Ten years ago Kirsten and I decided to stop celebrating Christmas with the girls. We didn’t like its symbolism, religious heritage, and most of the ways people celebrated. However, we did like the idea of spending time together with intentional focus on strengthening our relationships. We created our own traditions and called them, collectively, “Festibond.” Our Festibond celebration, in which we go on dates, write and read letters to each other, play games, put together puzzles, and eat way too many snacks, has always been my favorite day. Festibond 2016, our tenth, was Saturday. It was my favorite day of the whole year.
Kirsten died in May. Every day since has been, to some degree, more prosaic than if she were still here. I was concerned that Festibond this year would be somber instead of happy and joyful. Indeed, we missed her as we do always, but our celebration was wonderful, happy, heart-warming, and close, as I’d hoped. The girls have embraced the spirit of Festibond from its inception. Squabbles that would happen on other days don’t. Everybody pitches in to make it all happen. We smile, we laugh, there may be singing, and we give each other lots of hugs. It’s impossible to describe just how special and penetrating it is, but I am always moved and wish every day in our house could be more Festibond-like.
This year was our tenth Festibond. Although we lost Kirsten, we had a good holiday and our traditions remain unfaltering. In preparation, we went to Freeport to get matching clothes–something that Kirsten would have done when my sisters and I were a lot younger. Our holiday was on New Years’ Eve, so we attempted to stay up until midnight (we didn’t succeed).
In the morning, we drove to Portland for breakfast. Although it was a long drive for just a meal, the meal was plenty satisfactory. It was a good decision.
In 2009, there was an option offered to students of CK Burns school to play a string instrument in the school orchestra. I don’t remember why I joined, but that decision changed my life. Sometimes I try to imagine what my life would be like if I never joined, but it’s inconceivable. Violin is an integral part of me. Some people who have made a profound impact on me, I met in orchestra or String Camp.
It took many years to make my playing sound like music. I started learning in a class under the instruction of Anne Wilkinson. She got us started on the basics, but it was clear that I wasn’t getting very far. I never practiced, so for two years I progressed very little.
In 2011, my mom got me private lessons with a teacher named Susan LaVerriere. To this day, both Ms. Wilkinson and Susan are my teachers. Since I started taking lessons, my technique improved rapidly. I owe where I am today to Susan. My lessons are half an hour once a week, and our routine is usually the same: first, the scale I’m working on, then the solo or duet I’m working on and exercises to improve my technique. I don’t remember when it was exactly that I actually started to love playing violin or when I knew I wasn’t going to quit, but it was after I started taking lessons. Continue reading Why I Play Violin→
I’ve lived in Maine for most of my life and up until about two months ago, that’s been in the same apartment. I’d been craving a change for years. My dad has discussed moving with the family on many accounts, but it wasn’t until recently that he began to take action. We viewed three places in the span of two days in September with our amicable realtor, Michelle. The three home were all so different, it’s hard to compare them. However, it’s easy to say that the loft we viewed won our hearts by a wide margin and we proceeded to buy it.
For nine years we lived in an apartment on the third story of a brick building in Maine. Before that we lived in a house in Kansas, but we moved shortly after I turned four, so I have no memories from it. This September we began to look for a new home. Our apartment was familiar to me after living there so long, but I was thrilled by the notion of moving, for not only a change, but because the apartment had many little cons. Things like doorknobs being loose and falling off, or doors not closing right.
Before this move I knew nothing about the process of moving, so was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be officially moving for at least over a month. There was also the problem of where the house would be. I defiantly wanted to stay in Saco, and I didn’t want to move too far away from The main area. There was also the problem of how many bedrooms it would have. At our apartment we each were able to have our own room, which was great, but it was unlikely we would find a good four-bedroom house that we liked at our price range. I agreed to share a room with my oldest sister, Skye, if needed, because I knew it would be worth it to be able to move to a nice place, and she would be leaving for college in about a year anyway. When it did come time to start viewing houses, though, I felt beyond excited and optimistic. The first house we viewed still had some furniture and everything in it, but as we walked through it, I gradually grew less and less excited. It seemed to be a bit of a fixer-upper and felt old. There was a huge garage (full of clutter) and a basement, but there were also windows on bedroom doors that had been painted over and many little things that would also need replacing. I didn’t like it, but I did do my best to stay positive. The next house we viewed was better, but it felt cramped in places and I did not like the kitchen at all. There had been a garage separate from the house, but the previous owner had connected them with a room. It also had a very large open basement. Both of the houses had been close to the high school and my best friends house, which I liked, but the houses were not as I had hoped. Again, I felt a bit discouraged.
My family had lived in the same apartment in Saco for nearly ten years. The proximity to Thornton Academy, downtown Saco, and Biddeford was ideal, but my dad had been talking about moving for years. This Autumn, we started looking at different houses with a realtor and it started to feel very real. The whole process was very exciting.
Now, we’ve lived in the Park street lofts for over a month and it’s just beginning to feel like home. My favorite things about it are all the big windows, the kitchen space and appliances, and the “openness”. Every morning, sunshine from the East streams into the dining room and makes everything warm and colorful. It’s quiet and peaceful. Whereas at our former apartment, the windows were closer to the ground and smaller, so the sunrise was not as great. I love that my sisters, dad, and I spend more time together because the loft is more open.
I’m glad that we were able to have Thanksgiving at our new loft. Our Aunt Christina, Brent’s sister, came over for Thanksgiving break. We had a traditional Thanksgiving meal on our new table. It felt homey. Our new kitchen is easy and comfortable to use, so we are cooking and having family meals more often.
On New Year’s Eve our family celebrated our eighth Festibond, an annual tradition we created and have absolutely loved every year. It has been altered and added to, but at the core of Festibond is strengthening our family bonds, individually and as a whole. This includes the writing of personal, heartfelt letters to each other in the weeks before and reading them to each other on the day of Festibond.
This past year has been especially challenging for all of us. I have spent 6 1/2 months of it away–In Alaska (with Kathy, Brent’s mom) and Illinois (with my parents). I realized I needed to be away to work through many issues and stressors with which I have been dealing, mostly resulting from my medical illnesses. I enjoy and treasure the time I have with my mom and dad, and with my sisters, Amy and Sara (and their families). And they have all been so good to me. But I have missed Brent and the girls tremendously, and it has been very difficult for me to be away from them for so much time. I keep in constant contact with each of them via text, phone, and FaceTime. I am very thankful for FaceTime and the opportunity to communicate with Brent, Skye, Jenna, and Hayley face-to-face. It’s wonderful to hear their voices, see their expressions and gestures with which I am so familiar. We sang, danced, played games, made silly faces, cooked together, and had our “family night”…all via FaceTime. :)
Tonight at Family Night Jenna introduced us to a new game, for which we take turns drawing and guessing the drawing. Each player draws an object on their paper, then folds the paper to hide the drawing and passes the paper to the player immediately next to their left, who writes on the same paper what they think is the drawn object. Then that player folds the guess out of sight and passes to their left, etc.
I drew a “rocket” and passed to Hayley. I’m not sure how, without solid rocket boosters, an orbiter, or an external fuel tank, she thought it was a Space Shuttle launch, but that’s what she wrote. Next, Jenna drew a nice Space Shuttle launching, for which Skye guessed, simply, “rocket?”