SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World – 12-25-19


QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK 12-24-19

Do dogs ‘talk’ (communicate) with their own species?   (credit to Marilyn of Serendipity)   And not just on Christmas Eve, as the old legend says all animals do.   I know that Ziggy ‘speaks’ husky (apparently) even though he’s not a husky, he’s a terrier/Chihuahua mix.   The movie the other night proved it, as there were huskies in the show, and when they barked, Ziggy got excited and stared at the TV screen with his head cocked to one side, and barked at the screen.  

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/72843/how-talking-animals-became-christmas-legend

Today we vacuumed the living room and changed the sofa covers. We moved all the things out of the way, including the step stool Bonnie uses to get up on the sofa. Some hours later, I was doing something on the computer and Bonnie was barking and whining at me. She barks a lot anyway, but she never whines.

It was too early for dinner — even for her — so I finally asked her “What’s the matter? What do you want?”

She walked over to her step stool and walked back and BARKED at me.

I put the stool back where it belongs and she happily jumped up on the sofa. I could almost hear her saying, “Those dumb two legs. They never understand a word I say!”

Have you ever had to work on Christmas Day?

No, but Garry and my son have worked on many Christmases and Thanksgivings. A lot of people work on holidays. Reporters (newspaper, television, radio, et al), retail workers, nurses, doctors, firefighters, police, all first responders.  And many others. Everyone in the health professions knows that the phone can ring any time, day or night on any day of the year. For that matter, so does every reporter.

I think the people who believe NO ONE should work on the holidays might re-think the concept should they or someone dear to them become ill on a holiday. If no one is working, then all the hospitals are closed. There are no ambulances. No drivers, no medics, no nurses, no doctors. I guess all the people who were already in the hospital just get to stay in the big, dark, empty building until the holiday is over? I hope they leave them some extra food and water.

It’s part of living in the modern world. Also, when you take those types of jobs, you KNOW you will have to work during some holidays. It really IS part of the job.

If someone gifts you something that you immediately loathe, do you pretend to really like it anyway or are you brutally honest about your opinion?

There’s no need to be rude. Smile, say thank you, and re-gift whatever it is next Christmas. You may hate it, but someone will love it.

Which popular drink, found during the Christmas season most often, is called “milk punch?”

Eggnog? Milk and scotch?

How many ghosts show up during “A Christmas Carol?” 

It depends on how you count. Three ghosts of Christmas plus Marley equals four. Do you count the dream where Tiny Tim is dead?

Are you all about the holly and jolly or more about remembering the alleged ‘true’ meaning of Christmas?    

I’m not Christian. It’s your holiday. I’m glad to partake of it, but it has no deep meaning for me. By the way, Jesus Christ was JEWISH. He was a rabbi. He would be celebrating Chanukah.

Please share a memory or thought about the holiday season if you’d like, whatever kind of celebration you may observe. 

Not buying expensive presents has really improved our holidays and made it possible to go into the New Year without months of debt from last Christmas. I buy small gifts for close family and Garry and I go shopping after the holidays if we need anything and have money to spend.

It works very well. I recommend it. The whole thing of going deeply into debt to buy a lot of gifts which, as often as not, no one needs or wants puts a huge strain on families. There’s no need for it. If it’s the thought that counts, maybe we should put more thought into the gifts and less money. That could work out for everyone.

CHRISTMAS 2019 – Marilyn Armstrong

I might have missed Christmas because I never know what day it is. The thing about retirement is that there is no “start of the workweek” or “weekend” to separate the time, so unless I’m looking at the calendar, I really don’t know what day it is.  I was so busy taking pictures, my son said: “So, see you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?”

He looked at me. “Wednesday is Christmas Day. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.”

I thought about what I had to do. It was daunting. Garry hadn’t even looked at the Christmas cards and no one had wrapped any presents. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to wrap them in. I had nothing written. I wasn’t sure when I was going to wrap the few gifts I bought. Couldn’t I just hand things out? No, I suppose not.

I don’t like wrapping presents. I’m okay at most things including wrapping, but I don’t like it. I used o get very artistic about it … but the wrappings got torn off and no one even looked at them. Eventually, I realized it was just a way for Hallmark to make more money. I still wrap because how can I just hand people a naked box? But I resent the expense and extra effort.

