Secret Santa — You get to choose one gift — no price restrictions — for any person you want. The caveat? You have to give it anonymously. What gift would you give, and to whom?
Just one? The problem, with gift giving these days is if he/she/they need it, they either already have it, or can’t afford it — and neither can we. In our age group, no one is yearning for an updated gaming system. We want things like mobility vans. An SUV. Better hearing aids. An adjustable bed. Replacement windows. A kitchen remodel. New roof. Upgraded heating system.
Only one thing for one person? That’s rough. Everyone I love needs something and it isn’t a new iPhone.
I, for one, have all the jewelry I’ll ever need. Okay, I can always use a new pair of earrings, a cashmere sweater, new Emus that don’t leak … but please don’t waste my single gift opportunity on that. If it’s going to be one thing only, a stair lift, please. Can we make it a one gift by bundling it with a car carrier for a pair of scooters … and a pair of scooters? You could make two aging folks really happy and improve their world.
Barring that combo, how about one of the top of the line latest Olympus OMD cameras? It’s weather-proof, faster than a speeding bullet, sharp as a tack, has a built in optical viewfinder … and a few lenses, including (please) a macro for closeups of plants and other flowers.
But what would I get for my other half? I’d buy Garry the absolutely best, most powerful hearing aids available. With a guaranteed upgrade when the technology advances.
If money would translate into something other than hard goods … I would buy for all of us good health. That we might retrieve a bit of spring to our steps, be able to enjoy things we used to love doing. But I can’t buy that. Not even if I had all the money in the world.
Finally, in lieu of expensive gifts, how about some happy times with beloved friends? Let’s share stories and laugh at ourselves — and the absurdity of life. It wouldn’t cost anything and it would cure what ails us. For a while, anyway.
Here we are again somewhere in what’s probably the most bittersweet or sweet bitter time of the year for most of us. It’s the jolly, holly almost Christmas time. It’s when we see everything filtered through childhood memories, wrapped in music, movies, and hectic preparations. Ready to greet folks we don’t often see. We force ourselves to shift gears, putting aside worries about health, bills, and family drama. Put on a happy face for the most wonderful time of the year.
Emotions are curious things with which the holiday season plays fast and loose. For those of us who tend to internalize our feelings, it can be tricky. Smiling isn’t easy. Showing happiness is not instinctive.
It was easy for me to show emotions in my professional life. I can still produce a professional smile on cue. But now, we’re talking about real life. As time has marched on, I find it harder to get into the Christmas spirit. I miss childhood.
As a kid, Christmas was anticipation. I was Ralphie in A Christmas Story. The year I campaigned for the two-gun Roy Rogers set was very anxious. My hopes were almost dashed when I thought Santa had not heard me as we ripped though our presents that Christmas morning. But Dad, who always had a funny smile during Christmas and New Year’s Eve, motioned to one last present.
Yes!! It was the deluxe Roy Rogers two-gun set with 2 rolls of caps!! Even Mom smiled as I squealed in delight. I never thought we were poor, though Mom frequently reminded us. We nearly always got what we wanted for Christmas. We didn’t feel deprived.
My holiday memories include a whole tribe of relatives who are gone. Our Christmas card list was long. It included aunts, uncles, cousins, grandpa, grandma. I still see them clearly in my sense memory. I used to carefully print the card messages when I was young. As I grew older, I proudly displayed my penmanship, writing endearments to my relatives. I thought they would be in my life forever.
These days, I am the only one in the family who sends real Christmas cards. I write messages to each person and get writer’s cramp for my efforts. But I see my Mother hovering behind me somewhere, nodding her approval. I have to nudge myself not to buy or write cards for Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma … and all those aunts and uncles.
I chide myself, “Hey, you’re not a kid anymore.”
I’m Gramps, one of the old people, something our 18-year-old granddaughter likes reminding us. With that reminder comes a sense of loneliness that lingers. Movies are my fix, taking me back in time. Unlike the real world, the movies stay the same.
