December 21, 2016

With more love than they'll ever know.

This is a favorite post of mine from 2015 and I'd like to re-post it again tonight. 

For about the last ten or so years, I've made my students these little snowmen ornaments. I got the idea when I was at my in-laws home and they had hung an ornament on their tree that was handmade by one of my husband's teachers. It was this little felt stocking with his name written on it in glitter. Here it was 30-odd years later, and I was so touched by his teacher's gesture.  I thought to myself, "Why am I not doing something like this?" I would love for my students to have something to hang on their own trees when they are adults with families of their own. 

So that following summer, I began scouring craft websites and magazines (this was long before Pinterest).  I don't recall where I found the idea for the snowmen, but that summer, I began sewing a few. Then, I set the project aside for a while.  
The night before the last day of school that December,  I realized that I hadn't made enough snowmen for my class. I got up in the middle of the night and began sewing. I couldn't believe that I had forgotten to sew the last five! It didn't take me long and they were well worth the lost sleep. I heard from a former student recently and she told me that she slept with hers for years after! 

I resolved the following year to make as many as I could in the summer so that I'd never have that last-minute madness again.  

Fast forward to the summer of 2014.  
That was a lousy year for me.  It started with a cancelled vacation in December of 2013 and by the following December, I'd felt like I'd aged ten years. Nothing went right that year.  It was bad news after bad news for the people I loved.  
It was also the five-year anniversary of the death of my beloved brother-in-law and truth-be-told, favourite Mihalides, Mark. He died tragically in March of 2009 and I had hoped that by five years later, we'd feel some sense of acceptance or peace with it all. We still don't.     

That summer, I drove myself to our place in Florida.  I was pretty scared, but with my fancy new-to-us car, three cell phones and an emergency kit that rivals anything Survivor-Man/expert outdoor person could put together, I figured I'd be okay.  

My mother called me every two hours on that drive down. My mother is my best friend. My mother is the best person you will ever meet.  She comforts, she bakes, she knows just what to say, and she listens. Boy oh boy does she listen, and I like to talk.   

So I get to Florida with among other things, my sewing machine, white felt and those little scissors that make the difference between "These are amazing! How do they cut those teeny strings?" and "We're throwing this project in the dumpster." You know the ones.  You hide them from your kids.They're that good, and you don't dare use them on paper.

I settle in and enjoy a few days with Florida all to myself. 

Mom is due to arrive soon and I can't wait to enjoy two weeks with her. Just the two of us.  We're going to enjoy the sun, do some shopping, eat, sleep and make those crazy snowmen. These are the things you pledge to do when it's 114 F outside and you're crazy enough to travel to Florida in the summer.

I picked her up at the airport and right away I knew something wasn't right, but I said nothing.  24 hours after picking her up, she turned my world upside down. Bad things don't happen to your mother.  Your mother will always be healthy and vibrant right?  

I won't go into the details, but after a brief, but scary time, Mom is doing just great now. She's her usual fudge-making, can't-wait-to-be-a-grandmother-in-March self (congratulations to my brother and his wife!). 

Back to Florida...after the shock of her news, Mom and I settled into this weird routine of trying to pretend we weren't scared.  Eventually we decided to make the snowmen. And we talked and we laughed and Skyped with my Dad, and I think we watched The Golden Girls or The Brady Bunch. We just kept sewing, trimming and gluing. I don't remember much about those two or three afternoons where we made the snowmen, except that I was so grateful to spend that time with her. My heart was over-flowing with love and fear all at the same time.  

We made about 60 snowmen that summer. This years students will receive the first 20 of them.  They are more special than any of the hundreds of snowmen I have given in the past.  They really are. 

They are quite literally made with love and hope, which, along with health, is my wish for you all in 2016 2017. 

Merry Christmas,
Mrs. Mihalides   


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