Posted tagged ‘holidays’

“But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.”

August 20, 2015

We have rejoined the world. The doors and windows are open to the breeze. The stale air is disappearing. It is still hot but not unbearably hot. Here in the dark den all three animals are sleeping near me, each in her special spot. The breeze is coming mostly from the north, from the window behind me. Pleasant best describes the morning. I usually shy away from using generic adjectives. I was, after all, an English teacher, but I think pleasant conjures all the best of today: the sun, the clean, dry air and most of all the breeze.

When I was a kid, I had little concept of time other than a few minutes, an hour and maybe as far away as tomorrow. “Are we there yet?” drove my father and every father crazy, but it was because we had been in the car for what seemed like hours or even days so we figured we had to be there no matter how far away there was. We had countdowns to birthdays and the best of all days, Christmas, but the whole concept was a little blurry. Three weeks until Christmas really didn’t mean a whole lot to us. Even the number of days in three weeks didn’t help. We understood two days or maybe three days, but we never really caught on until the big day was close, like a day away. When you’re six, every day is endless.

Time in Ghana was frustrating at first. Six o’clock meant six o’clock to us but not to a Ghanaian to whom six o’clock meant whenever. If I invited someone to my house, I was always asked if I meant African or European time. I had been raised to be punctual, a courteous sign of respect, so it took me a while to unlearn European time. I learned to be patient and to wait. People would come in their own time. Lorries would leave when they were full. Stores would open when the owners got there. Dresses would be finished when the seamstress got around to finishing them.

I had to be on time for my classes and to take the government bus, but that was it. I came to like Ghanaian time. I was never late to anything. Things got done whenever. Life was slow and easy. I didn’t even wear a watch, still don’t.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

December 27, 2012

It’s a gray day. The rain started late last night and continues this morning. When I let Gracie out, I noticed my back Christmas lights were lit. The timer’s sensor was duped by the darkness. I went out and turned them off then came back in, made coffee and was about to get my papers when the torrential rain started. It pelted the doors and windows. Undaunted, I got my umbrella and ran out to the drive-way for the papers. Right now it’s a quieter rain. I’m just glad it’s not snow.

The car is filled for the dump run. I hope it isn’t raining later, but my rainy day dump luck is generally bad. Usually it starts to pour just I drive through the gates. On my to-do list is also a couple of other errands, but no dump means no errands. I am actually hopeful I’ll be stuck in the house. Yesterday I did nothing all day, didn’t even make my bed. It was my day after Christmas sit around and enjoy life day. Today I’ll get to blame my sloth on the weather!

Christmas was wonderful. My friends and I opened gifts and enjoyed our Christmas feast. I opened ornaments from Africa. They are huts with straw roofs and are already on my tree. In my stocking, I got new socks. That doesn’t sound all that exciting, but if you saw my socks you’d understand as almost all of them have holes of some sort, usually in the toes. I hate to throw away socks with holes if they still cover most of my feet. Now, though, my two worst pairs can be thrown away after a small good-bye and thank you ceremony. My favorite gift is a bird made with PVC pipes. It has a long bill and crane like legs. This summer it will grace my backyard so we can all see it from the deck. Gracie got a new snowman and frosted dog biscuits. She also got a Santa that sings Jingle Bells when she carries it around. That I want to deep-six.

My Christmas tree is lit right now, and it shines brightly in the darkness of the day. Later, I’ll grab my iPod and lie on the couch in the living room to read so I can see the tree. It will be gone soon so I want to enjoy every moment, a year is a long time to wait until the next one.

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.”

December 18, 2012

As I was walking downstairs this morning, I could smell the Christmas tree. I smiled. I love that smell and can’t think of no better way to greet the morning. Right away I went over and turned on the tree lights. They brightened the room and chased away the clouds and the rain.

Yesterday Gracie and I went about doing a couple of errands. She got her nails trimmed, and while I waited, I bought her a few surprises for Christmas. I also stopped at a favorite bakery to get cookies to bring to the library for this week’s Christmas open house. The bakery owner, whom I see all the time, was there and asked what I was looking for. I told him about the open house and the library. He said he loved libraries and then he gave me three packages of his cookies as a gift to the library. How kind that was! How generous! I am forever thankful for the goodness in people.

