HANGING OUT — MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Hanging out is a concept lost to modern youth. I think it’s a tragedy, personally. The best parts of my life were spent hanging out.

I was a teenager in college. Madly in love with my first boyfriend who was seriously into the “Village scene.” He brought me there for my first taste of cold chocolate at a MacDougal Street coffee shop. I took to the Village like the proverbial duck to water.

From the old Italian coffee houses that sold coffee along with a few other non-alcoholic drinks, to the tiny, dingy coffee houses where folk music was born, this was the Heart of Hip. Everything was a 15 cent subway ride from home.

The world was mine.

It wasn’t only the Village, either. A lot of New York was free back then.

Museums were free. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was a magical experience. For that matter, the huge New York Public Library behind the stone lions had basements full of original, ancient documents into which you could freely delve. You couldn’t take them out of the library, but they were free for you to absorb. (I have no idea if that’s true anymore.)

You could spent an afternoon at the Hayden Planetarium watching the stars. If you had just a little bit of money, afternoon plays on Broadway could be very cheap, especially if you could live with “standing room only.” In the afternoon, there were always seats available. A lot of things you pay big money for now weren’t expensive then … and this wasn’t just a matter of the change of the value of money through the years. It was a huge change in culture.

If you were a teenager, New York on your doorstep was heaven, but Greenwich Village in the 1960s on your doorstep? That was the stuff from which dreams came true.

From Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, to Pete Seeger and Judy Collins … they were all there. The famous, soon to be famous and a few infamous people. All young, making music and passing the basket.

Caffe Reggio — the place where cappuccino (in America) was born.

I’d take the subway and get off at Bleecker Street, alone or in the company of friends. It didn’t matter whether you brought company or went by yourself. There were always people to meet. You didn’t need much money — good because none of us had any. We were kids, mostly without jobs and in school. Those of us not still living with parents lived in apartments shared with other people so we could make the rent and maybe afford food too.

All I needed was subway fare — 30 cents round trip — and a few more cents for a hot (or cold) chocolate at the Reggio. For this pittance, I could spend an entire day and evening in the Village. Hanging out.

“What do you mean “hanging out?” asks my granddaughter.

“You bought a coffee or a chocolate and just sat around waiting to see what might happen. You could read or watch people coming and going. Hoping you’d see someone you knew — or maybe wanted to know.”

“That’s it? You just sat around?”

“Yup. Just sat around. And we didn’t sit around with our cell phones because there were no such things. We just sat around. Talking or thinking or reading. It was a quiet place until the music started. That was hanging out. No one told you to hurry — or told you to buy something or leave. It was cool to simply be there.”

Bleecker and MacDougalI often sat with a cup of coffee or chocolate for a whole day. No one pushed us out the door to make way for ‘the lunch crowd.’ No one bothered you unless you looked like you’d like some bothering.

When it got dark, you went to one of the places where people sang. There were usually no entry fees. Hopefully you had enough money to drop something in the basket for whoever was performing. It wasn’t particularly odd to have no money at all. A lot of us walked around with empty wallets. Without wallets, too. Rich was having exactly enough money to buy a coffee and subway tokens. It was okay in the 1960s. Poverty was cool.

Not only were there no cell phones. A lot of people had no phone. People rode bicycles with naked guitars strapped to their backs. Cars? I think most of us didn’t have driver’s licences. I know I didn’t. That was a decade in the future.

People were friendly, funny, and we were sure we were going to change the world. I think we did, though sometimes when I’m in a dour mood, I wonder if all we really did was make denim a fashion fabric.

Out near Hofstra in Hempstead, where I was occasionally attending school and getting far better grades than I deserved, I was a music major and one of the perks were free concert tickets to Carnegie Hall. There’s the “main room” — but there are also a number of “recital halls” where up and coming musicians perform. I’m hope that’s still true.

Meanwhile, one of my soon-to-be husbands and his best friend decided to bring culture to Long Island. They opened the AbMaPHd (pronounced ab-ma-fid) coffee-house. It was a light-hearted reference to education — AB, MA, and Ph.D. Nobody got the joke.