A Merry Christmas to all from Garry and me and all the wee birds and beasts!

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS BY CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE – Marilyn Armstrong

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.

THE WORLD WAR ONE CHRISTMAS TRUCE – 1914 – Marilyn Armstrong

The Christmas truce (German: Waffenstillstand; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front during the Christmas season of 1914. During the days leading to Christmas day, German and British soldiers left their trenches to exchange greetings. To talk man-to-man, exchange personal information, share food and drink.

From The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches"

From The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

World War I had been raging for only four months. Soldiers on both sides were trapped in trenches and extremely wary of sniper fire. On battlefields mired in mud, frozen with snow and ice, soldiers emerged from their holes in a rare, spontaneous outbreak of peace.

Both sides — most notably in the southern portion of the Ypres Salient — combatants briefly laid down their weapons and met in No Man’s Land.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they mingled. Exchanged food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps. Several meetings ended in carol-singing.

The high command on both sides issued warnings to all soldiers that such fraternization would make participating soldiers subject to charges of treason. Not surprisingly, there were far fewer spontaneous truces the following year and virtually none by 1916.

A sad commentary on human “civilization” when peace, however temporary, is called treason.

A PERFECT GIFT – Marilyn Armstrong

“I want these earrings, or something as close to it as you can find,” I said, handing him the picture, item number and the website address. The trouble is, my husband doesn’t take orders. If I say I want those earrings, he will buy the other ones because he likes them better. Which would be fine, if he were going to wear them.

I am pretty good at following orders, but it isn’t much fun.  I always tried to find something a little creative … until I realized he didn’t want something unique. He wanted that shirt, that sweatshirt. He didn’t want different colors. He wanted it to look exactly like all his other ties, all his other shirts.

A couple of years ago, my best friend got desperate. She bought the beautiful hand-made leather bag she wanted, handed it to her husband. “Wrap it up,” she said. “You just bought my Christmas present.”

That is one approach. I came up with an alternative.

We buy each other something relatively small for Christmas — an “under the tree” gift. We try to be sure it’s something each of us wants. Amazon wish lists can be a big help (just saying). After Christmas, we go shopping. He gets the stuff he wants and tries it on. So what if it’s the same items he always buys? It’s his choice.

I buy the earrings I want, a sweater that fits. The electronic gadget I’ve been yearning for, the lens on my wish list.

We are both happy. We shop together, share the experience, get to make suggestions, offer input and have a lot of fun. Prices are always rock-bottom after the holidays are over and if you wait a few extra days, the stores aren’t crowded. It totally removes the stress from trying to find a perfect gift.

It turns out if you bring the recipient with you, he or she can choose and they will always find the perfect gift.

“‘TWAS THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND UP IN THE HOLLOWS” – BY KIM HARRISON

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and up in the Hollows . . .

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and up in the Hollows,
Solstice bonfires were burning, to toast the marshmallows.

The pixies were snug in their stump, even Jenks,
Who claimed he was tired, and needed some winks.

So I in my parka, and Ivy in her boots,
Were toasting the season, with thirty-year hooch.

When out in the street, there came such a crash,
I thought that it had to be ‘coons in our trash.

Away to the gate, I trudged through the snow,
While Ivy just said, “If it’s Kist, say hello.”

I lifted the latch, and peered to the street,
My face went quite cold.  We were in it thigh deep.

‘Twas a demon, who stood in the headlamps quite bright,
With his coat of green velvet, and his uncommon height.

His eyes, how they glittered, his teeth how they gnashed,
His voice, how he bellowed, his tongue, how it lashed.

The street wasn’t holy, so on Big Al came,
As he bellowed, and shouted, and called me by name.

“Morgan, you witch.  You’re a pain in my side.
“Get out of your church.  There’s no place to hide!”

Like hell’s fury unleashed, he strode to my door,
Where he hammered and cursed, like a cheap jilted whore.

But Ivy and I, we circled round back,
To stand in the street and prepare for attack.

“You loser,” I shouted.  “I’m waiting for you.”
And the demon, he spun, taking on a red hue.

