(Portable) Holiday Spirit

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

I don’t know if any of you listened to the A Prairie Home Companion this weekend on NPR. When I do catch it, I find it to be so comforting. I think it reminds me of small towns like the one I grew up in where you know your neighbors, you know the seasons and their signs, you know many of the silly petty things going on behind-the-scenes in the community and in retrospect can roll your eyes at them. And of course Garrison Keiller‘s voice couldn’t be more nostalgic and warm.

Yesterday I caught the beginning of the program in the car on the way to brunch in West Hollywood with the sun shining, the sky blue, windows cracked. The episode was about Christmas. Here in Los Angeles, Christmas feels so different than it did back in Illinois. No snow obviously, but also fewer carols, fewer lights, no breath on the cold air when you go outside. It’s exciting when you have to wear a hat. And it rains.

So something about hearing this on Sunday morning, Garrison Keillor’s voice introducing his memories of Christmas…. It was so sentimental. Got me all teary-eyed. If you have a chance to listen to the first half of the program it would be a wonderful way to get yourself in the Christmas spirit. I especially like one part of his introduction monologue in which he recalled the many places he has spent many Christmases. He said something along the lines of, “Christmas is a portable holiday. You can take it with you wherever you go when you remember Christmases past.”

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I also attended a Christmas party the night before for a wonderful theater company, the Theatricum Botanicum, up in the Topanga mountains. The night was cozy and festive in a mountainy kind of way: a blazing fireplace, a grand room with couches, chairs and benches, pine and wood decor with mulled wine on the stove. Two young women led all of the guests in the singing of some Christmas carols. This is my second suggestion for getting yourself in the holiday spirit. Sing carols. With someone, anyone. Look them in the eye as you sing. Hold their hand. Bring to mind all the people you have shared this portable holiday with before. It is sure to make you feel the love we are all meant to feel at this time of the year.

And with all that said, I don’t mean it all to exclude anyone who celebrates another holidays this time of the year!  I might not know these traditions as well, but I’m sure that within them there are songs, symbols, and rituals that also bring out such nostalgia and love. Relish them. Soak them up and let them move you.

Happy (portable) holiday season, everyone.

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What’s New With Being Old

Note: This is the next in a series of posts contributed by our 90 year-old author, ~~~M Wave~~~. Show her some love! Visit her category “Memoirs of a Nonagenarian” at the right to see what else she has written.

I’ve been thinking about “being old” because in my mind I don’t feel old. I still want the same kinds of things I have always wanted. I am fortunate because some of them I can still enjoy. I still take walks…short ones with my cat. Yes, she goes right along with me and doesn’t run off. I think it may be because she is getting old (for a cat) and appreciates still being able to get out. I enjoy using my computer to be in touch with family and friends. I still play the piano enough for my own enjoyment. I like to read. I enjoy some TV shows. I can visit with friends almost any day.

I would still like to go the pool and swim; I would still like go to France and visit my niece who is there during the summer. I would still like to fly to California and babysit my great granddaughter and allow her mother some time for herself. I would like to have my family members who have left this earth back here with me. I would like to………, but I am not able to have or do everything I would like. That is part of what it means to be old.

But I’ve never been able (for other reasons) to do all I’d like to do. So that’s nothing new.

So what is new about being old?

Of course, I know what you might say. It is that you are hurting. Again, that isn’t so new, either. Life has given me more than a few hurts.

I guess, the new thing is that we yearn so much for the old things that were good. Then the hurting gets worse. Your arthritis hurts more. Your fibromyalgia hurts more. Your hurting from a fall lasts longer. You hurt because you can’t process plots on movies and plays as fast as you used to and you appear dumb to others. You hurt because you can’t see as well as you used to and you can’t read as fast. You hurt because you make foolish math mistakes that you never used to do. You hurt because a friend’s husband just died and you cannot go to comfort her. You hurt for all the things you still want to do and cannot. You hurt because you feel you are not of any help to anyone. You hurt just because you fear you are a burden to others.

So, I guess what’s new about “being old” is just hurting more.

Thus, what you do, if you are old, is what you have done all your life. Survive the hurting. Do all you can to be a cheerful person, smile, think positively and live each day as best you can, realizing that each of us is interlocked with everyone else as all of us age each year.  Then you won’t hurt so much.

Remembering a Sip of Cream

Note: This is the next in a series of posts contributed by our 90 year-old author, ~~~M Wave~~~. Show her some love! Visit her category “Memoirs of a Nonagenarian” at the right to see what else she has written.

I know that last week-end will remain memorable in my mind as I had a wonderful visit from one of my nieces and her family. I had not had the chance before to meet two of her three daughters, nor her husband. What a joy each person was. These girls are my great nieces and I am their great aunt. This fact stimulated the memory of a great aunt of my own…

When I was small, many extended family members lived nearby. As my brother and I walked home from school, we passed our grandparents’ house. And if we just turned right at the church house before we reached our grandparents’ and walked about a mile or so, we would arrive at my other grandfather’s sister, Lavina Smith and her husband Will’s house. We called them Aunt Vine and Uncle Will.

I was quite young when the grandparents of whom I just wrote were put in charge of my brother and me while my mother was in Chicago at the University of Illinois hospital with her mother whose own story is quite unique. It was at a time when X-rays were rather new and it was not known exactly how they could be used. Our doctor used X-rays “treatments” on my grandmother’s abdomen before he realized she was receiving what was actually, I guess, radiation and now grandmother was one of the first patients who needed help for a radiation burn which would not heal. In fact, since it seems that medical photography was not immediately available, an artist was commissioned to paint the interesting new look of a radiation burn. My grandmother used to joke that, somewhere in Chicago, perhaps she had quite an interesting picture of herself hanging on a wall. Eventually, skin was grafted from her hip onto her abdomen and she recovered. But, “Don’t touch me” became her motto.

