• Tag Archives Christmas
  • Merry Christmas

    The story of Christmas…

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    In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. 

    And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

     And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    Luke 2: 1-7

     

    via GIPHY

     

    And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 

    10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

    12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

    14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

    Luke 2: 8-14

    via GIPHY

     

    15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 

    16 And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; 18 and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 

    19 But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 

    Luke 2: 15-20

     

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    Wishing all my friends and readers a very Blessed and Merry Christmas.

     

    via GIPHY


  • Baby It’s Cold Outside ~ Just a Christmas Classic, Not a Date Rape Anthem

    As some folks may know, feminist agitators are calling to have the Holiday themed song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” banned, because in their minds it comes across as describing a date rape.

     

    I wish this was a fake news satirical story, but sadly, it’s true. Liberal activists are outraged that the seasonal song Baby it’s Cold Outside should be banned because, wait for it, it promotes sexual harrassment and non-consensual sex.

    It’s a movement that started a few years ago and has been taken up with more fervor and passion every Christmas season. But this season, the movement has gained steam because, according to HuffPo, a pair of songwriters have offered up alternate lyrics to make the song more politically correct, socially acceptable, and completely awful:

    The duo, singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, told CNN that they felt that the original song was “aggressive and inappropriate,” arguing that the listener never finds out what happens to the woman in the song.

    “You never figure out if she gets to go home. You never figure out if there was something in her drink. It just leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth,” said Liza.

    The couple’s revised lyrics are adorably consensual, opening with “I really can’t stay” sung by Liza and “Baby, I’m fine with that” sung by Lemanski.

    Most notably, when Liza sings, “I ought to say no, no, no,” Lemanksi responds with “You reserve the right to say no.”

    The rest of the lyrics include a reference to Pomegranate La Croix (we’re unclear as to whether or not this flavor exists, but we’d totally drink it if it were real), as well as plans for a date at The Cheesecake Factory.

     

    When I heard about this, the Debbie Downer noise went through my head.

     

     

    It’s the Holidays. It’s Christmas! It’s a classic. And, it was written long ago, before feminists began peeking into every tradition in America in search of things to be outraged about.

    If anything, the song is a window into how women acted in the past. He wants her to stay, and she’s saying: “I have to go home. I am a chaste and respectable girl, and I have too much respect for myself and you to spend the night, since we aren’t married.”

    So what if the song doesn’t say whether she went home or not? Use your imagination. Its just a nice song, one that I have enjoyed for years. Why must everything be cause for a witch hunt?

    Here’s the song, sung by Dean Martin in 1959:

     

     

    It brings to mind a different time. A time where men and women actually got to know each other before having sex. Maybe some of us still like to reflect on what it was like back then.

    My parents were married in 1956. This was their era. Women’s fashions included tasteful dresses, shoes, and hats. My mother wore hats and gloves to church. And men dressed in suits and hats if they were taking a girl on a special first date.

    I have a feeling the subjects of this song were not merely dating, because few women who weren’t engaged would go home with a man, and even the ones who were engaged and visited their fiancés went home at night!

    It takes a pretty low mind to take today’s behavior of slipping roofies into a girl’s drink and insert it into the meaning of this song. As far as I know, this behavior was not widespread back in the 50s. And I suspect that no man with any respect for women or himself would do such a thing today.

    Maybe it would be better for the feminists to warn girls not to meet strange men in bars.

    Why are the feminists concerned only about what might have been slipped into the drink? Why not encourage young women not to go out and get drunk at all? Why not encourage them not to hook up with multiple different men?

    Sigh. It’s like a friend of mine said: These Leftists/feminists/activists feel like it’s their mission in life to find fault with every single tradition in America.

    The nonsense above is just this week’s offering. Meh. I’m not listening to them, and neither should anyone else who enjoys the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

     

     

    Speaking of Holiday favorites, here are a few more of mine:

     

     

    More Sinatra. I only like him at Christmas.

     

     

    Silent Night is beautiful no matter who sings it, but I like this version.

     

     

    And finally, there’s this.

     

     

    I’m not sure how many people (if any) are regular followers of this blog, but if there are any, you probably know of my love for Bruce Springsteen’s music, and also my distaste for his recent behavior re the 2016 Presidential Election and other behavior over the past year.

