Tag Archives: Christmas

The Christmas Spirit Will Blindside Me Any Day Now

christmas-spiritI’m desperately trying to get in the Christmas Spirit.  I know they wanted me to be into this as early as three weeks ago, but I can’t get anywhere close to feeling Christmassy until December anyway.  We bought a new tree a few weeks ago, but didn’t put it up until the day after Thanksgiving.  That sounded somewhat correct.  My parents used to put up the “real” tree a few days before the big event.  It would have been purchased from the tree lot a week or two before, but would be sitting in the garage in a bucket of water waiting for my father to decide it was time to string on the lights.  Yesterday I unpacked the train and put it underneath my new tree.  I hung a wreath on the front door.  That’s as far as I’ve gotten, and I didn’t “feel” anything remotely resembling Christmas Spirit.

Tomorrow, if it warms up some, and the wind doesn’t blow, I might start putting up the lights out front.  Since it’s not expected to warm up, and the wind always blows here, that probably won’t happen.  But I should, I guess, I just don’t know why.

I used to love putting up the Christmas lights on the house, often risking life and limb to string twinkle lights on the eves of two-story houses, but as I’ve grown older it seems like an awful waste of energy and, well, energy.  I’m still going to do it though.  I’m sure that the Christmas Spirit will blindside me any day now.

Our first Christmas in Reno, NV, I kind of went a little nuts on the house decorating.  It all started when the neighbor catty-corner from us put up his lights after I had finished mine.  He had more, so I went out and bought some more.  Then he went out and bought some more.  And then I went out and got some more stuff.  It went on like this for a couple of weeks.  A week before Christmas, the neighbor’s wife walked across the street towards me while I was stringing up yet another set of blinking colored lights.  “You’re house looks beautiful,” she said, “but would you please stop!  My husband is not going to give up, and we can’t afford to spend anymore on decorations.”  I couldn’t either, so I promised that this would be it.  We’ve lived on a cul-de-sac.   Nobody could see our fabulous Christmas displays anyway. 

Even the angel has her back to me.

Even the angel has her back to me.

That new tree I mentioned earlier cost over $400.  The only thing the purchase of that did was send me straight into Buyer’s Remorse.  We needed a new one, I guess.  We convinced ourselves that we did.  The old tree had been around for well over 15 years.  It still worked, but it only had white lights on it and the new tree has colored lights, white lights or both alternating.  I got tired of the white lights only, and wanted to get some colored ones.  That was my reasoning anyway.  The fact that it has both was an added bonus.

 Even though the old tree had been around for 15 years, you only use it once a year, but last year I had to spend hours getting the pre-lit branches to light.  One by one, I searched for the bulb that was causing me this grief and I didn’t want to have to do it again this year.  So I gave it to my oldest daughter (actually I sold it to her for fifty bucks…hey I needed to recoup some of my $400.) and she put it up last week too.  The lights were working fine, go figure.

Christmas Shopping isn’t fun anymore either.  Now that I think about, it never was “fun,” but there was a purpose in doing it at least.  When you get older and you don’t have any little ones around anymore, it just seems pointless.  When I want something during the year, I just get it, if I can.  If I can’t, I don’t have a Santa Claus I can ask for it, so I do without.

Christmas Shopping didn’t use to officially start until the day after Thanksgiving.  Downtown stores would unveil their fantastic window displays of toy trains, dolls, bicycles, scooters, and other kid Bacchanalia.  Kid drool and nose prints would be all over the window glass at differing heights.  Now we have this thing called “Black Friday,” where we subject our kids to their parents fighting over limited supplies of this or that video game in limited supply at unbeatable prices.  The stores start to put out the Christmas displays the day after Halloween.  I guess people needed more time to shop for Christmas, and I understand that the retail industry’s make or break season is the holidays, so they’re giving themselves more time to meet targets.  It’s all kind of screwed up holiday shopping for me though.   

Snow is important for the Christmas Spirit as well.   We probably won’t get any snow before December 25th, but there’s always a chance.  I don’t know how anyone in warm climates like California or Florida can do Christmas.  Christmas needs snow.  We lived in Arizona for 12 years and it never felt like Christmas.  No crackling fire.  No chestnuts roasting.  No sleigh rides, so no sleigh bells.  No “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  No chimneys or fireplaces.  Santa Claus comes through the front door in Arizona, probably driving that red Lexus from the “Lexus December to Remember” commercial.

