Christmas and some Halloween stories may be read now. Please come back soon to read about your favorite holidays: Birth, New Year's, Independence, Valentine's, Mother's, Father's, and a few that may surprise you.
Oh Christmas tree,
Oh Christmas tree,
I just realized that Ray and I haven’t had our annual Christmas tree fight since we bought an artificial tree several years ago. I kind of miss those fights before Christmas.
For most of our married life, we spent entire late November days choosing and cutting exactly the right trees: expensive white pines with soft needles during our last years of real tree buying, free stickery cedars from Ray’s family farm in our young-married-with-kids poverty years. One of those cedar-cutting years is memorable because Ray was shot by a shotgun-toting hunter who mistook him for a rabbit. Fortunately, Ray was squatting while sawing down a tree and his jeans were stretched tight across his rear end, causing his posterior to be bruised, but not punctured, with the shotgun pellets.
The Christmas tree fights invariably ensued when Ray and I found a tree we liked. Unfortunately, it was never the same tree. I always looked for a tall, skinny tree that wouldn’t crowd out the furniture, while Ray consistently searched for the tallest, fattest tree on the farm. He usually won those contests of will, especially the very cold year when, after walking the tree farm three times, I was ready to jettison the idea of a tree altogether. The owner, realizing he was about to lose a sale, volunteered to drive us around in his horse-drawn wagon.
After Ray referred to the perfect tree I spied as a STICK, I told the owner I was done. He quickly drove us back to the barn and offered me a couple cups of his special spiced cider before making another circuit of the farm. As he was netting the tallest, fattest tree for us, I asked for his cider recipe and learned that the cider was spiked with grain alcohol. No wonder I was mellow; I was filled with Christmas spirit.
Years later, when we were preparing to build our home in the country, we designed our dining room as a 15-foot tower with 10-foot walls to accommodate a Christmas tree of Ray’s liking. Although we swore it would never happen, today that tree is artificial. It’s big, it’s beautifully shaped and, if I light a pine-scented candle, it smells just like a real tree. Best of all, you don’t have to water it and it doesn’t shed needles.
Merry Christmas. I hope Santa brings you everything your heart desires.
Click HERE if you would like to read more about Ray’s encounter with the rabbit hunter while cutting a Christmas tree.
I don't know about your home, but every table and counter of mine is covered with wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, gift tags and Scotch tape. It is my goal to finish wrapping presents tonight, but I'm not holding my breath because Procrastination appears to be my middle name.
The thing is, I can't guarantee that the presents will staywrapped until Christmas . . . at least those I wrap for Ray. As a young boy, he took advantage of his parents' work schedules to unwrap his presents during the weeks before Christmas, play with them and wrap them back up before his parents returned home. They never suspected a thing so he must have acted (think Academy Award) very surprised when he opened his gifts on Christmas morning.
He made a mistake in telling me about his sneaky childhood present-opening activities for two reasons: 1) I know to be on guard for any signs of present tampering, and 2) I have the valuable knowledge that he is a man who can actually wrap presents. No, he doesn't help me wrap our bazillion presents for family and friends, but he does wrap those he buys for me (believe it or not, one of my friends has to wrap all of her husband's gifts, including those to her). I wonder if she sneaks a peek before she does.
I misspoke when I said all of our tables were filled with wrapping paper, ribbons, etc. Yep, our kitchen table is reserved for the large plastic storage units that hold the candy Ray makes each Christmas: marshmallow fudge with black walnuts (about $80 worth), orange macadamia fudge, peanut butter fudge, magic cookie bars, rum balls, cashew brittle, peanut brittle and more.
Let's just say my husband is way more popular than I with family and friends at Christmastime. They know I'm too busy wrapping their presents to make any goodies for them.
Ray stores some of the candy in the refrigerator — so much of the sweet stuff that we almost didn't have room for the turkey. The only reason that turkey is on the premises is because Christmas dinner is at our home this year. If dinner were elsewhere, there would be a ham in its place because ham is Ray's preferred entree and the dish we take when dinner is at a house other than ours. Just how we will find a place in our fridge for Mom's (and before that Grams') cranberry salad recipe is beyond me.
