Saturday, December 17, 2016

Remembering Christmas Past

Christmas has always been a happy time for me, and now, without Jim, I have many memories of happiness for comfort. I remember three Christmases in particular as I think about the holidays of the past.

One is an image of teens, boys in white shirts and dark trousers, and girls in white blouses and dark skirts. The year was 1960 and I was among this group as we progressed, two-by-two, up the center aisle of my high school auditorium. Each of us held a lighted candle in our right hand with little paper drip pans pushed up through the bottoms. All the girls wore corsages of sprigs of holly tied with a red bow, which we had helped to pin on each other as we waited in the library. We sang the words to “O Come All Ye Faithful” as we slowly walked to the front of the auditorium, and we glowed in the admiration of the onlookers, our parents and friends filling every seat. 

We filed into the rows of our designated seating and blew out our candles, wisps of white smoke floating upward. We heard the special music of soloists, one I remember in particular.. She was a tiny little girl with long black curly hair, but her voice was anything but tiny. I don’t remember her name. She was younger and in a lower grade than I was, but when she began to sing “Oh Holy Night”, I got goose bumps all over. She was magnificent and captured the complete attention of the entire audience. I’m thankful for this special Christmas memory of my junior year in the glee club.

Another Christmas I remember well was my first with Jim as his wife. He was an Airman Second Class at Dover Air Force Base, and, of course, we were poor. I think his monthly allotment was something like $125. Credit cards were still in the future and our rented living quarters were tiny. We managed to get a small tree and a few decorations and lights from my Mom. I can see myself sitting on the sofa in the dark, watching them blink on and off as I waited for Jim to come home on Christmas Eve.

The only presents under the little tree were from our relatives, and we agreed presents were not important between the two of us. We were happy just to be together. But when Jim came home, he was carrying a huge heavy gift-wrapped box. I couldn’t imagine what it could be, and I knew whatever it was, we had no money for it.

He wanted me to unwrap it right away and I was eager enough. There would be time for questions later. It turned out to be a portable stereo record player and in another package there was an album of our favorite songs by Peter, Paul, and Mary. We played that album until we knew the words of every song and the order in which they would come up. Jim’s favorite, Old Stewball and mine, Blowin in the Wind, were played over and over that night and for many weeks afterwards. Nothing could have made me happier

Even later when I found out the way the present came into being, my enthusiasm remained high. It seems Sears and Roebuck had discovered a way for everyone to spend money in their store for Christmas. It was called a revolving charge account. I won’t tell how much that stereo ended up costing. But it was worth every penny.

The third Christmas I think of is a sad one, but has ended up being a wonderfully happy memory for many people. In the summer of 1986, Jack, Jim’s older brother, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery revealed the cancer had already spread, and he was given less than a year to live. As Christmas neared, his family decided to make it a very special one since it might be his last. All Jack’s friends and relatives were invited to a huge Christmas party in his honor. People brought every food imaginable, games were played, the kids, and even some grownups, put on hilarious skits and went out of their comfort zones for laughter and memories.

One of Jack’s daughters took rolls of pictures and had copies made for all the relatives. I still have my set and always pull it out near Christmas time each year. Everyone looks so happy, doing their very best to make Jack’s Christmas special. I always get a warm feeling as I see the faces of love in those pictures.

I have many other happy Christmas memories, but these three are way up there at the top of the list, and it makes me feel good just by sharing them.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Me and Mopsy

Almost all suggestions welcome… except the one somebody said about getting rid of the cat.

If you have a pet or have had one, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say pets can be destructive. I don’t think they mean to tear up things, but they learn ways to get what they want, and they are focused.

Mopsy sleeps a lot during the day, and maybe during the night, but eight hours of continuous sleep is out of the question for her. She takes what we call “cat naps”, usually four to five hours in duration, and when she wakes up, it’s chow time no matter what the clock says. I always leave dry food in her bowl and around 3 A.M., I’ll hear her crunching, but her favorite fare is the canned stuff. She’ll take three or four bites of Meow Mix, or whatever the flavor and brand of the month is, and then, silence. This is where I drift back off to sleep. In just a few minutes, I’ll feel this tickling fuzziness on my nose. Mopsy has jumped up on the bed and started her nightly routine, the one that always works.

She tickles, and I turn over and cover up my head. She sits there awhile and then moves on to a ‘smell of the ocean’ candle I have on the nightstand. Mopsy loves different smells and she is madly in love with this candle, rubbing her face all over it, knocking it from side to side, moving it around, and eventually crashing it to the floor - her goal.

I lie very still pretending to be deep in sleep. Then I hear her jump down and attack the wires from the lamp and the tv, rattling them as loudly as possible. Next on tap is her scratching post, stretching, pulling, clawing, in preparation for the morning race down the hallway at warp speed. I breathe a loud sigh and always think, yes, now I can go back to sleep. And I do for around five minutes until she’s back.

The next sound comes from my bathroom. Never mind that Mopsy has bowls of water in the bedroom and the kitchen. No. She’s up on the sink. She must have her drink from the tap. I’m drifting in and out as I hear the paper cup being knocked around, then the bar of soap gets slapped into the sink. Silence for a few minutes as she waits to hear if I’m getting up. Then the thump of her drop to floor and in seconds she is tickling my nose again. I pet her a few times and say, “Mopsy, it’s too dark to get up”, but English is not her second language when it’s contrary to her desires. She sits awhile, again, and I drift off.

Now come the real guns, that sound no cat owner ever wants to hear. Chewing, slurping, crunching, rattling. I don’t even have to open my eyes to know what’s up. Mopsy is sitting on my sewing machine, pushed behind the pillow I have purposely placed against the window to discourage her bad behavior, which obviously doesn’t work and has never worked. She is gnawing on the cords of the blind…as loudly as possible and with purpose and passion.

My feet hit the floor as I switch on the lamp. You wouldn’t want to hear the next few words that come out of my mouth, but Mopsy thinks they are manna from heaven. She pauses for a second as my feet search around for slippers, but she continues to chew so as not to slow down my forward progress. I’ve glanced at the clock and grimaced at 3:15, but what the heck, I’m wide awake and already up.

I walk over to the window and delicately start to lift Mopsy from her munching perch. I can see her body tense and I at least know enough to back off. She’s mad but she pauses to listen as I say, “Okay, let’s go get some fishy.”

Understanding English perfectly now, she jumps down and races me to the kitchen.