“And so this is Christmas”

carThis is it. My Dad’s 1938 Chevrolet that he parked by the road every winter before the days of snowplows and more than one shovel per household…apparently. I look at it and see the cottage behind and it was then owned by a Mr. Kenyan..or Kenyon..who knows. Dad called him “Kato”..Dad had a name for everything and everyone.

“And so this is Christmas”…John Lennon’s lyrics to one of my favorite songs. It is Christmas and I am alone. Sam, the tuxedo cat, is resting his head on one of my feet, daring me to go near the feedbag without his knowledge.

You can’t be alone on Christmas, people wail. You can and chances are sometime during your life time, you will be. My first experience was in 1974 when I had a branch from some evergreen stuck in a vase on a windowsill….over the laundromat in Locke Mills, Maine. Circumstances put me there. My children had always gone to their paternal grandparents for Christmas dinner and gifts and I was not breaking the tradition. Never mind their son and I had divorced months earlier; they were good folks.

Today circumstances have put me in a different position. I had an hour with my son and his lady this morning and they are off to see her mother in another state who is not well and waiting for them. They will be back tomorrow and old Sam and I will still be doing our thing…sitting, thinking, writing and eating..mostly the latter, I am afraid!

You are never alone when you have memories. My middle son, Gary, loves to tell the story how I managed to put the tree in the farm by myself one year , losing every needle en route to the blessed corner. I smile. The clock was striking 1 a.m. one year when I cursed the fact I was ever dumb enough to purchase a metal gas station or was that a metal farm. It WAS metal. TAB A into Slot B . They were thrilled the next morning and did not notice I had taken out stock in Johnson and Johnson bandaids as my hands were cut, nicked and not ready for photographs.

Grace and Charlie Day, our neighbors one ( then one now two) houses south of where we lived, always managed some little gift for me. I’d run up the stairs to my side of the attic and tear open the package. At that time, manicure sets were very popular amongst young girls and hair brushes and the like. I remember feeling very grown up at the time.

The strangest gift I ever saw and this includes every long year of my life was one purchased by my father. They sat at either end of the kitchen table, with the rest of us scattered here and there. She opened the large box with anticipation, probably hoping for once to realize a dream, and there laid a pair of black and white cowgirl boots. She picked them up, looked at them and very carefully laid them back in the box and put them on the table without a word.  I have no idea why he bought them…he never needed a reason. She liked western music but didn’t yodel or ever grace a stage. We stood there thunderstruck and never did get an answer.

When my oldest son, Brian, was two he was given a Handy Andy Tool Kit. He proudly walked around for days swinging it by the handle. I think he was sizing up the job and how much to charge because a few days later he was busily trying to saw down the Christmas tree. Later in life, he became a master carpenter. Go figure.

Somewhere I have a photo of Alan holding his Tom Thumb typewriter, for which he had asked for months. Nothing else…just that typewriter and he used it over and over and kept it carefully in its bright red plastic case. I believe it had a wheel and you had to choose the letter one wanted.

Debbie was happy , as was Gary, with most anything that could move or engage in battles. Gary loved G.I. Joe and Debbie had a Barbie. Back then, the custon in our household was to choose one gift which we considered expensive and then the rest could be little this and thats to go with it or whatever. Everything was so appreciated and that trait has stayed with my children as they grew to adulthood.

I was never good at buying adult gifts. The childrens’ father would open one corner of a gift to see what it was and drop it to the floor by his chair. Oh, I have seen a lot of men do the same! Well one year, I knew he wanted something and I saved, saved and saved. I wrapped, wrapped and wrapped some more. In the 18 years I lived on that farm, I do not think I ever saw a more pleased expression than when he ripped the paper off and discovered he had a stainless steel milk pail. He loved that thing and he probably used it as long as he had cows or goats. In fact, he consented to mixing up some sort of mixed drink one New Years Eve and using it as a center piece for a little gathering and the only gathering we had at the farm. I was a success at last!!

So yes this is Christmas. My soul mate of 41 years left me a couple months ago, but he would want me sitting here, writing, remembering and passing on stories.  I would like to think he is on my shoulder reading this, and if so, he will remember the time we counted our Christmas money and having only enough for gas for my little VW to travel to Maine to see the kids who wanted to finish high school there with their friends. There is no such thing as a heater in a VW bug so I wrapped a blanket around my feet and we traveled the 5.5 hours alternating between shivering and hoping the wind wouldn’t blow us over.

Good times. Good memories.