But wait, Ray will distribute most of the candy before Christmas Day. At least I — who am trying to lose 20+ pounds in the hope that it will help the torn meniscus in my knee — fervently hope the temptation to scarf down daily samples candy will be removed and that Santa won't place any licorice in my stocking. Tell that jolly old elf if you see him, will you?
If it weren't, would the post that greeted you 10 days before Christmas be wishing you a Happy Turkey Day? I think not!
I'd like to say this belated posting is because I was doing my Christmas shopping but that would be a lie and Santa might be watching. Most of my shopping remains to be done. Yikes! Last year my shopping was almost all completed by October. I was so proud of myself that I rested on my laurels this year. The few presents I have purchased remain unwrapped
The tree is up and decorated. The mantle decorations go up tomorrow, I hope. The candy is made because Ray did it, but the strawberry bonbons I make are not because I forgot to buy the blanched almonds the recipe requires.
True, I have been busy with other things. If you'd like to read my recent article about five World War II veterans, here's a link which I'm also posting on my WW II articles page: http://issuu.com/sunflower_publishing/docs/tm14w/48 Just click on the > to the right of each page to advance to the next.
I'll post more soon so I won't wish you a Merry Christmas now, but I hope your shopping is done. As for me, I'm off for Kohl's and visiting Amazon this evening. Cheers!
Mom's tree, decorated with her ornaments, stands atop a small table in a corner of the hall by our family room. It means a lot to me that it is there and I know it also means a lot to my sister Lesta who is visiting us.
It was Lesta who rescued Mom's tree when she and her husband Dick, along with Ray and I, were cleaning out Mom's house after her death My sister came into the house crying, "They're throwing away Mama's Christmas tree." I went outside and told Ray I wanted to keep it. Many of the branches had been removed and I think one shorter branch was replaced where a long one should be, but I love that tree because Mom did and it brings back wonderful memories of home and family.
I'm not sure which is my favorite ornament, but my favorite lights are the merry-go-round circus animals that move up and down while a calliope plays Christmas tunes. I was with Mom in K-Mart when she spotted the unique light string and picked up the box. "I'm going to buy these," she said, "They're only $19.99."
(Click on pictures for larger images.)
I looked at the price sticker. "Mom, those are $79.99," I said, and she hastily placed them back on the shelf. My mother was on a fixed income and $79.99 was far too dear for her budget. Later, I told Ray about how much Mom liked the carousel lights and he went right back to the store and bought them for her. She enjoyed those lights for many years.
Decorations on Christmas trees — whether made by our boys at elementary school, purchased on vacations, given to us as gifts by family and friends or purchased at K-Mart for a mother-in-law — bring back so many happy remembrances of years long past. I love them all ... even those that evoke bittersweet memories.
I hope this Christmas is your best ever and that you enjoy it with those you love.
Daughter-in-law Val gave me this cute little Christmoose to count down the days to Christmas. Is your shopping done? Neither is mine, but I am working on it. Thank goodness for Amazon and other online businesses which make the job easier.
Thank goodness also for husband Ray who started making candy yesterday. So far he has made magic cookie bars, rum balls and pecan pralines. Several kinds of fudge tomorrow. How sweet it -- and he -- is!
Our Christmas tree is up and, best of all, it only took us three days to decorate it. There are still three big unopened boxes of ornaments in the basement, but they haven’t been opened since we moved them into our new home in 1995. Some hot July day, I’m going to open those boxes just to see what ornaments we haven’t been using. Those ornaments have never hung from any branch that wasn’t part of a live (or at least once-living) tree. We shunned trees that were fake and swore we’d never have an artificial tree. Fast forward to now.