Ivy stood ready, and I whispered, “Okay . . .
“If he wants to get rough, I’m ready to play.”

With nary a word, us two girls got to work,
Putting foot into gut, of the soul-sucking jerk.

I circled him quick, with a few words of Latin,
While Ivy distracted him with lots of good wackin’

“Get back!” I yelled out when my trap was complete,
And Ivy somersaulted right over the creep.

My circle sprang up, entrapping him surely,
Al fussed and he fumed, like a demonic fury.

The neighbors all cheered, and came out of their houses,
Where they’d watched the whole thing, like little house mouses.

So Ivy and I, we both bowed real low,
Then banished Big Al, in an overdone show.

But I heard Al exclaim, ‘ere he poofed from our sight
“You won this time witch, but I’ll get you one night!”

Kim Harrison
December 14th, 2005

Kim and Guy wish you and yours all the best of the holiday season and a glowing new year. Happy Holidays!

 

THE SURPRISING CHRISTMAS – Rich Paschall

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshman year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace.

As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entranceway on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.”

Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

last snow low contrast winter

Kyle only took a few short steps before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first-grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Uxb Common Christmas Poster

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally, Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that, the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

72-GAR-Night-Uxbridge-121015_005

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.”

At that instant, Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart, he was praying for acceptance.

That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

ANGEL’S SONG: A GIFT TO SHARE by Kim Harrison

Angel’s Song, Kim Harrison’s short story to share

Get your tissues handy! I’ve got a gift from me to you today, written long before I found publication and was raw with the need to reach and connect and short on literary grace.

You may have seen this in previous years, but it still makes me cry, and like the best gifts, please feel free to share it.

However you celebrate the season, I hope you find joy, warmth, and a feeling of completeness.

Kim, Tim, and the boys

Angel’s Song by Kim Harrison

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright. . . .

Humming, Kaylin held her coat closed against the cold, more from habit than anything else as she dodged through the unseeing, evening shoppers. She was anxious to get home. Her work had seemed to stretch forever today, but finally, The Boss had let her go. She couldn’t wait to see her daughter–it had been too long since the entire family had been together.

Slipping at the bus stop, she grasped the door to the bus, just making it on behind two tired women as the doors closed. The sound of their money jingling into the box chimed like bells, and the bus jerked into motion. Kaylin stood where she was, gripping the ceiling support as the gears shifted. Her gaze rove over the heads, looking for acknowledgment she existed. There, at the back where the heat didn’t reach, was a smiling face and a beckoning hand.

Though she didn’t recognize him, Kaylin went to sit with the old man. She smiled shyly, the anticipation of her coming evening prompting her to be more bold than usual. “I’m going home for Christmas,” she said by way of greeting as she jammed her gloves into a pocket.

“First time?” the old man murmured, his brown eyes going sad in memory.

She nodded. “Since my accident. I can hardly wait to see everyone together.” Kaylin put her hands in her lap, glad she couldn’t feel the cold anymore.

The man met her eyes. “See that boy up there?” he said, pointing with his chin. “I’m spending Christmas with him. He’s a college student on his way home. He needs all the help he can get, and my family doesn’t miss me anymore.”

Kaylin bit her lip and fussed with the hem of her coat’s sleeve, uncomfortable with the idea she would eventually be forgotten. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Make the most of the time they remember you. As it’s said, it came to pass.”

She didn’t know what to say. “This is my stop,” she said, glancing out the window to the colored lights.

“Best hurry. The door won’t wait for you.”

Giving him a hesitant smile, she hastened to the front, edging to the sidewalk past the three girls giggling about the presents they had gotten for their boyfriends.

Kaylin’s mood went soft as she took in the familiar street gray with twilight. The curb was jammed with cars. A noisy, joyful reunion on her front steps had the dogs barking. Excitement tingling to her toes, Kaylin waited on the walk, following the last of the children inside.

Her shoulders eased as she stood in the entryway, basking in the cheerful clutter and the too-noisy greetings. She waved as she spotted her grandmother in a corner, deep in the thick of it. The old woman’s eyes sparkled as they met hers. Her fingertips again had a rosy glow, and the blue tint Kaylin remembered was gone.

