Happiness as you age takes on a different shape.
Not so much setting out cookies for Santa
As cleaning up the crumbs afterward, smiling,
Satisfaction with the illusion.
Not so much stumbling down Christmas steps
To tear bright Santa-laden paper
But the settling into a rocker, after
Surveying a paper-strewn living room
In the glow of tree lights you assembled
December 26 before your children came home
When you finally had an evening
The joy of rest.
The joy of action.
The joy of climbing a hill
With a three-year-old towing his sled
The pushing of the happy ones, screaming
Bigger even than the thrill of descent
Which is still a joy.
You want to ride the toboggan when you’re eighty.
When Alec has to protect your bones from the
You want to go down, laughing.
I can’t imagine my own grandma
Playing with me in the snow.
She was always working.
There were evenings when we all sat
And played cards,
Afternoons when my brother and I
Sat, doing homework for Bible School
When she and Grandpa John sat
at the kitchen table with us,
and a day we wrote our own version of
the delightful ironic children’s book
Grandpa caught the spirit of irony
And wrote, “I killed a fly.”
Grandma, the literalist, said, “I killed a snake with a spade.”
That’s all I remember from the afternoon:
The contrast of the two.
But how I loved them both
But I remember my grandma
And an apron.
And the funniest story she had to tell
On herself was showing up at church
To be organist, slipping off her coat
her apron still around her waist.
She made the best cookies in the world
as did her daughter
my mother who inherited each recipe.
But my grandma never played.
I am working in the kitchen and
Three-year-old Alec comes to me,
“Nannie, will you play with me?”
And oh, I set everything aside.
Everything. We can microwave dinner
Or have Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box,
But oh, I will not say
“No, I cannot play with you because I’m busy.”
Because years are too fleeting and you’re already growing
and I screwed up
Enough with your parents’ generation,
I will give anything and all I can to you,
Not stuff, not things—I don’t have enough money
But I will play with you
Until my knees give out.