Another Postage Stamp Winter

I’d started the holiday season by sharing with My Rogue just how relieved I was to be enjoying another winter at Frog Haven.  Somewhat of a surprise to me, the former adventurer’s relief was as great as mine.  We were both growing older, each at our own pace, meshing with the other’s path just often enough to come to grips with the newer realities that colored our daily routine; we were working as partners once again and doing so on a lesser income.

I had recovered from my admitted homesickness, at least for the time being. Our home was off the market. I’m no fool; neither the market place nor God was intent on our prospective move back home nearer to family.  My sisters and my daughter had assured me not to worry – it was perfectly okay.  Perhaps this was meant to be. I had their support: stay a bit longer in your beautiful home.  All were fine and would worry less, knowing the Rogue and I were surrounded by loving friends in this beautiful Midwest wonderland.

I could stop now, playing the mental games I’d been playing…that I’d be content to decorate an older, cottage-size home; in my mind’s eye, I had already accepted the downsized footprint and mentally noted “what I could live without” this last time around…at least I hoped it would be the last time.  I envisioned what the new house would look like – inside and out – considering the choices we’d have in our price range. This time – I assured myself I’d be assertive – I would be a seasoned homebuyer, one smart enough to avoid the marketing entrapments that a younger home buyer experienced.  Truth was, I’d already been there, done that; and my youth had definitely played a part in my choices.  Now, I was better prepared to read between the lines and ask questions.

I had decided to ignore anything described as “quaint”.  I’d had enough of quaint; quaint took lots of maintenance to keep it so.  I’d also made a conscience decision to avoid “cottage”.  My Rogue was six foot four.  He’d spent nine years living as Gulliver in our two bedroom cottage before we’d moved east.  I couldn’t do that to him again, no matter how much I needed the coziness that came from a cottage ambiance.

At least now, I was no longer in a transitive state. Like the caterpillar, I’d spun my own cocoon and convinced myself that if others had survived this stage of life then SO BE IT; I could as well and come out stronger for the experience!  Regrettably, the present circumstances of living far from immediate family was still a personal sorrow; yet just as quickly I felt a deepened sense of peace!   The carpeted staircase and loft led me to my own fork in the road, a comfy pathway for my daytime commuting between entrepreneur and homemaker. Renewed and seemingly refreshed, I emerged as a super frog with wings, taking flight on all projects, slightly delusional but absolutely convinced that I could do this again!  Never mind that my “this” had several components and, as usual, this frog would be biting off more than she could chew; and accomplishing it all on a budget.

Perhaps I was destined for greater experiences here in my dream-come-true Frog Haven home.  What was ours would stay in boxes for a while longer while My Rogue and I settled in once again to decorate for Christmas.  I insisted that we’d celebrate a postage stamp Christmas; cards were the priority and forty-five cent stamps wouldn’t kill us with all that God had provided these past two years.  Sending out cards was doable; we would pursue our tradition regardless of how tight the December budget seemed to be.

Besides, I’d long ago contended that humans being material matter needed to touch and receive material matter – something that they could hold in their hands; no, emails would not suffice, not this year. To help me out with my long days’ marketing and business priorities, My Rogue would not only stuff the envelopes but also stamp, seal, and ready them for the post office.

Sounded great until I realized he could do nothing to help until I’d had the chance to write this year’s verse and assemble the hand-crafted cards.  Hand-crafted was the operative word; I don’t do windows and My Rogue doesn’t tie bows, so the finishing touches were left for me to complete.

To gain some craft time, I suggested that My Rogue could decorate the tree. He took this idea rather well.   Our tubs were already in the garage, clearly marked for loading into a U-Haul; now, we could easily access anything if the need arose.  Because he would see clearly where the tree decorations sat, I wouldn’t have to be there!  Yes Sirree! I could remain at my desk, focused and undisturbed!  I was definitely still delusional.

I heard a few thuds, and the tree was finally inside and standing upright.  A week later, the tree still stood naked (my description) but My Rogue assured me he was on it.  He had decided to work on the porch lights first.

This was a short setback; clearly, his focus was not yet on our tree. I walked away, biting my lip and steering clear of any commentary so as not to provide him with any excuse or due cause for the potential of a lingering indifference…  In his eyes, any delay was no big deal.  In my perspective, everything –Christmas or routine – was taking longer to complete – laundry, meals, shopping…I wanted to see our tree decorated NOW; preferably before Christmas!

My restraint apparently worked; He was hanging bulbs and had already found the sentimental frog ornaments when I came down the steps to cook dinner…in fact, he seemed to be doing just fine, and on his own, too!  The lights were on, the tree’s turntable was spinning, and Christmas had arrived…Not bad, I thought….remember to say something nice, Annette.

Looks great, Honey.

Motivated, the artist in My Rogue decided to improve the overall silhouette and rework a couple of the branches…

Without even a poof, all the lights went out.  Now, the darkened tree still spun, but its corner was completely dark; there wasn’t even enough light from the late day’s sun to cast a twinkle on any of the bulbs. No problem, I assured him. Dinner was ready. We could tackle the tree tomorrow.

We ate and then proudly, I stated we needn’t worry about spending any more money on Christmas lights; in fact, we could use the old light strings packed in one of the tubs that remained in the garage.  (Coincidentally, these were the same lights he’d hammered me last year for refusing to toss them away.)  I’d already endured

Just WHERE are you going to use those?  THROW THEM OUT, Honey! You save all this junk that you’ll never use again; I don’t understand why you have to keep blah, blah, blah…

The next day, My Rogue turned on the spinning tree and artistically swaged the old light strings over and under the artificial branches.  After much reworking and rearranging (with a little help from my hands to rework the branch greenery) we decided that, while not exactly a thing of beauty as our previous trees had been, this season’s version would suffice. We sat there, admiring his work and smiling at the wonder that God provides in even the smallest of crises – like old light strings.

Once again, Mom’s words were ringing true:

You always think you are having it rough until you hear what someone else is going through; and you realize just how truly fortunate you are.

Our no-money solution had yielded a familiarly friendly, inauspicious and rather quaintly decorated tree.  God indeed had a sense of humor.  He had returned us to our home roots via the make-shift tree lighting and had gifted us a cottage ambience after all without our having moved an inch!  We finished our cards well ahead of time; we even had the money to purchase the few extra Christmas stamps needed.

There are the public images that return each year via magazine covers and decorating shows; the expectations of perfection for a Norman Rockwell family gathering.   I’ve heard we are not supposed to compare ourselves with others; that comparing will only deceive our perception and downplay the equally valuable accomplishments that are uniquely ours.    Clearly, the message speaks:  the where we are is exactly the where we need to be.

Christmas has passed and so has January and most of February.  It’s snowing today! I’m cooking comfort food and still running behind in my desire to finish hand-written thank you cards and Valentines; stamps are now forty-six cents, but this budgeting exercise too, will pass…

Obviously, Someone believes that My Rogue and I still have a few more quaint and cozy moments to experience; and we can happily do so right where we are.