    This includes the nonsense regarding Mike Pence’s attendance at the musical “Hamilton”, where our VP elect was booed in front of his family by audience members, and lectured by the cast, who implied that the new administration would not protect them.

    It was a blot on the Democrats, period. It was a low class, nasty thing to do. But of course, Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa made it a point to go to NYC the very next day to attend a performance of Hamilton. I saw it on Scialfa’s Instagram account, which I still visit occasionally, because I want to follow her again. And him.

    But her photos made it plain that the Springsteen family have chosen sides. They are firmly and without shame on the side of the people who booed and lectured Pence, and against we who would like to give Trump and Pence a chance, the same way we did Obama back in 2008.

    Though the people who want to ban Baby it’s Cold Outside, and the Hamilton Cast, and the Springsteen Family, and all others of their mindset may believe they have the Spirit of Christmas or the Holidays in their hearts, their actions say the opposite.

    This season is supposed to be joyous. People usually open their hearts and wish goodwill on their neighbors. But that’s not what these folks are doing.

    They are doing the opposite–sowing more seeds of division and exclusiveness each time they decide they want to ban a song that has been around for 80 years, or show their disdain for those of us who disagree with them politically.

    Will they ever learn?

    I hope so. That’s why, even though I have not listened to Springsteen much since April, I am beginning to listen again. I’m going to at least try, since I do love the music. And I will always listen to Merry Christmas Baby. You see, I am not one to exclude a simple song from my own life or anyone else’s, just because I disagree with the artist on politics.

    If only the behavior was reciprocated, how much more joy would there be.

     

    merry-christmas-1872447_640

    Related Posts:

    Christmas Eve Reflections
    My Semi-Breakup with Classic Rock

    Christmas, Santa’s Sleigh, and Toys Throughout the Years


  • Christmas, Santa’s Sleigh & Toys throughout the Years, Part Two

    Last week I blogged about Santa Claus’s visits to my parents’ childhood homes, and my own. Today I’ll remember Santa’s gifts to my children, nieces and grandkids. Toys have changed drastically since my father was a little boy.

    My daughter was born in 1980. I barely remember her baby toys, because I was too busy cleaning up the effects of acid reflux. I remember a lot of plastic rattles. These were great toys, because they could be thrown in a sink-full of soapy water at the end of each day. She also played with a wind up Fisher Price radio, a Fisher Price telephone, and other musical toys.

    My daughter was 10 months old on her first Christmas. Santa Claus left a nice dolly and other toys for her, including a ride on car, which was used for years. But her favorite gift didn’t come on Santa’s Sleigh. It was a cute little baby doll, a gift from her aunt and uncle. The doll looked similar to this one:
    uneeda doll

    Mindy, my daughter, talked early, at 12 months. She gave her new doll the name Suzy. Suzy became her favorite. Suzy was her constant companion for at least 3 years if not longer. Note the cute clothing, hat, and bald head of the doll above. What little girl would not love such a doll? Our girl adored her Suzy so much that after a year or two, Suzy came to look like this:

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    Yes, that’s right. Suzy had hair. Her hat got lost at some point, and her hair desperately needed some product, which as most people know, hadn’t quite caught on back in 1980-82. My mother tried to help poor Suzy. She purchased a pair of pajamas and a little bonnet for her. I don’t know what happened to them. After 3 years or so, Suzy’s eyes grew to look like Chuckie’s. When my daughter finally moved on to other toys, like Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony, Suzy disappeared into my cedar chest where she remained until Mindy turned 16 and was given her own cedar chest. Suzy moved in, and as far as I know, still lives there.

    Fast forward to Christmas, 1984. Cabbage Patch kids were all the rage. In fact, they were impossible to find. Nobody who wanted a cabbage Patch Doll could find one in a store, so Santa Claus was the one to ask, right? However… I did not encourage little Mindy to ask Santa for a Cabbage Patch kid, on the off chance that his supply in the North Pole couldn’t meet the demand in our area. Instead, my mother saved the day again.

    I don’t know how she did it, but somehow Mom was able to obtain a Cabbage patch kid named Oona Ginny. Oona came to live at our house that year. She was a beloved playmate and companion.

    Christmas Memories

    Pigtailed Oona, pictured above, went everywhere with us.

    A questionable gift.


