Monday, December 22, 2014

Oh, Santa.

Santa and Satan
The year 1959 was a year of change for my family.  We moved onto a farm where we would live until 1995.  So many adventures and so many memories arise from that time.

But, here is one memory that we were fortunate to miss.  At least until I was grown with grown children. I never knew that side of Santa Claus’ life, which apparently originated from Mexico. “Santa Claus”, produced in 1959, was translated into English.  Apparently, it received the “Golden Gate” award for family films. This is not necessarily a good thing. 

The movie is thoroughly ridiculous, Santa Claus is totally creepy, and the three actors who commentate as the film progresses are brilliant.  You may watch the film in its entirety on YouTube.  Fast-forward may be essential here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Is it time yet?

Is it time yet?  Sis, is it time yet?” My brother Robert whispered in the dark.

Opening heavy eyes and peering at the glow-in-the-dark Big Ben alarm clock, I muttered, “No!  It is not time!”  Then my eyes closed and I went back to sleep.

Vintage Christmas Tree...I love the little girl's head popping around the corner.
Source: pinterest
“Is it time yet?  Sis, is it time?”

NO!  You asked me that an hour ago!”  As I wondered off to sleep, crunching of Doritos and Cheetos purchased to keep my brothers awake echoed into my room, along with the scents.

Time yet?...NO!  Leave me alone!...Time yet?...NO!...Time yet?...NO!  NO!  NO!...

At 5 a.m., Bill sneaked down old squeaky stairs.  “Mom?  Mom?  Can we get up yet?”  There were mumbles as Bill hollered up the stairs.  “It’s time!  Robert!  It’s time!”

Robert’s feet hit the floor with a resounding thud and he raced down steps. Reluctantly I dragged myself and pulled on a robe.  Our parents were groaning as Mom poured cups of strong coffee.

Christmas lights had been switched on and the two began ravaging their presents.  Rubbing my eyes, I blinked at Robert’s joy as his presents appeared.

Although Robert was  almost nineteen years old that Christmas, I was 18, and Bill was fourteen, thrills of Christmas never ever know age boundaries.

P.S.  Both Robert and Bill are gone now, but our family can never forget their joy at Christmas.
Christmas is a cause for celebration.  I am a Christian who accepted Christ and the forgiveness He gives.  Joy to the world!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Coin Jar Christmas

Jimmy Carter’s pre-election autobiography.
Why not...
When Jimmy Carter became president in 1976, many events and hardships followed.  The list is long, infuriating, and filled with needs that stuck us hard in many ways, mostly our pockets.

In those years of his presidency, inflation rose, interest rates soared, and our family needs increased.  Our baby Mary was born on New Year’s Eve in 1980, just when we felt our bank account echoed like an empty canyon. 

John worked at a property management company, collecting rents, evicting, arranging for repairs.  With the rough economy, apartments stood empty and renters did not pay.

Our income shrank. Details aren't important, but December was.  We could stretch our money only so far, and Christmas was beyond our stretching reach. Facing each other the day after Thanksgiving as we decorated our Kmart artificial tree, the question hung in the air silently.  What are we going to do?

Erin was five, Johnny was three, and Mary was one—the older two danced around the lighted tree, laughing as we were almost crying.  What are we going to do?

A coin jar was on a dresser, where we had emptied pockets of coins from pockets over the past two years.  Maybe?  In a quiet house, John dumped coins onto the kitchen table and we began counting.  Stacks of quarters were few, followed by more stacks of dimes and nickels, but the pennies were a sea across the table.
heplful jars of coins
Fifty two dollars and some cents.  That was all we had. Every penny.  We leaned back in our chairs and considered what we could  do.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Night

Biggest Full Moon of the Year: Take 2
On a December night,
Does and fawns tread light
Over newly fallen snow,
Under full moon glow.

No twinkling lights abound
On country roads, no sounds
Through bare trees.
Where silence quietly creeps.

Sheltered within a warm home
Beneath starry night dome,
Children settle and sigh
Under a dreaming December sky.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fear not!

