The prayer shawl.

I stood in line at the Post Office in Boomtown yesterday morning. I had been avoiding the chore for a few days, having received a note in my mailbox out here in the country letting me know that I had a package to pick up in town.

I thought it was the print cartridges I ordered or maybe some photographs. I thought it could wait.

Because standing in line at the Post Office in Boomtown is an errand that ranks right up there with attending your root cannel appointment or using that little plastic baggie to pick up the poop your dog just deposited on the walking path near the park while people drive by, watching…judging.

Anyway, welcome an extra 7,000 people into what was once a town of 1,500 three or four years ago and some services are bound to suffer.

At least we’re all in it together.

At least I get to hear some great southern accents while I chat with my fellow postal service patrons about the weather, the roads and the damn long line.

I was expecting much of the same as I pulled into the parking lot yesterday, grabbed my purse and my packages and prepared myself to wait. I was pleasantly surprised to find just a few friendly neighbors standing in line and happy at the thought that the timing for my visit just might have saved me an extra forty-five minutes.

So I stood patiently by the envelopes and boxes, checked email on my phone and ran the list of things I needed to get done today through my head:

Write column, pick up milk, hang posters, plan lunch meeting, call Little Sister back, think about dinner, update websites, I should take a walk, try to get home before dark so I can take a walk, get paint for the entryway, send in my time sheet, return emails, edit photos, craft club, oh yeah, I have craft club this week, make snack for craft club, cat food, do we need cat food?

Oh, ok, I’m up.

I handed the postal worker my envelopes and the little pink slip that told her a package had arrived for me. She disappeared in the back while I fumbled through my purse for some cash. I looked up and she handed me a large, rectangle box. Too big to be my print cartridges, not the right shape for photos.

“What did I order?” I wondered out loud as I took the package from her hands and glanced at the return address.


My grandparents are in Arizona. Huh. The package is from my gramma. My gram sent me something from Arizona on an ordinary Tuesday in March.

I shook it a bit, my curiosity peaked as I hurried past the line of people who had quickly congregated in a neat row behind me. I flung open the door and trudged through the melting snow to get to my car, sat down behind the wheel, threw my purse in the seat next to me and anxiously ripped open the box, pulling out a soft object wrapped in tissue paper.

Carefully I peeled back the paper to reveal soft purple yarn knitted in tight weaves and a note that read…

Dearest Jessie, 

All winter long I have pictured you sitting at home in your chair writing your column and journal and composing music. So enclosed you will find a purple shawl (a good color for you). It’s a prayer shawl. It is to keep you warm and comfortable–to make you feel good deep inside as well as on the outside. 

It is made with love and some mistakes! As I did the knitting my thoughts were about you, Jessie, our wonderful, talented granddaughter.

All my love, 

Gramma G

Tears sprung to my eyes right there in that busy, slushy parking lot in Boomtown as cars pulled in and out, people rushed to appointments, to the grocery store, to meetings, to school and to pick up their children from daycare on time. My grandmother’s handwriting expressing her thoughts about me on a  note card embellished with golden butterflies made me think of her sitting by the window, her knitting needles on her lap and the warm Arizona sun shining on her face.


I buried my face in the shawl, breathing in her smell, thinking of her thinking of me and the worry that had been lodged in the center of my guts for weeks was replaced by a very palpable feeling of calm and an overwhelming appreciation and love for my Gramma who once taught me to knit and who always, always makes sure her grandchildren know she’s proud of them.

To know that you are in someone’s thoughts, to know that you are loved this much, is a blessing I wish upon everyone.

My Gramma G. has always been one of the brightest and most positive lights in my world. If I would have known her hug was waiting for me in that post office at the moment I needed it the most I would have dropped everything and run there to receive it.

I would wait in line for hours for a gift like this.

Thank you Gramma. I love it. I absolutely love it.

And I love you too.


And a partridge in a (poop-free) pear tree…

So husband and I got off the ranch this weekend to get a handle on what I am sure all of you have finished and wrapped up tight and beautiful under the tree weeks ago– the Christmas shopping.

Now, I have a bit of an excuse for my delay in completing this all important task–I have been ringing in the holiday with music every weekend this December and haven’t had a chance to use those Saturdays to pick out the perfect pair of earrings for my sisters, a giant bag of M & Ms for my dad, glamorous leopard pajamas for my mom and that ridiculously expensive rifle husband has only hinted he wants for the past three to five years.

Don’t worry, I didn’t get you all any of those things…or did I?

Anyway, after we pulled the Schwan’s man out of the giant snow hole he dug himself into at the top of our approach (twice), we disappointed the flustered southerner by just saying no to more pies thank you very much, please come again–with chains on your tires–we were off.

