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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

We're never too old to try new things

Kathleen McQuillan
Posted 12/9/20

With December upon us, by now our thoughts have shifted toward Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, Eid, or Kwanza, some of the names for holidays that honor the season of diminishing light and enfolding …

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We're never too old to try new things

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With December upon us, by now our thoughts have shifted toward Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, Eid, or Kwanza, some of the names for holidays that honor the season of diminishing light and enfolding darkness. It’s the time for hunkering down and going inward. And this year, the pandemic has all but sealed the deal. For me, however, the fun has just begun.
My story begins with Thanksgiving and continues right on through today. As is true for so many of us, the pandemic has turned traditions upside down or done away with them altogether. There is just no denying the distress of giving up familiar ways to celebrate the holidays. To comfort myself, I try to remember that sometimes when thwarted, the true essence and meaning of something emerges more clearly. Thanksgiving 2020 may indeed be one of those holidays never to be forgotten.
This year, John and I celebrated with a scaled-down version of the traditional Thanksgiving feast. John’s mother was the quintessential cook. Her turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie were always blue-ribbon ventures. With our dearly beloved host no longer with us, her offspring (no longer religiously committed to showing up at mom’s) are scattered hither and yon, left to our own holiday “devices”. As our Governor and state health officials strictly advised, John and I agreed to stay home and discourage our family from traveling north so that we all could strictly abide by the COVID safety protocol this year.
As tradition would call for, we planned for a close facsimile of a holiday feast. This month’s shopping trip to the Iron Range would include “Thanksgiving Fixin’s”. I knew better than to try to replicate Harriet’s famous turkey and dressing, but I would try my own version with “one whole roasting chicken”, a bag of seasoned croutons specifically labeled “perfect for turkey stuffing”, and the annual must-have, “Cool Whip”. (Don’t ask me why, but I just love that super creamy “original” version.) These would be my “starters” to go with home grown red potatoes (mashed, of course), a couple of our winter squash, and…. dessert! No, not pumpkin pie, but apple crisp made with the delicious apples we’d received from a very generous neighbor who, yes literally, lives over the river and through the woods! The perfect something to complement the “Cool Whip”.
So, there you have it. Our version of a lovely quiet holiday together, just the two of us. We found a televised football game, part of the extended family’s annual tradition. It would serve as an audio backdrop while we prepared Thanksgiving dinner. (Only much quieter without the usual hollering from my sister-in-law’s football-loving brothers.) It didn’t really matter who was playing as long as we had a little background noise to help us through any gaps that were likely to occur in the full day of conversation normally provided by a houseful of raucous relatives. Surprisingly, we found ourselves enjoying our holiday alone together with no real hitches other than the momentary waves of missing “the boys”, the grandchildren and the usual loved ones who weren’t hovering about and regularly bumping into one another.
So, this ends Part I of our Thanksgiving Holi-palooza. Part II began the Monday after when the Fed Ex truck pulled into the driveway and delivered a great big box with my name on it. It lacked a return address besides that of the warehouse from whence it came. Inside, neatly packed, was a “6-Piece Combo” of Makita Power Tools. My first thought was, “There must be some mistake?” But soon thereafter, I received a text from one of my sons. “Mom, we’re getting a jump on Christmas. Thought these might come in handy. Let us know when the box arrives. Love you!” Surprised and overwhelmed, my singular utterance? “Oh, those guys!”
Here, they’d been watching me for the past year as I worked, slowly bringing our log house back to life. They were listening to my reports of hacking and hand-sawing my way through twenty years of raspberry brush, popple saplings, and dead limbs that blocked my way to the front door. It wasn’t long before the “first installment” arrived — a battery-powered chain saw. Now, many months later, after hand-sawing and nailing boards together wherever necessary to revive the old outhouse, reinforce the sagging woodshed, and repair other remaining structures, they’d heard enough. “It was time”, they’d decided, “to introduce Mom to the world of power tools!”
At a recent zoom meeting, someone raised a round-robin question. “What challenges are you anticipating for the coming year?” All I could think of was the up and coming learning curve of picking up, then turning on, and ultimately mastering the use of drills, saws, and wrenches — tools I’d often seen other people use but seldom tried myself! Just thinking about it thrilled me, a sensation I recalled from my youth when I seldom shrunk from a challenge — before any semblance of “fear of failure” — a time when I welcomed discovering that I could do extraordinary things if I just gave it a try. The real thrill came when I’d succeed, proving that I actually could!
In the second half of my life, I’ve often deferred to others who seemingly have had more experience or ability. I’d step aside letting others move in and take over. Probably well-intentioned, they chose expediency over coaching, or the guise of “helping” me over the patience necessary to let me learn by trial and error. Now I know what a mistake that can be!
The kids knew long before I did, that we’re never too old to learn new tricks. That with practice, we can master a lot more than we think. Thanks to their perceptive and unadulterated love and support, I am on my way! — excited to tackle a list of projects I’d postponed until finding someone to help. Now it’s time to start searching YouTube videos. My new motto is fast becoming, “Wait no more!”

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