IMG_0555 - Copy - Copy
Sleep in Heavenly Peace
December marked frantic use of scissors, glitter, and paper in schools every where. Teachers reluctantly set out the peppermint paste, letting chaos take its course. 

Influenza and Christmas frenzy drove the pace.

Each classroom reflected garish joy and vacant student desks as days counted down to one big event: Annual Christmas Pageant.  If ever there were a bigger event, the community did not know it.

The District Music teacher, Mrs. Harris, traveled to every school before settling on this one school to perform that year's pageant.

Mrs. Harris was relentless in her expectations and doling out various roles as fear hung in the air while performers marched to her music. Seventh and eighth graders became The Holy Family with younger students filling out as angels, elves, and sugar canes.

Influenza began wiping out the Holy Family and shepherds.  But Mrs. Harris did not break step or sweat; Mrs. Harris drafted the best of the next grade down.

In sixth grade, all girls were hoping,  Please oh please let me be Mary! Their hearts, minds and eyes pleaded.

Briefly, Mrs. Harris laid eagle eyes on a few, but moved on.  Those girls would remain angels that year.  The pageant took place with Holy Family intact while Angels waited in the wings, scratching silver garland halos. 

Day after Pageant Glory, angels' desks were vacant,  each absentee sick with influenza. A few elves were out as well.

Please note that this memory comes from a then 10 year brain.  I discovered that "Mrs. Harris" was kind and a very good teacher.  She taught us all how to read music, and as a result I learned to play the piano, due to her strong teaching.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fire in the Snow

Snow happens.
When cold blows in from Canada, pushed up by warm wind from Texas, snow happens suddenly and furiously.  Only older siblings, big enough to sink only to the knee and then leap into the snow face first, could rejoice.

For two small children, enjoyment was peering out through icy panes and wishing.  Mom…Mom…Mom…Can we go outside, too?  Mom? Mom?  Mom relented only when Mom became unbearable.

Two and four years old, Mary and Bill were wrapped, bundled, booted, and mittened, then given instructions:  Stay on the porch.  Both nodded solemnly.

Mom stood at the kitchen door, staring through the lacy ice crystals at five children enjoying the snow.  Then Bill launched off the porch into deep white sea. Bill, she sighed. 

Stomping out the door, Mom grabbed him by scruff of his coat and pulled him up.  Then Mary whispered, “Mommy!  Mommy!  Look!  Fire in trees!  Fire in snow!”

Fire in the trees?  In the snow?  She beheld glorious cardinals perched in bare trees.  Fiery cardinals with black masks.  Brave cardinals in frigid air.

Mom hollered, “You kids get in here.  Been out long enough!”  But she continued to watch until fire became scarlet birds winging over snowy horizons.  

Fire in the Trees

For those bloggers in the beginning of a long winter, this story is about the snow of 1958, which has been called the mini-ice age.  Keep warm, enjoy the beauty as much as you are able, and Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cedar Tree, oh Cedar Tree

Oh, our cedar tree

Christmastree..Christmastree….when will we cut down our Christmas tree?  That question hung in the air until Mom nudged Dad enough to take care of that yearly tradition.

Finally, we climbed up into the bed of the 1946 Ford truck and huddled together in frozen air on frozen metal, and smiled at the very thought of the tree.  THE Tree that would be ours, stood on a white hill watching and waiting for us.  Our Tree we exhaled through icy fogged air.

Powdery, fresh snow stays in my mind even now: stepping and then sinking up to our knees, laughing.  Eagerness kept us warm as we raced ahead of Dad, who strode easily with the ax on his shoulder.  This one?...How about this one?...No!  Look, there is one!

Somehow the perfect tree was always found and Dad cut it down.  Hoisting it up on his shoulder, we carried the starry top, never knowing just how heavy the tree truly was.

Scent of cedar filled the bed of the truck where the tree barely fit, with us tucked around and through it.  We inhaled it cedar air down to our home, laughing all the way.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Magic of the Gifts

Ben Franklin (Store #4545) - original design on Main Street
A great store then and now.
Two days before Christmas we shivered in front of Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime.  Dad gave us each a five-dollar bill!  Five dollars!  That meant $25 in 1960, a tremendous amount for him to dole out; $25 could buy six bags of feed for the hogs.

