Marilyn had been doing battle for days with UPS and FEDEX about vanished Christmas deliveries. It was frustrating and not funny. Her frustration got to me too, since I can’t help fight this particular battle. It finally got sorted out, but it left us tired and not feeling any kind of holiday spirit.
Add that we have been intermittently under siege from “whatever is going around,”while trying to fend off another of the seemingly endless viruses that leave us feeling old and tired. Factor in the latest appalling, comic strip news from the president-elect. We are bummed out. Wishing the holidays were over before they had begun. Whether you celebrate or not, this ought to at least be a season with hope for a better New Year to come, but this one? Good riddance to 2016, but 2017 was not looking better.
Is there no silver lining? Anything to look forward to?
Bleak thoughts were racing through my head as I made a deli run to pick up a few items. I flashed a smile to the friendly lady at the counter. Civility is a requirement, even if I’m feeling down. She totaled up my purchases while I pulled out my debit card and started to hand it to her.
“Nope,” she said. “Not need, it’s all paid for.” indicating I wouldn’t need my card.
I looked around confused.
The gentleman standing next to me smiled and softly said, “Happy Holidays”.
I left the deli, a bit stunned, but smiling. Sometimes, the world surprises you. In a good way. Maybe there is hope after all.
What is your favorite holiday?
Our anniversary. I know it’s not a national or religious holiday, but that’s part of why I enjoy it. No pressure. We can do a lot, a little, nothing … or delay it until the time is more convenient. It’s our personal holiday. We can do whatever we like.
What types of food is associated with your holiday?
If it is just us — and it usually is — Japanese. Sushi, sashimi, and tempura. The last time we went out — and I think it was, indeed our anniversary, we realized the rice we cook at home is better than the stuff they are serving in the restaurants. My green tea is better, too. We have become rice and tea snobs. Now, if I could just master the art of tempura!
Do you travel for your holiday?
Frequently, yes. It’s a good time of year, mid-September. It’s one of the reasons we chose that date to have the wedding.
Good weather, usually. It is past the worst heat of summer, but before the danger of snow. Also, hopefully, it’s not in the middle of hurricane season. We’ve traveled to Cooperstown twice (that’s upstate New York). To Maine several times (Ogunquit, Jackman, Freeport, Kennebunk). Locally to Cape Cod (Hyannis, Barnstable, Martha’s Vineyard, Bourne).
Up to New Hampshire (Lincoln and the mountains nearby). Vermont (friends in Peachum). Various places in New York, especially and most memorably to Coney Island — Brooklyn, don’t you know.
And we’ve stayed home and partied. Gotten remarried twice.
We’ve gone to Arizona twice. Last year, we deferred the journey until the following January because we wanted to be there in cooler weather, this time. Our previous visit was late August/early September and you could cook eggs on the sidewalk, depending on how you like eggs.
This year? It’s number 27, a sort of off-year. So maybe we’ll celebrate our birthdays instead. We were born a month apart, me in March, Garry in April. I’ll turn 70 and he turns 75 … which is definitely not an off-year. I feel we ought to do something, but it will depend on money … and the weather … and if I think we can actually gather enough of a crowd to make a party. Everyone lives in a different states these days. Gatherings are difficult. Moreover, you absolutely cannot predict weather in early spring in New England. It might be gorgeous … or blowing a blizzard.
Is it a religious or spiritual holiday?
Define religious. Define spiritual.
Is there a gift exchange?
Not so much anymore. Tokens. Cards. These days, if we need or want something, we get it. We had been saving for a rainy day, but then we looked up and realized … “Hey, it’s raining!” Usually the trip and travel is the gift. And the cameras we are carrying!
How long does the celebration last?
There’s no rules about this. We start talking about it months ahead. We ponder. I look to see if I can squirrel away a few bucks and I check prices on places i think we might want to go … and which aren’t so far away that the drive would be more stressful than fun. Otherwise, we go out to dinner. And that’s good too.
Garry was working weekends that decade, so whatever stuff happened on Sunday was part of his beat. This particular Sunday, mass at the old catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury was being conducted by His Eminence Bernard Francis Law, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston and cardinal of the Roman Catholic church. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.
It was a grand dame amongst local churches.You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. When the Archbishop says Mass anywhere, it’s an event. We lived a short block away from the old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.
Roxbury was an almost entirely Black neighborhood. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood which was red-lined by real estate brigands in the 1960s. We were among the first two or three middle class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of an upward swing for the neighborhood, including how it would be perceived by media and Bostonians. We had chosen it less out of sentimentality than because it was a wonderful location. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and affordable, a combination almost impossible to find in Boston or any major city.
Despite rumors to the contrary, it was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors, or felt safer.
The morning on which Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called. “I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”
“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”
“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”
BING BONG said the doorbell. I looked at me. At least I was not still in my nightgown. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing the red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.
Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter and greeter.
I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope the old church could raise enough funds to repair and upgrade the facilities.
We talked about the neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately blamed for the long-standing and terribly wrong policy of the Church in concealing the misdeeds of child-molesting priests, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.
When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the Archbishop. That was when I realized the Cardinal was coated in cat hair. Big Guy’s hair.
Exactly what does one say or do in this odd circumstance?
“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more than a lint roller. It was going to need dry cleaning with muscles behind it.
So I shut up and we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns.
“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.
“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement. He fully understood the implications of Big Guy, cat hair, and black wool.
“Yup,” I said. I’d wrangled with Big Guy’s fur and knew how bad it could be.
Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain.
“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.
“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”
“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”
“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.
When the other reporters gathered round and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.
“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”
But now … YOU know. The truth is finally revealed.