“Jasmine is in the kitchen!” her grandmother called over the noise. “Go on. We’ll talk later.”

Relieved her grandmother understood, Kaylin followed the smell of heated punch into the kitchen. She stopped in the open doorway as her heart clenched.

Jasmine stood on a chair before the counter, stirring a cup of green frosting. “I can’t do it, Daddy,” she complained, her high voice clear over the excited babble of relatives. “It’s too hard.”

Kaylin’s hands reached out, but she stood unmoving, forcing back the unexpected tears as her husband set aside his dishcloth and went to their daughter.

“Mommy always helped me, Daddy,” the child said around a sniff as his hand covered hers atop the spoon and they stirred together. “I want Mommy. I miss her.”

“Hush,” he said, the pain in his voice causing Kaylin’s throat to tighten. “I miss her too, sweetheart, but look. She’s everywhere, especially tonight.” Eyes bright, the man pointed to the dusty Christmas candles Kaylin had refused to burn, sitting on the kitchen windowsill. “There are her candles, right where she always put them. And the mistletoe above the doorway? She made that just last year. And the bow? Remember her spending an hour on that to get it to look just like the one in the store window? And you can smell her touch in the gingerbread men and taste it in the fruit punch. She’s everywhere.”

“No, Daddy,” the small girl protested. “It’s not the same. I can’t see her at all.”

“But I can,” he said, giving her a hug. “I can see her in you when you cut out your star cookies, I watched her hand move yours when you hung the ornaments on the tree, and I can see her eyes when I look at you. So, Jasmine, she is here.”

“I can’t see her,” Jasmine said, sniffing as she licked the frosting from a finger.

Kaylin ached. The Boss had warned her it would be hard, and she thought she could handle it. But this? This tore at her. Kaylin came close to stand behind her daughter and nudged a cookie, as if she could make the star any less lopsided. Perhaps . . . . Perhaps she could pretend.

And so she was a silent participant, each moment harder than the previous, a bittersweet mix of memories. She hovered in the kitchen while dinner was prepared, blowing on the gravy to keep it from boiling over until someone remembered it. She watched the rolls brown through the oven window with Jasmine, admonishing the child they weren’t done yet when Jasmine pronounced them finished. She stood in the archway to the living room and worried about the carpet as paper plates overflowing with food were balanced on knees. She sat at the kitchen table while the dishes were washed, catching up on the women’s gossip with her fingers curved around a forgotten cup until it was whisked away.

And then it was done. Kaylin knew the signs: the last swallows of coffee, the slowing conversation, the children collapsing in their mother’s arms. Kaylin sighed. She didn’t want it to be over.

Jasmine was slumped in her frills and white stockings in her father’s arms, too sleepy to be anything but content. Kaylin sat on the arm of the couch beside them, running her fingers unfelt over her daughter’s hair. There was one final tradition as yet undone, her most cherished part of the evening, and Kaylin’s heart fell when the first of the coats appeared. They had forgotten.

“Wait, Daddy.” Jasmine stirred as her father rose to say his good-byes. “We didn’t sing yet. Mommy always sings. Please?”

Kaylin waited, hoping.

“Of course, Jasmine,” her father said, giving her a hug. “You’re such a clever girl for remembering.”

Coats were dropped to the couch in the sliding sound of nylon. Her grandmother beckoned, and Kaylin joyfully edged closer to the piano. Jasmine wiggled down to sit on the long bench before the battered keys, her father standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders. Kaylin could see a glimmer of tears in her mother’s eyes as she took Kaylin’s usual spot before the piano and began to play.

“Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.

Tears pricked at Kaylin’s eyes. Her favorite. Voice quavering, she joined her voice to her family’s.

“Round yon virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild.”

“Daddy,” Jasmine whispered, her face upturned as she pulled on his sleeve. “I can hear Mommy singing.”

Kaylin’s throat nearly closed, and tears slipped down her cheeks. Angels could sing. And on Christmas Eve, they could be heard by those who listened.

Her husband knelt and gave Jasmine a tight, fierce hug. “So can I, sweetheart,” he whispered, rocking her. “So can I.”

“Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

CHRISTMAS EDITION – SHARE YOUR WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Christmas Edition – Share Your World

QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK – 12-16-19:

Much better than the pictures with the slower lens.

Do you enjoy receiving Christmas cards through snail mail? 

As long as they don’t include a fake picture of a gloriously happy family posed fakely in front of their (never used) fireplace along with a 4-page single-spaced letter about what a FANTASTIC year they had.

Do you like the taste and/or smell of peppermint?

Yes. A lot, actually.

What is your least favorite holiday side dish?

We don’t have standard holiday dinners, so I really can’t answer that.

What is the coolest (best) gift you ever gave someone?

We haven’t been giving gifts much in recent years. Retirement isn’t a time for giving richly. But I did — for Chanukah — give Garry the camera he wanted, my little Leica. I had to give myself a little camera too — but it’s not nearly as good as the Leica. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Bonus question because I thought it was nifty:   What is a Christmas song that makes you cringe?   (Please insert the word “Holiday” for Christmas if Christmas isn’t your thing or bothers you or something)

Almost all of them. I can’t think of any of them you might hear on the air — in other words, one with words — that doesn’t make me cringe. With the exception of actual carols which can be beautiful.

Please share some of your favorite music around this time of year.  

Leroy Anderson composed “Sleigh Ride” in 1948; he released his own version in 1950. Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops released three versions of “Sleigh Ride” – in 1949, 1959 and 1970. We used to go hear the pops every year, but it finally got so expensive, it was totally beyond our means. I got some great pictures while I was there, though.

SantaSYW

MORE OF OUR LITTLE TREE – Marilyn Armstrong

The Tree – FOTD – Dec. 11, 2019

So this time, I used my f1.8 25mm Olympus lens and the pictures are nominally better. I probably should take the pictures earlier in the day when there’s some light coming in from the windows. Anyway, I’ll try again.

Much better than the pictures with the slower lens.

I never noticed the painting on the mantel is crooked.

Lights on the big window

 

BIRDS AND CACTUS: LAST DECEMBER IN A NUTSHELL – Marilyn Armstrong

Since we never did Changing Seasons for December, I thought I’d put together a nice collection of this month.

It’s pretty much all birds and cactus because I got bird feeders in November, and my cactuses, which were blooming in November and at Christmas are still blooming. Vigorously. The most enthusiastic blooming I’ve ever seen and lots and lots of birds.

And then, there were two Christmas cactus. First, the scarlet one bloomed and now, the pink one, which looks redder than it is supposed to be, is blooming.

 

And of course, there was Christmas.

Our tree, before the gift

The tree with the gifts

And Bonnie was groomed!

Groomed Bonnie

And of course, let’s not forget the squirrels!

And that’s pretty much December. Not counting watching movies and having Garry hear stuff! Not outdoor pictures unless you count the birds and squirrel, but it was certainly a busy photographic month. I worked so hard on the birds and squirrels I developed an actual issue with my right arm. I needed a cortisone shot. Anyone have a spare tripod?

THE HOLIDAY SEASON – Garry Armstrong

It isn’t depression.  It isn’t anger or melancholia. Maybe, it’s just a case of the “blahs,” the post-Christmas brain drain.

Last Night, Marilyn and I were doing our usual Christmas ritual of watching a classic, old holiday movie. We started with “A Christmas Story” which is always good for laughs. Darren McGavin is a treasure as the embattled but nice Dad. Peter Billingsley’s “Ralphie” captures a little of all of us when we were kids.

We were still smiling as we went to our second feature, “Holiday Inn”. This is the 1942 version (the year many future legends made their début on the world stage): Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with lots of Irving Berlin classics including “White Christmas” making its début with Crosby, pipe smoke billowing, crooning in familiar style.

There are problems with “Holiday Inn” which we usually ignore but really couldn’t this year. The biggest is the Blackface act with Crosby and cast singing “Abraham” to mark a holiday. I left the room as the scene began and found chores to do until the next scene.

Blackface — which has stirred new controversy — has always troubled me deeply.  This classics movie lover usually fast forwards through similar scenes in beloved films from old Hollywood where racism was a staple and white stars would usually laugh benignly at the characters played by Black actors. The Stephen Fetchit, Amos ‘n Andy factor.