    Up until then, Mindy was quite happy with her family of toys. She was the big shot. She had a baby cousin, but he was seen only at fun family gatherings, and could go home after Mindy played with him. Mindy was in kindergarten and had friends there, too. She played all morning with her toys, watched a little Sesame Street, went to school, came home and had more fun playing and watching cool shows like Dukes of Hazzard with her father. But that was before.

    On November 27th, 1985, my daughter’s world was rocked. An early Christmas present arrived, a new baby brother. His name was Ryan. Ryan came to live in our home, disrupting Mindy’s routine and becoming, for all intents and purposes, a 7 pound fly in the ointment of a little girl’s world.

    Don’t get me wrong. Mindy loved her baby brother. But he did encroach on her territory. Sometimes this led to situations that weren’t really the best. Like the time Ryan was lying on a blanket on my mom’s family room floor. I left the room for one minute and came back to find my five year old “tap dancing” in her shiny Mary Jane shoes. Oh, how adorable! What a sight! Little Mindy likes to dance, and surely she would want to go to dance classes soon!

    Except for the fact that she was dancing on the blanket six inches away from her 8-week-old brother’s head. That kind of threw cold water over my joy in the dancing. When told that it was dangerous to tap Mary Janes next to a tiny baby’s head, Mindy explained that she really wanted him to see her new shoes.

    Kids 1

    As shown plainly above, my little girl really did (and still does) love her brother. She played with him every day. However, Mindy was a bit ornery, and liked her pranks. Perhaps Ryan knew what might happen in his future. Maybe that’s why he seems to be giving her the finger in the above photo. (Pictured is Norma Elva, a bald headed Cabbage Patch Preemie which Santa delivered in 1985.)

    Other escapades included offering 3 year old Ryan a piece of candy in the car. I heard the whole thing. The candy was valentine red, and Ryan asked “Is it hot?”  My daughter assured him that it was not hot, but tasted fruity, so, he popped the red hot into his mouth and began to scream. This made my husband, the driver, begin to cuss. I mentioned that Ryan had asked, and was told it was not hot, and so, Mindy spent the evening in her room. (She didn’t care. She told us it was worth it).

    There are too many other shenanigans to count. However, Ryan finally did make his sister pay. It happened in the backseat. I don’t even remember what set him off, but all of a sudden, Mindy screamed and began to cry. Little Ryan had picked up the unused seatbelt in the middle and whacked her in the head with the metal buckle. He was still holding it in his hand.

    I can’t remember Ryan’s punishment for slamming his sister with a buckle. However, both survived, and are wonderful people who contribute much to society.

     

     

    Brother and sister

    Early 90’s toys.

    My son grew up like my husband did. Santa delivered lots of fun toys, like Jurassic Park dinosaurs, Ghost Buster’s toys, Star Wars toys and figures, and plenty of books. Both of our children had lots of books. We read to them as babies and toddlers, and encouraged them to read every day when old enough. Other playthings included record players, wagons, trikes, bikes, scooters and skates.

    Santa Claus also brought my son an air rifle, a BB gun and a real shotgun. My husband took Ryan hunting as soon as he was old enough. He got his first deer at age 11. (I think).

    Ryan & GDad

    My son grew up just fine, thank you. Here he is, pictured with my father, wearing cap guns, which he loved to play with. Children today are denied such simple pleasures as even a squirt gun because of Political Correctness. I think it’s quite sad. When my children were young, I would never have dreamed of crusading against other parents for their choices in raising their kids. My husband and I did not demand that other people give their kids air rifles or cap guns, and nobody seemed to care back then that our child played with an air rifle.

    He certainly never harmed anyone. In fact, my boy was, and is, one of the best people I know. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He served our Country during wartime, and is now married and soon to be a father.

    Late 90s-2010

    My sister had her first daughter in 1991, and her second daughter followed in 1995. My sister was working full time back then, and I was lucky enough to be the babysitter. (This was not a job to me). I love my nieces like they’re my own kids. I also sat for other neighborhood children back then. It was fun.

    I don’t remember many of the girls’ toys. I know Santa used to bring stuffed animals and beanie babies.

    Beanie Bears

    The girls were only 3 years apart in age, and they shared a lot of toys. They liked dolls, too. My younger nice had a Molly doll, from the TV show, The Big Comfy Couch. She loved it so much, and it was her companion. She also had other TV figures, like Arthur and his sister, DW.