Christmas music helps conjure up the Christmas Spirit some.  They started playing Christmas music on the station I listen to out in the garage two weeks before Thanksgiving.  That’s just too early for me and it wasn’t having any of the desired effect, so I changed the channel.  I guess I’ll change it back now that it’s December today.  It’ll be too cold to work out in the garage though, so it doesn’t really matter.

grinchI’ll just continue to wait for that cherished Christmas Spirit to sucker-punch me.  Right now I’m starting to see a lot of conformity with this guy.  I know for sure I look like this when I get up in the morning.  I’ve looked in the mirror. WTF.


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We Live On A Cul-De-Sac For Krisakes.

I’ve decided I’m suffering from holiday depression.  It doesn’t take long to get depressed this time of year for sure.  My daughter in San Diego just canceled her Christmas visit.  Just a few minutes ago, on the phone.  Can’t afford it she said.  I understand of course, but it’s depressing.  I was looking so forward to them coming.  Now I’m just depressed.  Did I say that already?

Being depressed is one of those overused conditions I think.  We’re always depressed, either that or stressed.  I think I’m stressed too.  I’ve been trying to finish up all the toy orders I took at the craft fair and it’s the fourteenth of December and I’m stressed.  I think I’ll make it, but it’s really stressing me out.  Did I say that already?

I went to my very first Christmas parade last Saturday.  Yeah, I thought it was odd too, never to have seen a Christmas parade.  Froze to death, but it was really neat.  I imagine when you’re younger the cold doesn’t bother you as much because there were a lot of younger people who didn’t seem fazed in the least by the 30 degree temperatures.  I froze to death.  Did I say that already?  A 4H float pulled by a couple of white draft horses decided to take a dump right in front of us.  I’ve discovered that warm horse manure dropped on frozen asphalt is not a pleasant smell.  It didn’t bother me that much though because if a horse is going to take a dump in a parade, it’s going to do it in front of me for sure.  I’m used to it.  The two old ladies selling glow sticks starting at $6, directly in front of me, for 20 minutes, pissed me off a lot more than the horse manure.  Picture trying to see anything with various multi-colored light-up sticks in the hundreds flashing in front of your eyes, in the dark.  And they wouldn’t move!  I heckled them, harassed them, and flat-out bitched out loud at them, and it didn’t deter one bit from their retail endeavor.

Ten thousand luminarias lined the parade route and the city center grounds.  For those of you not familiar with luminarias, and I can’t imagine that there are many of you, they’re basically a lunch sack folded over at the top to keep them open, a layer of sand in the bottom to give them weight, and a votive candle.  We line our sidewalks, driveways, and rooftops with them to light the way for the spirit of the Christ child.   Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a wonderful custom and very beautiful, but most of us have turned to the electric version and the plastic bags with no bottoms.  Less likely to burst into flames.  Paper bag, candle, flame, you can figure it out.  Putting 10,000 of these together, placing them a few feet apart, and lighting each one, sounds a bit stressful.  I heard that the volunteers started early that morning, just putting them out.  They had to have been building them for days.  I’ve done it for my own yard, so I know what it takes.

If the wind is blowing, even a little bit, lighting luminarias can be challenging at best.  Thankfully for the volunteers who were lighting the 10,000 luminarias in the city center last Saturday, the wind wasn’t blowing at all.  There were a lot of people walking around with barbeque lighters putting flame to candle to light the way for the Christ child, but I don’t think he was expected.  If I had been a volunteer, the wind would have blown over 40 miles per hour.  The wind chill would have been three below zero.  That’s just the way I roll.

In reality, a luminaria is really a vigil fire, and is a pile of wood formed in a pyramid.  The farolito is the little paper lantern for which it is now confused.  Or you could stick a bunch of damn glow sticks in the ground.  WTF.

