Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Circle Game

I don't usually buy cut flowers, but a few weeks ago, I desperately felt the need to brighten up my house in the midst of a particularly dark, gray Seattle winter. I thought a nice bright bouquet of Gerber Daisies would do the trick, but was having trouble deciding on which color to buy. So I let my two-year-old son choose the color. He chose white.

White? Are you sure? Yes, he wanted white--out of all the brilliant orange and pink and red options, he chose white. Since I did ask him, I honored his selection and reluctantly put them in my shopping cart.

When we got home, rather than putting them in the clear glass vase that I originally pictured, I chose a narrow blue one that had belonged to my grandmother. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and bright the (seemingly) dull white flowers looked in the vintage vase, one of the few mementos from Grandma; a relic from her years of collecting and selling Depression Era glass.

Six years ago today, Grandma passed away. She died peacefully in her sleep, in her own home, after many months of dealing with cancer.

Today is also the birthday of my youngest nephew, Kaiden, who was born exactly one year after Grandma died. So it's a good day to reflect on Grandma, and all that I gained from her, and the Circle of Life.

March seems to me, a particularly sad month for a life to end--to make it through the long, cold winter, with new life just around the corner. Things are just starting to warm up and brighten up. Flowers starting to bloom, birds searching for mates and nest material, bees buzzing and pollinating. There is light at the end of the tunnel! If they could just hold out for a few more weeks, perhaps the warmth and light would be enough to invigorate and enliven one for another season....

For Grandma, the new season usually meant time for garage sales and flea markets. Some of my fondest childhood memories are spending spring and summer Saturdays stopping and shopping at one garage sale after another. There were always little treasures for me--a game or doll or craft project. And Grandma was never afraid to haggle for a lower price or a deal on bulk purchases. I'm sure her main goal on these trips, though, was to find vintage items that she could sell at the Flea Market. For that was her passion. I also spent many summer weekends hanging out at Gram's booth at the various flea markets and swap meets where she sold her Depression glass and other wares.

Aside from garage sales and flea markets, another favorite place to hunt for bargains was her local thrift stores. For many years, she volunteered at "The Barn", a cute little shop in Pleasant Valley, NY.

I never fully appreciated all the secondhand clothing or the handmade sweater vests (Gram was also a prolific knitter!) when I was younger. But the spirit and philosophy behind those activities must have been passed down through her genes, 'cause I sure do love those hand-me-downs and bargains now! Not only do I shop exclusively at thrift stores and garage sales (not to mention taking full advantage of FreeCycle and the Free section on Craig's List), for a couple of years I even volunteered at my own local thrift store, "The Last White Elephant", a fundraiser for animal rescue organizations in Seattle. (Sadly, no longer in existence.)

Her craftiness and entrepreneurial spirit surely live on through many members of the family--I've been selling my own crafts at fairs and markets for most of my life; I ran my own online retail business for six years, and now have two active Etsy shops; Aunt Marilyn is a crafty cross-stitcher; and Aunt Sue shares Gram's eye for vintage with her own Etsy shop. Mom can crochet and knit too (though she never does!), and even my cousin Jacob, who took up Gram's knitting skills has sold many handmade hats in his wife's store and online in her Etsy shop!

Yes, we are a crafty, thrifty, DIY family. And the Circle of Life continues. Gram would be proud!

Despite my denouncement of March deaths, there is no shortage of them.  March 17 marked the fourth anniversary of the death of my cousin Isaac. Two years ago, on March 27, was the birth and death day of my former sister-in-law's baby, Paul David. And this year the March deaths continue:  My dog Noah, whom I adopted as a puppy almost 12 years ago, passed away last week on March 16.  Great Aunt Janet (first wife of my late Great Uncle Zane, who shared the same birthday as me), passed away on March 20th.
NOTE: This blog was originally written March 26, 2012. I never posted it because I just couldn't find a fitting ending. But a message from my sister, reflecting on the bitter-sweet month of March, prompted me to finally post it, three years later.

I still don't know how to finish it, but to say that the Circle of Life continues. My son who picked out those "plain" white flowers is now five. Kaiden is about to turn eight, and there are a few more great grandchildren that Grandma (and now Grandpa) never got to meet. The craftiness of our family continues too, as I see in my son's amazing creativity and excitement for arts and crafts every day.