They brought in the same people who were playing in the Village. Dave Van Ronk gave me my first good guitar strings. He even put them on the guitar for me.

Dave Van Ronk (back then)

What did I do there, in Hempstead? I hung out, of course. Sat around, meeting friends, drinking something, listening to music, meeting musicians. Hanging. I also played bridge upstairs in Memorial Hall instead of attending classes, but no one is perfect.

No one was texting, computing, or phoning. There was no electronic background noise (unless you count the squeal of feedback from the microphones). Nobody’s phone was beeping, dinging, or wailing. No one was going off into a corner to talk on the phone.

If you were going off into a corner, you were either making a date — remember dating? — or buying (or possibly selling) drugs.  All the noise was human. Talking, laughing, fighting, singing, discussing. Eating. Drinking.

It was an incredibly happy time for me, even though I thought I was deeply troubled, probably because I hadn’t really made the full breakaway from home to real life … and also because I’d read too many books about troubled youth and figured I must be one.

I know that whatever kids are doing today, they aren’t having nearly as much fun as we had. I feel sorry for them. We were adventurous, playful, willing to try anything at least once and most of us, more often. If I hadn’t been me during those years, I’d envy whoever had been the girl hanging out. If I miss anything of the “old days”? It’s hanging out. Just being there and doing nothing important.

Being there was enough.

BEFORE THE “CLOUD”

ARE YOU OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER?
OH SURE YOU ARE.

I wonder if operating systems will be relevant a few years from now. Change has been a synonym for technology for the past 30 years or more. Change has driven the computer industry. Change is why we need to buy new software, hardware and operating systems.

Change can make things work better, but it’s not unusual to discover that your “upgrade” is a downgrade because what used to work no longer does. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

I grew to adulthood in a pre-computer society. I started working before cable TV, when encyclopedias were huge heavy sets of books and a computer was gigantic and needed a whole building for itself. It ran on punch cards and used machine languages — COBOL and FORTRAN.

Decades later, personal computers were still just one step removed from a doorstop, floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and really flopped.

Those early machines (personal units, not mainframes) — I hesitate to call them computers — didn’t do much. They didn’t have hard drives. There was no software and no user-friendly interface. I don’t think the concept existed. No WYSIWYG. What you saw was a black screen with lurid green letters that made you feel as if you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then everything changed. First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but it got better.

In the beginning, there were different players in the marketplace and many more choices of operating system. Wang and DEC plus a crazy quilt of dedicated word processors and computers made by Commodore, Atari and many others. For a while, I had an Amstrad, a European machine that was almost a computer, kind an intelligent typewriter with a screen. It spit out paper.

Soon everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. Magic!

The speed of change accelerated. Technology was in hyperdrive. Then came a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to use it. After I got connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around. Mostly, you bumped into other people looking for something interesting. And then came AOL.

You could send electronic mail — email — if you had a friends with computers. You sent them messages over old copper telephone wires and everything happened in slow motion.

Just getting on to the Internet could take … well, let me put it this way. Turn on the computer. Turn on the modem. Go to the kitchen. Prepare dinner. Cook dinner. Serve dinner. Eat dinner. Clean up everything. By the time you got back to your computer, you might have actually managed to connect to something. Or not.

Then suddenly there were ISPs popping up all over the place. I got a super fast modem that ran at a whopping 2400 BPS! Imagine that. I worked in California from my home office in Boston. Cool! Telecommuting was the cat’s pajamas.

By the time my granddaughter was born in 1996, everybody had a computer or two. In her world, computers have always been fast, the Internet has always been the world’s shopping mall.

At age three, she could run basic applications. For her, it’s like electricity was to us: something you use that is always there. Always was. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it. It’s hard for me to remember that world — and I certainly would not want to go back there.

stone tools

For a brief interval, the rate of change slowed. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a couple of years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it right away. Everything kept getting faster and soon, with cable modems, no one could even remember what it was like to try to get onto the Internet using an old telephone line.

