Do You Believe in Santa Claus or Wish You Did?

Like the old grey mare, Christmas “ain’t what it used to be.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently.

Christmas, when I was a child…and remember that was 90 some years ago… was full of Magic.  And Joy.  And Music.  And – well – almost any good emotion you’ve ever experienced.

I think I was about four when Christmas became recognizably special in my world because, by then I was old enough to be taken to see Santa Claus.He showed up at Wanamaker’s Department Store in downtown Philadelphia about three weeks before Christmas and the whole family, mother, father sister and I, went to visit him so we could tell him what wonders we hoped to find under the Christmas tree.

Two very important things I knew. The Santa who showed up at Wanamaker’s was the real, true Santa, and the one at Lit Brother’s was only an elf pretending to be Santa because there could only be ONE Santa but lots of kids couldn’t get to Wanamaker’s so he sent out make-believe, magic men to pretend so nobody would get left out.

On the walk to Santa’s throne in the Wanamaker Court,, there were wonderful scenes of snow-covered cottages in small villages…where people of all ages skated on frozen ponds. Most of the little people skater were VERY good skaters, but every once in a while someone of them would fall down and the boys and girls in line would laugh.

But it was a kind laugh because we really knew no one ever got hurt waiting to talk to Santa.

When it was my turn to tell Santa what I wanted, and this is something my mother told me because I don’t have a big memory of the occasion, I had trouble climbing up on Santa’s lap, and the kids close to me laughed. But it didn’t sound like a kind laugh like the ones for the pretend skaters, so apparently I cried a bit and Santa pulled out a big red handkerchief to dry my eyes and he whispered to me not to worry about the laugh.

As a matter of fact, my mother told me later that Santa whispered to her that he would give me an extra present for being a brave girl. I ask her to tell that story every Christmas for the next several.  And bless her motherly heart, the story got better, and I got braver, every year.

I loved those years, where Santa and Mrs. Claus showed up and bestowed great gifts on everyone we knew.  And we put out homemade cookies for him, which was easy because Santa’s favorite cookies were Mom’s special Butter Cookies that Dad loved best in the whole world.

When the magic of Santa was no longer an option, I still had the story of the baby Jesus and his mother traveling around on a mule to find a place to live. We always had a live tree.  I’m not even sure there was such a thing as artificial trees at the time.  And we had a special “family night” for decorating.  My sister, Jackie and I got to arrange the special spot under the tree for the stable in Bethlehem according to the Steck Sisters. Somehow or other the crèche magically became more wonderful after we went to bed.  By the time we woke on Christmas, every last figure, from the baby lamb, the three kings, something called oxen (which look like camels as I remember them)…everything was in perfect position. And that was the miracle of Christmas for a very long time.

But the biggest thing of all was the way everyone we knew or cared about was happy that day. There was no worry about much of anything.We had no word for what we felt but we figured it out much later in our lives.

There was love all around us. Every gift was bought with great care. And much attention was paid to hints we had broadly provided during pre- holiday time.

Of course, our idea of “great gifts” was very limited. I have to remember that we didn’t have television to show us what was available that Santa couldn’t afford to give us. And, of course, gift cards were unheard of.   Mommy and Daddy dutifully wore or happily celebrated, whatever fantastic surprises we chose to buy them with our carefully saved up five cents a week allowance.There is no thrill in watching your mother open her Target gift card that can match the joy of watching her go out for an evening, all dressed  up, and sporting a horrendous $1.50 ring that my sister and I pooled our money to buy her one year.Oh lord, it was ugly. Huge, and pink and the gold band turned her hand green.  But she wore it, and swore she loved it.

And so the circle was complete.  It was all about love.  And if you’ve got that, a $1.50 ring can be the most beautiful jewelry in the whole big world.  She said it was her favoirtie gift of all time.

All these years later, i still believe her.

Maybe more than ever.

Time has changed a lot about Christmas, but I’ve been lucky to have shared memories not only with my parents and sister, but my children and their children. Christmas has evolved. It’s now “the holiday season” – which is fine. The more the merrier.

But if you’re lucky – which I am – it’s still all about love. Even if it is often tucked inside a gift card.

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Have a love-filled Christmas. And if Christmas isn’t you cup of eggnog, pour yourself whatever your doctor says you can drink.

HAPPY EVERYTHING!

I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night

For those of you too young to remember it, I COULND’T SLEEP A WINK LAST NIGHT was a popular song many years back, and I thought it appropriate to this very belated Blog. And just to prove I am willing to do some research , the song was written in 1943.