I grew up a child of the movies. I saw my first film, The Best Years Of Our Lives, during the holiday season of 1946. My Dad had just returned from the war. He was in uniform and seemed 10 feet tall as we went to the venerable radio City Music Hall to see the movie which is still a favorite with Marilyn and me. Movies and their fantasies have always been a part of my life, my personality. I am comfortable, charming, loquacious when talking about movies. I lose myself in movies, especially westerns and holiday movies.
I can laugh, smile, cry and sing along with favorite movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Meet Me In St. Louis, A Christmas Story, The Shop Around the Corner,and many other memorable films shared in our collective sense memory. But once the movie is over, it’s back to reality minus the celluloid good cheer.
It was the same way during my life as a TV news reporter. I did holiday stories ranging from heartbreak to feel-good. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people over the decades, watched those stories and associated me with festive times. The real me chuckles at TV reporter me — trying to separate fact from fiction. Print the legend, they say. Roll everything.
One of the nice things about this holiday season is catching up with long-lost friends who’ve found me on Facebook. One person, a former mentor, who I presumed dead chatted me up, clearly remembering the years when I was a young reporter full of myself.
It’s nearly Christmas again. The big tree has been replaced this year by small, live trees, but they twinkle with lights. As merry as any tree we’ve had in the best. The gifts are waiting to be wrapped. This evening, we watched “A Christmas Story” and laughed. As we always do.
And as I write this, Bing is singing “White Christmas”. As he always does. Every year, just in time for Christmas.
It’s an odd time of year, a good time for oddball pictures. Add to that my habit of taking pictures of everything in my house because I can and you have a fair number of pictures that don’t exactly “fit” a category. Or maybe they do. I’m just not sure what that might be.
For our final trio prompt of the year, write about any topic you wish, but make sure your post features a bookcase, something cracked, and a song you love.
Today is December 20 and Christmas is just 5 days away.
There’s something alarming about that statement. Actually, there is a lot of alarming in that statement. First of all, there’s got to be some kind of serious error because the day before yesterday, it was Thanksgiving and I’m pretty sure I’ve still got some leftovers in my refrigerator. Probably I should deal with that before they grow legs and try to make a run for it.
The house is appropriately Christmasy, from the bookcase full of sentimental seasonal films, to the cracked glass ornaments we hang anyway. I don’t throw away things I love because they are imperfect. If I had to be perfect, I’d have long since been sent to the dustbin.
Saturday morning, less than a week from Christmas. I ought to be bustling about, wrapping and cleaning and arranging. Maybe not. It’s not such a huge event this year. No need to rent extra chairs or extend the table. Just some wrapping, run the vacuum over the dusty rug. Rearrange the cards and flowers on the table. Our lives are much neater than they used to be. Without kids in the house, we only need to contend with the disorder created by three small doggies — plus one giant hairy heap of dog.
Of all our canine packs, this is the best mannered. Never mind that Bonnie has determined to prove she can bark more than any dog in history. She goes outside and doesn’t shut up for hours. We finally locked her — locked all of them — in the house last night in the hopes that she would forget about whatever it was that was setting her off. There are probably deer hanging around the house. We’ve seen a lot of them lately. Our dogs don’t bark at people. In their reckoning, people are fine. They have to protect us from other animals, especially other dogs.
Our friendly neighborhood bobcat really sets them on their collective ears. He stands right outside the fence and taunts them. I’ve read all the handouts from the wildlife people who say the bobcats are very shy and run away at the first sign of human activity, but not our bobcat. He isn’t afraid of us OR the dogs and is smart enough to realize the dogs can’t get out of the fenced yard. So he sits there, like any household feline, casually washing his paws and ears while the dogs go berserk. As do the neighbors.
Bonnie doesn’t need any special reason to bark. She is highly communicative. Not so much conversational as given to loud monologues. Maybe she is singing carols for the other dogs? If so, they are mostly not picking up her cue. With a little luck, she will finally go hoarse.
In the spirit of both Christmas and a night of one silent night of No Barking, Garry’s favorite Christmas song.
Getting Seasonal- The holiday season: can’t get enough of it, or can’t wait for it all to be over already? Has your attitude toward the end-of-year holidays changed over the years?