I hope this holiday depression stuff doesn’t last too long.  I have a lot to do before the big day.  I haven’t finished the outside decorations yet, but I decided today, since my daughter is not coming, that I’ve got enough decoration out there.  When I get the electric bill I’m sure it will have been way too much decoration out there.  I noticed that there isn’t a lot of people decorating anymore.  We live in an “older” neighborhood, meaning we have a lot of “old” people that have lived here for years, probably built the houses, so that could be one reason.  It seemed everyone used to decorate the house during the month of December, but there’s only four or five houses decorated on our street this year.

In my home town, when I was growing up, Big Horn Avenue became Carol Avenue every December.  Everyone on the street decorated their houses and we would make a yearly drive down Carol Avenue to see all the lights.  It was quite the lighting competition.  Nothing compared to synchronized lights and music we see today, of course, but it was amazing to us kids.

I always decorate the house.  When we first moved to Reno, we started to decorate our house on Toro Ct.  We started and then we went out and bought more decorations and really lit up the place.  I noticed a house down the cul-de-sac would put up more lights, as I was putting up more lights.  I would add a lighted lawn ornament, and they would add something.  I was getting a real kick out of it.  We were the only two houses in the cul-de-sac that were decorating.  On a Sunday afternoon, a couple of weeks before Christmas, the neighbor, whom I had not met, came walking across the street while I was installing yet another addition to the extravaganza of light.

“Hey,” she said, “you’ve got to stop this.  I can’t afford to buy any more decorations.  My husband won’t stop.”  She had a warm smile on her face and added that the house looked beautiful.  I told her that their house looked great too, and didn’t lead on that I knew there had been a “competition” going on. “We live on a cul-de-sac for krisakes.  Nobody drives down a cul-de-sac unless they live here.”

In my defense, you could see my house from the main through street, you couldn’t see her’s.  I brought a lot of traffic down the cul-de-sac to see my house and the spotlighted Santa Claus slipping off the roof.  They, of course, got to see her’s as they made the turn at the end of the cul-de-sac and passed by my house again.

I didn’t mail out any Christmas cards again this year.  The last year I sent out Christmas cards, I mailed out 75.  I got six in return.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten any, if I hadn’t sent them out, I figured.  I decided right then that I wasn’t sending out Christmas cards anymore.  A little selfish, I agree, but 75 cards cost almost $28 back then, not to mention the cost of the cards themselves.  No one has seemed to miss my Christmas greetings.  I’ve only gotten three cards this year so far.  Okay, I’ve moved and a lot of people don’t have my new address, but three?  One of them is from the temp agency my wife is contracting for right now.  Maybe I don’t have any friends.  Thanks for the card Charlie and Alison.  The kids are adorable.  How did you get the dog to sit like that?

So here’s my video Christmas card.  Merry Christmas everyone.







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One Year It Had To Be A Bike, Of Course.

I still marvel today that my parents were able to afford Christmas, since I seem hardly able to afford it over the years.  I only had two kids at home at one time, my parents had seven.  I have three brothers and three sisters.  We always seemed to get more than enough presents though, maybe because we didn’t expect it.  It seems so overdone these days.  You can’t walk through the living room for all the presents under the tree even before Santa Claus purportedly shows up.   When I was little, we were allowed to ask for one special “big” gift.  One thing we wanted more than anything else.  I got a lot of special Christmas gifts over the years.  We always got more, but we got to ask for only one thing from Santa.  Our lists were short.

We could hardly wait to get the Sears and JC Penny Christmas catalogs so we could look through them and pick out what we didn’t need but decided we wanted.  We would always ask for the moon, and end up happy with whatever we got.  As we got older, we would test out what we were thinking of asking Santa to bring by running it by Mom first.  If she said something like, “We’ll see.  You’ll have to ask Santa for it,” we knew we were good.  If we got something like, “No, I don’t think that’s a good thing to ask Santa for.  How about….,” you were back to the drawing board.

One year it had to be  a bike of course.  Santa brought me the coolest 26-inch Schwinn, two-tone, bike on the block.  That was when bikes had fenders and headlights that worked on D batteries.  In the summer we would add a motor sound to our bikes with playing cards and clothespins. You could get six or eight cards on each wheel and get a fair “chuck chuck” sound.  Mom would start having trouble winning at Solitaire and realize that a few cards were missing from her deck.   She started to hide her deck of cards.

