Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

In case you were wondering...this is the day you give gifts (presumably in boxes)to the tradespeople who provide service throughout the year. They come to the back door(never the front)the day after Christmas. The automated trash pickup truck does not come to my door. Nor does the newspaper carrier. Or the mailman. The utility meter is read electronically from some central point far far away. And the managers of the Mobile Home Park get lumps of coal. At best.

So...this is a day without outside activity for me. I am doing my usual stuff. Reading, knitting, napping. It is cold and gloomy and windy. I am so grateful for my warm cozy home. I am reasonably healthy and not homeless which is not a bad place to be at this age. There has been a lot of family time this past week. And the joy of the grandchildren is my best gift.

The mercantile madness goes on. The stores are swamped and folks are swarming and racing to return the gifts that other people fought the crowds to buy on Black Friday. No matter how odd or unwanted or puzzling any gift I receive, I keep it. I don't return, exchange or regift. Because a gift says someone was thinking of me. Enough to look up my address. Enough to trek to the post office or Fed Ex to send it. Or brave the storm to bring it to my house.

Most of my family was here on Christmas morning to watch Ember reap Santa's bounty. She got the easel she wanted and several dolls. It was an unwrapping frenzy. She loved every gift, large and small. In fact, she couldn't believe it.

All in all, a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Dollhouse

[reprinted from an earlier blog] We were living in the little house on Washington Street in Waldo during WWII from the time I was four until I was eight. Those were the Santa Claus Years and a time of magical childhood.

On a day in December, Mother and I would get all dressed up and walk from our house through the passageway by Broadway Methodist Church and catch the streetcar at the 74th Street stop on our way on our Great Christmas Shopping Adventure. We rode along through the southwest part of town, past the Plaza with the bright lights on all the buildings, up the Main Street hill, then down past the Liberty Memorial and Union Station. We got off at Petticoat Lane and began our trips through the stores.

First Harzfeld’s, then across the street to Woolf Bros. Back to Main and up to Kline’s and the Jones Store. Then over to Grand and a stop at Wolfermann’s for lunch (ham on egg roll and a milkshake). On to the final stop…Emery Bird Thayer. Laughing Santa in the window at ground level and fairyland on the 6th floor. The mezzanine was a place to stop and rest, rearrange the packages, and take stock. Mother loved to dash into the needlepoint shop for a project. Then my father would meet us as he left work in the Dierk’s Building and help ferry the packages home on the streetcar.

The year that I was seven, there was a very large package that we left at my father’s office for him to bring home later. He tried to sneak it in but I found it hidden in the closet. One day when my mother left me alone in the house while she went for stamps for the Christmas cards, I peeked at the present. A dollhouse! My little girl dream. Just what I wanted. I was so excited.

From that moment until Christmas morning I held the secret close to my heart and every night when I went to bed I would dream of playing with it. On the big day I rushed to the living room to look under the tree. No big package there. I can remember looking around thinking it might be in the den or somewhere else in the house. I opened a few packages and I remember a scarf and some mittens and a book. But no dollhouse. The day came and went. No dollhouse.

This stands out in my memory as my first heart-crushing disappointment and feeling of betrayal. I never mentioned this to my parents. Later…after they were long dead…my sister told me that was the year that my father did not get the Christmas bonus he was expecting and that it had saddened them immeasurably to have to take the dollhouse back to the store.

It saddens me now to think of those years when times were tight and my parents tried very hard to give me a happy Christmas. But that disappointment was a great life lesson for me. Probably more valuable than getting the dollhouse would have been. Throughout my life, I have endured some other unrealized dreams and weathered them better for it. But if I have a grand-daughter, I am getting her a dollhouse.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve

The TV news coverage shows some of the traffic congestion on all the freeways as folks make their way home for the long weekend or head for the mall for last minute gifts. Much worse than the usual Friday night grid lock. It is nice to be ready. Only a trip to the post office for stamps left on my list. And I still have to wrap some Santa presents which doesn't require going anywhere but the storage shed. (Thankfully Ember can't read this.)

