I have blogged several times about my Winnie The Pooh and the fact that we celebrate our birthday together every year. My mother made him from a 1960’s McCall’s pattern and gave him to me on my first birthday. He has seen me through every happy and every sad time in my life. It may sound strange that an almost fifty-year-old woman still has a stuffed teddy bear, but I can’t imagine my life without him.
Though Pooh has undoubtedly been scarred by some of the trials he has witnessed me going through, nothing could have been as devastating as his physical altercation with a Woozle, known to humans as a Black Labrador Retriever. I was not there to witness the carnage but I came home from work to the aftermath. The trail of foam that led upstairs to the discovery of Pooh’s ravaged face made me burst into tears. I was twenty-one years old and called my mother in hysterics because Pooh had been assaulted and he lay in pieces in front of me.
(circa 1992 – post surgery)
After some amateur plastic surgery, thanks to my Nana, Pooh had a new face and a new outlook on life. He had survived what was arguably his worst day and had come out on the other side. He now resides on a shelf above my bed. It’s not quite the one-hundred-acre wood he was accustomed to but he seems to have acclimated.
Last night, I watched the movie Christopher Robin starring Ewan McGregor. When Pooh asks how old he will be when Christopher Robin is one-hundred and Christopher Robin answers ninety-nine, the tears started. That is me and my Pooh. He came into my life on my first birthday and my mother knew my fondness for a silly old bear of very little brain would lead to a lasting relationship.
Pooh is my constant. Regardless of what life throws at me, he represents my past, he remains an ongoing part of my present and he will stand beside me going into my future. For being a bear of very little brain, his intelligence speaks volumes. He will forever have the wisdom to just sit back and listen.
I have the great fortune of having a good memory. My bosses will reach me in the office through the intercom to give them a phone number rather than look it up because they know I will be able to produce that number from the depths of my mind faster than they can Google it. My memory for numbers also comes in handy when they are buying anything online and I can rattle off the company Visa number without hesitation.
My ability to be able to retain faces and names is one of the things for which I am most grateful. Having been in the hospitality business for the majority of my working life, this gift has served me well. If I have the benefit of meeting a guest face-to-face and hearing their name, that name is locked in the vault of my memory. I make a point of using their name each time I address that person so our interaction feels much more personal for both of us.
We had a group check into the lodge a few weeks ago and I missed the opportunity to meet the guests upon check in. At breakfast the next day, I made a point of introducing myself to each member of the group and was able to remember every one of them. The fact that I could refer to each of them by name did not go unnoticed. Several mentions were made about my being able to call them by name after such a short time and that level of service was compared to the service at the Ritz Carlton! Although we are a small, family run lodge that distinction made my heart swell with pride.
Hospitality has many synonyms that describe what it is about and the descriptions that ring true for me are welcome, warmth and friendliness. Those are the things I hold closest to me, not only in my job but in my life and I hope to be able to deliver those things for a long time.
It is interesting to see how my life has evolved over the last twenty-five years. I’m certainly not going to tout that I walked uphill to school both ways in the snow in bare feet but there are some long-forgotten truths about things that happened when we were surviving our impressionable years, some that our parents were oblivious to…..and for good reason. Back in the days when not wearing seat-belts and driving under the influence were almost socially acceptable, there were some essential unwritten rules shared by siblings and friends. The most important being – “Things that happen in your teenage years, stay in your teenage years”.
But, after the Earth had orbited the sun a sufficient number of times, I felt a little more comfortable regaling my parents with a few of the stories that happened in the good ol’ days since I had a nice cushion of “time gone by” and didn’t think I was eligible to be grounded anymore. The sealed records had been expunged, the statute of limitations had expired and I was ready to open the locked vault that contained the evidence of our teenage shenanigans.
Running with scissors would have been a much more acceptable behavior and a much easier tale to share over a cocktail or two but my folks took everything in stride, just like I knew they would. All things considered, after leaving a 19 and 15-year-old home alone while they went to Florida, they were not as shocked as I thought they would be to find out why the kitchen linoleum had tiny burn holes directly in front of the stove (it wasn’t the bacon) and why the giant satellite dish was perched at a precarious angle at the top of the steep hill behind our house.