Every time you looked around, there was a  new generation of processors, bigger and faster hard drives, amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off.

The Internet became a world-sized shopping mall and overnight, catalogue shopping became website cruising. The Internet was a world unto itself; I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast.

We have computers all over the house and what isn’t a computer is run by a computer or contains a mini computer … microwave ovens, smartphones, digital cameras and GPS units.  Three computers are in daily use plus two Kindles — and only 2 people live here. We should get computers for the dogs. For all I know, when we are out, they go on-line and order stuff.

A brief interruption of cable service leaves us wandering around like wraiths, without form or function.  Now, we live in “the cloud.” It’s the same old Internet, but cloud is the “new” word for data stored on external servers. We’re going back to where we began, to using stripped down computers with no hard drives. Instead, everything is stored on someone else’s computer — out there. In the cloud. Our data might be anywhere. We have no way of knowing where it lives. Most people don’t care … until they discover it has been hacked.

Am I the only one who finds this unnerving?

I can see advantages. When you eliminate memory sucking operating systems and cumbersome installed applications, your computer will run faster. Start-up is instantaneous because your computer doesn’t have to load services and applications. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade big expensive applications and volumes of data. You won’t need ever bigger hard drives, more memory and video RAM. You wind up with faster computers that are less expensive and easier to maintain. It’s a win-win, right?

Or is it? How much do you trust your Internet service provider?

If your cable company has a bad day or the servers on which you store your critical data go down — even for a short while — you have nothing. As long as everything works like it’s supposed to, it’s hunky dory, but Murphy hasn’t left the building yet.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time.

Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I own. Mine. Just in case. Because I’ve used a lot of different clouds over the years and at least half of them have folded their servers and disappeared. The only places where my data lives permanently are Amazon for books, Audible for audiobooks … and places I shop. And, of course, the bank. Because some things, you just have to count on surviving.

All my photographs are on external hard drives as is all my writing. Including the posts from this blog. Because it makes me feel better.

I can’t live with the idea of entrusting everything —  from photographs to manuscripts — to an unknown server somewhere in the world. It scares the hell out of me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? Is hit by an earthquake?

You have no way of knowing what country your data is in or how stable its government is. Or how good an infrastructure it has — or how frequently it has been hacked. Your financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

My bank got hacked too. I think almost every place I have data stored has been hacked at least once. On the other hand, my personal, external hard drives have not been hacked because they aren’t hackable.

How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are busy or crashed? The times when their — or your — servers are inaccessible because of maintenance, repair or upgrade. Or those ubiquitous hackers. What if you need a critical piece of data from a server while its offline? It does happen.

If your ISP is down, you are out of business. If you think your cable company has you by the throat now, how much worse will it be if everything you need to run your life and business is dependent on their services? Come to think of it, we may already be there because when our WiFi is down, we feel … crippled. Like we are missing our hands.

Those of you who are old enough to remember the great Northeast power blackout in the mid 1960s know what I mean when I say that overloaded systems can go down like dominoes. I am all in favor working together with my fellow human beings throughout the world, but if you put the world’s eggs in one basket and the basket falls, that’s a hell of a lot of broken eggs.

That’s way beyond an omelet. It’s just a complete mess.

I worked for more than 35 years in development. That was my world and although I’m not an engineer or developer, I know what’s behind a user interface. For example, modern word processors embed commands in text, but behind the interface, it’s entering the same commands I entered directly on the huge IBM mainframe by hand. It’s faster and prettier now. You get to see how your document will look when it’s printed, but it’s nothing but an elegant wrapping on an old familiar box.

My concern is not the graphical user interface (GUI) that overlays our computer (regardless of operating system), but that these new operating systems are designed to work with “The Cloud” … a meaningless term that represents servers located anywhere and everywhere. We don’t have to know where they are; they’re in the Cloud … kind of like Angels and God. We are being herded toward using external storage and we aren’t supposed to be alarmed that we have no control over it.

