SHARING MY WORLD – PARADES, TRADITIONS, AND A JOKE – WEEK 28

Share Your World – 2014 Week 28

Have you ever been a participant in a parade? What did you do?

In 1992 and 1993, Garry and I were the honorary “King and Queen” of the Shriner’s Rodeo. I loved it. Wish we could do it again. We got to ride out at a gallop, then ride around the arena. The hardest part was controlling the horse and not falling off.

It was what got Garry interested in riding and for the next several years, we took lessons and went riding every chance we got.

ADJ150-RodeoGarMarHorseback

If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them? Why?

I’m not fond of opera, though I like operetta, especially Gilbert & Sullivan. I wouldn’t sell the tickets. I’d give them to someone who likes opera. Ballet I would go to see. I originally planned to be a ballerina, but it didn’t work out.

Why did you start your blog?

Like so many others, as a place to show off my thousands of pictures … and maybe do some writing that someone other than family members and friends might read it. It turned to be a lot more than I expected.

What is your favorite tradition? (family tradition, church tradition, whatever)

Pretty much all our personal traditions revolve around movies and shopping.

We watch “The Quiet Man” on St. Patrick’s Day. It reminds us of our honeymoon in Ireland, when we hunted down the locations where John Ford shot the movie. We watch the fireworks at the Boston Hatch Shell on the 4th of July (these days on television, in the old days from our balcony in Boston), then watch “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, we watch our favorites holiday movies including “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Our own private film festival until we run out of holiday-themed movies.

96-ChristmasCommons-12-9-12_134

When Christmas is over, we go shopping. Got to love those post-Christmas sales. We get what we want at half price or less. It’s fun, something we can do together.

We also try to get into Boston at least once during December to see the Boston Pops concert and I can take some night shots of the city.

96-Pops2013_065

Speaking of traditions, we like to shop together at seasonal sales. Like we did yesterday for the big “end of summer” sales. Maybe you didn’t know summer is over, but in retail, it’s already autumn.

We didn’t buy much, but got stuff we like. We will enjoy using it especially because we paid 75% less than regular price. Garry and I were brought up to believe only fools pay full price. W exalt in our bargains.

AND NOW, IT’S TIME FOR A FUNNY STORY

Herb’s buddy George comes up to him after work and says “Hey, Herb! Have I got a deal for you!”

“What’s the deal?” Herb asks.

“I can get you an elephant for $100!”

Herb looks baffled. “George, buddy, I have no idea what in the world I would do with an elephant. What, ride him to work? Let him graze in the back yard? Don’t be ridiculous.”

And George says: “I can get you two elephants for $150!”

“NOW you’re talking,” says Herb.

CHRISTMAS – 2012 – AND THE NEWTOWN MASSACRE

Lest we forget – Just a little more than a year ago, there was a massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut.

- – – – -

I was shocked to realize that Monday is Christmas Eve. I admit that it’s pretty weird at this time of year to not know what day is Christmas, but I am a disaster in every possible way. Trying to do everything is not merely difficult, it’s impossible. I’m stretched thin enough to be transparent. I’m sure the massacre in Connecticut contributed hugely to my fugue state.

For about a week, we couldn’t even think about holidays. I’m not sure we were thinking about anything. Psychic overload. Plus, there are other issues, stuff I had to deal with that falls under my purview because the end of the year is not only a time for holidays, but the period when we wrap up the business of the old year and get everything in place for the next.

Unless the world ends later today, in which case all I can say is “oops.”

Christmas Cactus

I am changing health care insurance carriers as of January because I can’t afford the program I’ve been using, much as I like it. Changing medical insurance is always hard, but when you are older and have a variety of physical conditions and work with a lot of specialists, it gets wildly complicated and a bit scary.  Moreover, I have a project to which I committed last summer that has a hard deadline just after the New Year.

And at the beginning of last week, I realized my husband needs a new cell phone. It never crossed my mind that upgrading a mobile phone could entail endless hours of calls to AT&T and turn into a Cecil B. DeMille production with thousands of extras and a full orchestra. Getting the phone ate most of a week … and I fear it’s not over yet. We don’t actually have a phone yet. Anything could happen.

When I have a little time and am over the hump of holidays, I’ll tell you all about it. You can’t make this stuff up.

My deadline isn’t flexible. I’ve never missed a deadline and I won’t this time either. I will meet it or die trying. But it leaves Garry to take care of everything I haven’t already done. It’s nothing outside his capabilities … it’s just that he too had lost track of time.

When I told him Christmas Eve is Monday, he didn’t believe me. We had to stand in front of the calendar, proving beyond doubt that somewhere along the way, we lost a week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What happened to December? In all the years I can remember, I have never been so completely unready for the holidays as I am this year and what’s weird is that so many other people I know seems to be caught short.

My theory is that the Newtown Connecticut mass shooting affected many of us the same way. Vietnam vets started having flashbacks again. It made my husband remember too many similar things he had to cover during his years as a reporter … and had the same effect on his colleagues, both those still working and those now retired. For a while, it seemed somehow wrong … inappropriate … to be worrying about gifts and wrapping paper.

We didn’t feel festive. We didn’t even feel like we should feel festive. Between events outside our control and a lot of things that just came together to eat our time, Christmas seems to have appeared, popping up like a jack-in-the-box. Friends who normally go all out for the holidays haven’t even bought a tree, much less put it up or decorated their home and property. A strange Christmas, this one. Somehow, it has happened, though with less ceremony than usual.