I can’t say that a 10-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree saved our marriage, but it certainly didn’t hurt it. Ray and I never saw eye-to-eye on how large our annual tree should be. I wanted to be able to keep a few pieces of furniture in the room with it, while he thought we shouldn’t even go through the motions of going to a Christmas tree farm and cutting one down if the tree didn’t deserve a room of its own. There isn’t a Christmas tree farm within 35 miles that we haven’t traipsed over in a search for the perfect tree.
When we designed and built our home in the country, Ray insisted that our dining room have a ceiling tower that peaked at 15 feet to allow for a large Christmas tree. Seven windows at the rounded front encase the tree and make for good viewing from outdoors . . . or good viewing of outdoors from inside when a big Christmas tree doesn’t block the view. Now that the tree is up, though, I can start wrapping presents and get all the sacks of gifts out of our closet.
In a long ago column, I wrote about our annual fight over the Christmas tree. It begins: Many families have treasured traditions that ring in the holiday season. At our house, the Christmas season doesn’t officially begin until Ray and I have our annual fight about the Christmas tree. Ray's ideal tree is a giant sequoia trimmed with a couple million flashing lights . . . If you’d like to read the rest of the article, click here.
If you dream of spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the house made famous by the movie entitled The Christmas Story AND if you have a spare $6,200 sitting around to make your dream a reality, it is too late. Someone beat you to it.
I'm betting that a member of our tour group when we visited the home in Cleveland nine years ago snapped it up. Ray and I love that movie! Who doesn't? Yet the others in our tour group were absolutely obsessed with it. I don't remember any of them being dressed as a character in the movie like obsessed fans do for The Rocky Horror Show, but they knew the dialogue. All of it, not just the funny parts like, "Only I didn't say FUDGE!"
Just the exterior of the house was shown in the movie; the interior was a movie set. But the tour guide said the owner recreated the set exactly inside the house, even cutting the tile in the kitchen floor to make it the correct size. Everything was the same: furniture, kitchen appliances, bedspreads and LEG LAMP!
On the drive to the house, I told Ray I was going to buy leg lamp ornaments for the entire family. But when we visited the gift shop and I saw the price, I didn't even buy one for myself. I love that movie, but I am also a frugal woman who had seen a knock-off leg lamp in a store back home for less than half that price. We did bring back a memento of our visit, however. The tour guide took the following photo of us standing by the leg lamp in the front window.
I have several Nativity sets, but the one I love the most is the little Pom-pom Nativity that Greg and I made when he was a teenager. He was in charge of the camels which I think are the cutest of the critters. My favorite of the three kings is the one I dubbed Melchoir, the guy in front with the gray beard. I made the sheep's body a little too long, but the shepherd is cute ... as is the donkey, resting in the cork stable after the long trek with Mary on his back.
Sitting on the fireplace is a Build-a-Bear doggie named Marsha (according to her birth certificate), given to us by granddaughter Zoe who was much younger then and in her "I'm going to collect all the Build-a-Bears I can even if I'm buying them for someone else" phase. Best of all, she sang "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and ended by saying "Merry Christmas Grammy and Grampy." You can still hear it. All you have to do is push Marsha's left paw.
Ray and I found the best way to spend a snowy New Year’s Eve is to stay home, eat chili and cheesecake and cozy up with a couple of good books and each other. At midnight, from our hill in the country, we saw (and heard) celebratory fireworks, making me wish we had saved a few from our big 4th of July celebration to welcome 2013. (Click on photo for larger image.)
Our New Year’s smooch was two minutes late because CBS TV’s New Year’s bash forgot all about a countdown for Central Time Zone viewers (we should have been watching ABC’s Dick Clark’s Times Square production, but it’s just not the same without Dick, is it?). Had it not been for the booms and bangs around us, we might have missed it altogether.
Whether you were partying with crowds of friends or enjoying a quiet night like the Goffs, we hope the end of 2012 was the beginning of a wonderful new year for you. Happy New Year!
So naturally I am thinking about past Halloweens. Like the one when Greg, then a teenager, decided to dress up and scare our trick-or-treaters. We set up a big bowl of candy at the end of the hall leading to the bedrooms and sent the cute costumed moochers walking down the spookily decorated hall to get their treats. Greg hid in his bedroom and, as the kids reached the candy bowl, he stepped out to greet them.
