This is the time of year we usually share memories of Christmases past as we deal with this holiday season. We have already watched a few of our favorite “r/x” movies. “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “A Christmas Carol” (the 1951  Alistair Sim version). It was fun, in the moment, viewing those classics, but the feel-good vibes didn’t linger.

This, I suspect, is the winter of discontent for many of us. I think of my fellow retirees, those deep into double-digit years of retirement. The “golden years” myth disappeared long ago. The celebratory wine now is cheap hooch as we absorb the first year of the White House tenant and his minions. How would Charles Dickens begin chapter one of this historical piece?

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was the worst of times….

We’re bombarded with holiday TV specials, new age Carols I don’t recall, sung by smiley faces I don’t recognize.  The nightly network news/24 hour cable news are relentless with “Dr. Strangelove” breaking news tweets, apocalyptic natural disasters involving every country on the planet, and daily offerings of mass shootings.  The news outlets usually give us a “kicker” story with a Hollywood happy ending. I don’t find myself smiling.

As I write, I find myself in a Jimmy Stewart/George Bailey moment wondering how it went so sour.  I know I’ve made my share of mistakes on the home front but they hardly seem deserving to be one of the usual suspects in this turgid real life melodrama.

Our furry kids —  Bonnie, Gibbs, and Duke seem oblivious to the scenario. They’re waiting for Santa Claus, sure their dreams of mammoth offerings of biscuits and other treats will be waiting for them when the Big Guy drops by our house.

The dogs are our comedy central. They make us smile and laugh in the middle of our anger and, yes, self-pity. I can feel the “woe is me” heavy on my shoulders as I write. I’d like to think I’m not alone in my whining.

When our world was young, I never took time to see or hear what my parents were doing during this time of year. I didn’t see my Mother grimace as she pored over the bills, the annoying phone calls from the bad bank people and others asking for past due payments. I didn’t really pay attention to my Dad’s exasperation over where the hard-earned pay from his two jobs went.  I didn’t see the anger on his face or frustration in his voice because I was too busy pestering them about the stuff I wanted from Santa Claus. After all, what I wanted was really the most important issue. That much was clear to me.

One December evening, I recall my Mom biting her lip, reaching for patience and calmly telling me, “Garry, one day when you’re a man, you’ll understand why your Father and I seem so short with you. You’ll see. I just hope I’m around to see how you handle things.”

I thought Mom was kidding with me, putting me off about my toys list. Adult stuff which didn’t make sense to me. Mom and Dad were always quietly — or so they thought — arguing about how they could pay for essentials and take care of me (and later, my two younger brothers) and my not-so-secret Santa list.

I’d usually shrug them off. It was just boring parent stuff, I reasoned, then sneaked off to listen to my radio shows. Off with my heroes of yesteryear,  The Lone Ranger,  Sgt. Preston, Superman, The Shadow, others, I was oblivious to the real world problems of my parents.

All was calm, all was right.

Mom isn’t here to see how I deal with things now. Neither is Dad. They’d probably grin at all my soul-searching and “why me?” queries.

I’ll never know how many bleak Christmases Mom and Dad endured while making sure everything was good for me and my brothers. Kids never know. If they’re lucky, as we were,  it’s a Walt Disney world with no grumbling about the state of our nation. No awareness about how bad hombres are in charge of our ship of state.

Marilyn and me, in a much lesser role, will try to make Christmas 2017 a happy time for our family. Marilyn is already busy with tonight’s dinner.  Tomorrow’s festive dinner is in progress. She feels much the way I do about this Christmas but carries the major load in keeping us afloat, including taking of me. That’s her year round gift to me.

Marilyn isn’t Clarence but she’s long overdue for wings.  Wait! Don’t I hear a distant bell?

Attagirl, Marilyn!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.


  1. No, as children we seldom see what is really going on at Christmas… and then, as adults, we do the same things our parents did. Until we don’t. I miss the bustle of preparing for a family Christmas. It will be me and Ani Christmas morning here… until I go to breakfast with my granddaughters, then on to work, and home with my boss/son to a small Christmas dinner and a very happy dog (turkey and one of her boys? She will be very happy!).
    It is wonderfully quiet, far less stressful…so much cheaper!… and nowhere near as much cooking or as many dishes.
    I think I’d trade the quiet for a house full of laughter and generations though. 🙂
    (P.S. Marilyn can have her halo early, but she can’t have the wings a while yet…we need her around.)
    Merry Christmas to you all, Garry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great thoughts, Sue. I began writing in an absolute funk but my brain steered me in a different direction as I wrote. I’m sure my Mom is GRINNING wherever she’s reading the piece and these comments.

      Merry Christmas, Sue, to you and your loved ones.


    1. Lois, THANK you! You and all our friends are the gems that brighten our days with your life shares. We are very grateful.

      Merry Christmas, Lois. I hope Santa is generous.


    1. Covert, thank you. I am sure many folks have merry mixed with blues this Christmas.
      Here’s to you, Covert, and all our friends who’ve helped us get through this first year of Orangehead.

      Merry Christmas, Covert. Let the good times begin!


      1. Thank you, Garry, and it’s Phyllis btw, although Covert works. Indeed, let the good times begin! I so enjoy seeing your prose, thoughts and overview on many differing topics (there’s so much to choose from) snicker snicker with Orangehead. Take care and enjoy the new year too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          1. LOL Garry. Santa was incredibly good to me via my son a heated vibrating chair that I had to sit in this am and it eased some of the pain in my back so I could enjoy myself. It is amaaaazing! Some beautiful Earrings (Hummingbirds! woot woot dare I say more?) pink pearl earrings I adore, a starfrit to slice and dice and all the accompaniments to make everything work. Chocolates, yum!! a stylis pen for my tablet, special shampoo, two heating blankets, one for the chair and one for napping with, a picture and what can I say, I made out like a bandit!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. A heated,vibrating chair? OMG — sounds absolutely great, Phyllis. I absolutely envy that gift. Here’s to good health, happiness and sanity in the year ahead.