I got a call from my friend Bill who had somehow managed to track down Patrick, another volunteer with whom we had served in Bolga. I had looked for Patrick for a while but never found him. Bill found a story in an Iowan newspaper about Patrick and send an e-mail last September asking if the Patrick he’d found was our Patrick, but Bill didn’t get an answer until now when Patrick called him. Pat’s memory is a bit fuzzy. He barely remembered Ghana let alone any of us. He asked Bill if there wasn’t also a gal in Bolga. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say gal. Bill told him I was that gal. I had to chuckle as did Bill. I have Patrick’s phone number and am aimin’ to give that galoot a call. I’ll introduce myself as a gal he knew from way back when.

I have a story I like to tell this time of year about my first Christmas in Ghana, my very first ever away from home. I was   homesick and sad. My mother tried to help so she sent me a small tree, ornaments from our family tree, brick crepe paper so I could make a fireplace and a small stocking to hang. I decorated my house but it didn’t help much. Besides, the weather was all wrong. It was the harmattan, the driest time of the year with a hot, dusty wind which blew each day and covered every surface in my house with sand. The heels of my feet cracked from the dryness, and I had to walk on tiptoes until the skin hardened. The only redeeming parts of the harmattan were the nights. They were cold, put a wool blanket on the bed cold. I’d leave all my windows open so I could snuggle under my blanket. It felt a bit like winter.

The nights in Bolga were quiet. They were bright with stars which seemed to blanket the sky. I was in bed trying to fall asleep on a night close to Christmas when I heard a small boy singing. His voice carried though the night air. It was the only sound I could hear. He sand We Three Kings, every verse. His voice was beautiful. I don’t know where he was. I guessed he lived in a compound near my house, but that didn’t really matter. He gave me one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. He gave Christmas.

“The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.”

July 4, 2012

It’s raining but a summer rain which is almost gentle. I’m watching The Green Slime, a science fiction movie from 1968. The credits were accompanied by a wonderfully bad theme song. The plot is simple: astronauts have to blow up an asteroid on its way to Earth, but unbeknownst to them, they bring back the slime which turns them into crazed killers.

Today is, of course, the 4th of July, a day we celebrate the anniversary of declaring our independence. My memory is filled with celebrations for the 4th of July. One year, when I was little, I sat on the back steps and watched the fireworks bursting in the sky from the next town over. Starting when I was twelve and continuing until I was sixteen, I marched in the Wakefield parade. I was a member of St. Patrick’s Shamrocks drill team. Most years it was really hot, but the longest street was tree-lined which gave us a reprieve. Later, when I was an adult, I’d go up to my parents’ house, and we’d go watch that same parade. We’d set our chairs under one of those trees. On the morning of the parade, the street resembled a science fiction movie where all the people had disappeared leaving behind them empty chairs: they were there to reserve the best spots. After the parade, we’d have a barbecue. My mother made her deviled eggs and potato salad while my father tended the grill. The last few years I’ve spent with friends who would also have a barbecue with deviled eggs, and they’d get creative and serve interesting drinks. One year the drinks were blue, in keeping with the occasion of course. When I was in Ghana, we celebrated the American holidays. The 4th of July had no fireworks and no barbecue, it had friends getting together, a perfect way to spend the day.

This rain has me staying home today, but I’ll watch my traditional 4th of July movie: Independence Day. Usually Jaws is part of the double bill but this year it’s 1776, a favorite movie of mine. I’m going to barbecue but, alas, no deviled eggs.

“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.”

January 7, 2012

My sister and brother-in-law are coming down today. I’ve held their Christmas presents and Christmas goodies for ransom until they visit. Every Christmas my sisters have certain expectations from me. Moe and Rod, in Colorado, expect English toffee. Sheila, who’s due here any time now, expects her fudge and date-nut bread. She won’t be disappointed. Once I knew Sheila was coming, I made both of them. She’ll open her presents first then we’re going to lunch.

Last night was warmer than I expected. When Gracie went out before we went to bed, I decided to follow her and check out the night. She went into the yard, and I stood on the deck looking at the lights strung across the driveway gate. They’re coming down after Little Christmas. I’m going to miss all of them, but I’ll miss the star most of all. It lit up the night. I’m thinking maybe I just ought to keep it lit, let it keep away the deep darkness of winter nights. It will have to be moved a bit so I can open the gate but that doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Whoever chose December to celebrate Christmas chose well. Joyousness and celebrations and music and color and families gathering together brighten even the darkest days and nights. Fireworks, I think there should be fireworks.

I finished my book today. It was the newest James Patterson, at least I think it was. He seems to write a new book every month. This one was an Alex Cross novel.

Books go quickly for me. If I like one, I take every opportunity to read it. Whatever break I have, out comes my book. When I’m watching a TV program, the commercial is another opportunity to read. Often I get so involved in the book I lose the program I’m watching. A day spent reading a good book is a day well spent.

“Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance – each beautiful, unique and too soon gone.”

December 23, 2011

It is by all accounts a dreary day, dark and rainy, but being so close to Christmas, it looks, to me anyway, to be bright and beautiful. The tree is lit, and the house is filled with the scent of pine. I’ll be baking most of the day, my orange cookies, my mother’s favorite, and one more kind yet to be determined. My mother used to hide some of the orange cookies so they wouldn’t disappear too quickly. I’ll share mine with my friend because they remind her of her mother’s orange cake. That’s what Christmas is, remembering Christmases past, making new memories and carrying traditions from one generation to another.

Today is the last day before school vacation. I remember my high school kids were almost giddy. Santa hats were a common sight in the halls, and the spontaneous outbreak of carols was a lunch time treat to hear. One year a junior boy stood on a table and sang a solo. It was beautiful. Age is never an impediment to the joys of the seasons.

My sister is buried deep in snow. We’re having rain again, but I’m okay with that. I’ll just dream of a white Christmas. That’s enough for me.

I used to love my Christmas stocking. It was always stuffed and filled to the very top. Reaching my hand in and pulling out one thing at a time was the best approach. That way emptying the stocking lasted a long time. My mother was the stocking stuffer of legend. When we were kids, nothing was wrapped, but when we were older, she wrapped every single thing. Our childhood stockings had crayons, coloring books, baby bottles and a stuffed animal hanging out of the top. The rest of the little gifts were always a surprise. When we were grown, my sisters and I knew they’d be a pair of earrings for each of us in our stockings, but that was all we knew would be there. The rest of the stuff, just like when we were kids, was always a wonderful surprise because my mother found the neatest, most original stuff for those stockings.

My nephew used to call today Christmas Eve Eve.

“Heap on more wood! the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.”

December 19, 2011

Last night dropped to the teens, as low as 14°, but, luckily, I was home warm and cozy wearing slippers and wool socks to complement my usual nighttime winter ensemble. Today feels warm at 39°. If the wind would disappear, it would feel even warmer. It’s strong enough to sway the big feeder and take the birds for a ride. I’d get car sick if I went back and forth that many times.

I never did get to the grocery store with my list but, instead, I went to a smaller store to pick up cat food and paper towels; however, I can procrastinate no longer and will leave for the Stop and Shop as soon as I finish here. I need to do my Christmas baking.

December 23rd was usually when we got out of school for vacation. We went to school the same as usual that morning, but it was never really a usual school day. We were far too excited to learn anything so the nun, knowing she was facing a losing battle, would vary the activities. In the morning we’d color Christmas scenes and make Christmas cards for our parents. In the afternoon we’d have a party.

My Christmas cards were seldom works of art. Most had a tree on the front because trees were easy to draw and decorate. I used a yellow crayon to make garlands because the white crayon was never any good to use. You couldn’t see it. You could feel it but not see it. I made dots of color for the lights but never ventured into ornaments. They would have looked like blobs. My inside messages tended to be on a slant and sometimes I ran out of space and had to loop my words. My mother made a big deal oohing and ahhing when I gave her my card. It was as if I had given her a real masterpiece. I always felt proud.

Christmas Day is a Sunday this year. When I was a kid, I loved it being on a Sunday. It was like cheating a little as it counted twice. It was both a Sunday mass and a Christmas day mass. We often went to the very first mass of the day walking to church in the cold darkness so we could hurry home to play with our new toys. I remember thinking we were the only people in the world awake that early. All the houses were  dark, but, on the way home, the sky was light and the people were awake. We could see tree lights shining when we looked at the windows as we quickly passed by them. We were in a hurry to get home.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”

December 16, 2011

I was surprised at how warm it felt when I got the papers this morning. The day, from the window, looked cold. The sunlight is steely, and there is a wind blowing even the biggest pine tree trunks back and forth. Last night it rained, and the drops pelted the door and windows. Gracie wasn’t too happy when she had to make her last trip outside before bedtime.