I spent a lot of my lawn-mowing money on patch kits and inner tubes for that bike.  I always seemed to have a flat tire.  I got pretty good at changing bike tires over the years too.  You had to use two screwdrivers in tandem to stretch the tire back over the rim without sticking one of them through the brand new inner tube, which happened a time or two.  If it did, you started over and got out the patch kit.  You also had to remember to put the screwdrivers back where you found them, which always seemed to be a problem for me. “Where’s my other SCREWDRIVER!” my Dad would bellow out from the garage.

I had some pretty good wrecks on that bike.  Once when I was riding Jeff Hartman on the back, he got his foot stuck in the spokes and I went flying over the handlebars landing and sliding down the sidewalk, in front of Dr. Shunk’s office, on my face.  I woke up several hours later lying on the couch with Dr. Booth looming over me.  Ah, the days when doctors made house calls.  The first words out of my mouth were, “Is my bike okay?”   I wasn’t supposed to be riding people on the bike, but the fact that I didn’t suffer any permanent damage probably had something to do with me not getting in too much trouble.  As soon as I was allowed outside I went straight to the garage to check on the bike.  Some bent spokes and some scratches on the handlebar were all it had suffered.

I got hit by a car once, riding the bike to school, by one of the teachers.   She didn’t see me or I didn’t see her as she came out of the intersection in front of the school.  I ran right into the front fender of the Buick and went flying onto the hood of her car.  I remember looking through the windshield at her shocked face, lying there spread-eagle, my face pressed to the glass.  I didn’t suffer a scratch.  I don’t think Mrs. Redding ever quite recovered though.  She jumped out of the car screaming at the top of her lungs, “Oh my God, what have I done.  What have I done,” running around the car with her hands up in the air.  I felt sorry for her and kept trying to tell her I was okay, as she made the rounds.  After a while I managed to sit up and slide off the hood.  I checked my bike, made one last attempt to assure Mrs. Redding I was okay, and then headed off to the school bike rack.  You know, I never had a bike lock for that bike. 

The most embarrassing mishap on the Schwinn happened on the way home from junior-high football practice one fall afternoon.  I slung my cleats over the handlebars and headed down Burkitt Street.  As I began crossing Main Street with the light, the right cleat caught in the front spokes and locked the wheel.  I went flying over the handlebars head first, again, and landed in the middle of the street.  The light changed and four lanes of traffic started honking.  Some kindly old gentleman jumped out of his car, having seen the entire performance, and wanted to know if I was okay.  He helped me walk my crippled bike back to the curb.  I learned how to straighten spikes a lot when I was a kid, but I don’t think my wheels were ever really round after that one.

I rode that bike for well over ten years, but secretly wanted the 3-speed English Racer that I had really asked Santa to bring me.  The one where you turned the handle grip on the right to change from first to third gear, and the brake levers were on the handle bars.  The one like my friend had. 

Another year I asked Santa for a “miniature” tape recorder.  Miniature meaning “portable”.  A smaller version of the bigger reel to reel recorder my Dad had.  It had always fascinated me.  I remember I said “Grace” for him on one of his “Christmas Radio Shows” that he was always putting together at Christmas.  I didn’t think it sounded like me at all when he played it back, but everyone else he recorded sounded like them.  When I got older we would trade “Radio Shows” at Christmas, instead of greeting cards.  We would MC the shows, tell jokes in between recorded acts, interview special “guests” and pretend, for example, that Bing Crosby was in the kitchen after just having sung “White Christmas” on the show.  He was, of course, on the record player, but it was fun and had really started those many years earlier when I got the miniature Sony tape recorder.

My first major recording after, “testing, testing, testing” (you always said it three times for some reason and it didn’t sound like me) was the 1968 Sugar Bowl game between the unbeaten WAC Champion Wyoming Cowboys and LSU.  I sat in front of the TV and held the microphone in front of the speaker (no built-in microphone) for the entire game.  

