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Buttermilk Wrinkles – by Zara Bielkus

Like a Gemini, songs often have two (or more) tones, meant to evoke more than a single emotion from listeners; unless of course it is Prince and the simple feeling tends to be ‘I want to dance!’ But take classics like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons: Spring’… though generally uplifting, sombre notes halfway through lead your mind to imagine a favorite tree that did not survive winter, but when the notes crescendo and the end – the song is teaming nothing but sounds of promise and hope. During this interval you can’t help but imagine a nest brimming with tender Robin chicks in that same old tree. For me, even from one day to the next the same song can sound different, I don’t think I ever heard ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ in the same way twice.

This is because we all have different lenses that we see through when looking at a situation, and different lenses from each other. Something that looks one way to you likely looks different to the other people caught up in the same experience with you.  This happened to me poignantly with my grandmother. At 98 she has more wrinkles than those ancient medicine men in old Western movies, but hers are soft and creamy – like buttermilk.

I take many actions to stay connected with with the ultimate Grande Dame of our family. After “officially” becoming an adult our relationship could no longer be sustained on biscuits or rides to school. So I phone her and speak as if we are college roommates (should I wear heels or flats with my LBD?) or send her an Amaryllis (and listen about the changes in height or bloom from week to week).

For me to get to her home includes long flights, time changes, a scenic drive and eating three square meals a day. It is a good effort when the majority of the time there needs to be spent at home, quietly finding things to do together. Watching movies in front of her massive flat screen is somewhat relaxing, but during screening, I need to Google all the questions she has about the actors, because she is now blind; therefore, the plot tends to go over both our heads.  When I look through my lens, I sometimes see that keeping up my relations puts pressure elsewhere like time away from my husband, experiencing travel in chaotic, peak seasons, distracts me from work, and increases my waistline. This is my lens and as you see, sometimes it is not exactly La Vie en Rose.

During my last visit, I decided to splurge on some pink champagne, her favourite, to remind her of her life as a younger woman and the bubbly moments she shared with others, who I thought she must miss more than anything.

She raised her flute toward me and said, “if you ever wonder if anyone is thinking about you, waiting for you, I am. I always wait for you…” And after a slight pause, she continued, “I wait for you…even… ‘on the other side'”. She naturally tilted her head as she smiled, but I saw a small tear had welled in her bottom eyelid.

With those words, and seeing thoughts mirrored off a tear, in that moment I saw through her lens.  I saw that actually our moments together could be something she misses most. I saw to age, one must be brave. Her lens, viewing my commitment to visit, showed only love, one she now made timeless. Her lens showed me that I sometimes under value the things that make me, me.

In the festive season that brings you together with people you don’t always visit, perhaps the best gift would be to see through their lens. What you see may surprise you and teach you things you don’t know about yourself. The people you feel the most different from may prove the most challenging, but could prove the most rewarding. At the extreme, you would be able to find love in hate.

“The greatest magnifying glasses in the world are a man’s own eyes when they look upon his own person.” – Alexander Pope

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