 

A SPURT OF SPIRIT

It’s always been this way…ever since I can remember, way, way back in the Greenwood Center days did I ever get that excited about Christmas. Now there were some kids who gnawed the last of the turkey ( chicken in our house) at Thanksgiving and had pencil in hand with their first note to Santa.  We never gave it much thought until one weekend day my mother would suggest it might be a good idea to get a tree in “for the kids.” My father was the Scrooge of all holidays…I know, I know he is not here to defend himself, but he would be the first to admit it. Grudgingly, he’d pull on his boots, knot them three times at the top, stick his feet in his snowshoes and then start searching for the axe. Since we lived in the forest, one would think he would have been happy to have such a selection of greenery from which to choose. We were lucky if he went fifty feet past the outhouse, chose the old maid of the forest and returned dragging it through the snow as to collect every flake on the limbs into one big white glob by the time he got it to the front steps. By the way, he was not singing carols in the five minutes it took him to complete this task. It is better  you don’t know. We knew the tree would have two boards nailed to the bottom, then nailed to the kitchen floor and two hanks of rope( to be replaced on the clothesline come spring) to tie the tree on each side to a railroad spike he probably stole from the track when out hunting. So now you can understand my mind and body’s reluctance to accept any kind of Christmas spirit. We even took bets on how long it would take before one of the decorations caught on my father’s sleeve to start another uproar. It was part of the joyous Christmas season and one we anticipated each year and thought nothing of it.

Meanwhile, my sainted Gram Martin stood for hours in her plaid house dress covered with an immaculately clean apron, cotton stockings and blue sneakers carefully cutting out cookies, putting exactly the same amount of raisin filling in each one, covering it with another, making little tine marks around each one in such a manner, one would think a machine had done if for her. She had knit our hats and mittens months before and she was set for the holidays. There were no big fireworks and no big to-do at the farm house, but it was a peaceful feeling with the cow in the barn( lowing as in all Sunday school stories) and probably talking to the pig at midnight. I have no idea.

So now let’s fast forward six decades…one would think over a span of sixty years ( and more) that the Christmas spirit might make a move  sometime before the 24th of the month. Never happened. Until yesterday. Sam (Tuxedo Cat) and I were having a spirited conversation about probably one of these nights he might try catching a mouse who now weighs fifty lbs from eating peanut butter off a trap. About that time the mail man came and there were cards. I sat at my desk, enjoying the notes and the sceneries on each and Sam looked up and said, “Forget the mouse. Let’s bake cookies.” I swear it was either Sam or the Devil.  “No, too late in the day. My back is killing me and I can’t handle it all today.” ( cop out right there). “There are some you can put together and leave in the fridge over night and finish tomorrow.” The cat wouldn’t let up….

Forty minutes later, there was a lump of off- white dough in a green mixing bowl on the third shelf of the fridge. It was in the ecru range of color but looked about right for something that should taste like a sugar cookie. Fridge door shut; dough forgotten; bed time.

Do not, I repeat, do not look in the fridge for anything before you have your favorite beverage in the morning. The first thing I saw was that olive green bowl and the ecru colored dough. What was I thinking? Who on this planet wants to dig out a rolling pin and cut out little shapes ? Obviously I had experienced a lapse of judgment and given in to the cat/devil the day before. 

Let’s get this over with now and I can get on with the rest of the winter. Out comes the pastry board..oh, look, it is also a cutting board since my son was here prepping for the Food network. There’s the rolling pin…waiting for the cobwebs to be removed and scrubbed down. Flour…have to have flour. Dough sticks without flour. Oh, the recipe says it should not stay in fridge over two hours…well I over looked that little item in my spurt of spirit yesterday and  now I not only have dough, I have a bowling ball that could wipe out ten pins with no problem. Sip the tea…tap the dough..sip the tea..tap the dough. Can’t let it get too soft. OH, what shape shall they be? We have every reindeer and the jolly man himself, name it Christmas and I have it in a cookie cutter. Do I want to really go through all this? Flour on the board…slap some dough, roll it out, sip the tea, …whoa, wait one minute…there is an interesting little cookie cutter right there…

My mind works in mysterious ways…one cookie cutter…one to wash…not a multitude of little crevices etc…hmmmm….and that is how I ended up with six dozen musical notes..each about two inches long. ….and about six cookie sheets more to wash than I should have.

No apron, floppy slippers, snarl on the lips, boy, Gram would be proud of me. Now that I have have my spurt of Christmas spirit, I can sit back, relax and figure out how to catch that fifty lb. mouse .

 

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