Around this time of year, my school, St. Patrick’s Grammar School, held its annual fair. It was a really big deal and it was held at the huge meeting room in the town hall which had moveable wooden seats, a stage and an orchestra pit under the stage and was where we made our record with Guy Lombardo. On the day of the fair, we only had a half day of school. The nuns would walk us down the street two blocks to the town hall, and, once there, we were free, on our own. The first stop was always for lunch, a hot dog, a rare treat to have the money to buy. It made me feel rich plunking down the money for lunch. That was thanks to my mother who always gave us enough money so we could buy the hot dog and still have some left to buy a few gifts for the family. Tables ringed the room, and on them were all sorts of gifts for Christmas. I could buy crochet doilies, knitted mittens and hats, plants in all sorts of containers, baked goods and just about anything else you can imagine one of the mothers might have made, but I always headed to the kids’ table. It was filled with gifts to buy for the family and most were only a dime or a quarter. I’d walk up and down the table looking for the perfect gifts for my parents and for my sisters and brother. My mother often got a plant, my father a hankerchief. Once I bought army men for my brother. I don’t remember what I bought for my sisters, but I figure it could have been baby bottles for their dolls, the sort where the milk seemed to disappear.

Those gifts weren’t ever much, but I always felt proud that I could buy them and have something to give at Christmas. When I’d get home from the fair, I’d hide my packages until I could wrap them. The most excitment came when I’d put them under the tree and then tease my sisters about what I had bought them. That was always fun.

“Heap on the wood! – the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.”

December 11, 2011

Winter has finally reared its head and today is only 38°. The day even has a chilly look with the light seemingly wan, almost dim, as if the sun has too little energy to fight the cold and is finally giving in to the change of seasons. The breeze is slight and barely rustles the leaves at the ends of the branches. I’m still in my cozies and quite comfy and warm. I can hear Gracie’s deep breathing as she’s napping on the couch behind me. The cats have their own spots during the day; one is on a couch pillow in the other room and the other is on my still unmade bed curled on a blanket. The animals in my house lead tough lives.

When I was a kid, I lived in a house with no chimney, but not once did I ask my mother how Santa would bring us toys. I always just figured he was magical, and the lack of a chimney would be no hindrance. Seeing all the Santas around town never diminished my belief in the one true Santa Claus. I knew the rest were like elves and had jobs to do to help Santa, and, besides, you never saw the real Santa. That was part of the code of belief.

I remember going through the Sears catalog and circling then initialing the toys I wanted so there would be no questions. When I wrote my letters to Santa, I included the toy numbers so he could see exactly what I wanted. It never occurred to me that maybe he didn’t have a Sears catalog. I think I figured everyone did. My list was always long and never included clothes. When I was little, I always thought clothes were a waste of a gift. When I got older, they were the best gifts.

I remember learning Up on the Rooftop in school. We sang it often with rousing good cheer, almost like an anthem to Santa. I also remember the nuns reminding us that Santa was merely a secondary character in the whole of Christmas. It was, after all, a birthday we were celebrating.

My mother put up a crèche every Christmas, and we had an advent wreath most years. The figures in the crèche were made of what I now know was chalkware. It wasn’t all that durable, and some of our figures had no noses, the one body part especially vulnerable to time. I have a similar crèche of my own which I’ve accumulated one piece at a time from all different chalkware sets. Many of my figures have no noses.

“Autumn is marching on: even the scarecrows are wearing dead leaves.”

November 25, 2011

The headache has come and gone all day, but I decided to get out and about anyway. I needed a blood test so the errand seemed perfect to add to the misery, but the day was so lovely and warm I’m glad I didn’t miss it. Well, the lab was closed so Gracie and I went to one of my favorite places to shop, and I bought two Christmas presents. I felt accomplished.

Thanksgiving was wonderful with great friends, the tastiest food and even a card game after dinner. My friend Clare made my favorite fall appetizer: a sugar pumpkin filled with bread and cheese combined with the pumpkin then put back into the pumpkin shell and baked in the over. Nothing tastier or prettier. We took a bit of a break before dessert out of necessity. We needed time to digest to make room for the pies: chocolate cream and pumpkin.

I have plenty of leftovers, and I’m hoping I’ll feel good enough later for a re-creation of yesterday’s wonderful dinner.

Now that Thanksgiving’s over, I can start concentrating on my Christmas list and seeing what I have and what I need. My outside lights will go up next week. The neighbors across the street always ask me not to park in front of the house so they can see the lights so I oblige and park at the top of the driveway so they can still see the lights strung across the gate and the huge lit wreath on the middle. When the lights around town go up, I’m always reminded of the ride we took every Christmas when I was a kid so we could see the lights. I think that was the only time we never argued about sides in the backseat. All of us were too glued to the windows to notice encroachment.

It’s been really warm so far for this time of year, but soon enough it will chilly and time to bring out the sugar cookies and the hot cocoa with melted Marshmallow Fluff floating on the top. I used to love that most of all when I was a kid.

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