    The girls played outdoors often, in a sandbox and on their swing-set. They also liked to sled and play with their cousins and other friends. Both girls have grown up. They are lovely girls who bring happiness to our whole family. Tori, the oldest, is a special ed teacher. Allie, the younger, is a junior in college.

     

    IMG_6400 2
    Sister Amy, me, Allie & Tori

    Santa’s Sleigh, 2011-present.

    My grandkids are aged 4 & 2. They have celebrated only a few Christmases so far, however, Santa Claus has been very good to them!


    This year Christmas was really fun, since they both knew Santa was coming. They knew he came on a sleigh and brought toys down their chimney. Santa left Disney toys for both kids, since they love Minnie and Mickey Mouse. My granddaughter likes Minnie, especially, and also Elsa and Ana from Frozen.  My two-year-old grandson loves to color with crayons and play with play doh. He received both from Santa, along with other toys. He likes cars and matchboxes.

    Santa also left a board game, Candyland. My granddaughter and I had fun playing Candyland on a rainy day over the weekend. Other extended family presented the kids with toys, clothes and other playthings.

    St. Nick  has been very good to us throughout the years. We are blessed to have a loving family.

    You might also enjoy:

    Grandkids & the Grandparents who are Exhausted by Them

    36 Years of Cars ~ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


  • Christmas Eve Reflections

    This weekly column by Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia and my Bishop, has given me much to reflect upon over the past week. The message pertains to Advent.

     

    Geertgen_tot_Sint_Jans,_The_Nativity_at_Night,_c_1490
    Nativity at Night by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1490 (public domain image). After a composition by Hugo van der Goes of c. 1470, influenced by the visions of Saint Bridget of Sweden. Sources of light are the infant Jesus, the shepherds’ fire on the hill behind, and the angel who appears to them.

     

    The last few days before Christmas are usually, (I admit it) filled with harassment. Last minute shopping & wrapping after waiting to be paid, cooking, scheduling times when our immediate family can all be together before and after larger family meals, finishing handmade gifts, etc., can sometimes push Christ onto the back burner.

    However, I went to Mass Saturday evening, and Archbishop Chaput’s message was in our parish bulletin. After reflecting on the contents,  I found myself  less concerned with perfection in gift wrapping and more concerned about Christ’s coming.

    As the Archbishop reminds us, Christ came here to redeem us. His coming changed this earth forever. And He also came here to die for us, so that we might be saved from “the world” and its ruler.

    Everyone loves the magical aspect of Christmas–the lights, the caroling and gathering of family, giving gifts and watching our children’s faces alight with joy as they find their presents on Christmas morning.

    Sometimes, all in a flutter over these wonderful aspects of the Season, we forget why Jesus came. Yes, he came as a tiny infant. But He also knew He would grow up, people would reject Him, and He would ultimately die for us.

    34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted…

    Luke 2:34

    Two brief passages from Archbishop Chaput’s weekly column give us something to reflect upon.

    The first is from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Incidentally, I read Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer some years ago. I highly recommend it, as we face some of the same issues today. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was eventually executed by Hitler for resistance to the III Reich.

    We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the [Advent] message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

    Only when we have felt the terror of the matter can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy as only children can be happy. God wants to always be with us – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us.

    The second passage follows in these words written by the Jesuit priest Alfred Delp, from a prison cell. Delp was also imprisoned by the Nazis, and executed shortly after he penned these words.

     

    We may ask why God has sent us into this time, why he has sent this whirlwind over the earth, why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight. The answer to this question is perhaps that we were living on earth in an utterly false and counterfeit security. And now God strikes the earth till it resounds, now he shakes and shatters; not to pound us with fear, but to teach us one thing – the spirit’s innermost moving and being moved…

    The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. The Advent message comes out of an encounter of man with the absolute, the final, the gospel. It is thus the message that shakes – so that in the end, the world shall be shaken.

    So, are we sometimes complacent? I regretfully admit that I am. But what is the greater meaning of this wondrous season? Why the stress about cookies? Jesus doesn’t mind if the pizzelles don’t get made today. Pizzelles are lovely snowflakes that can be eaten on Christmas, but if making them by tomorrow takes away my joy and leaves me less time to reflect upon the real meaning of Christmas, what good are they? I can make them next week, next month or at Eastertime.