My feelings about the season have evolved and devolved a lot over the decades. I came late to Christmas. Had to marry into it. Being Jewish left me with a permanent sense of Christmas-deprivation. I felt left out of the annual orgy of good cheer, caroling, gift-exchanges, and general consumerism that is An American Christmas. I couldn’t entirely miss it. I sang in the chorus and the glee club from elementary school onward and am one of the last people who can sing “Adeste Fidelis” all the way through in Latin. Not to mention the contralto part of Hallelujah chorus.
But it wasn’t really my holiday. I could enjoy it tangentially, the way a guest can enjoy someone else’s family reunion. Even if everyone is very nice about it, you still know it’s not your party.
When I married my first husband, I discovered his family had no religion. They were sure they’d once been some form of Christian, but no one knew what. No church (ever) except for the occasional wedding or funeral. Neither my husband or his sister had attended Sunday School. I doubt either of them were baptized.
But, they celebrated Christmas with verve and passion. No creches with wise men or baby Jesus. No religious symbolism at all — but there were stars and reindeer and glittering glass decorations from Austria. The tree stood a solid 10 feet tall, so big and heavily laden, Jeff’s dad had to wire it to a wall to keep it from toppling over.
Then there was the eggnog. So alcoholic, I’m surprised its crystal bowl didn’t dissolve under the chemical assault. Accompanied by a huge array of Christmas cookies, it was sufficient to leave you hung over right through the glad New Year.
Oh, I almost forgot the wrapping. Jeff’s sister could wrap a chair (she did, really) so it looked like a Rudolph. Everything was perfect. Beyond perfect. Amazing!
Jeff’s dad died in 1968, when I was still pregnant with Owen. Jeff died in 1993. Grandma Kraus passed last year, just before her 104th birth day. Garry’s parents passed as did associated aunts, uncles and cousins. My family is almost entirely gone. With their loss, Christmas faded.
It hasn’t gone away completely, though. We decorate … but less. We hang lights, have a tree. This year, we have mini-trees which will be planted, if I can keep them alive till spring. A challenge.
Christmas was always kid-centric and our last “kid” is 18 this year. This year, Owen asked if we really need a tree? I gave it serious thought, evoking the “little tree” compromise. I’m pleased. It’s enough Christmas, but not so much the work overwhelms the fun.
In a way, the holidays have looped back on themselves. I feel like I did all those years ago … that really, it’s not my holiday. Yet I love the season. Lights, gifts, and (mostly) happy people wishing each other good tidings. It’s not a Cecil B. DeMille production, but it isn’t nothing, either. It’s pretty, and bright. And friendly, and still leads to deficit spending.
And most important, we still say “I love you” at least twice as often to twice as many people as we do at any other time of the year. I think that’s the point of it.
Every year, we sing the song … or somebody does. Usually more than one somebody. The 12 Days of Christmas. It’s been done with humor, with dread seriousness, as a short, funny film. As a picture book. The Boston Pops does a brilliant and hilariously raucous version that bears little resemblance to the original song.
In all these years, hearing the song, playing the song on the piano and the organ, singing the song, humming it, pondering why or how anyone could give anyone a partridge in a pear tree and live to tell the tale … I mean, okay, five gold rings … but seven swans a-swimming? Did he include the pond? Did he have to do major construction to get those swans a-swimming for his lady-love?
And where on earth do you find leaping lords? You certainly can’t just go to Walmart and put them in your basket for checkout. At the very least, you’d have to get them to go along with your act and lords, especially around these parts, are hard to find. Maybe guys with the last name “Lord” would do? Hofstra had a President named “Lord” at the same time as Nassau County had a Parks Commissioner named “Moses.” It led to the unforgettable headline on the Hofstra Chronicle:
LORD AND MOSES CONFER OVER PROMISED LAND
At issue was a small parcel on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike which the university wanted to incorporate as part of its development of a new dormitory and library complex on the former Mitchell field, north of the Main Campus. This really happened and though I saved the copy of the paper, it has disappeared with the passing years. Pity about that. NOTE: For you history buffs, this is the airfield from which Lindbergh began his historic trans-Atlantic flight.