              1. Thank you, Garry. Indeed I agree, with huge emphasis on sanity in some areas in particular! Orangehead and others lol. I’ll post pictures as soon as I can. I can take pics but not swap them from tablet to here, not sure how that’s done.


  2. All children SHOULD be granted that ideal magic Christmas. Sadly enough not all children get it. But your reminiscences of yours were lovely to read. And it’s true that ‘children make Christmas’ with their wonder and joy. Magic. From the tree seats of those of us who can only watch because we have no children of our own; that gift is the rarest and most beautiful. So your parents ‘bleak’ Christmases were probably just the opposite…yes the adult problems with money and unforgiving bill collectors were grim. But imagine the happiness in their hearts when you and your siblings were opening the gifts or clamoring down the stairs to see what Santa brought… they probably might tell you they didn’t consider those times bleak at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Embeecee, for those thoughts. Only in restrospect can I begin to understand and appreciate what my Parents did for their 3 sons. My thoughts of those long ago Christmases came through as I wrestled with the realities of this Christmas and the outside world. It’s given me a new perspective.

      Merry Christmas, Embeecee, to you and your loved ones.


  3. As I was driving over La Veta Pass yesterday, this song came on the radio. It made me think of all the Christmases in the early 2000s I was able to share with my aunts in Montana, how Aunt Jo, Uncle Hank and Aunt Martha would be standing by the baggage ramp at the airport in Billings. My arrival was a huge event in my Aunt Martha’s life at that point. I don’t know if they were great Christmases, but for me they are the sweetest memories, sweeter than childhood Christmases which always seem to have involved family drama.

    Christmas 2001 was the last time my Aunt Martha was enough in her “right” mind do really DO Christmas. We had a lot of fun shopping. It was a grim Christmas, too, nationally. Every window in Billings had a paper American flag taped to the front window. But we were together and somehow the national tragedy and uncertainty over the future faded in our knowledge of the ephemera of that moment, those moments, that turkey, that silly Christmas village, molasses cookies and fudge, old family stories, people we’d lost, jokes at the table, snow.

    Merry Christmas, Garry. This is a beautiful blog post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That long snowy road is a trail of memories, the snowy roads of childhood. I’m sure that the Christmases everyone remembers are sweeter than the Christmases now, but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Hugs to you and yours! A special hug to your great white mountain dog. Everyone needs a bear in his or her life!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Looking back I think most of can see more clearly what our parents were going through. This is a time for reflection and gratitude because it is a good world in spite of all the political garbage that is going on. Merry Christmas to you both Garry and Marilyn.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. With the health problems this year, mediocre health insurance, and the struggles to get by for my new to America roommate and myself, I can relate. The rocky ship of state only makes it worse. I am busier with the worries than my young companion.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My favorite Christmas movie lines: George: Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter. Mr. Potter: And a happy new year to you, In Jail!!! I’ve watched Scrooge 1935 every night for 2 weeks. I love his poked out bottom lip. May you and Marilyn and your doggies enjoy your Christmas meals.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Elva, I’ve always wanted to see Mr. Potter get his final “come uppance” but it’s left to our imagination. Maybe Nick “tunes” him up.


  7. The beautiful photos and edits add Christmas colour and cheer to your words my Friend! – and i am one of those with you in the whining department, although i often catch myself mid-rant and realise that i’m not actually helping the situation any by pointing the silly, dumb or just plain bad stuff out to others, they can probably see what i see without me restating it and if they can’t they are probably better off not knowing anyway! 😉

    (Just between you and me – the female anchor for my preferred evening TV news hour spent a full minute during the bulletin describing movies being shown for Christmas at a local cinema chain as if it was an actual news item instead of what it was – a paid advertorial! 😦 Journalistic standards slip further each day it seems to me.)

    But like i say – who needs to hear me whine?? 😉

    My parents were brought up during the recession of the 30’s and spent their childhood in England during the war and had a Christmas or two in a bomb shelter as air raids passed overhead, but it taught them the value of watching your pennies and living life to the best with what you had to hand.

    They were never well-off by most people’s standards but were never in debt (other than a mortgage ) either and we always had food on the table, a roof over our heads ( they owned their house by the time they were in their fifties) and as the only child i always had a great Christmas with loads of presents and never felt in any way deprived for love or toys. 🙂

    Christmas was always a time for family but the best times were when just the three of us were together and we’d relax at home with the TV playing, me playing with my newest toy or reading one of the cartoon books i’d love to get and Dad sipping on a good scotch and smoking one of the cigars i had bought him especially for Christmas ( about the only time he smoked them – the rest of the time he smoked cigarettes!) after we had finished a traditional home-cooked roast turkey meal and desserts. The first ten were in the cold of an English winter the next 30 or 40 in the heat of an Aussie summer, but always together, a few times shared with my wife although the marriage did not last that long.

    Not having any kids of my own i don’t get to see it from the other side, but today the tradition continues much as it has all my life except now of course dad isn’t here to share it. It’s a rock of constancy in an otherwise very changeable and unsettling world. I hope you and Spike (Marilyn 😉 ) get to feel some of that security together to and you enjoy the antics of your furry companions for many more Christmases to come!

    merry Christmas!


    Liked by 1 person

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