So after my last Christmas song was sung on Saturday night, I told Santa what he should bring me…

..because for sure he will make a the trip to the ranch this year, seeing as he can spot our Christmas tree from space…and husband and I loaded up the pickup with our lists and made our way to town.

And then promptly realized that this was the last shopping weekend before the big birthday of birthdays…

Holy shit.

Can you say that before Christmas?

Well, I am reserving the right because what we witnessed is what I am sure many of you have witnessed this year if you are lucky enough to have a little chunk of change to use to buy gifts and sugar-coated things to make cookies.

And it deserves a Holy Shit.

So we arrived at our shopping destination and pulled into our perfect parking spot in the very last slot available at the end of the lot and entered the war zone blissfully unaware of what was to come.

But it soon became quiet clear what we were dealing with.

See, there was a shortage of  sweatshirts. A limit on the variety of the particular shirt we planned to purchase for one lucky relative. So we watched for a minute while mothers and daughters and dads and grandpas scrambled to find the correct size in the perfect color, with no avail…

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy

We watched as the store clerk waited on flustered customers, trying to suggest alternatives, a different color perhaps? A different style?

And after we were done witnessing the panic that ensued after the one and only idea the rest of the world had for their brothers and dads and uncles and cousins was not available, we quickly snatched whatever we could find and ran for our lives, sweatshirt strings flailing behind us.

Whew, one down, how many more to go?

We moved on to the next store carefully, holding on tight to one another, mouths agape, dodging strollers and moms with hot coffee and kids flinging stuffed animals and toys around at crotch level.  I whispered to husband to stay aware, stay focused, because one misstep could lead to being trapped between the linked arms of two “in-love” teenagers, resulting in a slingshot to certain death under the stampede of desperate shoppers.

Focus. We must focus. We stepped softly past the half-mile line of kids in khaki pants and Christmas sweaters holding on tight to the hands of loving parents, waiting to see Santa Clause and get in that one last request.

We contemplated entering the furniture store to wait it out on the plush furniture we can’t afford because we have to go Christmas shopping…

…and then we split up.

Good Lord, we split up.

And when left to my own devices on the brink of a holiday with so much glitter and glitz and products that promise to make the days merry and bright, I cannot be trusted.

So, trying to curb my enthusiasm for all things red and green, I elected, in this big store with aisles filled with music and jewelry and hair product and Christmas lights and inflatable Santas and toilet paper, and sunglasses and underwear,  to not get a cart.

I would not use a cart and only buy what I could carry in my little basket and the one arm I had left over.

Turns out it’s a lot easier to carry a 16 x 20 frame, a Santa shaped cookie jar, three tutus, a giant bedazzled reindeer, four packages of cookie sprinkles, six boxes of candy canes, ten Lords a Leaping and a partridge in a pear tree when you have a cart.

I cursed my turtleneck as it began to shrink, constricting my airwaves causing sweat beads to form on my forehead.

My eyes darted back and forth from shopper to shopper, searching for an escape route that included bringing my dignity with me. The people turned blurry and I suddenly became paranoid that they were moving in close to fight me for the last Santa shaped cookie jar.

I flung my scarf to the ground in panic, put the frame in my mouth and the reindeer under my arm and dialed husband.

“Heph meh…heph…”

In .3 seconds husband came screeching around the corner and without a word, pulled the cookie jar from my white knuckled grip and gently nudged me, blinking and stammering, toward the automatic doors….

…toward the sweet oasis in the cold winter landscape where they serve tequila.

And after a few sips and the joy of making little check marks by the items on my list, we were back to our old ways.

Me: “If you were reincarnated as a plant, what would you be?”

Husband: “I think I would be a fruit tree…like a plum-tree or an apple tree…”

Me: “I would be a yucca plant.”

Husband: “A yucca?”

Me: “Yeah, a yucca…’cause nothing would eat me and I could live for a long time in the badlands on the edge of a cliff, or maybe someone would use me for landscaping… Why do you want to be a plum-tree you weirdo?”

Husband: “So I could feed things and no one would cut me d…”

Me: “…if you were a plum-tree you would get pooped on by birds…like all the time…”

Husband: “If you were a yucca you would get peed on by dogs and one cow plop would really ruin your things for ya…”

Me: “hmmm….”

Husband: “Yeah, one wrong move and you could spend your entire life hanging out and growing in the middle of a cow pie…”

Me. “hmmm…yeah, I guess I didn’t think about that…

Husband: “Guess you didn’t…”

Me: “I think I want to be a plum-tree too…growing right underneath your branches…you know, so you can shield me from the poop….”

And all was right in our world again…

Wishing you a hazard free last-minute shopping experience…

and a partridge in a (poop-free) pear tree.