Polishing the Silver


Christmas comes but once a year, as the song goes. And each year as the pre-Christmas days of December arrive, so does the near and dear spirit of mom Marion, who seems to hover very close to me throughout this time.

But it is not under the Christmas tree where we meet, it is in the kitchen. Two particular memories of mom wrap around me in the hub of her home — for her, it was the kitchen.  Silver polishing, we did side by side, conversing along the way as the sparkle appeared.

The second memory was of mom’s gigantic baking projects that lasted from before Thanksgiving, through Christmas and ending up on January 2 with a homemade angel food cake for me, my favorite kind.

I have blogged about each of these in past years on Napkinwriter and I reprint the story on polishing the silver. All of these things help me know that mom has truly never left me and guides me each time I pick up the rolling pin to roll out a new crust for my very popular apple pie.

Polishing the Silver

One of my daughters called me this morning while I was fixing our breakfast. She had just received news that was rather stressful. I felt her stress land in a deep part of me as I listened.  I handed the phone to her father and he listened as well. She had a full day of professional work to get through and at this time the best we could offer her was to focus on the day ahead, help all the patients she would be seeing and return home safely tonight to her family.

We had our breakfast together and talked about a few of the items on the list we wanted to do today to get more settled in our new home. Hanging up wall pictures was at the top of the list. A house doesn’t seem like a home without them.

But first, I had a desire come over me to polish the silverware I had left out on the kitchen ledge. I wanted to do that before we got started on the other. This silverware is a small part of the twelve piece settings (two sets) from both my birth mother and the mom who raised me after her death.

We have not “entertained” as a way of life for a very long time. We have either moved away from family or moved back to smaller places so we tend to have large gatherings at my daughters’ homes instead of ours. Tom and I often eat our dinner in our TV chairs which some judge to be a bad habit, but we’re comfortable with it.

So…….I asked myself awhile back, “What am I saving the silver for!” Tom just  turned seventy years old and I am a mere year behind.

At our wedding time, more than forty-six years ago now, we filled in an eight-piece china set around the china gifts given us from our registry, but never chose a silver set.

As we’ve been moving between apartments, town homes and now finally a new home of our own again, I removed a small sample of four placesettings from each set from their chest storage and put them with the regular silverware, which is a mixed and varied mismatched group if there ever was one.

Then I took two china place settings from the china cabinet where they are stored on low shelves, harder to get down to as each year passes. Then I use these at random times just for Tom and me because, you know, time is spinning on and we don’t really have to save them for anything special because every day is special.

As I am polishing these intermixed sets from my two mothers, I listen to some prayer chant songs that really contain the essence of my faith in God and in life, and my troubled heart soothes a bit.

I also recall the specialness of this silverware, mostly the second set because that was the one mom used for all our holidays and her dining room table was the definition of special. Of the many things mom was, frugal was one of them. Her set was silver-plated, not real silver, so one of my jobs around holiday times was to polish this silver for her.

She was also the finest of cooks and bakers. So we came to the dining room table with a feast to behold. Our mahoghany drop leaf dining room table was pulled to center stage from the wall, adorned with a freshly washed and pressed linen table cloth and napkins and then filled with hot, steaming delicious meats, vegetables, fruits and desserts. Seeing, handling and using this silverware puts me right back in my girlhood dining room and times. This is the dining table Tom came to as we became an engaged couple.

My birth mother’s silverware  –  I’m just glad I have it. I think mom and dad gave it to me in our early marriage. It is one of the few tangible items I have of my mother that I know she chose, used, and cherished in her own married life, as short as it was.

The words to the chants, I am very familiar with, and begin to sing along as my hands slip along in the silvery foam suds. One of the songs was written for our Wings of Prayer group leader, On the Wings of Prayer.”

Cherish the light of each moment.
Embrace the days one by one –”

“Fear neither storm nor darkness,
Knowing you’ve done your best.”

“Enjoy the Power of being….
on the Wings of Prayer.”

So my silent prayer takes flight and I surrender to a knowledge that this prayer is powerful; that so many times we, too, walked by faith and not by sight.  And that this is an answer in itself.