It is a tough time of year for some of my friends. I won't elaborate but several people I know are facing overwhelming challenges. I always wonder why bad luck rears its ugly head at this time of year. And so many people I don't know are facing economic stress. The Occupiers remind us that all is not well at this holiday time.

We fall victim to the stereotype of the happy family (Dad, Mom, Kids, Gramps & Granny) gathered around the tree under which is a bounty of beautifully wrapped presents. Who has that? Medical conditions, job loss, fractured families make the perfect picture unattainable for many.

Here at The Hideaway we are going low-key with no gifts for the grown-ups. Just some gifts for the little ones who believe in the magic of Santa Claus. We down-scaled the outdoor decorations. And luckily none of us had to drive or fly to get together.

Still a pall hangs over the celebrations this year. Even the stores give off a feeling of desperation, and fear of overstocking seems prevalent.

Tomorrow we will put the Baby Jesus in the manger of the Nativity Scene. And the kiddos can open one "Quicker" present. (The quicker you go to bed, the quicker Santa will come.) Then...Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


The problem with having Christmas before Christmas (and that is what our Solstice gathering is, after all) is that now everything seems anticlimatic and out of sync. I went to the store for dog food yesterday and was surprised to find the place filled with shoppers grabbing at all the displays crowding the aisles. Carols were playing over the loudspeaker and folks were in a push/shove mood. The parking lot was jammed.

On the other hand, on the plus side the house is clean and tidy, everything is put out of sight, the decorations are still up, and all the stress is gone. Of course, Santa is still expected to come on Christmas Eve and enter through the hole in the ceiling where the wood stove chimney used to be. He can climb down on the kitty condo. There's a special chair in the living room where he will find cookies and milk and a request for an easel & art supplies. The wee one will be so excited!

The grandchildren have brightened the holiday and taken the edge off my Scrooge-ness. I'm actually listening to "Holiday Tunes" right now. And enjoying a warm cozy "down day" when there is nothing on the calendar. Outside the grey day is uninviting but later I'll walk the dogs.

Homemade soup (a gift) for dinner. And a NetFlix movie (Bridesmaids) to cheer me up. Life is good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deck the halls

We started putting up some of the Christmas decorations today. I brought a few of the boxes in from the storage shed. First were the artificial wreaths inside and out. Next was the Nativity scene which Em is old enough to know the story and handle the fragile pieces very carefully. Next the candle centerpiece for the dining room table. little fake pre-lighted tree. Uh oh. No stand in the box. What was I thinking when I packed it up last year? Where could it be? Oh no. It must be in one of those boxes I didn't bring in. And that means I am going to have to go out in the freezing cold blustery day and climb around in the nether regions of the shed and peek in every box till I find it. It might be easier to buy another one.

I just can't do the whole house this year. I dread having to put it all away. But Em does love opening the boxes and getting each item out and deciding where to put it. She made a paper chain which will soon be long enough to drape through the whole house. We still have the paper jack-o-lantern and the paper plate turkey up. I like leaving them up all year. The seasons come around pretty quick these days.

We are making veggie soup in the slow cooker and there is Christmas music on the stereo. Zoo Lights got me in the mood finally. That elusive Holiday Spirit. Em is napping on the couch and I'm going to settle down with my Kindle. A really nice day!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Grapefruit Moon

"Grapefruit moon, one star shining, shining down on me." Tom Waits

When I opened the back door to let the dogs out, a waning full moon was hanging in the Western sky with one bright star visible over the trees. The morning is clear and crisp after a week of "air stagnation." Ice coats the car and the windows of the deck. The hanging plants are limp and lifeless. Only a few days left before Solstice and the turning of the season. These are dark nights that come early and are loathe to go away.

I love the dark. I have always felt safer when it is night. I wrap it around me like a shield. It is comforting. For me it is a safety zone, a time when nothing bad is likely to happen. A time I am tucked in my own home. Too late for people to drop by, too late for phone calls. The sounds outside are muted and distant. No shouts of children or power tools ripping the silence. Darkness hides imperfections and conceals things waiting to be done.

