ringing in the holidays

Best news first. my Dear One’s grandson Miles proposed to Holly, apparently in a New York City photo booth, and she said yes! While last year’s missive announced the nuptials of my nephew Dan (a brother’s middle son) and Lish out in Minnesota, this year I am celebrating their daughter, Iris Debwe. Iris was six weeks early, on October 22, but after that unexpected event, mother and child are, as they say, doing well. And dad looks ecstatic.

Every so often buds appear on various branches of our family trees, sometimes predictably, sometimes not. My Dear One and I have both sent DNA samples to various genealogy sites. Most hits are impossibly distant but this year, much to my delight, I found Tim A—or he found me. We are third cousins on the elusive Macey line.

candy box and dominoes

A few months later, Kate B made contact about a box of dominos languishing among the effects of her late father. The box had a label—“Laura A Wavle, 11 Story Street”—and Kate was wondering who that was and why her father might have kept such a thing. Laura was my paternal great-grandmother; her parents Thomas M. and Serena (Carrington) Macey emigrated from England to upstate New York around 1866. (These, in fact, are the great-great-grandparents Tim A and I share.) The box is a candy box; Laura was a confectioner in the 1920s, with a shop on Brattle Street in Cambridge MA, and she lived on Story Street.

I asked Kate about her family, looking for clues that might provide a connection. A name on her maternal line matched one on my paternal line: Sanford. It didn’t take me long to trace her great-grandmother back to Thomas Andrew Sanford, “The Immigrant.” Kate and I are eighth cousins once removed. This doesn’t explain how Laura’s candy box turned into storage for eighteen exceedingly beautiful old dominoes, of course. The search continues.

Leaves also fall. In February, Emily Preston, the Reverend, died. She was quite something. In the 1960s she left the Episcopal Church, in which she had been raised, and was ordained in the United Church of Christ. Em called my mother, her cousin, “Granny” for their 15-year age difference. She was complicated but gave a crackin’ good sermon, dense with ideas and extraordinary imagery. I still remember one on the theme of the Pelican. The Pelican, maligned in the Old Testament, doesn’t actually appear in the New Testament. It is, however, in the Physiologus, a sort of bestiary that positioned each animal in the early Christian cosmos.

…it is an exceeding lover of its young. If the pelican brings forth young and the little ones grow, they take to striking their parents in the face. The parents, however, hitting back kill their young ones and then, moved by compassion, they weep over them for three days, lamenting over those whom they killed. On the third day, their mother strikes her side and spills her own blood over their dead bodies (that is, of the chicks) and the blood itself awakens them from death. (Jonathan Jong, St Mary Magdalen, Oxford, England)

I am hoping that a copy of that sermon, or at least the notes for it, is among the papers packed up from her home.

My learning curve in life has taken a decidedly medical turn. Many of you know that my Dear One has been struggling with kidney failure since 2018. This spring we decided it was time to move on to dialysis. His nephrologist connected us with a Fresenius clinic that specializes in in-home hemodialysis. Instead of being constrained by the schedule of a dialysis center, we set our own timetable.

chair and dialysis machines

What a lot of equipment it requires!

The spare bedroom is our dialysis center. Thanks to my Dear One’s son-in-law and grandson, who schlepped up a recliner and  removed the closet and hall doors, the room accommodates us and most of the supplies. My Tattooed Boy trundled in more furniture later; the little refrigerator he took to college eons ago even found a space.

We went to the clinic in Baltimore four days a week for six weeks; training meant that my Dear One received a treatment while I was shown first how to manage the machinery, then how to make the connections. It’s a lot to absorb and we had the best teacher in our nurse Arlene. We brought the treatments home in early May. Arlene supervised the first few times; now we are old hands. There are occasional hiccups but either Arlene or a Fresenius tech is at the other end of the phone 24/7. My Dear One is an easygoing patient and I’ve become almost adept with needles and with not upsetting the very touchy system.

Otherwise we are focused on domestic life. Covid, of course, is still a thing. Despite being vaccinated and boosted, we are still cautious about public spaces. My Dear One remains an inspired chef in the kitchen. I fuss in the garden where weeds took over the property during the hellish, humid summer that trapped me indoors. Once temperatures fell, however, I donned overalls and dug and pruned, deadheaded and transplanted flowers, then added a few early-blooming bulbs.

Japanese maple

Destroying the root balls of several overgrown ornamental grasses took a year but left prime real estate open for wildlife-friendly native species. A shadbush and a beautyberry have settled in nicely; I await a New Jersey Tea plant for an empty spot. In late September, the gang from Clayton’s Tree Service came by to rectify our efforts gone wrong: persimmons that never fruited, green ash trees assailed by emerald ash borers and an Eastern red cedar crowding the hollies and blocking my path to a brush pile. The Claytons also pruned a Japanese maple so elegantly it evokes the dance of a geisha and the shapes formed by her fan. It was my gift to Dan when we moved in and he loves it too.

I have also discovered that, in my dotage, I am easily irritated by rain being described as “bad weather.” Rain is simply weather, often good, sometimes not. It surrounds me with coolness and gray, and softened dirt easily releases weeds. I discovered these verses by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) on an early October day that was all gustiness and dripping skies.

A Drop fell on the Apple Tree –
Another – on the Roof –
A Half a Dozen kissed the Eaves –
And made the Gables laugh –

A few went out to help the Brook
That went to help the Sea –
Myself Conjectured were they Pearls –
What Necklaces could be –

The Dust replaced, in Hoisted Roads –
The Birds jocoser sung –
The Sunshine threw his Hat away –
The Bushes – spangles flung –

The Breezes brought dejected Lutes –
And bathed them in the Glee –
The Orient showed a single Flag,
And signed the fête away –

Here’s to 2023. Who knows what Father Time and Mother Nature have in mind.