We use services consisting of server farms located somewhere on earth for our bank records, calendars, contacts, blog posts, Facebook, Twitter … and everything we’ve ever bought on line. Everything. We assume the people from whom this server space is leased are dependable. We assume they are not criminals looking to steal identities and data … and their infrastructure is secure and won’t collapse from a power outage or hacker attack. And finally, we trust our ISPs to deliver the goods, keep us online so we can access the stuff we need.

Charter Communications is my cable company and controls my high-speed internet access, as well as my TV and telephone. I have difficulty controlling the wave of rage I feel when I think about them. How do you feel about your cable company, eh?

An old PC. I think I had one like this for 20 years …

Even if the servers that store your stuff are safe, you can’t get there without a high-speed connection and that, my friends, means your local ISP … cable, telephone, satellite, whatever you use. They already have you by the short hairs. You are not independent; you rely on their services.

Anybody anywhere can build a server farm. It’s a great business that requires a bunch of servers, a climate controlled place to put them, and a few IT people to tend the equipment.

Where are these places? A lot of it is located in places that have government which are — by any standards — unstable. How good is the infrastructure? Are they in the middle of a war? Are their electrical generating facilities dependable or sufficient? What protection against hackers do they provide? Are they trustworthy? They could easily be a bunch of criminals and the data they collect is the mother lode.

Remember when Equifax got hacked? How appalled we were, but how they sort of shrugged it off? That won’t be the last time.

Meanwhile, the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.

Call me cynical. Paranoid. I think the “cloud” is snake oil. Use the “Cloud” when you must, but have dependable external drives too.

Trust in God, but tie your camel.

ALFRED EISENSTAEDT IN MARTHA’S VINEYARD

The first time I went to the Vineyard, it was my honeymoon — to my first husband and the year was 1965. I didn’t know anything about the Vineyard. I hadn’t even known it was there, but we were looking for somewhere interesting to go that we could afford. It’s funny to realize that in 1965, Martha’s Vineyard was a relatively inexpensive place to vacation. Now, it will cost you your first-born child and all your gold.

Menemsha Harbor

Jeff and I stayed at the Menemsha Inn, which is on the west side of the island. It turned out that this was also the place where Alfred Eisenstaedt spent his summer vacations. He had his own cabin and his books of photography were everywhere. I had just started to take pictures. I had my first camera loaded with black and white film. No electronic meter. No electronic anything. Manually loaded film and a hand-held light meter.

I was using my first camera, a Praktica with a brilliant Zeiss 50mm lens. It was a terrific lens. Otherwise, the camera was basic. No electronics or automatic anything. A hand-cranked film advance on a completely bare-bones camera. I had brought half a dozen rolls of black and white film with me. I used them all.

Photo: Dnalor 01

Eisenstadt was not at the Inn while we were there, but his books became my guide to photography. I went every place on the island where he had taken pictures and I copied each. Literally, I figured out exactly where he had stood — or crouched — to get each shot. To say it was illuminating doesn’t cover it. By the time I was through with that week’s vacation, I could take pictures.

The moral of the story? If you are going to copy, copy from the best.


In the summer of 1991, channel 7 let Garry do a feature about Alfred Eisenstaedt — world-famous photographer — and Lois Maillou Jones, world-famous painter.  Both of them lived on Martha’s Vineyard. Both had recently received Presidential Medals of Honor from President Bush (the first).

When the shoot was over, we got to be friends with both artists. Eisenstaedt was 93. Lois Maillou Jones was 86. It was an incredible honor for us. For me, getting to really know a man I’d been admiring for decades was beyond thrilling.

We own a signed print of this portrait of Robert Frost. It hangs downstairs in the den.
We own a signed print of this portrait of Robert Frost. It hangs downstairs in the den.

I had been an admirer of Eisenstaedt’s work as long since before I began taking pictures.

me martha's vineyard stairs

It was ideal for a beginner. I had to take a light reading with a handheld meter. I had to focus the lens, set the shutter speed and f-stop. Choose the film speed — though you only had to set film speed once when you loaded the camera.

There weren’t a lot of settings to learn, but they were and remain the essentials of photography. My 50 mm lens was a prime. No zoom. It was a good piece of glass and moderately fast at f2.8.