I can remember how excited we all were that the Cowboys were in the Sugar Bowl.  The game was televised coast to coast in color!  We had a black and white set.  Wyoming led for most of the game, up 13 to nothing at half-time, then sophomore, Glenn Smith, came off the bench and became the first sophomore in Sugar Bowl history to win the MVP.  They beat us 20 to 13.  Smith ran for 74 yards in 16 carries and scored the winning touchdown on a 1 yard run.  We never scored another point.  Glenn Smith finished his career at LSU without ever starting a game.  I sat there for two hours holding a microphone to the speaker of the TV and I never played it back.  It’s probably still around somewhere.  I lost interest in the tape recorder shortly after.

Another year I got one of those Hockey games where the players are connected to 5 levers on each side of the game.  An oversize puck is dropped in the center and by pulling and twisting the levers in turn, the three-inch metal players can pass, backcheck, carom the puck and shoot on goal.  One of the pucks was magnetic for a more controlled game and the other had a ball bearing in the center for a more fast-paced game.  Within a few hours Christmas Day I was deadly with the ball bearing puck.  I could control the puck to the Center and slam the shot on goal before anyone could react.  Most importantly, before my Dad could react.  I beat him game after game.  Finally, late that day, in sheer frustration he ripped one of the controls right out of the game trying to block a shot.  In fairness to my Dad, he fixed it later, but I was a bit upset that my greatest game of all time lasted less than a day before it was broken….by an adult.

The most amazing gift I ever received from Santa was a photographic enlarger when I was 16.  It was the kind of gift that was clearly out of my parent’s price range.  I didn’t ask for it, because I, of course, knew by that time how Christmas worked, who Santa really was, and how expecting something as expensive as a Bogen 35mm Enlarger was just ridiculous.

I had built a darkroom in the basement in the old coal room.  I was developing my own black and white film and printing test sheets by laying the negatives on a piece of photo paper and exposing it to light.  Then developing and fixing the sheet.  An enlarger was the next logical addition.  Developing and printing your own film was quite a process back then.  Not like the digital cameras we have today, and the photo printers and all the software to fix the image.

On Christmas morning (we opened presents right after midnight Christmas Eve) I was handed a small shirt box, expecting just that when I opened it, but inside was a folded piece of paper and on it was written in my Dad’s perfect printing “Go To The Dining Room.”  I walked into the dining room, flipped on the light, and there on the table was a Bogen 35mm Enlarger.  I was absolutely, totally speechless.  I couldn’t figure out how in the world this had happened.  How in the world anyone knew what I really wanted for Christmas for one thing.  How in the world my parents could afford it.  I was just amazed.  I probably never thanked my Dad near enough for that gift, but I learned later in life, when I managed those same Christmas surprises for my own kids, what that feeling is like.  There is no better feeling in the world.

I was in the basement coal “dark” room almost the entire day and there was no heat down there.  I made it upstairs for Christmas dinner and to say “Grace”.  Saying Grace had been my job since I had first memorized it.

“Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”  The same way I said Grace on the reel to reel that Christmas day when I was eight, on my Dad’s “Radio Show” recording, that didn’t sound at all like me.


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What Do I Want For Christmas?

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Christmas is in two weeks.  When you’re a grownup, that doesn’t sound like very much time to get everything done, get the house decorated, get the lights up on the house and yard, get all the gifts bought, wrapped and put under the tree.  When you’re a kid, two weeks is like a lifetime.  Christmas will never get here.  To make it worse, they let you out of school for Christmas break, and you don’t have anything to do to pass the long grueling December days.  Mom would try to come up with activities to keep us out of trouble.  Popping corn and forcing us to sit for hours with a needle and string to make garland for the still unbought tree.  You count ten popcorns and then you string on a cranberry.  Of course, your big sister would rat on you and you would get reprimanded for eating two popcorns for every one you threaded on the string without sticking your finger.  I can hear it now.  “Mom, he’s eating all the popcorn!” in that shrill big sister voice.

Mom’s next project would be to cut strips of red and green construction paper and instruct us how to glue together endless paper chains to be used to decorate the living room.  Red tissue-paper bells that folded out from two flat bell-shaped pieces of cardboard that clasped together to make a three-dimensional bell would be hung in the arches of paper chain.  We had been making paper chains for years, but there always seemed to be a need for more.  I wonder what happened to the miles of paper chain we constructed?  We would each have one of those glass bottles of glue with the rubber tips and you were to only put a dab on each end.  Controlling the amount of glue from those bottles was not an easy task.  Too little and the loop would pop right open, too much pressure on the little red rubber tip, and you had glue all over the place.  Then they would clog up too as the glued dried the little slit together on the top of the rubber tip.  “Mom, he’s using too much glue!”  Geeeeez.