Memory says that the store was packed with people, but with today’s eyes I realize that perhaps twenty people roamed the aisles, five of which were us.  We scattered, trying to be secretive about our purchases, which was difficult.  Mom roamed a bit herself, listening for arguments and eyeing possible gifts for family.  Mom also guided three-year old Mary along and chased after five-year old Bill, helping them make choices. 

With five dollars clutched in my red, chapped and cold hands, I was blinded by all the choices.  Surely, this was more than I could ever imagine spending.  But, almost every last penny was spent, leaving a few coins with which to buy a Hershey bar.

Riding home in a crowded Ford, we glanced at each other and giggled.  In the trunk of the car, five secret-holding paper bags held the magic of the gifts we each would give.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Riding Rough

Riding a rough horse—
Cannot be reined in.
Jumps the fences,
Lands hard on stony ground.

Shoots along flat faceless land,
Ducks under spiny trees,
Sweeps through sage brush.

Won’t let rider dismount, no, no,
Wind chapped, finally brakes cold,
Shakes head, nickers, and tosses mane,

When the rider. 

What do you think this poem is truly saying?

Monday, December 1, 2014

It'is shopping time!!

Sometimes, trying to choose just the right gift for someone.  WELL, I have found the perfect one-size-fits-all gift.  Here it is:

and, maybe this, as well:

Happy shopping.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Made with Love


It is here!  Finally here!  This is time when all may hit the stores running.  Race up and down aisles with shopping carts rattling. 

It is also a time of befuddlement, when one will stand holding some inane present in the “one size fits all” aisle of decorative frames, pencil holders with fancy notepaper, or Christmas towels.  Toss it in the cart and mentally check a name of a long list.

Checkout and home-free!

Silly me, I think. Surely sharing my love for sewing through gifts would be better.  Silly me indeed.  My son recently told me that not everyone wants a gift made just for them and made with love.

It harkened back to the days of ugly sweaters and personalized odd stuff (a stuffed animal, like a dachshund, embroidered with one's name).  The recipient may nod and give thanks, but wonder What am I going to do with this?

Consequently, my adult children will receive gift cards and a magazine subscription each of their choice.  

So, here is my wise and sage advice: If one gifts another one with a "made with love" gift, be thankful and recognize the love that went into it.  Use it or not.  Re-gift it or not.

Maybe I will head to the stores with the indifferent, cold-hearted gift aisle.  At least I thought of those ingrates.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Tomorrow!

Did your Thanksgiving table ever look like this??
Thanksgiving is nearly over, Thanks Be to God!  Although it is just a stop-gap in the days between Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving should be a time of family.

Memories of a frantic kitchen with Moms, Grandmas, and teenage females are made alive by the scents of current day Thanksgiving meals.  Hours and hours from the day before until the table is laden with the delightful turkeys, stuffing/dressing, gravy, mashed/creamed potatoes….so much thought, love, and hard work went into presenting a massive meal.

Memories then were fond and delicious.  Now?  Instead of carefully preparing pies to show pie-making prowess, CostCo and WalMart provide the ready-made varieties.  Let’s be honest here:  their pies are cheaper, labor free (for the consumers), and in some cases, better than the pies cooling on the counters.

Lift a glass to toast the maker of the feast!  With modern providence, family can sit down in the family room and actually enjoy each other.  With aluminum pans, plastic utensils, and heavy duty paper plates, even the clean-up allows for time to laugh, play games, or karaoke with off key singers.

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

I would miss them if...

Dang it!  I did not know there was a dress code!  So I went out and grabbed this thing from Alex's site and put it up.  Whew!  I am always a day late and a dollar short....
I began blogging in 2010, when my daughter urged me to find an outlet for my writing.  Since then so many talented writers have entered my world and blessed me with their words and thoughts.

As the focus of this blog-fest, we are to choose one to three bloggers who have slipped away from the blog-world.  And we are to choose one to three who would be severely missed (by me).