Now a feeble sun is pushing through the clouds and the dark is dispelled and gone for today. It is Monday and time to venture into the nether regions of the storage unit and find the Christmas decorations. Em will come tomorrow to help me put them up. I have a tiny fake tree, some wreaths, and lots of sparkling lights. I have to hide the presents I have gotten for her.

I walk on a knife edge between holiday cheer and overwhelming depression. This has always been a hard time of year for me. Memories of childhood, missing the ones who are gone. But having grandchildren changes everything. Their bright eyes and belief in Santa is hard to resist. Whatever I do, I do for them.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Freight Train

I was so busy not noticing all the Christmas merchandise at Halloween and again at Thanksgiving, I forgot The Holidays were going to arrive eventually. Now Christmas is coming on like a freight train and I am so not ready. Gifts are purchased but not wrapped or mailed. I don't remember what I bought or where I hid it. Time to get it together and see what I am missing. Trip to the post office on Monday.

It's a freezing cold Saturday and nothing on the calendar. So today is the day to untie myself, get up off the tracks, and embrace the holiday spirit. Deck the halls! Tra la la la la, la la la la.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Repeat from 2009

Remember Pearl Harbor

I was four years old on December 7th, 1941 but I remember the day very clearly. It was a Sunday and my father had taken me to the park as he always did on that day of the week. I had a green hoop I liked to roll on the vast expanse of grass in Gilham Park. But on that particular day there was something extra, something special. Santa Claus came by on the streetcar that ran along the top of the hill, and good little boys and girls waited at the stop to tell him their wish for a Christmas present. We had been out in the cold for some time before the trolley came, and by the time we headed home we were both cold and looking forward to a cup of hot cocoa.

When we walked in the door of the apartment building, my mother was standing on the landing. Dressed in her Sunday navy blue polka-dot dress and pearls, she had her hand to her throat and a horrified look on her face. “Oh Clarence,” she said. “They have bombed Pearl Harbor.” My father bounded up the stairs and into the apartment where Mother had the radio on and chairs pulled up close beside it. They sat there in silence listening with rapt attention to the news that the country was at war.

To me it meant only that the hot cocoa was forgotten and that I had to be very quiet and not disturb them. I sat on the Oriental rug at their feet, coloring and hearing the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the nation. The phone rang and it was my sister calling from KU in Lawrence. She had found a ride and she was coming home to be with us at this time of tragedy.

All these years later, that day lingers in my mind. The cold winter chill of our outing, the smell of pot roast cooking in the kitchen, the rasp of Roosevelt’s voice, the color green of the sweater my sister wore. I still have my mother’s pearls. And a copy of the Kansas City Star my father saved from December 8th, 1941.

On December 8th, we listened to the radio and heard the President give his now famous speech that began, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

“A date that will live in infamy.” And in my memory. Remember Pearl Harbor.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Early On a Frosty Morn

Can't even see the car in the driveway. The fog has settled in here by the river and it has enveloped everything. It's icy as well and the roads are slick for the morning commute. I am so glad I am retired and don't have to drag myself out in this to go to work. So many winter days I set out in the dark for the long trek to work. I can't help but remember those other Monday mornings with a long week ahead listening to other people's problems. All those dysfunctional families and sad parents.

I have so much happiness in my life now. Spending time with my very normal wonderful children and delightful grandchildren. I am so blessed. I just wrote in Solstice Vibes how I have everything I could want. The very best thing is to have the Magic Money appear in my checking account without my having to do a single thing. Such a relief after so many years of having to put up with lousy bosses, crabby co-workers, traffic, and all the annoying things that go along with earning a living. I was never thrilled to be "emancipated." I didn't join in the Feminine Mystique or all those efforts to empower women. The only reason I worked was to get money to live. I had no desire for a "Career." There was absolutely nothing about working that I enjoyed.

So I am thrilled I don't have to anymore. I don't have to force myself out the door on this freezing foggy morning. I can stay here in my cozy home and read my Kindle and Knit and life is good.