    Worrying about these trivial matters puts Christ in the background.  Making sure everything is perfect can steal your joy. Maybe that’s why, after so many years of Christmas that for some means little beyond shopping and partying,  we find ourselves “shaken by ultimate calamities.”

     

    800px-Guido_Reni_-_Massacre_of_the_Innocents
    Guido Reni, Massacre of the Innocents, 1610 ~Public Domain Image.



    Christ was born in Bethlehem, and angels proclaimed Peace on Earth and goodwill to men upon whom His favor rests. But shortly after His Birth, His parents were warned to flee to a foreign land. The men who would reject him began with King Herod, who, in his zeal to protect his own power, ordered the child killed. In order to make sure the Newborn King of the Jews (a threat to Herod’s worldly power) was destroyed, he went a little overboard, and decreed that all Jewish male children under age two in the vicinity of Bethlehem be killed with swords.

     

    When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[7] When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”[3]

    Matthew, chapter 2

    So, Christ came as a beautiful child, and we should celebrate His coming with joy.

    But we should also remember that He was hunted from birth by the powerful, in an effort to destroy Him. It’s the same today. Jesus came to change us. He wants us to be poor in spirit, despite our western lifestyles. He came for all mankind. We should remember Him everyday, & not reject Him in our complacency, lest we find ourselves shaken.

     

     

    The above hymn is one which makes me contemplate Christ in His whole message. It’s not a performance on a stage, with all the glitter and perfection, but a simple video in the studio. But is it any less beautiful because of its simplicity?

     

    Wishing everyone reading this a joyful and Merry Christmas.


  • Christmas, Santa’s Sleigh, and Toys Throughout The Years, Part One

    I’ve been thinking about the celebration of Christmas in America over the past 80 years or so.  Specifically Santa Claus, and the toys he made and delivered. The contents of Santa’s sleigh have changed quite a bit since my father was a boy.

    IMG_6210 2_Fotor

     

    This post has nothing to do with the actual celebration of Christ’s birth, which, as a Roman Catholic, I put first and foremost. This post is a sort of remembrance of my family, centered around Christmas gifts, toys and Santa Claus.

     

    toy Dump Truck

    Christmas in the 1930s

    If my father, (above, front row right) born in 1931, had been part of a family that received toys for Christmas, I suspect he would have enjoyed a truck like the one above. But my dad and his brothers and sisters usually hung their stockings and woke up to find them filled with oranges, nuts and other treats, and perhaps a hat or a pair of gloves, or another needed item of clothing. I’m pretty sure they didn’t get toys, at least not during the Depression. And according to my father, his brother (back row, far left) actually got nothing but coal in his stocking one year, because he wasn’t a good boy.

    My father was the son of Italian immigrants. He was born and raised on a mushroom farm in Chester County Pennsylvania, near Kennett Square, known as the Mushroom Capitol of the World. The family worked hard, and didn’t have a lot of extra cash back then. My father did all kinds of chores, like cleaning the chicken house, feeding the pigs, working in the garden and helping in the house. When older, he worked in the mushroom houses, sometimes skipping school to stay at home and work.

    But the lack of store-bought toys didn’t bother him. He made his own toys. My dad, in his spare time, fashioned playthings for himself. He built wagons and cars to ride on and smaller cars to play with, using discarded wood and wheels from the dump or perhaps from farm equipment no longer in use.

    My aunt Annie, (front row left, dressed in her 1st Communion dress & veil) loves to tell a story about my father, who was about 2 years older than she was. My MomMom was looking for my father, whose name was Dante. The family called him Dondi. MomMom was walking around the house, yelling: “Where’s Dondi?” My aunt said a voice was heard coming from the cellar, saying, “I’m down here. Can’t you hear the tippety-tap?”

    My aunt and my mother think this is an adorable story, and how cute of little Dondi, who was referring to the hammering sound he was making while building a toy. I think it’s kind of funny. Knowing my father, he was probably actually saying: “I’m down here. Can’t you hear?”