My brother and I, for all intents and purposes, were respectful human beings and responsible kids. My parents knew our friends well and we were trusted to roam about town in our pimpin’ ride – the Pontiac Acadian. If I had to guess, I would say my brother had a Rum and Coke held firmly between his legs (maybe not so responsible) when the little blue car crested the hill. It was winter and the steep decline was more than treacherous. All of the defensive driving techniques my dad taught us could not have prevented the outcome of this evening. The momentum carried them down the hill and my brother strategically maneuvered the tiny car as it tipped on its side and wedged itself between a tree and a telephone pole at the bottom of the hill. My brother impressively “stuck the landing” and all of the occupants were completely unharmed. The car, that only weighed what felt like 100 pounds, was pushed out, righted and driven away with minimal damage.
(ours was a 4-door, but you get the idea)
After spilling the goods to my parents, a little bit at a time, they seemed unnerved. I always wondered if they had known these things all along and were just waiting for us to come clean. Was the omission of truth a lie? Were we terrible children for wanting to shield our parents from the horrors of the real world? Was it wrong to want to keep them in their safe little bubble? Only time will tell.
Now that they have both passed and have access to all of the details of our lives, my brother and I may eventually be in for a long overdue time-out when we are all together again.
We have a scrapbooking group checking in to the lodge this weekend. I’m sure you are wondering why I am sharing this information. Thinking about this group made me pull out the scrapbook I made for my mom’s celebration of life over four years ago.
Part of my healing process was to capture the many parts of my mother that made her so wonderful – her childhood, her marriage to my father, her becoming a mother and her dedication to our family. As I turned each page I had created, adorned with pictures of her infectious smile, I became overwhelmed with emotion. Tears began to slide down my cheeks but I stopped myself from becoming a blubbering mess by remembering all the extraordinary things about my mom and that made my sadness turn into happiness. She was a woman with a big heart who everyone admired and loved.
As I was going through my scrapbook pages, my iPod continued to shuffle songs. Although I was lost in the images of my mother, the song that began to play in the background of my reverie was called “Remember David” by A Flock of Seagulls. David was my dad’s name.
My dad passed away eight years before we lost my mom. He is never far from my thoughts but the raw emotion of my loss is tied more tightly to my mom because it is more fresh in my mind. I got the message loud and clear. I don’t miss my dad any less than I miss my mom. There are days that I take myself back to the minutes before he took his last breath, the seconds I counted between those breaths and the exact moment I knew he was gone. It is a moment I will never forget.
But with the sad moments of his loss come the memories of the life he lived. He was gregarious. He lived life to the fullest. And although he left this world before he should have, he left a huge imprint. He shaped my world and he left his spiritual impression on my brother and my nephews. They all embody the pieces of him he would have wanted to leave behind. They are loving, they are adventurous and they put their family first.
I can only thank my iPod shuffle for reminding me to “Remember David”, not that I will ever forget him. Those subtle reminders make me realize he is never that far away from me and I should make a point of remembering David more often. I miss you, Dad.
There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,
and my mind has been known to roam.
There are four walls and a roof that wait for me,
and long for me to call it my home.
The mass of buildings and lanes of traffic
are replaced with hills and trees.
The soothing sounds of Mother Nature’s lullaby
truly put my mind at ease.
I am homesick for a place I’ve never seen,
a place where my heart is replete,
a home where my soul is understood
and a home where I feel genuinely complete.
The barren land beckons, the rolling earth lures,
I hear it calling my name.
I know when I finally find this haven
my life will never be the same.
I will shed the layers of the pretense I’ve lived
and genuinely feel at peace.
I will feel naked among the rocks and the trees,
and my life will have found a new lease.
There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,
and my mind has been known to roam.
I hope to one day discover this place,
and forever call it my home.