I miss: 

Carole Ann Carr whose site was inactivated two months ago.  Her writing and books were delightful.  

Heather Murphy who took a sabbatical, came back, and then dropped off.  I enjoyed her thoughts.

Jon Vermilye who journaled every day as he drove completely around America.  He is a photographer and captured some incredible places.  He has completed the trip, but I miss his blog.

The following bloggers' absence would leave a hole in my life.  There are so many fine bloggers whose sites have enriched me.  HOW can I list only three?

Gail WilliamsJoanne NoragonDeloresIngerElephant's ChildRick Watson, .................

Honestly, the list is long and the time is short.  What can I say?  It is difficult to find writers who portray life as they see it and choose only three.

If you want to go to more, check out Alex Cavanaugh .

Now, I am supposed to notify these marvelous people that I have mentioned them here.  Tomorrow is another day, and I will read their blogs then!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wednesday Words: Attic to Cellar

Vintage photo albums

The cellar, Jackson sighed as he descended moldy steps.  Having worked from attic to cellar, Jackson had just eaten a copious number of brownies Grammy forced on him.  Oh, Jackie!  What an industrial (industrious) little boy you are!  Have another brownie…

After a pot of black coffee and a belly full of brownies, Jackson was galvanized to tackle the dank cellar. The first few boxes were with junk.  Then the third box yielded treasure.

An old camera from long ago era, 1870s maybe Civil War? Riveted by the tin-type photos carefully labeled with names, Jackson could pick out physical resemblances in his own generation.

Jackson froze when one branch of the family turned and headed to here-to-fore hidden family names, absent from family conversations.  One of the great-great-grandfathers was Amos Lee, a black soldier and his black wife, Martha Lee held a child on her lap…Jackson Lee. 

It was a page turner.  Tin-types led to Seneca tribes in New York and then onto Oneida tribes, some twigs went to the Lakota tribes in the West. 

Well, that’s a hell of a thing…Jackson smiled.   Trees have to have deep roots.

An old photograph of Brave Eagle and Wife - Lakota c1870.
Source: a Lakota married couple

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cause and Effect in the College Years

Fresh air, breathed in and then exhaled, echoed:  Free at Last!  Free!  Free!  A flurry of  young freshman  girls unpacked boxes from car to dorm, with parents’ help.  No need for help it turned out.  The girls had been planning their escape for the past year.

Then the freshman mixer after reluctant parents disappeared was rife with giggles and nervousness.  The school year began.
The fresh batch of fairly innocent freshman girls were greeted a bit too friendly by older class males.  Ah!  Innocence—how nice it smells.  Red Riding Hood enacted on a college campus.

Some of female dorms were noted as the “free and easy dorms”, making the marks a bit too easy.  Really easy.

“Every year this happens.  You’d think the parents would talk to their daughters about this.  But, no.  To discuss this is to condone it. So, here we are, again,” Nurse Ruth cursed.

Read the information first!!
What happened every year?  The young gullible girls on Third Floor Jennings Dorm (the easy dorm; not the real dorm name) had just learned about birth control pills, the miracle of birth control pills!  One girl made an appointment to see a doctor and brought back the round container of pills.

Sooo, when one had a date, she would take one pill and tah-dah she would be safe from getting pregnant.  One pill = no pregnancy.

In three months, three girls were sent home to finish out their pregnancy. 

Fresh air! Free at last!  Free!
Do you recognize boy, left, bottom row?

Late 1960s senior photos:  note hair and clothing styles.

Monday, November 17, 2014

War of the Letters

Dear Mom,
Have just returned from seeing “Golden Child” 
with Eddie Murphy
The villain is Charles Dance. I do believe he is 
the very face of evil. Love.  Joe 


Dear Joe,
Don’t be silly!  Just saw “Gosford Park” 
and Charles Dance is the only noble 
character in the lot.  Well, Clive Owen is pretty good, nice on the eyes. Love. Mom

 Dear Mom,
Silly!  No, I mean it! 
Charles Dance is the face of evil.  
He and Terence Stamp. 
I just watched “Haunted Mansion”. 
Stamp is scary, too. Love. Joe
Dear Joe,
What about…can’t think of anyone else.  Love, Mom
p.s. How about Malcolm McDowell?  
His eyes creep me out.