When we finally got to decorating the tree which had sat out in a bucket of water in the garage for a week, the only thing I was allowed to put on the tree, along with the smaller kids, was the tinsel.  Seems I logged too many broken ornaments to be trusted with that task.  The little three-inch diameter colored glass balls could break just looking at them.  I know.  We didn’t have wall to wall carpet in our house, but it wouldn’t have helped.  If it dropped out of your hand, it was a goner.

We had to wait for the lights to be put on.  My father’s job, now mine.  Even with kids grown-up and moved out of the house, I’m not trusted with the ornaments.  Then the popcorn garland was put on, and yards of the recently completed paper chain, then the ornaments.  Finally we tinselers were put into service.  We were expected to put one strand of tinsel on a branch at a time  The shorter kids would work the bottom of the tree and the taller ones the mid-section branches.  Mom would complete the top branches, one strand of tinsel at a time, using a small step ladder we were not allowed to climb.  Dad would sit in the arm chair drinking a beer and changing the Christmas records on the stereo.  It took hours, even with five, six or seven tinselers on the job as the tinseler population increased over the years.  “Mom, he’s clumping it!” 

You don’t see tinsel on Christmas trees much anymore.  I don’t even see it for sale anymore.  Little eighth-inch silvery strips about a foot long, that had a nasty habit of picking up static electricity and would stick together from branch to branch.  We had to take them off the tree the same way.  Put them away for next year.  As much as you could get off.  The remnants of Christmas trees in the alleys after the holiday would always have errant strands of tinsel still on them.  I can’t imagine that tinsel was that expensive, but it was always saved, something not to be tossed out.

Needless to say, I ultimately got into trouble anyway, numerous times, and not just for wasting glue, eating popcorn meant for garland, or clumping tinsel.  I was threatened with Santa not even bothering to fly over the house, let alone leave me that special present I had waited for all year.  I can’t tell you the number of times I was afraid that Santa wasn’t going to show, but he always did.  I started to believe that there wasn’t any naughty or nice list, or good ol’ Santa Claus, being old like he is, didn’t have such a good memory.  Parents start threatening the first day of Christmas vacation though.  “Santa Claus is watching you.  He knows what you did and he’s marking it down.”  Total crap, but we were afraid not to believe it.  It seems funny to me now that we were only reminded about this Santa tallying stuff during the final two weeks before Christmas.  It might have been helpful to point this out at other times during the year as well.  Might have made it a little more credible.

When you’re an adult, you spend the month of December trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for everything, and Christmas is always the day after tomorrow for us.  Whatever happened to Christmas Clubs?  You know, that special savings account at the bank that you would start in January and deposit a little each week in anticipation of a small Christmas fortune available in December.  I guess if I had a Christmas Club account this year I would have cashed it out in August to make the car payment anyway, and I’d still be trying to figure out how I am going to pay for Christmas.  Christmas has become a major expense item that needs a year of careful planning.  Something I have never been able to do.  Christmas, with luck should be paid off before Christmas comes again.  I guess Christmas Clubs were replaced by the credit card so now you can pay for Christmas 2011 all the way into Christmas 2025.  When we were kids we saved our meager allowances, prayed for snow so we could shovel old lady’s sidewalks and driveways, or did extra chores to fund our Christmas gift giving.  I wonder if anyone needs their walk shoveled?

What do I want for Christmas?  When you’re a kid, that thought process starts long before the temperature drops, the snow falls and you have to break out the rubbers.  Yeah, we called them rubbers, and if you had the kind with a zipper up the middle, you were a “sissy.”  You had to have the buckle rubbers to be cool.  My mom, of course, bought me zipper rubbers.  I’m sure she got a hell of deal on them, but her excuse had been that they were the only kind they had left in my size.  Girls wore zipper rubbers that came in yellow, or red, or green.  Guys wore buckle rubbers that only came in black.  At least my zipper rubbers were black.  I avoided wearing rubbers as often as I could.  I still remember the taunts I received about the zippered rubber boots even from my “first-best friend.”  They call that “bullying” now, something that is running rampant in schools across the country, all of a sudden.

