Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Carol, Pat and I have a tradition. We get together in the week between Christmas and New Years. We meet at Pat's house, exchange presents and have a meal. This year, I made a suggestion that We go to the movies. Wednesday is senior day. Tickets are $4.50. We should go on Wednesday. Carol and Pat agreed. Let's pick up take out food and come to my house. It's closest to the mall. We've done take out before because it is quick, everyone gets what they want and no one has to cook.

While We're at it, let's invite some other friends. Carol and Pat know Judy and Doris. Let's invite Judy and Doris as well.

It is one day before the movie day and no one has set up the schedule. I make the calls. Doris has a French lesson. She won't be free until after 2. Judy wants to come, but she wants to eat lunch before the movie We can eat at the food court. She can't stay late. Carol doesn't want to eat lunch. If she eats lunch, she says she will fall asleep in the movie. She wants to eat after the movie.

This is the sort of thing that drives me crazy. Carol wants Pat to pick her up. Now let's see: Pat lives the farthest east of the movie and Carol lives the farthest west. That means that Pat has to go way out of her way to get Carol. If I think about it, the most efficient way to pick each other up is for either Doris or Carol...driving pick me up. Pat should come alone driving west. We all meet in the middle.

By email, I ask each friend to look over what movies are playing and the time. Let me know which movie you want to see. Two movies get all the votes...split evenly. If We go to the one that shows earliest, Doris has to skip her Franch lesson, but We will eat after the show, which will be OK with Carol. However, Judy will miss the meal.

If We go to the other movie that shows later....oh forgetaboutit. In the middle of all the phone calls, I have a power outage. It's not just me. The entire area is pitch black. My cordless phone doesn't work. The lights are out. The house starts to cool.

There are candles and matches upstairs. In the dark, I locate the flashlight...which shows me the way upstairs to the candles. Candles, matches, flashlight are on the diningroom table. I have my cell phone...which works. I call Carol. The call doesn't go through. Oh, that's right. Her phone is out as well as mine. By candle light, I find the address book, which has her cell phone number. It isn't programmed in my phone. At last We can talk to each other. Pat calls me several times...getting a busy signal, as I am on the phone with Carol.

Finally Pat gets through. She has power. She has email up and running. Pat emails Doris and Judy that our final decision is to go to the movie that shows the earliest. Pat will pick up Carol. We'll discuss a late lunch when We're all together.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

We are supposed to be gloriously happy that is Christmas. Actually, it is Advent and shopping season. The merchants are either happy or anxious. I used to enjoy Christmas, but as my family grew up and moved away, there seemed to be no point in purchasing a tree and putting it up. You just have to take it down again.

I have many happy memories of Christmas when I was a little girl growing up during world war two. Most materials went for the war effort, so there was little left over to make toys for children. My doll highchair was made of cardboard, but that did not matter to me. My pull toys were made of wood. To this day, I think that wood is a better material to handle than plastic is. One friend got something made of plastic. She showed it to me. My response was that it felt sticky. Wood is friendlier. Christmas is enjoying experiences with parents and relatives. It is making cookies with mama. It is being taken to the department store to visit Santa. It is having dad drive up and down the neighborhood streets so We could look at lights. It is listening to Christmas music on the radio. ...making stars out of tin foil and putting them on the tree...watching Dad's train go around the base of the tree. That train never came out of its box except for Christmas. Christmas is finding the pickle ornament on the tree...and the ghost ornament...something left over from a Halloween party that my grandmother impulsively put on the tree. It became a tradition. Note that none of the above require much money.
Those old black and white photographs of the era are treasure to me.

When my children were little, the magic happened all over again. This time Richard and I were standing in for Santa. Our neighbors put their tree up early, but Santa brought our tree. It appeared like magic on Christmas morning with presents under the tree. After the girls outgrew Santa, they helped put the tree up. One Christmas, our neighbors came over for a visit. We showed them the presents for our girls to discover the next morning. Little did We know that both little devils were hiding and listening. I did the same thing when I was little. My mother would lock the door that separates the bedrooms from the public space. In that way, my parents could put the tree up and decorate without little kids finding out . sister and I were hiding behind the couch. We fell asleep behind the couch...affording us an early start at opening presents. Christmas is magic for children, except when it isn't.

Later I was teaching at a poverty intervention program: a nursery school for very poor children. I saw how excited the children got to see toys advertised on TV. They expected those toys. The worried look on the parents' faces told another story. We did holiday activities at the school...learned songs...made presents for the Dr. Seuss....had a party and invited the parents to attend. Then they went home for the holiday. When they came back the looks on the children's faces was somber. The parents bought the presents they could afford, which came from the drug store....just trinkets. The cheap toys broke. Children got a lesson in disappointment.

This year, my grandson visited for Christmas. His girlfriend doesn't like the holiday. She must have sad memories . Sometimes it is OK to spend Christmas crying. My husband died during the month of November. The following December, I took the boxes of Christmas ornaments out of the closet and threw them on the floor. Then I stomped on the boxes and ground the heels of my shoes into the ornaments until they were shards of glass. I smashed every one and I am glad I did that. Merry Christmas, indeed.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Early up and the day is started. After my cup of coffee, it is time to catch up on email. I have friends in far flung places. God bless email. It keeps us together and up to date on events in our lives.