While I spent the afternoon at the oncologist, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter put up and decorated the tree. They acquired wrapping paper and the appropriate stuff to go with it … ribbon and bows and tape and labels and all. Meals are planned, though groceries remain to be purchased.

In the middle of all of this, my two Christmas cacti are blooming. They, at least, are in tune with the season. The tree is lit. There won’t be wreathes this year because I forgot to buy them and now, it seems too late.

Next year I’ll try to make up for it. I did take pictures this morning to prove, despite obstacles, we shall have Christmas. We may not deck the halls, but it’s still Christmas.

WHEN CHRISTMAS KILLS YOUR CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

For twenty Decembers in a row, I maxed out my credit and emptied my bank account buying gifts. A lot of the gifts were items no one really needed or wanted, stuff that just caught my eye. Or because anything the recipient wanted or needed, I couldn’t afford. And worse, they didn’t want the stuff I gave them either. I also got a lot of junk gifts, stuff I didn’t want, had no use for. Felt obliged to keep anyhow, so it cluttered up my house and made me feel obligated to keep the giving and getting cycle going against all logic and reason.

96-christmas2013_19.

After Garry and I had to stop working in 2001, our financial situation went downhill. At some point in that long, painful slide, I realized I had to do something to stop the hemorrhaging. Christmas was killing us.

It was 2007 when I finally stopped exchanging gifts with everyone except my best friend and her husband, and my immediate family. Immediate family was defined as my son, his wife, my granddaughter, my husband and his brothers.

I tried to think of a subtle approach to handling this, but there wasn’t any. Finally, I simply called everyone. I told them I wanted to stop exchanging gifts. Explained I couldn’t afford it and in any case, anything they really wanted or needed was outside my means. We all wound up buying junk, so what was the point?

At first there were a lot of objections. In the end, though, everyone agreed I had a point and I think they were relieved. Because unless you have unlimited resources, Christmas can wipe you out. After initial objections were overcome, everyone settled down and the idea began to gain traction.

Now, especially with so many of my friends retired and living on fixed incomes, most of the people I know limit gift exchanges. There’s no viable alternative. If Christmas spending is killing your Christmas spirit, you have to talk about it. People will understand.

Set spending limits even (maybe especially) with close family. Even with your spouse. Garry and I have a $50-75 “under the tree” limit for each other. After Christmas, if we have a bit of money, we go shopping together. We hit the post-holiday clearance sales where we each get stuff we really want. I know a lot of couples who do the same thing. It works and it’s fun.

There’s no law that says you have to bankrupt yourself every December. I used to do it because I love buying presents. As much as I had to set limits for everyone else, I had to discipline myself too. I’ve learned to stick to my own rules —  a lot harder than I thought it would be.

The end result has been good all the way around. If Christmas has become something you dread rather than look forward to, you might want to restructure your holiday. Try a new approach. More celebration and less shopping. It might save Christmas for you.

CHRISTMAS FROM THE OUTSIDE

Being a non-observant Jew is effectively no religion. It isn’t like being an atheist because it doesn’t imply a belief in no god. My mother was an atheist. I understand what it means. To me, atheism requires as much certainty as any other faith. You have to know something you can’t really know. It’s faith, even if it’s faith in nothingness.

75-PosterCommons_091

Given my upbringing and personal preferences, I’m mildly uncomfortable celebrating all religious holidays, including Jewish ones. I feel as if I’m wearing someone else’s clothing. Even when they fit well and look good, I know they aren’t mine. Every year when Christmas rolls through town flattening everything and everyone in its path, I bow to its power and supremacy. I enjoy the lights, music,  gifts and season while remaining aware it isn’t my holiday. When everyone is sharing their warm fuzzy memories of Christmas as a child, I have no equivalent memories to share. Not of Christmas or any holiday because my mother, atheist that she was, celebrated nothing. As a kid, I yearned to be part of Christmas. All my friends had trees and got a zillion presents. I would wander around to my various friends’ houses, stay a little while, aware I wasn’t really welcome. Then I would go home. I felt so left out.

When I married my first husband, his family was almost as religious as mine. They were pretty sure they had been — at some point in the past — something, but they weren’t sure what. They celebrated Christmas with enormous energy and enthusiasm, without any bothersome religious overtones. It was an alcoholic’s dream holiday featuring eggnog that might actually kill you. And very tree-ish. My father-in-law hauled in the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in a private home. Paul Bunyan would have been impressed.

That first Christmas (1965), they pulled out all the stops. They had a Jew to entertain. How exciting. A new audience. Jeff passed away twenty years ago, but his mother — she will be 104 in February — still sends a Christmas present. I have one in the living room right now waiting to be unwrapped.

The nine years I lived in Israel gave me perspective. There was no evidence of Christmas. Chanukah was a holiday, but not like Christmas. Passover and Sukkot were big festivals. It was comfortable to be a Jew in Israel. That sounds redundant, but the freedom to live by a Jewish calendar was no small thing. Even if you were entirely non-religious, you didn’t feel the pressure to be involved in what is — theoretically — a Christian holiday, but is — as practiced — Pagan. I like the Pagan part.

Basically, I have no religious affiliation. Jewish by ethnicity and history. And I know a lot about Judaism, admire it, but I don’t practice it and never have. I thought seriously about practicing it but it didn’t fit better than anything else. I’m skeptical of everything, certain of nothing. I have no answers.

So to all of you, Merry Christmas. Have a cool Yule and a grand Solstice. Whatever you celebrate, please — enjoy it! I’ll sing along because I know all the words.