Young Alfred Eisenstaedt

If I wanted a close up, I could move in. Wide shot? Run the other way. I learned photography in a way that those who’ve only used digital cameras with zoom lenses can’t imagine. Most of today’s photographers have never so much as held a camera that doesn’t include auto-focus, much less taken a manual light reading. And if you forgot your meter, you could use the suggested setting on the little paper enclosure that came with Kodak film. After a while, you could set your camera pretty much by eyeballing the light and you’d get it right 90% of the time. We don’t actually need all the gadgets we use.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it does.

The camera was a gift from a friend who had bought a new camera. Armed with the camera and determination, I followed Eisenstaedt’s path. I discovered where he’d taken each picture, figured out how he’d gotten the perspective. I duplicated his shots down to the clump of grass behind which he’d crouched to create a foreground.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

My first roll of film was brilliant — except the photographs were copies of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s. He taught me photography by giving me foot prints to follow. By the time I was done with those first rolls of film, I had learned the fundamentals. I’m still learning the rest and I’ll probably never be finished.

When I actually met Alfred Eisenstaedt, it was the most exciting moment of my life.

As we got to know Eisie better, I asked him to autograph his books for me. He didn’t merely autograph them. He went through each book, picture by picture.

He was in his nineties and had forgotten many things, but remembered every picture he’d taken, including the film, camera, lens, F-stop, and most important, what he was thinking as he shot. He could remember exactly what it was about the image that grabbed his attention.

Garry was there to cover this event — which was where the relationship began.

For example, the picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ Day, he said he was walking around Times Square with his Nikon. When he spotted the dark of the sailor’s uniform against the white of the nurse’s dress, he knew it was what he wanted and shot. Light, contrast, composition.

We spent time with him each summer until he passed in 1995. We were honored to be among those invited to the funeral. Although we were sad Eisie was gone, we found things to laugh about. Knowing him was special and some memories are worth a chuckle.

I don’t think Eisie would have minded.

WE NEED NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK

CONVERSANT AGAIN – NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK AND CELEBRATING WORLD WAR THREE – IN ADVANCE (WE WON ‘T HAVE TIME, LATER)


Way back in the dark ages, the third week in February (an otherwise dreary and neglected month) was designated National Brotherhood Week. As designated special weeks go, it was never a big hit with the general public. In the 1980s, it disappeared completely. Probably because it failed to sell greeting cards. Which is probably the point of such created events.

brotherhoodweek-624x446

The National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) came up with the idea of National Brotherhood Week in 1934. Given the current political climate, maybe we can agree more brotherhood year round would be an improvement. Sadly, we no longer have even that one, measly week.

February is now Black History Month which seems to mean movie channels run films featuring non-white stars. Unless you watch PBS or the History Channel where you might see a documentary or two.

The man who took it seriously — even in the old days — as he took all politics seriously, was Tom Lehrer. He taught math at Hahvid (Harvard, if you aren’t from around here). He didn’t write a lot of songs since he, till his dying day (which hasn’t occurred yet as he’s alive and living in California), thought of himself as a math teacher who wrote silly songs. Not as an entertainer.

Despite this unfair self-assessment, I’ve always felt Tom got this particular holiday dead to rights. Ya’ think?

He got a lot of stuff right. Check him out on YouTube. He only wrote about 50 songs and most of them are posted in some video or other. Me? I’ve got the CDs. (Remember CDs?)

And because the news has been so … fraught … I thought I’d add a couple of  more shockingly relevant songs for this day in February, 2018.

My, how times have not really changed — except we really do have colored TV pretty much everywhere!

A LITTLE FICTION – THE CALLIOPE

Oom pah, pah … oom pah pah …

The sound of the calliope is a siren’s call to the little girl. There, in the middle of the big park, the magic ponies go up and down. Up, down, around and then around again.

“Can I ride Mommy? Please?”

Mommy nods yes. There’s no harm in a carousel. It’s just wooden horses, traveling in a circle, going nowhere, eternally and forever around the calliope as it pumps out the same songs. A good place to be on a bright summer day, a happy place to bring a five-year-old girl who loves horses. She can dream of real horses while the park spins past, green and sunny.