On one of the days that Mother was away, my grandparents who were in charge of us had to be away when school was over and my brother and I had been instructed to walk to Aunt Vine’s house, which we did. When we arrived, however, both Aunt Vine and Uncle will were gone somewhere and the doors were locked. So my brother and I explored the area. In one of the nearby buildings, there was something rather special. It was where the milk was stored. (Remember this was wintertime.) It was skimmed milk, and the cream that had been skimmed off was there in a separate container. A tincup was hanging on a wire on the outside water pump and we, being typically hungry right after school, decided we shouldn’t allow ourselves to starve, so we took just a sip of cream. Back then, thick cold cream was tasting a bit close to ice cream in the middle of winter. Anyway it tasted great to us right then and we each had a good helping.

Then reality set in. We knew better than that. This was just like stealing since we did not have permission. We were in bad trouble. Maybe we should just keep quiet about it and no one would notice. Aunt Vine and Uncle Will came home and drove us back to my grandparents’ who had also returned home.

It was days before Mother called us in to her and said she had something important to ask us. “Did you help yourselves to the cream that was stored at Aunt Vine’s house the day you were there after school?” She instructed us to be sure to answer truthfully. Hesitantly we confessed. Mother went through the explanation of all the reasons that was wrong. First of all, Aunt Vine and Uncle Will sold cream at the town creamery and then bought groceries with the money. So we were affecting their having proper food. Secondly, since we did not have permission, it was too much like stealing. We both hung our heads. We felt guilty, and also were dreading punishment. Mother went on. It seems Aunt Vine had told my mother about it, but told her she did not want us punished, but just be given the explanation about the situation. Aunt Vine said she could recall how hungry she always was as a child when she had just arrived home from school and realized that we must have been famished. What a good soul–and how great that her memories were there to help our being forgiven–and to give me a wonderful memory of my great aunt and uncle.

I hope you are building sweet memories. Many friends around my own age have lost almost all of their brain power except for very old memories like this one. Some of these friends appear quite content with only those memories! Perhaps that isn’t all bad.

Changing Times

There is no need to call attention to the changes of the times.  It is only too obvious. Change itself is neither good nor bad. It is inevitable.  We ourselves change from day to day. But I feel that the acceleration of change that is occurring today is bringing frustration and tension to the populace.

It is not surprising that I find that I am not using all the great features of my at least three-year-old Kindle to the best advantage.  But look at all the advances in the last three years just to the kindle, along with the multitude of other electronic devices. How does one keep up? Are all you younger people keeping up?

With these quickly changing times, how can I keep from joining the chorus of elders who love to start their statements like, “When I was a child.” So, let me begin… When I was a little girl, I had a brother who was 3 ½ years older than I, my only sibling. Let me tell you about him. He was my idol. He was so smart and taught me everything. For example, I was very small when he told me that if you remove a hair from the tail of a horse, carefully put it into the horse’s watering tank, and leave it overnight, it would turn into a snake by morning. I was just a bit skeptical, but the next morning when there just happened to be a gentle breeze, my brother pointed out how that snake was wiggling and that settled it for me.

My brother’s logic was impeccable. It showed up when it came to closing the yard gate after we carried in the wood for the kitchen stove the following day. His logic went like this: I must be the one to shut the gate since I was the last one into the yard. If he had shut it I would not have been able to get in. Very true. The next day, I made certain to not be the last one through the gate. I was wrong again.  His logic: I had opened the gate and the gate would not be open if I had not opened it; ergo, I must be the one to shut it.  It seemed to make good sense to me!

Let me add that since my brother started to school much sooner than I, he would play “school” with me. Hence, before I was five years of age, he taught me to read and know my numbers and how they could be added together.  This enabled me to start in the nearby country school when I was only five years old and–going at my own pace–end eighth grade at the age of twelve.  I owe so much to my brother, a bomber pilot in WWII, a commercial pilot who later died prematurely of a brain aneurism.

But that isn’t the story I want to tell here. Once, my brother and I felt we badly needed a coaster wagon.  There were great hills nearby for coasting, so we contracted to sell Cloverine Salve.  This was and is a very good salve.  The company gave us this deal: After we sold a particular number of tins of salve, our parents could purchase this wonderful wagon at a reduced price that perhaps they could afford. Not only was the salve only $1 per can, but we also offered a gorgeous 9 x 11 picture suitable for framing, depicting a beautiful scene of nature, a wonderful likeness of a famous actress, a Persian cat or even a St. Bernard dog saving a life, absolutely free with every purchase. We managed, with wonderful relatives and neighbors, to sell our quota and had many bumpy exciting rides down our nearby hills.

My memory of this was brought to mind when I received a catalog yesterday with a few “Trusted Remedies” included.  There it was. The picture of our Cloverine Salve in the same attractive tin.  But, as I have said, all things change.  In this case it is the price1  How lucky my neighbors were to have purchased Cloverine back in my early days when we made it available to them for one dollar.  The retail price in yesterday’s catalog was $7.99.

I am thankful that not everything changes.  The love of family, friends, and neighbors is still there today.  Sometimes we forget to appreciate its presence; we should talk about it even more than we do.  We should hold fast to some things–family relationships, values and the like–as we accept the changes that we cannot change and work diligently at stopping the changes that threaten us and the world we know.