Today, I get an email from an ecard website. I love this website. The cards there are well drawn, animated with music to set the mood. There are three animated Christmas ecards...all good. The cards are previewed. I arrange for them to be delivered just before Christmas. The ecards are in addition to the paper cards I've all ready sent out.

The old fashioned ecard gets me remembering my childhood. This mental link is called association. In the ecard, some of the gifts under the Christmas tree are similar to those I had as a child....or wanted to get but never got.

In memory, I am a child again, wandering around the old neighborhood. There are two for winter and one for summer, as my father had a little cottage out at the lake. It was there I learned to swim. I think I spent the entire summer in my bathing suit and loved it. Those are happy memories. I hear my mother say about such memories: "Memories that bless and burn". Yes. They sure do. Today, they are blessing.

Then, I remember that I was free to wander in and out of other people's houses. People did not lock doors then. I was curious and friendly. I said hello to my neighbors. Some of them were the parents of my playmates, but others were not. I remember going into a cottage that had a little sun porch. By little, I mean really little. It was just big enough for a daybed...which was on the long wall. Hanging in the window, was a spider plant with little spider plants growing out of the pot. It was like a green waterfall. The lady told me the name of the plant. I was delighted to see the plant sway in the breeze that was coming through the open window. Also in memory, my lungs filled with fresh air and the sound of the waves on the beach. You can't beat that experience.

A winter memory : back in the city. Next door lived Mama Young. She was an overweight woman . Her children were grown. Their names were Bob and Marie. I remember that Mama Young had a substantial rocking chair that she positioned facing the street. From her station on the rocking chair, she could watch the street. She would watch and rock. I came to visit. She gave me a dust cloth and asked me to dust the furniture...which I did. That was not remarkable for the times. In her dining room, was a matched set of furniture. There was a sideboard or credenza...placed in the same place that every home in the neighborhood placed their credenza: on the short wall . She had a display of fruit in a bowl on the sideboard that looked delicious. When no one was looking, I picked up a piece of fruit and bit it. It was wax. Oh Oh....I put the fruit back in the bowl...teeth marks down.

Mama Young's son, Bob came home from the war (world war 2). All the neighborhood kids were so excited to have a real hero come home. What could We do to show our welcome? What materials do children have for the task? Chalk. There must have been five of us who took chalk and drew all over the sidewalk and the street to welcome Bob home. I think We also drew on the cement step to the front door. I don't remember what the reaction was to our...probably messy....welcome home .

One sad day, Mama Young died. There was a reception in the house for her. Relatives and neighbors came in to pay their respect. The neighborhood children wanted to show respect, too. We went into the empty lot next door to my house and picked wildflowers. They were put in a glass with water. Solemnly, they were presented to Bob and Marie. Our flowers were placed with the other expensive and store bought a place of honor.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

In spite of the wind and the rain, I am looking forward to this day. I promised myself that I would go to the movies. Today is senior day. That means a price cut. Suddenly from outside, I hear a big boom. What in the world is that? It could be a traffic accident, or an airplane breaking the sound barrier. It could be a backhoe dropping a load. It certainly made a lot of noise. Looking out the window, I see nothing.
I am still in my pajamas. There is a knock at the door. It is my neighbor, Butch. He asks me to come outside and have a look. With jacket tossed over PJ's, I follow him outside, around the garage. Oh my gosh! Half of a maple tree has fallen between our two houses. It has taken down Butch's gutters and my gutters. It forced branches in the roof of my garage. It swiped Burtch's antennae off his mast and bent the mast. Butch reports that the pole is four feet in the ground, set in concrete and the hollow pipe is also filled with concrete. The force of the tree falling has made the mast list about 15 degrees. That is a lot of force. Butch says that the mast took the brunt of the falling tree. If it wasn't there, there would be a lot more damage to his house.
Back into the house I go. Get dressed. Grab camera. Take a lot of photos in the wind gusts and pouring rain. Drive to the photoshop to get the photos developed. Meanwhile, a public works crew is here. I had called them earlier to report the downed city tree.
There is lots of noise for at least an hour. The crew take the limb down. It is as big as a tree trunk and about half the volume of the tree. They cut up the tree limbs and take them away.
The backhoe also takes out my gutter downspout. My wire fence is bent and....could it be? My weather vane is gone. When the crew pulled branches off my roof, they also pulled the weather vane off. Where is it? I check the ground all over. It is no where to be found.
The back yard has branches. The crew goes into the backyard to get those branches. In the process, they pull up a newly planted pear tree and take it away. It must have looked like just one more branch to them. I go to the movies and forget everything for a while.
That was yesterday. Today, my neighbor and I compose a letter to the city informing them of the damage. I enclose the photographs. Butch calls a roof man and a gutter man. We will get estimates and forward the estimates to the city. I am sure that our claim will be honored. We will be back in business in no time at all.