Years fly. The girl has grown into a young lady. Sixteen, if you please. “I’m not a child!” she cries to the world, but especially to her parents. “I will do as I please.”

What she pleases is to have a boy friend. To be in love, to make love. She has no future plans, not yet. Just the fresh bloom of love which must be eternal. Because in books, love is always eternal, always fresh and smelling of roses.

Today she is meeting her boy friend. They will be meeting by the carousel in the park. She loves the carousel, has loved it since childhood. It’s a magic place for her, a places that holds only happy memories. The calliope is playing the same songs it played when she was so little. So long ago, or so it seems. When she rode the big wooden horse, pretending she was riding a gallant steed, galloping off to protect the world.

Life goes on. The next time she is able to visit the ponies, she is holding her little boy by the hand. “I rode those ponies when I was your age. Listen, the music is still playing. Just like it did when I was your age.”

“Can I ride Mommy?”

“Of course. That’s why I brought you here. To ride.”

And the painted horses go round and round while the park spins through another summertime. This is our forever summer, she thinks, as she watches her little boy riding the merry-go-round.

The next time she comes, she is holding her granddaughter’s hand. They watch the horses. Her little granddaughter is a tiny thing, with a passion for horses. A dreamer. She rides and rides and finally, it’s time to go. Long shadows lie across the sidewalks and the carousel is about to close for the day. As they take their leave, she wonders if she will ever be here again to hear the calliope play?

The next time she comes to the carousel, her son is with her. Middle-aged now and the tiny granddaughter is a sullen sixteen. Three generations by the carousel and remarkably, the calliope still plays.

This special carousel is still alive, magic intact. It’s good to be alive this summer day in Central Park. The music wakes the teenager into the girl she was. There’s something so … eternal … about the dancing ponies.

Grandma remembers the first time. All those times, even when she came alone because it was just a quick subway ride. One token. To see the boy friend. Whatever became of him?

She would never miss a chance to ride, though it’s not as easy getting up into the seat as it used to be.

No more real horses in her life, but today — briefly — she is young. She feels as if she is looking at herself through a fun house mirror. Are these the same wooden horses she rode as a girl?

It was always summertime in the park. I think it still is.

DEFINITELY STILL ALIVE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The phone rang. The caller ID flashed, showing one of Boston two major newspapers. I figured it was the sales department. I handed the phone to Marilyn. I heard Marilyn respond “yes” several times and was puzzled. We didn’t need and couldn’t afford expensive home delivery of newspapers. Then Marilyn said “He’s right here. Why don’t you speak to him?” She had a broad smile on her face. I was even more puzzled.

Long story short. The caller was a reporter working on a series about Boston schools and the history of court-ordered school desegregation. She was looking for people who had covered the story in 1974.

forced busing Boston
Photo: Associated Press

Apparently my name came up in her research. I confirmed I had indeed covered the story and shared a few anecdotes about the first day of what some called “forced busing.” I also shared some stories about my coverage of Boston schools over the following 25 plus years before I retired. To give some context, I mentioned that I’d also covered the civil rights movement for ABC Network before coming to Boston.

The reporter seemed impressed. We agreed to meet again for a more detailed interview. I hung up the phone and smiled. I looked at our dogs seated around me. Obviously, they understood. They were grinning at me. I could read their minds. He’s not just any old fart who feeds and plays with us. 

I looked at Marilyn with satisfaction. I wondered what she had said to the reporter when she took the call.

Marilyn smiled and recounted the conversation. “She asked if you were alive. Then she asked if you actually remembered what you used to do. I bit my tongue and didn’t say ‘That’s a matter of opinion.'”

I looked back at the dogs. They were still grinning. How fleeting is fame.

A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS -or- THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS — CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

By Clement Clarke Moore


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads.

1864
1864

And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

1883
1883

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

1886
1886

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

1896
1896

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack.

1898
1898

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

1901
1901

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.