HERE AND NOW. AND THEN.

Here and now. And then. I’m pooped. Garry and I were just talking about how WBZ didn’t cover the First Night New Year’s stuff in Boston this year, but Boston didn’t do as much for First Night as it has in the past.

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I said that New Year’s is dropping out of the top five of Big Holidays. Why? I think it’s simply too much. Halloween has gotten bigger and Thanksgiving has always been huge. Then, up roars Christmas and by the time everyone is done with the last of the pies and leftovers, oh my god it’s New Year’s.

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Holiday exhaustion has overwhelmed the population. We’ve been partying, shopping, cooking, entertaining, wrapping, decorating and overeating since October and no has the energy or money for one more big bang holiday. Thus we all more or less sleep through New Years.

christmas red door wreath

And so, here I am. Still in my flannel granny gown and robe with no intention of getting any more dressed than this. Oh, I’ll get to the shower eventually. Probably.

It was a long, busy year and the last two months have been monumentally overloaded in every way. Now, we are about to pack up and go on holiday for real and all I can think about it how much i want to just sleep for a month.

Superstition Mtns Arizona

We are up, up, and away the day after tomorrow for two weeks. I’ve prepared posts for at least the first week and I’m hoping that photography and holiday updates will take care of the rest, but if I seem to disappear, you can assume any of the following:

  1. We went to the Grand Canyon and I fell in, camera and all.
  2. We went hiking and I was eaten by something huge and furry and hungry, thus completing the circle of life.
  3. I discovered the joy of not blogging for a whole week or two!

Take you pick of any or all of the above. I will be back, hopefully energized and with stories to tell.

BEING JEWISH AT CHRISTMAS – ELLIN CURLEY

Being Jewish during the Christmas season is like being a kid with your nose pressed up against the window of a candy store while all the other kids are inside eating candy. No matter how hard Jewish parents try to jazz up Hanukkah, eight candles can’t hold a candle to the sex appeal of corporate, commercial Christmas in America.

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Every year, for two months (or more), everything you see and hear glamorizes the season of joy and giving. It’s all lights and glitter. Since Jesus was Jewish too, maybe we could come up with a holiday celebrating his Bar Mitzvah? Even Bar Mitzvahs are tame and dowdy compared to the hype and excess of Christmas.

Cowboy and Menorah

But then I married a gentile! I could finally — legitimately — participate in Christmas!

The first thing my daughter and I did — a week after my wedding, as soon and as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away — was buy a gigantic, live tree. Then we hit every Christmas tree store in the county. We bought enough ornaments to decorate the tree in Rockefeller Center! We made sure to buy several Dreidels, Jewish stars, and Chai ornaments to remind our tree it was also Jewish.

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My husband suggested I might want to join a 12-step program for ornament addicts, but even he had to admit, the result was spectacular. Our sun room is round, with windows on three sides. At night, when the tree was lit, it reflected sparkling colored lights for 180 degrees. It was fairyland.

We kept the tree up until March that first year.

After several years of holiday decorating orgies, the novelty began to wear thin. The effort required to transform the house into (and out of) a winter wonderland felt unreasonable. Unnecessary.

christmas wrapping paper

I began to feel pressured and overwhelmed, like most of my Gentile friends. I decided to go back to my Jewish roots and leave the Christmas responsibilities to my Methodist husband. We now have a small, fake tree that comes up from the basement every year, fully decorated, for 6 weeks of daylight in the kitchen.

Ironically, Hanukkah, in its present incarnation, was also created by Madison Avenue to give Jewish kids their own schtick around Christmas, and to give Jewish adults something to spend money on during the “holiday” season.

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These days, I happily light my Hanukkah candles and give, mostly small, gifts to my immediate family. I enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas, but I’m at peace now with the simple, beautiful “Festival of Lights”.

Now that I’ve experienced how the other 90% live, I no longer covet my Christian neighbors’ holiday.

WORK AND HOLIDAYS

I know you think you are helping people by trying to get everyone to close on holidays, but it isn’t necessarily the right thing. It might be the right thing for you … but what about me? What about the people next door? Are they just like you? Same holidays? Same available choices? Same kind of family? Same religion?

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When you promote a work ban on holidays, consider that many folks don’t have families. These are people who are grateful to be working. Moreover, there are many individuals and families who count on the extra money they can earn by working holidays.

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Not everyone is equally enthusiastic or sentimental about traditional celebrations. There are plenty of people for whom Christmas,Thanksgiving, or Columbus Day are non-starters. They have their reasons and they are entitled to them.

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Not everyone has someplace to go and a warm, fuzzy family to share with. It’s wonderful to be grateful for what we have. It’s also good to be mindful that not everyone is equally or similarly blessed … and not everyone celebrates the same holidays.

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And. Even those who celebrate the same holidays do not necessarily celebrate them the same way you do or on the same dates.

VALENTINE’S DAY — NOT OUR HOLIDAY

We never discussed it. Not a single conversation. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. We haven’t in the past and don’t now. It’s a fake holiday, designed to sell greeting cards and tacky heart-shaped diamond pendants from jewelry mass marketers.

