Saturday, November 28, 2009

Something out of yesterday

At the moment the sun is out and the temperature is in the forties. It's been that way for weeks it seems, but old man winter is bound to hit us one of these days. And we'll see scenes like this all too soon. But the picture to the left reminds me of our winters back in new York so many years ago.
I guess it goes with getting older. You sit and reflect on where you were and what you did years ago. Many years ago. And it's not all bad.
A couple of weeks ago Joyce's brother and I did something I haven't done in a very, very long time. We drove out to a tree farm a few miles north of where we live to seek out a Christmas tree for their house. We found a beauty and left it in the field adorned with a ribbon so he can go back and cut it and bring it home a bit closer to Christmas. That is, if we don't have a storm like the picture and we can't make it back through the wilderness road to the tree farm.
It reminded me of when I was in the sixth or seventh grade and we lived out in the country. One day my father told me to get my snow gear on - that we were going after our Christmas three. Not at some community or city Christmas tree lot but several miles out in the wilderness.
We loaded a toboggan in the back of the station wagon and Dad, Uncle Ralph my brother and I
drove up the snow-cover back roads to the forest. I was glad for my high-top boots but even at that the snow still was over my knees and it was close to Roger's hips (I think we ended up loading him on the toboggan and pulling him. It was always a challenge trying to fine just the right height tree with just the right shape. We finally found what seemed to be the perfect tree, loaded it on the toboggan, and struggled to pull it to the car. Wouldn't you know - when it was cut down the tree turned out to be close to 10 feet high (our house ceilings were around 8 feet) and it wouldn't fit in or on the car. So we had to go through a trimming process before we even headed home. But it was one of those very special trees - not just simply a Christmas tree but the perfect one right out of the woods.
We didn't have snow the day we went out look ing for Jim's but it was a very special time looking through all the trees in the lot and the best part was tramping through the farm looking for it.
I've gotten a lot of trees from city lots and it took a lot of eyeballing to try to get the perfect tree.
I wasn't always successful at that - there was a time when we lived in North Carolina I came home with what I thought was a beauty. Joyce took one look at it and asked, "Did you nreally look closely at this tree?" I said I had, and she said it had two trunks - the trunk had split part way up. I said we could put an agel on one trunk and a star on the other and she gave me one of those looks. She said to the children, "Let's go get a REAL Christmas tree" and off they went. Meanwhile my tree remained outside leaning up against the back of the house until spring - or summer - or the next Christmas perhaps. I don't think I searched out another Christmas tree
ever again - at least until Jim and I went out to the tree farm a couple of weeks ago. I didn't hear Joyce say anything to Jim but I'll be she was hoping Jim would pick his own and not leave the choice to me.
And our fiber-optic tree doesn't light up any more.What do WE do this year? You can bet sure dollars she won't send me out by myself after a new one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods...... grandmother's house we go. That's the way it was for us in the 1930's and it is what is happening for so many people this weekend. And that's my grandmother's house to the left. It's the house my mother grew up in and it holds a lot of memories.

The house was built between 1900 and 1910 and is still looking good after a hundred years. And looking much the same (except for color) as it did when we made our annual Thanksgiving treks to Tuckahoe, New York. Or was it Yonkers? The house stands atop a hill halfway between the two cities and though the mail address was Tuckahoe it seemed as though we were closer to Yonkers to the west. And to top that, I went to school at School Number 8 in Bronxville. Figure that out if you can.

Thanksgiving was a ritualistic thing at "Gangie's" house. If we lived in Mount Vernon, or Fleetwood, or Shrub Oak, New York, or Ramsey, New Jersey, we'd load up the car early Thanksgiving morning and be at my grandmother's house by nine in the morning. The kitchen would already be emitting wonderful odors and the men (and boys) would be told to get out from underfoot. So the tradition was for all the men to walk several miles along the New York City aqueduct. We'd leave by ten in the morning and get back to the house by one-thirty or two in the afternoon hungry as could be and little fellers like me would be worn out before we even sat down to eat.
When "Gangie" would let me ring the Chinese gong everyone (including several boarders who helped keep the house financially afloat in the Depression years) trooped into the huge dining room to a table overloaded with the finest Thanksgiving dinner this side of heaven. And we would eat - and eat - and eat. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving in the finest American tradition.
And I would ride back home in the back seat of whatever 1930's car we had and sleep the whole thing off.
Once in a while we'd have a Thanksgiving surprise. Something like a major snowstorm. I remember one that was so severe that no one could drive home and so we camped out at the house on the hill until the next day - surviving on what dinner was left. But also enjoying sledding on the hills in seven or eight inches of snow (or more)
So for those of you who have the opportunity to have the family gather together - have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Treasure your family time together. Fifty or sixty years from now you will treasure the memory.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Want to See My Etchings?

There used to be a story about the lover boy who invited his girlfriend up to his apartment to see his etchings. It didn't take long for his girl friends to get the idea that he wasn't just thinking about etchings.

Well, I thought I'd invite you to our house to see some pretty neat etchings. Only thing is, it isn't etchings - it's Joyce's collection of staples from last Tuesday's knee replacement surgery. All fifteen of them.

And she didn't give me a lot of static about taking the picture. I guess she is being cooperative because she is somewhat dependent on me for help with therapy, doing laundry, cooking, making the bed, and a few other things that I might not have thought about.

She is doing amazingly well - is able to bend her knee almost 90 degrees (with a little bit of help) and is able to get around the condo quite well with her balloon-equipped four wheel drive walker. And she says there 's no pain to speak of other than that which I create when I push her on some of her exercises. And the stitches come out next Monday.

She's an amazing patient but then, I've thought she has been amazing for quite a few years.

And now, it's into the kitchen to make lunch. (Now you know why this blog is pretty short)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Oh, My! It's Christmas Time Again

The annual overload of Christmas catalogs has begun again. Started a few weeks ago in fact --
but it's getting serious now. And it isn't even
It used to be that Christmas promotions didn't start until the big Turkey Day Parades (Macy's,
Hudson's, and so on) but I think Christmas is kept in mind the year round now. (It is at the greatest Christmas store in the world -- Bronners in Frankenmuth, Michigan which DOES celebrate Christmas year round.) I even heard one of the local children suggesting that maybe we should move December 25th up to November 25th so that Christmas and Thanksgiving can be celebrated at the same time. And there are those who push the "Christmas in July" sales. Where's the real meaning of Christmas any more?
I'm thinking of how church services and the celebration of Christ's birthday have tended to become secondary. Routine. So many times the only time you see certain people in church are at Christmas and Easter and that there isn't any need for people to celebrate God any other times of the year. Does going to church twice a year make people any better? Does it give people a closer tie to God? A time to pay God's dues from time to time?
But there's something else missing nowadays. Family stuff. Like putting a ginger-bread house together. Or stringing popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree. Or making loops out of colored paper to be strung on the tree as well. Or making presents for others - our eldest daughter loves to do that. It's so much better when a gift is not store bought
I like to look at catalogs - but I can do that anytime. Always have. Always will. But I wish that they weren't so focused on Christmas.
Oh, about the picture - some traditions ARE still alive. People do still use advent calendars opening a little flap or door every day until Christmas. Or, as happened at our youngest daughter's house last Christmas - put together a ginger bread house a day or two before Christmas - even if the ginger bread house disappeared in to the mouth of a dog (or two) within minutes after it was built when no one was watching. So what if the dogs threw up - after all, it's a time of great joy - or so they say.