Peter visiting his dear friend George Bush at the White House. President George Bush passed away this past month at 94 years old. There is no doubt that Barbara and his sweet daughter were there to greet him.
What an amazing journey we’re on. Happy, happy New Year!
However you celebrated the holiday season, I hope your heart was full of grace. My favorite Christmas card was sent by friends who were married on the same date as Peter and me, May 18, 1974. Anne and George’s message was steeped in love, with the simple words, “Family is Everything.”
Love of family is a beautiful blessing we’re fortunate to celebrate. Not all of us have living family we can be with over the holidays, but all of us can choose to reach out to friends who have the power to be part of our figurative family if not literally so. We choose our friends. With our closest loved ones we can always be ourselves. Trusted friends are family.
What I’m realizing as I’m often the oldest person in the room, is what I was learning several decades ago: each one of us eventually becomes the adult in the room when we have the privilege of longevity. The timing of this transition from being parented to parenting, to being cared for by adoring, responsible children and sweet grandchildren is gradual, full of the whole of life being present in this living experience. Now. This second of time is the only time. “Time Alive” is ours to enjoy and savor.
Leading up to the holidays I discovered I was drawn to the cozy, private, intimately nostalgic third floor of the cottage. Peter believed that home is a communion of spirit. Because no one has ever seen this space except immediate family and close friends of grandchildren, and the only technology is lights and the radio, I feel protected. “Three” is a safe haven where I can come to open up my heart. With a clear, high view of the harbor, I have a high perch in a sanctuary surrounded with tangible, tactile, meaningful objects that are all intimately meaningful to me. I neglected to make this solitary still space part of my early morning ritual. All I have to do is show up. I must remind myself to take time into my own hands. I have no one but myself to plan my schedule when I am at home, alone. When I choose to go up to “three,” this is a gift of joy that I and I alone give myself. We find when we give ourselves this time alone we are more connected to our loved ones than we can describe because words become inadequate. One thing inevitably leads to another in mysteriously wondrous ways. When I accept my longing to go upstairs to this higher realm of the cottage, I let the spirit move me to wander around in utter amazement at the treasures I discern in every possible corner of the eves. The cabinet drawers, the stacks of books, boxes and folders, and all the cluttered surfaces are waiting to be appreciated with new eyes. I’m beautifully distracted as I discern pastel boxes full of treasured love letters from my family, with photographs tucked into the folded paper of handwritten letters.
In this sentimental season where we remember family traditions and enjoy having the generational connections, personalized by the changed new world of our evolving dynamics, I’m able to innocently cling to my life, being displayed in so many tangible, physical ways that move me. What would the present moment of our life be like without our rich memories? I read recently about fountain pen “nerds.” We are a rare, odd bunch indeed. I’m endlessly fascinated to read over the letters I sent to my daughters that were meticulously saved and are priceless treasures. The color of ink I chose to use, the color of the stationary; many times the envelope was sealed with blue or red wax and stamped with a crest. Who remembers the day? Now we can buy sealing wax that is synthetic, and won’t crack when going through the post. My old sticks of sealing wax are relics from the attic, but work beautifully when I hand deliver a note to a friend.
One of the most productive silver linings of my utterly joyful times during the dark cold December days indulging in this Zen time is sorting through family photographs. Whether pictures taken with a box camera by a young child in Greece or Italy, or by a professional photographer at special events, the pleasure of holding the photographs in our hands connects us to our wondrous real world. I love the randomness of digging deeper into the past years, bringing them into my life now as the matriarch of our family. This is not a role we play but a life we are living.
Mid-December, for Cooper’s 10th birthday gift, Brooke, Tony and Cooper and I went to see Hamilton at the Richard Roger’s Theatre on Broadway. For two years Cooper studied the words to the music and learned about the extraordinary contributions Hamilton made to our country’s democracy. Thanks to Cooper being DJ in car rides, always singing to us, and my brushing up on some American history in preparation, I was swept away by the performance.
Side-by-side next to Cooper, her parents out of earshot, my granddaughter’s dream came true. From high up in the balcony she was singing in the choir of Hamilton! Oops. A woman sitting in front of me turned around. The music from Cooper’s heart continued in sheer rhapsody, oblivious to her surroundings. I later learned the woman was delighted and totally amazed by Cooper’s passion and ability. We had a wonderful visit as we left the crowded area to join up with Cooper’s parents.
Cooper is obviously a huge fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Jack the Lamplighter in Mary Poppins Returns. He’s doing a two-week run in Puerto Rico, where he’s from, in case you know someone who can experience the show there. Eventually it is coming to Providence, where the magic will continue. No matter how high your expectations, Hamilton will move you to tears. “I will not waste my shot.” “Who will tell your story?”
Last month I wrote about practicing conscious reflection. The lives of great men and women inspire us to find our highest purpose and fulfill our potential with our shared values: love of the twin pillars of trust and truth. Herbert Walker Bush’s death brought me closer to Peter. I have a stash of photographs of Barbara and George, President Bush and Peter, and a picture of George H. W. Bush and me in the oval office in front of a portrait of George Washington. During the days leading up to the funeral, I watched more television than I had since September 11th, but I was obsessed, and felt grateful I knew this great man, a good friend of my great husband Peter. I lit candles, and spread out a bunch of photographs butting up to the screen with the American flag draped coffin in the National Cathedral. Through “conscious reflection,” he was in the White House; we were together, in loving-energy.
Christmas was spent in New York City after visiting Chevy Chase to spend time with Alexandra and her family. What a gift to see—the autobiography of my life reflected in their Christmas tree ornaments, equally divided between my daughters, and to share in their individual rituals and celebrations.
Happy New Year! I find it continuously incongruous for me to now be the adult in the room; but I’m enjoying this stage of my life’s evolution with gusto and awe. I’m looking forward to the days gradually becoming longer, lighter, and now making more time focused on my book. I feel freshly inspired and embrace a fresh start of a new year.
Love & Live Happy
Alexandra with President Bush at the White House, February 1992
Peter Megargee Brown ~~ handsome indeed
Matt, our hero, with his mentor, Peter at the Ocean House
Living with Muhl's "art spirit" at home
A beloved photo
Love & Live Happy
Planning ahead .... Please join Alexandra next year and consider a gift certificate for a friend and loved one to attend her 2019 Happiness Retreat and Celebration, at the Stonington Inn to be held November 6th and 7th, departing on her birthday November 8th, 2019, after a visit to the Cottage. To register and for more information please contact Aubrey or Sue at the Stonington Inn (860) 535-3000. Alexandra looks forward to seeing you all then.”
"Regularly go to your happy place in your home. Light candles. Bring one flower or two. Pause. Feel the connections. Experience the love.”
~~ Alexandra Stoddard
Flights of Memory
DAYS before Yesterday A Memoir
Figure It Out
A Guide to Wisdom