    There are other depression era mushroom farm tales. One of the funnier ones was related by my Aunt Mary (back row, far right). Mary was 7 or 8 years older than my father. She mentioned that when the younger children were little, sometimes the kitchen was a chaotic place. One day my MomMom was cooking dinner for her family and their boarder. My grandparents kept a boarder back then, to help with expenses. According to my father, the boarder’s name was Chisel. I have no idea if that was his first name, last name, or nickname. All I know is that my father, when speaking of his childhood, mentioned their boarder as “Chisel.”

    Anyway, to make a long story short, Mary and MomMom were cooking, and the three younger kids were hanging around underfoot. Little Dondi was by the window, playing with his slingshot. Later at the dinner table, a terrible thing happened. Poor Chisel spooned up cabbage, made a terrible face, and reached up to pull a rubber band out of his mouth.

    Little Dondi’s toy making skills hadn’t yet been perfected, and the rubber band from the slingshot ended up in the cabbage pot while my MomMom’s back was turned.

    My father and his siblings attended Catholic school through eighth grade. My Aunt Gloria, front and center in the above photo, became a high school friend of my mother. My parents met in high school, through Gloria.

     

    Christmas in the late 1930s – early 1940s.

    My mother was born in 1935. She tells us that Santa Claus always bought each of the 4 children in her family a toy for Christmas. I only know of one photo of my my mother as a baby, and I don’t have access to it now, but most of the same applied to her family as my father’s. One toy a year was pretty much it, along with clothes, etc. My mother told us she got a doll one year, or maybe dolls on multiple years. The doll was probably similar to this one.

     

     

    Antique baby Doll

    There are plenty of stories from Mom’s family, too. What stands out in particular is the fact that my mother and her sister, Betty, did a lot of housework. They helped my Granny, who worked hard in the home while her husband worked at his job. I have a story of my mother’s childhood that was cut from my book, The Notice, because the book was becoming too long. I may write it as a short story at some point.

     

    Christmas in the 1960s.

    I was born in 1961. I don’t know much about kids in the 50s, so I’ll just skip that decade. When my sister and I were little, Santa Claus was good to us. We always got a doll, and other toys, too.

    1960s Doll

    I remember Santa Claus leaving a doll similar to this one. He also came to our home and left worst toy ever made, this Yogi bear ride on toy.

    Yogi Bear Ride-on Toy
    This toy was the worst. I barely remember Yogi. I only remember the stories. My father grew to hate poor Yogi, because he was top heavy. Each time my sister or I tried to ride on Yogi, he would tip over and dump us on the sidewalk. I think Yogi may have left our home at some point after a couple of years.

    My father was a bit protective of his kids. He was also way too busy working in the mushroom houses to want the worry of one of us being hurt by a top heavy bear. I have a vague memory of driving past a home about a mile away and seeing Yogi in the yard. I don’t know if the family had the same bear, or if our bear somehow found its way to a new home. I suspect the latter.

    When we were a bit older, my sister and I, and our baby sister, Lori Ann, still got a doll every year. Amy and I got Barbie dolls and Barbie doll clothes, made by a lady who sold them. We never had a Ken doll. My cousins, Wendy and Dawn, had a Barbie play house, but I don’t remember them ever having a Ken doll either. To substitute for Ken, we swiped a one armed GI Joe that had been thrown away by our cousin, Scott. Joe was the only man for ten or more Barbies. Nobody knew much about Joe, only that he had lost his arm in the war.

    1970’s Christmas tales.

    During the ’70s, Santa Claus left us a record player and some 45 records. That was one of our favorite playthings on rainy days. We loved singing along with the music.

    On nice days we had to play outside. One year Amy and I got new bikes. They were girls bikes in the old style with foot brakes. We did not get banana seats or ape-hanger handlebars with wicker baskets. Our bikes ( which now that I think of it were delivered by Santa in the 1960s, but kept and used for 10 years) were way too big for us. My father said we could learn on them and grow into them.

    I wrecked on my bike many times. So did my sister. And my cousin. One day Wendy was visiting, and decided to get on my bike. She rode down the little hill past my PopPop’s house and around the garage. Then we heard the crash and ran. Wendy was lying on the ground, madder than a wet hen, after crashing my big bike into the old double outhouse.

    Wendy also once wrecked my Flexible Flyer into a tree. The sled was broken. Luckily, Wendy was not. Wendy was only mad again. She never cried. Crying was not her style. But if I remember correctly, when I found Wendy and my broken sled, she managed to work up a few tears. This was to insure that I would feel sorry for her and forget that she had broken my brand new sled.