(Thank you Siri)

Anyway, what kept me awake was the fairly pervasive thought that when we all go to heaven – which, in itself, doesn’t seem all that likely- we will be reunited with our most loved person(s) and pets.

Quite frankly, I love the idea.

But there is a problem.  What happens when YOUR favorite person is someone else’s favorite person?

Or suppose you are someone like Mahatma Ghandi?  No doubt you are beloved by milions. Can you imagine how tired you would get flitting through heaven for all eternity determined to keep all your worshipers happy?

Well, first of all I suppose is the fact that when you’re in heaven you don’t get to be worshipped unless you are God, and  God can be as many beloveds as H/She decides to be

So back to individuals.

Most of us would cite our parents, husbands or wives, children etc.  Unfortunately, they, especially the children, have gone on to be husbands and wives to other adoring people.

So who gets the girl at the end of the movie?

There are those who say that we are dealing with the essence of the person and apparently essence has no boundaries so you can split up as many tmes as you are needed.

OOOPS!  I see a definite problem here.  Suppose the one you adore spends more time with someone else than with you? Wouldn’t you hate that?.  Or, worse yet, when one of the essences who wants to share YOUR essence is someone you only pretended to love on earth and now you are stuck with them forever because you did such a good job of convincing the person of your  earthly love?

Sometimes I think heaven and hell have a lot in common.

However, YOU need not loose sleep over this as I did because I have followed the thread of reason to a solution.

ADAM AND EVE!

How much further can we reduce our essence than to that joyous couple, who were created for the purpose….I’m guessing now…of fulfilling God’s plan for the world.

And they are still the best example of undying love available to (wo)mankind.  And according to all the paintings I’ve ever seen, they were a perfect pair…good looking, slim, well endowed in al physical  aspects.  And so in love they never even bothered with clothes…just an occasional fig leaf.

Now THAT sounds heavenly!

The New Guy

I’m not, as a rule, inclined to tell the world a whole lot about my private life.  Maybe largely because I don’t have a whole lot of “private” stuff going on. And what there is mostly has to do with doctors. Doctors of all sorts.  From my teeth to my toes, I have doctors who know a great deal more about me than I do.

But a new male has come into my life, and I need to chat about him.

First the obvious stuff. He’s quite good looking – I think. Not that that is the most important thing I look for, but when it comes with the package, it is a nice bonus. He has wonderfully thick hair – dark over all but with a streak of gold that (almost) any woman would pay a fortune for…it is dramatic without being bold.

And his eyes…those beautiful eyes, have reflected that golden streak.  They are dark and – yes – soulful.

I admit I wish he were a bit more athletic looking.  Not that that is essential, but it would be nice if he could be a bit more intimidating when we want to take romantic walks by a little stream we have discovered, and we are the only ones there – except for the occasional threatening presence of another couple, either one of whom is bigger and tougher looking than both of us.

But’s get back to accentuating the positive.

My companion is almost intuitive when it comes to my moods.  Not that I am given to giant, temperamental tantrums or anything. NO.  He picks up o the little things.  The paper cut kind of things that happen everyday and go unnoticed by the world.  He will take the time to sit quietly with me if I need to cry and rejoice when I need someone to share a wonderful moment.

The big red flag for me is that I see a growing sense of “She’s my girl” in his approach to others. He has begun to resent anyone who gets too close to me, and, since I have many friends of both sexes who are big kissers and huggers, this is becoming awkward.

I guess what I really need to tell you is this:  If you are coming to visit, just call ahead will you, and I will put Milo into his crate until you are settled and he has accepted you.

In case you are a breed snob, Milo is a Yorkshire Terrier.  Not a Teacup Terrier, but more of a  TEAPOT.  I love him and he loves me.

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A Special Night? Yep. But Why?

I went to dinner the other evening with three friends.  It was a vey normal kind of evening out.  TWO new friends.  Many new stories.  Even a relatively new restaurant.  But when I thought about it, it seemed outstanding.

It wasn’t the food, which was quite nice, but not startlingly so.  Or the conversation.  We bashed Trump for a while but decided we shouldn’t let that wreck the night so we stopped. It certainly wasn’t the drinks. I had a very nice white wine spritzer but what I really wanted was a Crown Royal on rocks, but that’s not allowed.  Doctor’s orders you know.