Malcolm McDowell  Dear Mom,
Charles Dance, Mom.  
Love Joe

Dear Joe,
Just saw “Dracula Untold” and I agree.  
Charles Dance is the face of evil.  
Dang.  Love. Mom

p.s.  New question:  What actor could 
be the enigmatic answer to any question?

Dear Mom...
Good question...
"Who changed the
course of American History?  
Andy Williams"
Love. Joe
Dear Joe,
Seriously?  The 
answer: Don Knotts.
Love, Mom........

What random actor do you think could be said to "have the face of evil"?  What random actor could be named as one who changed the course of American History?

These has been an on-going question game between me and my son for years.
 It hasn't gotten
vicious yet.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pain and Angst of Elections

Get out the vote!!
A hard fought campaign had raged for the past few months.  Opponents laughed and greeted each other affably, even providing a few fist bumps for the viewers.

Smiles continued until the debate.  Questions revealed the two snarling beasts within.  A week before the election, mud-slinging began, followed by character assassination.  

Voting Day came, with sighs of relief from both sides and the candidates.

The ballots were carefully counted, while candidates waited anxiously for THE announcement.  Then it came.

Principal Brook’s voice crackled through the PA:  “For the Fifth Grade President is Billy Hopkins and Vice-President Jimmy Rogers.  Let’s all congratulate Billy and Jimmy for such a great campaign.”

Crackle…hiss… and then silence.

Mr. Harman cleared his throat.  “Well, then.  Open your books to page twenty…”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday Words: An Aggrieved Heart

Source: wikipedia, may God bless 'em
It wasn’t until his fifth venture up to Granddad’s attic that Jackson discovered a burlap covering a satchel, knowing instantaneously what it contained.  The randy old man had told him about a battered bag that held purloined jewelry from his younger days.

“Jest you be sure, lad, that yer Granny never sees what else is inside…”  So Jackson pawed through jeweled rings, necklaces and minute lockets, until he found a crumpled letter.  “You scoundrel! You absconded with everything I held dear…” and some other words he dare not read.  “Damn your unfaithful heart!   Sincerely, your aggrieved and betrayed, Mary Dent…”

Hmmm, Jackson pondered as he closed up the satchelMary Dent? Aunt Mary Dent? Granny’s sister? Hmmmm...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Indecision, Indecision

Everything hangs in a balance.
At this stage of life, moments of indecision involve banality.  Should I re-fill the printer with paper?  New ink?  Should I mend clothing on the sewing machine?  And has been for years?  Should I buy new sponges, and what kind?

Banal and easily answered, they truly are.

But back when I was seventeen, life was rampant with indecision of all sorts and most readers understand, remember those hard, unsure decisions.

I was 17, a senior in Pittsfield High School.  My family had enough money to pay bills and support a family.  My father had promised that he had an account for me when I was 13 and it would have enough money, from which I would go to college.

Then, in eleventh grade, he and Mom sat me down to tell me the money had been used for other needs.  “If you want to go to college, you will have to find the money, get a scholarship…”  Mom looked down at her clenched hands, her face stony and rigid.

After a senior year of intense work to achieve and maintain a high GPA, this happened: I was asked to write the senior class poem for the graduating class of 1969.  I remember it still, now 45 years later, as I agonized over every word:

Indecision, Indecision,
Where is the rhythm of precision?
For those who lack the sight,
To make the cut
That ends the night?

We are Ixion on the wheel
Revolving in a world unreal,
Doomed to twist and turn and weave,
In an endless world of make-believe.

Oh, send to us a man of might
To save us from this plight!
With a strong arm,
To lift up us from our chair,
And return to us the need to care.

It is said a night has a thousand eyes
And the bright day has but one.
The darkness sends weeping, cries,
And the blind men suffer

The College English teacher, Mr. Robb awarded me A, rare event and, one that I so desperately required to grasp the scholarship.