    Once my sister borrowed a bike from our friend and neighbor. Amy was braver than me. I don’t believe she was allowed to ride all the way down Vine Street on an unfamiliar bike, however… she did it anyway. Luckily Vine Street was a dead end road, and there wasn’t much traffic.

    Good thing my father happened to be in our front yard. He heard Amy screaming as she came down the hill and ran out into the road. Amy was flying toward my father, screaming, “I can’t stop!” My father hollered at her to use the brakes, but she yelled that she didn’t know how. (She was probably about 7 at the time).

    So, my father stood in the middle of the road weaving back and forth mimicking Amy, who was weaving back and forth across the road. She was flying faster and faster. And then, right at the last minute, my father grabbed the handlebars and stopped the bike. I can’t remember what happened after that. I’m sure it involved hollering and, perhaps, a bit of cussing.

    We also got other toys from Santa, including a Frosty the Snowman snow-cone maker (upon which Amy shredded her finger when she tried to clean the ice grater), an easy bake oven, roller skates, sleds and other toys to use outdoors.

    Amy

    In later years, Amy, above, always opened the gifts before Christmas. This occurred after school, before my parents came home from work. My mother wrapped all the gifts and trusted us not to look. I didn’t look. I enjoyed being surprised on Christmas. But Amy liked to know what she was getting, and so, she carefully loosened the scotch tape, took off the paper and opened the boxes. Since my mother always bought us the same gifts in different colors, I also found out early.

    I once tried to make myself scarce while Amy was opening gifts, so I could be surprised. It didn’t work. She made it a point to tell me that I was getting a green sweatshirt with a hood, and quilted housecoat, just like her. Only her sweatshirt was red, and her robe was much prettier than mine. She told me my housecoat would make my butt look big. (She was right. For awhile, each time I wore that damned robe, Amy referred to me as “Moon River” (wider than a mile).)

    The clandestine unwrapping ended at some point. I think my parents found out about it, and my mother began using extra scotch tape, and little stickers and other things that would tip her off if a gift was tampered with.

    What great memories. We had so much fun back then, barely seeing our parents except at mealtimes and bedtime. It’s different these days.

    I will continue this post soon, with my children and their gifts from Santa.

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  • Fun At The Nutcracker

    Today my daughter took my three year old granddaughter to see The Nutcracker, and invited me along. It was a very nice outing. The Brandywine Ballet Company’s performance was excellent. Before leaving the house, my granddaughter put on her Christmas dress and these pretty shoes.

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    Then we said goodbye to my son-in-law and baby grandson, got in the car and drove. Traffic was heavy. We had detours in downtown West Chester on our way to West Chester University where the performance was held.

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    Even though my daughter attended WCU, we still got lost trying to find the building where the ballet was being performed, and we were thirty minutes late for the show.

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    Once inside, my granddaughter listened and watched intently. She was very well behaved. She liked the dancers, costumes and characters. We told her the rat was a mouse, and that he “went to sleep” while Clara was dreaming. She told us she wants to take ballet lessons.

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    It was a very beautiful performance. I hope we can go again next year.

     

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    On the walk back to the car, my daughter showed her little girl the dorm where she used to live, Goshen Hall. My memories of Goshen are few, but vivid. When my husband and I left our child there in August of 1998, the elevators were slow and creaky. Inside the elevators were plastic covered lights next to the doors. They had burn holes in them. Apparently students liked to melt the plastic with their lighters. My daughter wasn’t exactly happy with us at the time, because we insisted that she live on an all girls floor, rather than a coed floor. (It didn’t matter anyway. The separate floors were a joke). The building looks the same today.

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    On the way home, I asked my daughter to drive past the old house where she lived during her last year of school, because even though the university in my series of books is not based on WCU, this house did inspire part of the story.

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    In my upcoming book, “The Notice”, protagonist Jason remembers his flaming youth, and a mysterious college girl whom he remembers only as “the sophomore.” The sophomore lived in a house like this, “a creepy old house with bad plumbing.” My friend and feedback reader, Kia, enjoyed the tale of the sophomore. I hope other readers will too. Stay tuned for a sneak peek of the cover of book two, coming in 2015.