An old friend emailed a few days earlier, expressing her distaste for the “Holiday Inn” scene. It had made an admired film unwatchable for her. The racial controversy took a back seat as we enjoyed the rest of “White Christmas,” it’s creaky plot and great music. But it left us both feeling uneasy.

I had “A Christmas Carol” (The Alistair Sims version) ready for our holiday movie trifecta. Marilyn said she wasn’t in the mood for any more holiday movies after “Holiday Inn.” I usually stand up for old movies but I instantly knew what Marilyn was saying.

The Blackface scene reminded us of much of what’s wrong in our world now.  You can’t escape it by watching another old movie. The melancholia had settled in. We had striven all day to keep our minds off reality and just enjoy Christmas.  We couldn’t maintain the happy glow. I was reminded of Commander-In-Chief Donzo’s insensitive remark to a child about believing in Santa Claus.  All of the bad stuff started to march forward in our brains.

We settled on watching “Midsomer Murders,” a BBC series we’ve grown to love in recent years. That was the temporary Rx to our blahs as the dogs found their second wind and raced outside to bark at the moon, serenade our neighbors, and irritate the bejesus out of me now that I can hear them with my Cochlear implant.

Marilyn and I discussed some upcoming stuff and, clearly, we had lost the thin veneer of holiday cheer. We touched on my overfeeding the dogs which we’ve discussed before and I have ignored.  It endangers the furry kids’ health.  Marilyn’s point is on target even as I used their begging as an excuse to shirk responsibility.  The mood was clearly changing as we tried to engage our attention on “Midsomer Murders”.

The dogs provided some humor with their barkathon, my racing in and out to admonish them with no real success. I focused on Duke who was the main noise culprit. At one point, Duke raced into the crate before I could order him to do so as punishment.  We all laughed at the silliness of the moment. I think some of our good humor was restored as Christmas night drew to a close for us.

It’s still interesting how quickly things can change compared to the yesteryear world of Ralphie and “A Christmas Story”.

CHRISTMAS EVE 2018 – Garry Armstrong

It was a very enjoyable Christmas Eve. A drama free (dee-lish) dinner.

Everyone enjoyed their gifts including the furry kids who hadn’t destroyed their toys as of Christmas morning.

I had a long and delightful phone chat with my family. Two younger Brothers, cousins, and cousin-in-law. I was able to hear everyone clearly (first time!) with my cochlear implant. I think I was a bit giddy because I rambled all over the place, chatting about how the cochlear implant has changed my life.

We shared memories about Christmases past. Lots of laughter as I said goodbye.

Owen brought over a bunch of old ’78’s (Those of a certain age know what I’m talking about).

We listened to vintage performances of Christmas music performed by Bing Crosby, Mahalia Jackson, Gene Autry and Red Foley. Yes, Red Foley. “White Christmas” is still a signature song of the season and it belongs to Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby.

One of the 78’s contained soundtrack music from the 1942 film, “Holiday Inn” in which Bing Crosby introduced Irving Berlin’s beloved “White Christmas.” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” brought back a rush of childhood memories as did a rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I found myself singing along — softly — because I sing off-key.

What a blast! Thanks, Owen.

I, too, wonder about the mince-pie mystery.

What happened to mince-pie? Marilyn and I have been searching in recent weeks for mince-pie, fresh or frozen.  No luck.  No answers.  I just read an online piece about a cache of mince pies discovered in England, stashed in a basement — from World War Two. A Mom’s gift to her Son in the army. The pies are over 70 years old. No mention of how they taste.

This still doesn’t answer our mince-pie mystery. Russian collusion?

Christmas Day is upon us. The house is quiet. The furry kids are searching for their toys. Santa Claus has been very kind to us. Yes, Donzo, there is a Santa Claus.

I suppose he forgot about you.

ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE MORNING – Marilyn Armstrong

On the first day of Christmas

And so there we were. The family. We actually opened presents before dinner because no one could wait. And that’s sort of funny because they were all small presents. Not big, grand surprises. And I think everyone liked their stuff.