The method of closure really wasn’t that important anyway, because the cool way to wear rubbers was to leave them unbuckled (or, in my case, unzipped) most of the time because it was easier to stuff your pants leg into them which is what you were trying to keep dry anyway.  Even if someone didn’t notice you had on zipper rubbers, they’d find out because you could buckle together buckle rubbers and throw them over your shoulder on the way home from school after the snow had melted.  You couldn’t do that with zipper rubbers.  You had to carry them in your hand, between your thumb and forefinger.  A dead give-away.  You were less likely to lose a buckle rubber for the same reason.  You buckled them together in the cloak room to keep the pair intact.  A zipper rubber could get separated from its left or right, most often by a bully, and you could spend a lot of time trying to match up a right or left zipper boot with the boots of other sissy’s whose mothers had gotten a deal on rubbers at the Woolworth.


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The Memory Tree

“Hallmark” has been running ads about their Christmas ornaments, and the memories that are inevitably tied to them.  The kids go up to the attic to get the ornaments and start unpacking them as they remember what major life event happened when they brought that particular ornament home.  Our tree is just that, a memory tree.  For a time we bought a Christmas tree ornament every year, sometimes two or three.  Our collection of memories numbers in the hundreds now, and it’s getting harder to find branches on the tree to exhibit them, but we do.  And our tree rotates so it’s a full 360 degree canvas, floor to ceiling.  We’re big into little Christmas mice, Santa Claus, and those ornaments made over the years by the kids.  They are so proud of them, and you can’t help but remember their smiling little faces when they gave them to you.  Then they get to admire it in its special place on the tree every year after.

This one is from Brandi.  Her smiling face is right there to see every December when she was just seven years old.  A snapshot of how she looked the day she gave it to her mother after making it in school.

I have other favorites on our tree.  I put a few pictures of them here with some selfishness.  I wanted to share them, and I think our tree rivals any tree on “Hallmark,” but done for the same reason.  I can’t remember now where and when we got a lot of them, but my wife will remind me, and sometimes I’ll remind her.  Christmas memories flood back.  Little vignettes from 1991 or 2003 and even 1960.

Here’s a little church mouse in bed, with visions of cheddar cheese in his head, waiting for Santa.  The name on the end of the bed is “Sven,” a nickname I got from a co-worker when I was a collection manager with Citicorp Credit Services.  I remember getting the ornament, I remember who gave it to me, and I can still see me sitting at my desk laughing about the hand-made sign glued to the bed.

Who doesn’t like scrabble.  Check out the size of the letter tiles on this game board.

This next Christmas ornament we got in Virginia City, NV, one summer when we took a trip up there.  I went to visit the Mark Twain museum.  Samuel Clemens worked for the “Territorial Enterprise” newspaper for a time and it was here he first used his famous pen name.  He had come to Virginia City to  join his brother in search of their fortune in silver mining.  They didn’t find it.  And it was summer.  They have a Christmas Shop there that is open all year.  It’s literally walking into Christmas in July. 

The next ornaments, I just like.  I can’t remember when or where we got them, like I said, but check them out. 


There are hundreds of others, slowly rotating in display on our tree.  Some are milestones like the one on the right.  Some just point out who this tree belongs to like this one on the left.

Every year, my wife carefully unpacks the ornaments one by one and decorates the tree.  My responsiblity is to get the tree put up.  I pulled my back doing it one year.  It’s a pretty heavy tree assembled in four sections.  Maybe only God can make a tree, but I can put one together pretty well I think.  And yes, its artificial and pre-lit and hard to tell from the real thing in my opinion.    No needles to vacuum up, no worry about the dogs drinking the water, no price-gouging, no fire-hazard, but no pine smell either.  We remedy that with pine scents.  They make some pine icicles you can hang on your artificial tree now and it smells almost like the real thing.  Almost.  Besides, I believe pine trees belong in the forest.

Well, I hope I didn’t bore you with my christmas ornaments.  I have hundreds more if you want to see them.  WTF. 


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