‘Tis the Season

Little Tree - Hajec “Tis the season of the Little Tree! I’ve seen them, more and more often, popping up on my Facebook feed.  We are the people of the Little Tree. We’ve had our seasons of the tree too tall for the ceiling….the tree that wouldn’t quite stand up straight….the tree that looked perfecto in the field, only to reveal a glaring bald spot when we got it put up in the living room.

We are the people in our 70s now, who enjoyed our young ones’ squeals of delight on Christmas morning, attempted to keep the cat from eating the tinsel, piled more and more presents under the tree right after the promise to “go light this year.”

We are the husbands and wives who enjoyed lingering into the night in each others’ presence, after the children were tucked into bed.  We are the ones who endured yet one more power failure after the lights were all strung together. We are the ones who know our lives are blessed both by the star and the angel who top our annual festive tree. We are the ones who know that Jesus is the gift and we have taught the same to our children.

Now, the Little Tree proudly takes center stage in our aging lives. Our children are having their Christmas morning excitement with their own children and visiting us later in the day. Our Little Tree adorns its special spot in our home and holds the same loving energy of all the big trees over the years. Our Little Tree says, “Well done, good and faithful family.” Truly ’tis the season to be jolly. Here are some Little Trees shared with me.

Little Tree - HajecThe Hajec Little Tree

Little Tree - CairnThe Cairns Little Tree

Little Tree - RewaltThe Little Tree –  Rewalt

Little Tree - DuberkeThe Little Tree — Duberke

Little Tree - FeeleyThe Little Tree  — Feeley

Oh!  Christmas Tree! Thank you for all the special moments.

Aunt Resh

I have a new and current Napkinwriter post writing itself in my head and will get it on paper soon. In the meantime, Christmas time always brings memories of our dear ones we’ve lost to the heavenly realms from our earthly plane.

This is a reprint of my memories of my Aunt Resh (Loretta Tanberg).  One and one-half years later, I know my cousin Diane has tears in her heart and longing in her arms that her mother could still keep her company on this earth.  My Aunt Resh was exquisitely good to me and tried mightily to banish the timidness and shyness in me as a child. For Resh lived life loud and laughing. Her heart could not hold all the love she poured forth upon her family, friends, young ones in the nursery school and her aging companions in her group home.

Aunt Resh

Resh & Diane

My Aunt Resh died and went to new life last week, for truly love can never die. And that in a word was “Resh”, Loretta Tanberg.  If you ever need proof that love goes well beyond the confines of the heart in your chest, you just need to look to my Aunt Resh.

Living her life in what I would describe as the “somewhat tiny” little town of Spring Valley, Wisconsin…..Resh lived a tremendously BIG LIFE!

Filled with family and fun and laughter, and coping with sorrrows too deep to imagine, like the disability of her daughter Cathy, who could neither speak nor walk, I can still feel the energy of Resh with that child, her daughter Diane and later Jon and Lauri.

They had “the big white house on the hill” of this tiny valley town. That’s what my older brother Dave and I remember. And when we visited there, it was a raucous time with laughter, drinking and card playing by the adults. My father and Resh’s husband, my Uncle Dale’s main goal seemed to be to “get Resh going”.

Before you knew it, they DID have her going, and she would let them have it, more than what they dished out.

Resh was adamant about keeping Cathy in their home as long as it was possible and she was greatly assisted by daughter Diane, who also floated love waves upon her. I remember seeing such an expression of joy throughout Cathy’s body that sounded like noise. But it was unmistakeably JOY, not noise, rising up from within Cathy and shining in her eyes.  It was one of Resh’s deepest trials when it came time for Cathy to be taken care of in a home.

So besides raising her two youngest children, Resh then delved into loving her grandchildren and being so very present to them. Then she went to work assisting other little children she called “her babies” in a day care center, well into her “elderly life.” She was still taking care of the babies, into her eighth decade of life.

