“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.



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