But I digress.
TAKE NOTES. THERE WILL BE SHORT QUIZ AT THE END OF THE LECTURE
This morning I woke up fully engulfed in a mental itch.
When are the twelve days of Christmas? It can’t be the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day because that’s always one week and will never change. Even if you add in Christmas Eve, that’s still only 8 days. What’s with the other four days and why doesn’t Google put them on the calendar? It puts on the birthdays of even the most obscure of my “Google +” connections. Surely (I know, don’t call me Shirley) this has got to be at least as important as some acquaintance I’ve never met having a birthday. You think, Probie?
But all was not lost. The calendar might not offer much help, but Google, the ubiquitous source of all miscellaneous information combined with — let’s not always see the same hands … you, there, in the back — right! Wikipedia! They had the answer and it only took me 0.77 seconds to get about 515,000,000 results. I only needed one result and don’t have time or enough interest in the subject to check out the other 514,999,999 answers.
Twelve Days of Christmas 2014 begin on Thursday, December 25 and end on Monday, January 5
From Wikipedia. It’s the religious response, or at least a general overview thereof. Feel free to check out any of the other hundreds of thousands of available answers to this question:
The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season, beginning on Christmas Day (25 December), that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God. This period is also known as Christmastide. This is different from the Octave of Christmas, which is the liturgical time from Christmas Day until the Solemnity of Mary on 1 January. The Twelfth Day of Christmas falls on 5 or 6 January depending which tradition is followed. There is similar confusion about the date of Twelfth Night which is commonly held to be 5 January but some hold that it is 6 January. The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January which celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus. In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.
In Medieval England, this period was continuous feasting and merrymaking, climaxing on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night was permanently embedded in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as the title of one of his most famous comedies.
Some traditions were adapted from the older pagan customs, including the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yuletide. Christianity was, as all religions have been, opportunistic. If everyone was going to celebrate anyway, why not give the celebration Christian meaning? It’s no coincidence that every religion celebrates the solstices and equinoxes … or that the pagan Omer (celebrating the first cutting of the wheat) coincides with Passover on which Easter is overlaid. Nor should these overlays of later religions on earlier ones diminish the importance of the holidays. It’s hard enough to get a new religion going, to convert an entire population to a new way of thinking. Why not use whatever tools (and holidays) are handy?
ARCHAEOLOGY AND RELIGION
For a long time, whenever I drove down the old road from Jerusalem to Lachish, I noticed a piece of an arch pushing out of the ground. I could see there was a ruin there. I hoped the archaeologists would get to it so I could find out what it was.
One day, the diggers arrived.
It was a 5th century synagogue, complete with mosaic floor showing a mandala of 12 astrological symbols, the same ones we use today. The floor was taken, intact, to a museum in Tel Aviv. Digging recommenced and beneath the synagogue, pillar on pillar, stood a Roman temple. After rescuing whatever artifacts they could, the group began to dig again and found — pillar on pillar — a Greek temple.
Finally, below the Greek temple, on the base rock, was a Canaanite temple.
During each stage of the dig, we were allowed to go poke around the ruins. Israelis love archaeology. It’s was as much the national pastime in Israel as baseball is here. Everyone has a few artifacts … pottery shards, tiny oil lamps, Roman glass, old coins from vanished empires.
Human history and religion has never been the monolithic, simplistic structure many people — on both sides of the religious equation — would like it to be. If there is an omnipotent deity, it is not an old guy with a long beard counting your sins and weighing them against your good deeds. Or his son, nephew, or third cousin twice removed.
Whatever there is, it is unlikely to be something we can neatly classify. It is, as “they” say, complicated.
If this doesn’t perfectly sum up the spirit of Christmas, I’m sure I can’t imagine what does. I’m also including the lovely portrait of Lil which Bill sent to me. It arrived — actually ARRIVED — via U.S. Postal Service. A Christmas miracle?
Lil is beautiful and so is Bill and so is Evil Squirrel, his alter-ego. Walt Kelley is smiling down from somewhere.