No, it wasn’t any of those obvious things.   Maybe it was what was missing. For example, there was no loud music — which I hate with a passion – when it is served with dinner.  No. No.  That wasn’t it.

Deep thought here.

Then there it was…sitting on my table. Defiently staring me in the face.

THE CELL PHONE.

During the entire evening no one reached for his or her cell phone.  No one said “Excuse me a minute, I have to take this” and then proceeded to talk for ten minutes to an unknown (to the rest of us) friend.

That was it!  The bloody cell phone didn’t come to our party!

I don’t believe I had really thought out just how much I hate it when that happens. Think about it.  You are having what seems to be a lively conversation when one of your companions opts to interrupt with a lengthy, and, apparently much more interesting exchange than your own, with an unseen, and uninvited guest.

I think lovingly of the days of old when the waiter would come to the table to announce that you had a call waiting.  Everyone knew it had to be important.  Otherwise no one would even consider interrupting an occasion like dinner out – with friends. And even more importantly, no one would accept a call that was less than a life and death situation.

Maybe restaurants could introduce a No Cell Phones During Dinner policy, the way they do in theaters.

I suggested that once – but only once – to a group of convivial, young friends. One of them looked at me as if I had suddenly become a dangerous new species.

“No phones?” she said, her eyes filling with horror at the thought.

“No phones. Just four good friends talking to each other instead of having to sit there, fiddling with our food while one of us chats on the phone with someone from the office whom he had just left an hour ago.

The woman looked at me, rather confused.  “Well, when you say it like that,” she said, “it sounds – well – rude.”

“By god I think you’ve got it,” I said in my best Professor “enry ‘iggins voice.”

And we danced around the room.

OUT, OUT DAMNED FLY

Okay.  Just don’t try to tell me that the average life of a Housefly is 28 days!  I know better. I have been haunted and taunted by two of the evil species for – oh it must be at least a month!

It all began innocently enough.

I woke up one pleasant California morning, to a perfect (I thought) day.  The sky was blue and clear, the winds just enough to ruffle the trees.  The sounds of birds and dogs and an occasional siren wafted across the lawn. I opened the door to welcome all of that into my Tiny House.

First thing to ripple through the door was the aroma of fresh made coffee, followed by the scent of roses in the air.  (Scratch that.  I didn’t really stop to smell the roses.)  But then a new sound, a low buzzy kind of irritating noise reached me…and in flew Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the guise of Houseflies.

Even their entrance was irksome. They didn’t slip thru subtly. No.  They buzzed and circled and gyrated in a most ostentatious manner. They whirled about my head and aimed right for the (open) jelly jar.

“Ah ha!” said I to me. “Gotcha1” and I slammed the lid on.

But of course I didn’t. “Gotcha.” Or hadn’t.  Whatever. I missed.

And so began a long, challenging and frustrating war.

On the first day of battle I discovered that I had no fly swatters in my Tiny House…so I chased the little monsters with folded up newspapers. On the second day I visited Walmart and bought a fly swatter….and on the third day, I bought five so that wherever and whenever they landed, I was within reach of a weapon. I swatted and swung and I skulked around the house, but they were always there. I felt like a character in a Hitchcock movie being driven mad by invaders.

Friends began to worry for my sanity, I think.  Apparently they believed that if they said “But Betty, those can’t be the same flies” often enough I would believe them.  But they were wrong.  I recognized my enemies and I hated them.

By this time it was definitely personal.

Then one morning I woke up as usual, grabbed one of the fly swatters and opened the door…sure enough, in they flew. I admit I snapped.  I whirled and twirled around that house like a mad woman, but they eluded me.  I lost track of them for a while and thought, perhaps, they had given up.

But no!  There, on my desk lay my yellow fly swatter. And there, too, were Jekyll and Hyde, resting luxuriously on said weapon.  I grabbed the nearest swatter – the red one as I remember – and crept quietly up behind them.

I paused.  I studied. I took a practice swing and then slammed my bright red swatter down on the pale, weak yellow one.  It clattered to the floor, followed by a cup which fell off the desk from the vibration.

Then there was a glorious moment when I realized I didn’t hear that buzz.  And then I did.  Jekyll and Hyde rose like Phoenix from the debris and flew gracefully out the open door.

Jekyll gave me the one wing salute as they left.

*********************       For those of you who have not met my newest favorite pet….Let me introduce Milo, the Wonder Dog…..Milo is the one on the right…the purple pup to HIS right is Lavender…Milo has already acknowledged that Lavender is a scent…not a toy.

