It’s That Time of Year

Well … another New Year’s has come and gone and I managed – once again – to NOT end up standing on top of the tables, waving to the crowd.

Wait a minute … that sounds much worse than the innocent scenario to which I am referring.

You see, my parents used to throw quite the New Year’s Eve shindig every December 31st, inviting everyone from church over to our house for a long night of food, fellowship and fun. And Rook. They used to love to play Rook! Does anybody even play that card game anymore? Does anyone even remember it other than me?

Anyway, with so many people coming over to our house, we used to set up long banquet tables everywhere! In the living room, in the dining room, in the garage, outside on the back patio, out front in the driveway! Everywhere!

And then – on New Year’s Day – long after everyone had left and the Rose Parade would come on TV, I would jump on top of one of those tables and my older brother would push it around like a parade float, and I would wave to my imaginary crowd!

I was the queen of the tabletop parade – if only for a few minutes – before being reprimanded for scuffing up the floors and being implored to please help clean up the 152 paper plates, 236 paper cups and too numerous to count paper streamers and popped balloons.

Every New Year’s Day I remember those times with great fondness, and  every New Year’s Day I’m tempted to jump on top of my own dining room table and have my husband push me around. But it’s just not quite as magical as it was when I was five. Or ten. Or fifteen.

So for now, I’ll just be the queen of the tabletop parade in my childhood memories … and keep the floors from being scuffed up —- and my husband’s back from being strained.

Happy New Year.

The Sweetness of Cocoa and Cole

The other day, when I was out Christmas shopping, I came across the classic, bounce-and-go, ride-on, green inchworm and I was immediately transported back in time to when I was four years old and was gifted one from Santa himself! And it got me to thinking about all my Christmases past … about all the toys I received over all those years … and I began to wonder if I had a favorite toy – and a favorite Christmas – and I wondered if they might be one in the same.

I’d be willing to bet all the money in my needlepoint stocking – that for most children – their absolute favorite Christmas present would be the bike with training wheels that they got when they were five … or the 10-speed that they got when they were nine. After all, a bike is typically loved by young and old (old meaning a whopping 9 years of age) … loved both by boys and by girls.

Oh sure, there might be some who remember their first dollhouse or first BB gun with teary eyed nostalgia. But I’d be willing to bet that bikes come up more often than not.

But then I started thinking about the year that I received my first 10-speed. I remember that it was a Schwinn and I remember that it was blue. Other than that, I don’t really remember that much from that particular Christmas. I remember loving the bike and getting A LOT of use out of it over the next few years – but the holiday itself? Not many memories.

But I do remember the year before.

The year before brought a snowstorm through the area just a couple of days before Christmas. And it snowed. And it snowed. And it snowed. It was pure magic. Snowdrifts taller than my head. Icicles twinkling in the tree branches. Enough snow to easily create an entire family of snow-people … not just a solitary snowman.

I remember playing outside till my nose was like Rudolph’s and my fingers ached from all the snowball fights. And then I would run inside for a bit to warm myself by the roaring fire while my mom would make me some hot cocoa with extra marshmallows.

I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas that year. I don’t remember at all. But I do remember falling asleep by the fire on Christmas Eve while I watched silver-dollar-sized snowflakes falling outside the window as my mother stroked my hair and Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” played softly in the background.

You hear adults often speak of how Christmas has become too commercialized – about how it has become more about the gifts under the tree than the reason for them. But yet we adults tend to still splurge (when we can) on our children (both young and old) in the hopes of seeing their faces light up because of that material thing in a box with a bow.

But if we look to our past, we’d do well to remember that it probably wasn’t a gift – wrapped pretty with a ribbon – that made our cheeks glow with happiness on Christmas. It was probably the simple things in life: the warmth of hearth and home … the love and comfort of family … the sweetness of cocoa and Cole.

And just a little bit of help from a once-in-a-decade snowstorm.

Little Joys Everywhere

Well, it’s that time of year again … the time of year when families gather together around the table and give thanks for all their many blessings. Thanksgiving – here in the U.S. – has evolved into a day of feasting and football, a day to playfully argue over the proper pronunciation of pecan, and a day that usually ends with a refrigerator stuffed with leftovers and a stuffed grandpa snoozing in the La-Z-Boy.

But this year is different.

With the pandemic still raging – and getting even worse in a majority of states – a lot of families will NOT be gathering this year. My own son and daughter-in-law, who live out in Colorado, both recently tested positive for CoVid and are quarantining at home. And while my daughter lives close by here in Florida, her boyfriend is a manager at a grocery store and is consequently around hundreds of people on a daily basis – a fact that warrants pause and caution when contemplating gathering. And then there’s my husband’s mother and my own parents – who are in their eighties and who all have health issues.

For us, the risk is just too great.

So here we are – in a time meant to foster gratitude and happiness, and we find ourselves cultivating anxiety and depression instead.

And then I remembered: THERE ARE LITTLE JOYS EVERYWHERE. You’ve just got to look for them. Acknowledge them. Say a simple prayer of thanks for them.

The golden beauty and eternal hopefulness of the rising sun. The rhythmic, soothing sounds of crashing waves on a sandy beach. The nostalgia evoking scent of chimney smoke from the first fire of the season. The gently falling rain glistening against pumpkin colored leaves. Coming through the front door after taking your four-legged family member for a walk to be welcomed by the delicious smells of a turkey roasting in the oven and an apple pie cooling on the counter.

Yes, Thanksgiving will be different this year but there is still a bounty of blessings to be grateful for.

And I’m giving thanks for them all.

The Eulogy

I sat in the front row. Black jacket. Black skirt. An older man I’d never met before began to tell stories of his deceased best friend and I found myself  laughing, crying … wishing I had known the deceased better.

The deceased was my older brother.

My older brother and I weren’t close in the traditional sense. We didn’t call each other every week or go on vacations together once a year or even get together every Christmas.

But he would call or text me sometimes whenever something funny happened, and sometimes whenever he would come through town ( he was a truck driver ) he would call me from the truck stop and we’d get together for a quick bite to eat.

I always knew that he’d be there for me if I should ever need him and I’m pretty sure he knew he could count on me too.

He was the funniest person I ever knew. We often even made jokes about our sibling-hood.

One of the last times we got together before he died, he had just happened to be driving through town during his birthday weekend and he called from the truck stop, wanting to get together for some BBQ. So I went and picked him up and drove him to my favorite BBQ joint. And while we sat there, chowing down on ribs and baked beans, I joked with him about not being at home to sign for that birthday present that I did NOT send him. He said he wouldn’t worry about it too much because the mailman would probably just leave it on the porch – just like the UPS guy did with the birthday present that he sent me. ( He didn’t send me anything. )

He died five years ago this month. I miss him. And I also miss the future that I took for granted.

The future where we would have continued not sending birthday wishes and joking about how we didn’t – but also knowing that birthday wishes were not the cornerstone of our easy-going, goofy relationship.

And in my book … easy-going and goofy beats boxes and bows … every single time.