then the hurricane knocked them flat. I planted about 4 zucchini plants, which, all together, produced one zucchini all summer. One jalapeño plant, with loads of peppers, none of which were spicy even a tiny bit. A whole bunch of asparagus, which did well but was too young to produce edible asparagus -- it'll hopefully produce this year. And two rows of carrots, about which I was so excited, watching the tops grow and grow. I couldn't wait to harvest and eat some of the carrots under them. When I eventually started trying to dig up a couple, there was nothing there. Greens on top, and no carrots underneath. None! What a disappointment.
At the end of the season, we cleared out the garden and readied it for winter.
Last week, Mike was outside doing a little yard work since we've had all this unseasonably warm weather. He was in the garden fertilizing and watering the asparagus, and when he came back inside, he handed this to me:
I was going to give up on growing carrots, but perhaps I'll try again this year!