She called me “Susie” with such sweet lovingness. No one else really called me that but that is all I can remember her calling me.  Their home had the big screened-in front porch where I sat with my grandmother Tanberg on our summer visits. My grandmother Tanberg, who was my birth-mother’s mother. A fact I did not know when I was sitting with her until I was late elementary school age because their was a “forced-secret” culture present for all of us, and no one — child or adult — would break that silence.

That is the only sad thing I remember about that house.

My Aunt Resh made sure many, many years later when I was in my forties and had college age daughters of my own that I received my birth mother’s wedding gown. My grandma had given it to Resh who had kept it all those years. “You should have that, Susie,” she told me over the phone. “That belongs to you.”

Aunt Resh gave me many things. This was one of the best ….right up there with her gigantic smile and her hearty laugh.

God bless you Aunt Resh.


I love it all. The brightly adorned altar, the fully packed squeezed-in-the pew feeling, the full volume chorus coming from the choir, my fellow church-goers singing the Christmas carols. I love the expectancy in the air — yes, the celebration of the birth of Jesus is about to begin at the first Christmas Mass on Christmas eve afternoon.

I love our granddaughter arriving and calling out loud from the aisle to me distantly down the “saved-space” for them in the pew, “Grandma! this is my Christmas dress!” and then being a wiggly presence as she waits to go up the aisle at communion so she can see Jesus, which she continuously protests she cannot from where we saved seats in the back of the church.

I love the pretty young girls, decked out in beauty; I love the young boys, more “freshly scrubbed” than usual and twiching in their unfamiliar shirt collars grazing their necks.

I love the muffled sounds throughout the church as we rise, kneel, sit and listen to the message and story of Christmas. I like watching families in the pews who seem a little more present to each other rather than simply sitting next to each other at regular Sunday Masses.

Today, Father Jim’s focus is on Presence. That is what Christ means to us. His mood is uplifted and enhanced I think from the sheer number of us who surround him at the celebration of the Mass. Here and now, we can believe in the good – goodness is our basic nature — that can always be returned to after mistakes, misjudgment, or mean behavior occurs.

Before the opening of presents, we can think of the Presence that has been, is and always will be present to us through our Faith. Today, the Faith of my Fathers is in this church with me and my heart swells with joy as I express it in song and prayer. I feel my parents and grandparents who raised me up – their presence, their teachings, and their joys over all the Christmas holidays we shared together. I say a prayer of thanks and gratitude for them.

I look at my family sharing the pew and of one other daughter and her family celebrating Mass in their parish who we will be with tomorrow. I give thanks for their presence, their love and support, and the community we enjoy in our family. I love it all.

Sometimes in our politically correct times, we almost have to dampen or lessen the word Christmas or include all other holy traditions in the same breath. I now give thanks and offer prayers for all who celebrate this time in their different faith traditions that are based on love and a holy person who leads them. And I feel deeply grateful and obviously joyful to be be sharing this celebration among this body of Faith.

Jesus is the God who has been present to me in my life. Jesus is here for me whether I know it or not. Jesus has even been here when I have looked the other way. For me, Christ is the light of the world who came into this world so that I may have life more abundantly.

And I acknowledge that I have life abundant in family love, good health, and people and places where I can shine forth this goodness upon others. I love this all.

In holy scripture, John tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. This Word was the light of the world that shines in the darkness….and the darkness has never put it out!

I love that too!

This is a reblog from a few years ago, as Napkinwriter has been busy as Prayer and Care Companion plus being the chief baker for Pie in the Sky Thanksgiving and Christmas pies.  Erma Bombeck reprinted some of her favorite columns during busy times, so I take the same opportunity.


My Poetry from 1970

A Child Shall Lead Them
Susan Heffron Hajec

As Christmas day once again comes in view
One’s feeling are lifted to life anew.
The year again passed too swiftly, it seems
ANd one stops to ponder one’s own hopes and dreams.

The numbers on the calendar mark
Shared joys and sorrows of days set apart
To date the particular times in our life
When we and loved ones shared joy or strife.

Now some say that Christmas has gone too commercial
And that this is no day in which Christ is special.
Indeed, Christ appears to be nowhere in sight
As Santa and reindeer ride on through the night.