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There are plenty of real holidays to celebrate. In any case, we don’t need a special holiday to say “I love you.”

I love Garry. He loves me. We’ve loved each other a long time and I expect we always will. We say so often. At least once every day. Even when we aren’t having a good day. True love survives bad days, even bad months and sometimes, bad decades.

Cupid is stupid.

(That’s a poem. Just a very short one.)

IT’S NATIONAL SQUIRREL DAY! MEET PROJECT SQUIRREL!

Become a Citizen Scientist. Click the link to read about Project Squirrel and to tell us about squirrels near you. Project Squirrel has been operating since 1997. During this time, over 1000 people have offered their knowledge, provided observations, and filled out the forms. We have been able to learn a great deal about these squirrels, particularly in the Chicago Metropolitan Region. Observations from other parts of the country have also been welcome and interesting.

Source: www.projectsquirrel.org

In honor of National Squirrel Day …. What, you didn’t know? Well, today is National Squirrel Day. Project Squirrel gives you the opportunity to participate in … well … watching squirrels. Taking pictures of squirrels. And sharing your squirrel stuff with other squirrelly people.

Happy National Squirrel Day!

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Here we are again somewhere in what’s probably the most bittersweet or sweet bitter time of the year for most of us. It’s the jolly, holly almost Christmas time.  It’s when we see everything filtered through childhood memories, wrapped in music, movies, and hectic preparations. Ready to greet folks we don’t often see.  We force ourselves to shift gears, putting aside worries about health, bills, and family drama. Put on a happy face for the most wonderful time of the year. 

Old South Church steeple

Old South Church steeple

Emotions are curious things with which the holiday season plays fast and loose. For those of us who tend to internalize our feelings, it can be tricky. Smiling isn’t easy. Showing happiness is not instinctive.

It was easy for me to show emotions in my professional life. I can still produce a professional smile on cue. But now, we’re talking about real life. As time has marched on, I find it harder to get into the Christmas spirit. I miss childhood.

As a kid, Christmas was anticipation. I was Ralphie in A Christmas Story. The year I campaigned for the two-gun Roy Rogers set was very anxious. My hopes were almost dashed when I thought Santa had not heard me as we ripped though our presents that Christmas morning. But Dad, who always had a funny smile during Christmas and New Year’s Eve, motioned to one last present.

Yes!! It was the deluxe Roy Rogers two-gun set with 2 rolls of caps!! Even Mom smiled as I squealed in delight. I never thought we were poor, though Mom frequently reminded us. We nearly always got what we wanted for Christmas. We didn’t feel deprived.

My holiday memories include a whole tribe of relatives who are gone. Our Christmas card list was long. It included aunts, uncles, cousins, grandpa, grandma. I still see them clearly in my sense memory. I used to carefully print the card messages when I was young. As I grew older, I proudly displayed my penmanship, writing endearments to my relatives. I thought they would be in my life forever.

These days, I am the only one in the family who sends real Christmas cards. I write messages to each person and get writer’s cramp for my efforts. But I see my Mother hovering behind me somewhere, nodding her approval. I have to nudge myself not to buy or write cards for Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma … and all those aunts and uncles.

I chide myself, “Hey, you’re not a kid anymore.”

I’m Gramps, one of the old people, something our 18-year-old granddaughter likes reminding us. With that reminder comes a sense of loneliness that lingers. Movies are my fix, taking me back in time. Unlike the real world, the movies stay the same.

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I grew up a child of the movies. I saw my first film, The Best Years Of Our Lives, during the holiday season of 1946. My Dad had just returned from the war. He was in uniform and seemed 10 feet tall as we went to the venerable radio City Music Hall to see the movie which is still a favorite with Marilyn and me. Movies and their fantasies have always been a part of my life, my personality. I am comfortable, charming, loquacious when talking about movies. I lose myself in movies, especially westerns and holiday movies.

I can laugh, smile, cry and sing along with favorite movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Meet Me In St. Louis, A Christmas Story, The Shop Around the Corner, and many other memorable films shared in our collective sense memory. But once the movie is over, it’s back to reality minus the celluloid good cheer.

It was the same way during my life as a TV news reporter. I did holiday stories ranging from heartbreak to feel-good. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people over the decades, watched those stories and associated me with festive times. The real me chuckles at TV reporter me — trying to separate fact from fiction. Print the legend, they say. Roll everything.

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One of the nice things about this holiday season is catching up with long-lost friends who’ve found me on Facebook. One person, a former mentor, who I presumed dead chatted me up, clearly remembering the years when I was a young reporter full of myself.

It’s nearly Christmas again. The big tree has been replaced  this year by small, live trees, but they twinkle with lights. As merry as any tree we’ve had in the best. The gifts are waiting to be wrapped. This evening, we watched “A Christmas Story” and laughed. As we always do.

And as I write this, Bing is singing “White Christmas”. As he always does. Every year, just in time for Christmas.