Simply Saskia! Thanksgiving...

Experiencing life through Saskia's eyes - a view that only we two, ever shared!


Because we were always alone, and lived so far away from family and friends, we created our own family traditions.  Mixing a little of some ‘old’, and creating some entirely ‘new’, we made it truly ‘our own’…

All of the best lesson’s I EVER taught in life…  All of the things that were MOST IMPORTANT to ME, were best learned and accepted by just ONE…  Each year, I spent the week before Thanksgiving thoroughly scrubbing the house.  Saskia was a pro, at dusting.  Her nimble little fingers so delicately handled all the tiny and most fragile things.  Next to the window, by our kitchen sink, is a picture of Saskia at Sea World.  She was in awe, of the acrobatics performed over the bay that afternoon.  She asked me, just before it was over, if she could get her picture taken with the performer she liked best…  So I grabbed the camera, and just as the show was ending, we held hands and ran to the area the performers would be exiting from…  The crowd gathered behind us, and tried to push their way past.  I held her hand tight – and fought to keep us in front!  When we finally saw Saskia’s favorite one, I yelled out to her.  I asked her if Saskia could ‘please’ get her picture taken with her.  She smiled and grabbed her partner and they stood smiling with my Saskia as I snapped this photo…  In the years after this, as she and I would clean the house, Saskia would comment not just on this photo, but the many taken in this way -  how I “always made things happen!”.  I had taught her to be strong, and to seek out what you want.  Not that it always works out, but when it does – it is SO worth it!  And as I had taught Saskia, she in turn taught Kes…  

I, indeed have been held hostage to OCD.  I could not be comfortable nor concentrate, when there were things left undone or out of place.  And while this has always been a most irritating quality about me, Saskia understood.  She once told me, “having a clean house, was the ONLY way to quiet the OCD beast inside me”…   And so each year, she would give me that gift!  She cleaned thoroughly – FOR me.  She inspected the tasks assigned to Ian and Kes, and would always point out to them – and then force them! – to complete the task properly.  She never liked doing it.  But, the way she looked at me when it was done, the pride she held up to me as her gift to say – “I love you too mommy, and now everything is done and you too can ‘relax’ and ‘enjoy’”…

Trimming up the front yard, then getting out the lights and stringing them across the front of the house…  Putting out our lighted lawn decorations, swaging the lighted garland along the fence, and placing all the red bows…  As the children tidied inside, mommy set up Christmas outside, and as the twilight approached we would all stand across the street the night before Thanksgiving and behold the warmth and beauty of our lighted Christmas home!  My paternal Grandmother, who had been a renowned artist in her time, had been so fond of Norman Rockwell…  And it was his influence of artistry I tried to create – portraying the perfect Christmas scene, striving to capture the warmth and inviting feeling captured in his paintings.  The turkey would have been defrosting in the fridge all week.  My favored warm apple pie candles would be burning inside, filling the house with it’s oh-so-familiar smell.

Thanksgiving morning, I would put the turkey in to cook…  Kessa, my early morning child, would get up and turn on the TV, and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade’s…  Ian, Saskia and Paul would wander out to join her on the couch throughout the morning, as they awoke to the sounds of Kes’s squeals, applause and laughter.  I would prepare the green bean casserole, and start boiling the potatoes.  Get the stuffing going, we always had to use StoveTop stuffing – because we could never chance stuffing the bird and having Ian be infected with the bacteria’s that can sometimes be there…  I would bake the bread, or make rolls, heat up the gravy – and get the corn going just for Saskia.

We would sit at the table, all together…  We would hold hands, and each one of us would give thanks for something particularly special this past year.  Our family would feast, and talk, and laugh!  And when the fixings were all put away in the fridge, the dishes loaded, the counters and table cleaned –

I would start the SEASON.  As we had never been into sports of any kind, there was never a football game on in our home…  Instead, we started our seasonal tradition off with “The Purina National Dog Show” at noon.  I would put on our favorite Christmas music, and we turned the sound down on the TV.  Watching all the dogs paraded around, as we set up our Christmas…  Picking our favorites, which never seemed to win.  Comparing them to our family dogs, to which they didn’t hold a candle.  For hands down – we had the best dogs in all the world!  From Amen Re, our ‘talking’ Siberian Husky – to Piper, our ‘jeep loving’ Pomeranian – to Archie, our ‘too human’ Mutt!