For in this current day, the skeptic abounds
We have preachers of doom and the silent dropout.
People charting their course to a lonely perfection,
But Christ, it seems, viewed a whole new direction.

It was Christ, let us note, who issued the plea,
All little children, come unto Me.”
Yes, He asked the children to come unto Him
And if we want to follow, He said, “Be like them.”

So look now and see in our children around us
The excitement and hope and expectancy plus.
The wonder that is theirs at this precious time.
Is a lesson in faith for all but the blind.

It’s precisely that hope in their wide little eyes
That opens their life to the joy of surprise.
Now, what a great thing, if this be contagious
Among families and friends, no matter the ages.

To have hope in one’s life
To seek more that what is
Is a great gift of faith
The unlocked secret of bliss.

The Christ in our Christmas cannot be obscured
By gifts piled high or bright lights in the stores.
He’s the spirit that urges us all to release
The Child hidden in us, our own Prophet of Peace.


Footnote to Laura:  I had to WAIT many years for Amy to come along and illustrate what her grandmother was writing about at about age twenty-seven.

Christmas Morning

Across and Around Time

Endless Genesis


Across and Around Time
Poetry and SoulCollage®
by Susan Heffron Hajec


Across and around time
our hearts have beat as one.
Our yearnings bringing forth
ever-new humanity.

Across and around time
we have sought our dwelling place
and found it in the security of love.

Across and around time
we have been family
seeking the best within each of us
to provide a way bright with light
for those who are to follow.

A Writer’s Life

writer lifeRe-blogging from Curtiss Ann Matlock’s words of today. I, too, am finding it hard in recent days to find the time to write as Napkinwriter. But I shall return. Right now, I am up to my eyes in pie making in my new venture of Pie In The Sky.

Gleanings– When it Comes to the Writer’s Life…
by Curtiss Ann Matlock on November 24, 2014
What is it about being pressed and denied alone time for writing that makes me absolutely furious to write? Some perverse bent within me. I have 10 minutes before a small boy hits my door, demanding my attention. No sooner did I sit here at this blank page, than the new puppy barked to go out. I’ve left her in the backyard and hope she does not get out while where she can squeeze through the fence while I just had to run up here to get out what I’ve been thinking about. The perverseness is that whenever I do have the time to write, I sit and stare at the page or putter and think. Such is myself, a writer.

“When it comes to the writer’s life, there are no formulas, no easy answers, no ‘quick fixes.’ Each of us must still find our own path. But we can acknowledge the ‘bigness’ in ourselves and hold a mirror to others when they lose sight of the bigness in themselves. We walk in solitude as we work in solitude, but we can hold each other’s hands along the way.” ~ Maire Farrington, as quoted in The Writer’s Life, by Eric Maisel.

I had a dear friend long ago suggest to me that many of my essays should be gathered into a book entitled: When You Need A Hand to Hold. Maybe I will do that, someday, when the small boy has grown up, the elderly mother has passed on, and the dog is willing to lay at my feet. For now I hold my own hand, and I write in the crushed spaces. I do what I can with what I have. That’s a place to start, and to keep going.

“When I decided to become a writer, things moved along well for the first few years, then I began hitting some walls. I hit a dry spell. No words came out. The results weren’t as I had planned. It was time to decide if I wanted to stand behind my decision or fold.” ~Melody Beattie, More Language of Letting Go
Once we decide.

The decision is everything. Make a decision, commit, and you are sprung forward. I decided to write at this time, and here I am, with the small boy now beside me watching me write, and I’m writing. He told me that my typing was like my fingers were dancing. I never would have heard that, had I not followed through with my decision to write this. I would never have known that I can write amidst distraction. Now I know. I write on.
Get writing, dear hearts.

Napkinwriter has a good reading tip for you.  Buy a copy of CurtissAnn’s  MIRACLE ON I-40, a great read during the holiday season AND some precious alone ME time with hot spiced tea and a treat in your comfy chair.  Both CurtissAnn and I like our reading chair time as well as our writing time.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 425 other followers