  • Holiday Memories

    This is the time of year to be nostalgic. No matter your traditions or religion, we all have memories (from childhood on) of this time of year.

    I visited my mother this morning. It’s always fun to visit mom, (at Christmas or any other time of year), for too many reasons to count, but here are the top four reasons. One: She’s always glad to see me, no matter what happens to be going on in her life. Two: She always gives me food. Three: She lives next door, so I can walk to her house in my pajamas. Four: She loves me.

    Today mom and I discussed my father, and the fact that I don’t want to continue our traditional Seven Fishes Christmas Eve dinner tradition anymore. I hope to feel differently next year, but as of now, I simply can’t imagine eating the fishes without Dad. Dad was the cook. No one could cook smelts, dried cod, anchovies and the rest of the fish like he could. He also made the best eggnog.  Maybe someday our family can resume this tradition, but as of now, I’m not ready. I will, of course, consider everyone else’s feelings on the matter, but I hope they agree with me this year. I would rather simply remember my Dad, alive and vibrant as he fried fish in his basement.

    This brings me to the point of this post. When we lose a loved one, Holidays can be difficult. Please, if you’re struggling, know that in time your heart will heal, allowing you to remember the happy and funny times.

    Today Mom showed me this year’s version of her Christmas tree. Rather than hauling her little tree upstairs and setting it up without my father, she decided to decorate her rubber plant, which was already in her family room.

     

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    Mom killed two birds with one stone. She decorated this cute plant with treasured ornaments from her years with my father, including this porcelain santa. This ornament is part of a set my parents bought for their first Christmas as a married couple in 1956. I don’t remember a time when these ornaments weren’t around.

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    Mom likes Christmas trees, unlike my father, when he lived on earth. Dad’s relationship with Christmas trees went two ways. If the tree could be moved upstairs from the basement fully decorated each year, he loved the tree. (True story–my father built a special storage cabinet in the basement just for the tree. It saved him a lot of headaches). If Dad was forced to fool with a cut evergreen tree purchased at a tree lot, it was a different story. Dad and tree stands did not get along, especially if the tree trunk was crooked. We found that out one year when the tree would not stand straight, and Dad, (in a typical fashion for him), pitched the tree off the porch and into the backyard, stand and all. Luckily, his anger was short lived. We decorated the tree with no comment later that night.

    We’ve had plenty of Christmas tree fiascos. One year I left my three-year-old son alone with my husband while I took our nine year old daughter to see The Nutcracker. I assumed my husband would know that a three year old could not be trusted alone with a tree, but I was wrong. I found this out when I returned home to find that my son had been trapped under the tree for ten minutes. Seemed his father decided to take a shower, and failed to hear the crash because the water was running.

    Parents these days are smarter. My daughter, for instance. Instead of worrying about her kids and their dog, and what might happen to a tree while her back is turned, she simply fenced off the tree. Problem solved.

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    Speaking of dogs…they are another source of amusement or frustration, depending on your outlook. Example: The tiny retro elf, pictured below.

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    This pink elf is mine. Back in the late 1960s, my grandmother gave each of her grandchildren one of these elves. I got a pink one, my sister got a blue one, and my other tiny sister received a white elf from Granny. My mother keeps the tiny white elf in a safe place, since my baby sister is in Heaven with my father. Somehow, my elf is also still around, despite my children and their shenanigans with decorations over the years.

    My sister, however, wasn’t so lucky. Her blue elf was treasured too, and displayed with pride each year. Then, one Christmas season about ten years ago, she was walking through her basement and found the remains of the blue elf on the floor. The blue elf was barely recognizable. Bits and pieces of him were scattered under the workbench. Their dog, Darby, was the culprit. Lucky for Darby, she was a fast runner.

    My sister was inconsolable. I think she cried. She lamented the blue elf’s fate all winter long, and finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore, so she began looking for a replacement. She eventually found a retro blue elf exactly like her old one in an antique shop, and paid twenty bucks for the little blue elf made of styrofoam and pipe cleaners. She said it was worth it.

    How many old and perhaps chipped or broken ornaments and decorations do we hang onto, just because of the memories associated with them? Too many to count. No matter our differences, religious or otherwise, I bet this is one thing we can agree on. 🙂

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