It was all in fun until one girl, bigger than I, bolted down the hallway away from Greg, slaming me into the wall. Her fear didn't make her impolite and she halted to apologize. "I'm sorry," she said, "but he scared me so bad I almost wet my pants." See? It might have been worse.
Years later, Greg, then in college, got a scare of his own. He dressed up for a Halloween party in his great-uncle's WW II Navy uniform. When he walked into the party, my shy Joe College was greeted by two attractive coeds who said in seductive voices, "Hi, Sailor!"
Did I mention they were dressed as hookers?
I am chicken! I admit it: I don't like to be scared. I can't think of a scary movie I have watched all the way through. Well, maybe one, the original black-and-white Body Snatchers, only because I was too scared to leave my seat.
So it is unlikely that I will see grandson Gabe perform at The Edge of Hell, a haunted house in an old building in Kansas City. I did watch him perform as a zombie in "Night of the Living Dead" at Coterie Theatre at Crown Center two or three different years, but the surroundings were not totally dark and creatures of the damned weren't reaching out to grab me.
Gabe's mother, Val, says she doesn't mind being scared but she doesn't like to be startled. Tomato, tomahto, scared, startled, it's all the same to me. I went to a couple of haunted houses when I was younger. In one, a guy dressed as a mummy in rolls of gauze might not have been so scary had there not been a strobe light piercing the dark. First, he was twenty feet away, then ten, then right next to me. I learned that a Depends would have been a handy accessory.
As a reaper in Purgatory, Gabe is required to scream. He put on a very lifelike performance screaming when, skittering across the old wooden floor to grab a victim, a world-class splinter was impaled in his thumb.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! It's only 20 days away!
My sisters and I should have named him (or her) Yorick, but we were too young to have been exposed to Shakespeare so we simply called him (we decided it was a him) "The Skull." He sat on a cabinet on the sun porch right outside the kitchen door. We cradled him in our hands as we examined the narrow cracks in his head and the tiny holes of his sinuses, understanding even then how easy it must be for such little holes to plug up and cause headaches.
We brought him to the front porch on Halloween and stuck a lighted candle in the center of him to scare trick-or-treaters. He was also the star of several Halloween parties held in our basement which was decorated with orange and black twisted crepe paper, bats, witches and black cats hanging from the ceiling. The Skull belonged to Dad who acquired him in an anatomy class during his pre-med years . . . and, best of all, he was a genuine, ecru-colored human skull, not plastic or plaster.
Many years later, Dad acquired a small Caterpillar tractor and had fun burying things, including some old antiques I wish I had now. One thing he buried reverently was The Skull because Dad said he needed a decent burial. Were my sisters and I still living at home at that time, we could have given The Skull a really good sendoff considering the practice we had with a multitude of dead critters (the frogs, birds and bugs that we folded into sardine cans and match boxes and buried with the appropriate hymns, prayers and tearful eulogies).
I have often wondered if future archeologists might dig up The Skull and — given The Skull's unknown age, gender, race or country of origin — completely skew forever the history of their find and the land on which they found it.
Life with Dad was never boring. One day he came home, saw me sitting on the couch doing my math homework and tossed me a brown paper sack. Without looking inside, I reached in and pulled out a shrunken human head. My screams brought Mom and my sisters to the living room, who, forewarned it wasn't something good, responded with, "Eew, his mouth is sewed shut," "So are his eyes," and "Is that his real hair?" (Yes, that long black hair was his) and "Are his brains still in there?" (No, they were not; his head was hollow but stuffed with something to hold its shape).
Turned out the shrunken head was a gift to Dad from a friend who had traveled to Latin America. I am certain that, even those many years ago, such a gift must have been illegally smuggled out of its country of origin. Happily, the shrunken head did not find a home with us. Dad gave him to a natural history museum and I wonder if he is still there or if someone long ago gave him a reverent burial far, far from his Amazonian homeland.