I would start bringing in all the boxes of our “Christmas”.  All the treasures we had collected over the years, to set up and decorate our home with.  The house would become ‘magical’ – smelling of warm apple pie, with all the sounds of the musical wind-ups, and the lighted and moving displays…

Then I would get the box with our Christmas tree and bring it inside.  Always artificial, but that was part of the ‘tradition’ too…  Putting it together was a family affair!  Getting all the pieces out, matching up all the colors at the ends, it was like a giant puzzle project.  Placing all the branches in the right place, and teaching the children to bend and shape the branches to look real, to hold the ornaments so they would ‘Dangle’.  Then wrapping the lights – 200-300 small randomly blinking lights on the inside, and the larger lights at the tips on the outside, steadily lit – to look like candles…  Laying out the tree skirt, that Saskia and I made when Kes was a baby, ‘large enough’ Saskia said, ‘to hold the presents for all three of us now!’ as she smiled her pumpkin smile, having lost two of her baby teeth just before that holiday…

Our first Christmas as a family, had been spent in the hospital with Ian.  And so it was our second Christmas, that our best family tradition first began…  Ian was a one year old, and fearful of putting up a tree where he could get hold of things, we bought a small potted tree.  My parents had come for Thanksgiving, and my father had brought with him a gift – a special ornament.  For Ian loved Mickey Mouse, and this ornament was Mickey, holding ‘tiny Tim’ on his shoulder!  As my dad gave this to me, he said, “This is for our Ian.  So he will always know, how loved he is – how special he is to all of us!”  It was the only ornament on our tree that year.  And it was the inspiration, for how I acquired each ornament thereafter!  Every truly happy memory of my children, every wonderful place or thing we did together – was represented by a specific ornament that hung on our tree.

And so each year, I would save this for last!  I would make the children’s anticipation build until at last, I would open the box that held our treasured ornaments.  I would carefully unwrap each one, and lay them all out.  The children would take turns saying, ‘I remember that one’ as they unfolded from their wrapping...  And then, I would hand each child an ornament.  As I handed it to them, I would tell them the story of why we had it, and what it represented…  This was Saskia’s most favorite, most treasured part of Christmas – it was her destined part to play - to carry on this tradition for generations to come…   Because I am the storyteller, and I remembered EVERYTHING!  And Saskia became engrossed and enthralled by my stories right from the start, each and every year, and would ask questions to draw out more from me!  We could talk for hours, she and I, about the ornaments, about Christmas’s past…  

ME telling HER stories just was – ALWAYS her favorite thing!

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T 22 December 04, 2012 at 10:03 PM
"There comes a point in your life when you realize that nothing will ever be the same, and you realize that from now on time will be divided into two parts....before this and after this" ~ John Hobbes Cat, thinking of you and your family at this most difficult time. Hoping the good memories will overshadow the bad memories. Thank you for reminding me of that with this beautiful story of your lovely daughter Saskia.
Cat Burke December 05, 2012 at 08:08 PM
T- I find my writing these days to be the reflection of me, sitting on the floor, picking up each broken piece to re-examine it one last time. Then I carefully pack it away, forever. I know YOU can understand the PAIN in doing this - how it leaves you in the dark, with the simple horror that it is gone! May we get a trial date set in court on Friday. And may it be soon, for time is running short. I find myself trapped inside the house these days, as I cannot bear to step outside! I would be nice, if you could visit. 951-698-9404 - ONLY for you, as it would be nice to converse with someone else, besides the voices in my mind... Here's to surviving the holiday season, without too much more pain, and too many more tears.
Jenna December 07, 2012 at 05:56 PM
She was beautiful. May he rot in prison with every kind of degredation imaginable for as long as possible then may he burn in hell for eternity.
Molly Ananian December 17, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Hey Cat, thinking of you this season.....i think of you all often....Molly
Israel December 18, 2012 at 05:40 AM
You are an amazing writer. I alway's look forward to reading stories, they inspire me to enjoy every second of my life. Thank you, for your words, your strength, and for Saskia.


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