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Sailing…Sailing

Sailing, sailing over the pounding main

For many a stormy wind shall blow

When Jack comes back again.

That once-upon-a-time famous sea chanty keeps running through my head when I think about the lovely short cruise I just came back from.

I’m not at all certain why this should be so, since there were no stormy seas, and I haven’t a clue as to what constitutes a main…pounding or not.

The trip was inspired by a whole lot of little irritants. Nothing big, but I was angry at a whole lot of little things. Little things like a paper cut. I really HATE paper cuts.  They hurt like bloody hell for at least five minutes, but there is no one waiting in the wings to rain sympathy on you for them.

“It’s a PAPER cut for god’s sake, you didn’t break a leg!” is the most likely reaction.  And you notice a bit of impatience hidden right below the phony smile and clenched teeth.In hindsight I think I noticed the lessoning of sympathy with my …bad sign here, but the word that comes to mind is…“whining.”

Truth be told, I NEVER WHINE. Bitch a bit? Maybe. But I refuse to admit to whining. However, if you took a poll of the family, you might find a growing impatience among my audience.

There was the build-up:

“Hey, Mom, look. Jay found a four day cruise. Really inexpensive.” I heard that from every angle, and each time it was said with greater fervor.  So finally I relented.

I took the four day cruise and they were all content. It was long enough for the worst paper cut to heal, but short enough that I didn’t feel that they were looking for a more permanent fix.

So, back to the chanty.

No stormy seas, just a gentle sway and beautiful scenery and movies and live music.and demonstrations like vegetable carving and napkin rolling. I didn’t go to the napkin rolling this time. I did that once and proudly showed off a candle design that  I found very admirable.  It was much later that two of my group told me there was a great deal of snickering going on about that “candle.”  It looked, I was told, like a piece of the male anatomy.

And that, my friends is when the “stormy seas” came flooding in.

I shunned them. And if you think they weren’t shaken by that…You don’t know Jack.

 

 

 

HELP

HELP!

Help is something we all need. Sometimes. But accepting help is kind of difficult for most of us. We really do like to picture ourselves as fairly self reliant – the one who is there when friends need us even if they don’t have the good sense to ask.

Bad health is inclined to interrupt our pictures of our own independence and frequently reduce us to having to accept help. I have always tried to give help gracefully and now try to take it gratefully.

It isn’t easy.

However…with age is supposed to come wisdom, and I have had to learn about asking.  Actually, I’m getting rather better at it than I ever expected.

The center of a lot of my pleas for aid is, surprisingly, not my health, but my cell phone. Actually I have a real love/hate relationship with my cell phone.  Mostly hate, because it does all kinds of things I don’t believe I’ve ask of it…although most of the people I invite to race to my aid suggest that I have somehow, someway, managed to hit every wrong button in the damn book.

At 93, my interaction with millennials outside my family, is limited. I can listen to a whole conversation between two of them and never understand a word.  Almost everything they do is noisy and, with the obvious exception of Hamilton, the joy of RAP escapes me.

BUT…when I am standing in front of Target, trying to summon an UBER or a LYFT and nothing I do seems to work, millennials are my new best friends.

I’m inclined to panic when I can’t get the freaking phone to do anything sensible.  But I noticed, very quickly, that every young person on the street is cell phone efficient. A young, tech-savvy person would certainly be A…if not THEreasonable solution to my cell phone dilemmas.

I target my millennials with care.  I noticed that this group seems to include both men and women pushing babies in prams. Asking one of them for help might be too much to handle, so I don’t ask.

The first time I realized that I needed help, I studied the passing throngs, search for one solitary young person who looked friendly. It took a while.  Not that they looked UN-friendly, it’s just that they were already on their own cell phones, having a perfectly happy time  chatting.

I decided that I would ask a young male person, based on my own experience that secretly, most men enjoy the role of super hero. It took a while.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for in this unknown savior, but I felt sure I would know him when I saw him.

I did!

I would have missed him except that he was singing as he walked by. I didn’t know the song but it was music to my ears. I called out to him. He stopped and I held out my phone and said, “Can you help me?”

And smiling, he said “Yes Ma’am.  What do you need?”

It was that easy.

I handed him the phone and told him I needed to call LYFT. He held out the phone so I could enter my password.  I started to tell him what it was and he stopped me, giving me a very grave lecture on the need to NOT tell people my password.

I’m not a whole lot better with the phone than I used to be, but I am getting to know a whole bunch of VERY nice millennials.

 

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