Owen brought over a record player and a bunch of Christmas 78 RPM records. They still play, too. Lots of crackle and pop. Amazing.

There was a roast at least a pound bigger than we needed, making me wonder what I’m going to do with the food I defrosted for tomorrow because we have a lot of food. Really. A lot of food. An entire unopened key lime pie, too and half a cheesecake.

Good thing I didn’t also make apple pie.

 

OUR MANAGEABLE LITTLE CHRISTMAS AND HOW IT GOT THAT WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was little, everyone’s trees were covered in tinsel and some fluffy white stuff. It imitated snow on the branches of your tree and placed judiciously, was quite lovely. The white fluffy stuff was banned because it was mostly fiberglass. It was lethal to pets and dangerous for people, too.

2003

As for tinsel, I think it was a cleanup issue. It got into everything. Animals ate it, including dogs, cats, and baby rug-rats. It did look very pretty, all silvery on the trees. It came in other colors too, but I don’t think most people really got “into” the pinks and oranges and blues.

From when I married Jeffrey in 1964, we had ‘real’ trees. It was a family thing, to get the biggest tree you could, then spend hours reconstructing it with saws and wires to make it look perfect

2015

Real Christmas trees weren’t expensive, either. Even though they made an awful mess (I was usually still trying to get those dried pine needles out of the wood floors a year later when the new tree was going up), it wasn’t a big deal to get a tree and there was a tree lot on every corner.

2017

Then one year — it must have been during the late 1970s — the price shot up and a tree that had cost $10 the previous year was $50 the next.

We still got a real one until the end of the 1970s when Jeff and I divorced and I moved to Israel.

2014

By the time I came back from Israel (August 1987), a $10 tree was $100. Garry and I bought got real ones for a few years when we had the townhouse in Boston. One was so perfect — and so WIDE — it took up the entire living room. The following year I tried to find an unreal tree that would fit into our actual space.

Christmas cactus – 2018

Then we moved here and since we live 5 doors down from an actual Christmas tree farm (which today I noticed is for sale, so there goes Arrowhead Farms!), you could choose your tree in August or September, watch it grow, then cut it down yourself immediately before you were ready to put it up. Talk about a FRESH tree.

I never had trouble putting up the tree and everyone was eager to help decorate it, but no one ever wanted to take it down or put away the decorations. We still had a tree standing one year on my birthday in March.

2016

We had a few more live ones after that, but the bloom was coming off the rose. Even a six-foot tree took up more room than we could really give it. There was nowhere to walk around it — and the dogs were always trying to eat the glass ornaments.

NO ONE wants their dogs eating glass anything, much less those fragile ornaments. Cats just liked to play with them, but the dogs liked a good hefty bite! Then, for a while, it became almost impossible to get glass ornaments. Some sort of national agreement that all decorations would be plastic.

A few years ago when my son and his family moved out, Garry and I realized we didn’t need gigantic trees. We started buying little real trees in pots on the theory that we could plant them in the spring, but they never survived long enough to plant. They dried out and died long before it was warm enough to plant anything.

2014 – The year of two small trees!

Finally, three years ago, I found the perfect fake 4-foot tree. It looks so much like a real tree, most people think it is real until they touch it and even then, they aren’t sure.  I had a lot of searching to do to find it.

Also, it is big enough to have some presence. It feels like a tree, not like a toy yet it is small enough to put on our huge coffee table on which we never serve coffee. The table really functions as a place to show off old pottery and other small decorative things because under the glass top is a shelf for “stuff.” And it’s big enough to sort the laundry.

2013

Thus we found a viable version of Christmas for us. It is big enough to be a Christmas but sufficiently small and neat to make it something we could do ourselves without winding up exhausted with a giant mess following the holiday.

I think our 4-foot always-decorated tree is perfect. It safeguards all our earlier Christmases and it’s ready in half a blink to take its place. From last year, it also has lights.

2018 again

There’s nothing religious — per se — about the tree but there is symbolism in it and continuity. It means something because we’ve always had some kind of Christmas. This is easy, pretty, painless … so we get to keep our personal history.

A very little, very pretty Christmas from us to you! And don’t forget: at least one of us is sort of Jewish, in a casual sort of way.