I’ve Got a Branch, Let’s Make a Tree! 12 days of xmas #12

For many years I had the best room mate ever. Let’s call her Buffy. We met while we were both working at a cute, little dive called New York George’s. It served tacky New York Diner food and was a very popular place, especially considering it was tiny and had no real designer ambience to it. What was fun about the place was that everybody was a wise guy and the customers really delighted in being harrassed by the waitresses. Which of course, was right up our respective alleys.

Now Buffy is a very cute girl, who is very tall, has big feet and a laugh that can split your eardrum if you get too close to her when she lets one rip. She also has a heart of gold and I love her like a sister. Truly family in all the really great sense that that word can conjure.

We became fast friends and I convinced her to become my room mate and share the house I was renting from a friend (henceforth known as the Psycho-Lady). The house was cute and pretty comfortable but it was basically in the ghetto section of Pasadena. Which may not exist now but did then. We were the only non-ethnic folk in the neighborhood and I guess were regarded as a sort of oddity although no one ever hassled us, nor did we feel unsafe – it just was what it was.

Both Buffy and I are Christmas nuts. We would die happy if we could permanently live in a Hallmark card. Buffy has her own collection of glass reigndeer ornaments which she has been collecting since she was a child. These are like gold to her. And they are amazingly beautiful – the first time I saw them I think I let out a little orgasmic Christmas gasp. Even today they sparkle in my mind.

Needless to say, like every other year before it we were excitedly anticipating Christmas. Our favorite time of year – an excuse to act like a couple of big dopes, eat lots of great food that is bad for you and your thighs and santa hats, reindeer ears and lightable Christmas ornament earrings – what could be better?

Well, this year was a bit different. For reasons I can’t remember, we decided to work retail sales at shopping malls over the holiday season. We’d both done it before and for some reason we thought it’d be different this year. Dreams of big commission checks and taking a couple weeks off at the beginning of the year spurred us on. Also, Zelda got in on the act. So, the three of us signed on with Gold Exchange.

Oh yes, you read it right – Gold Exchange. Now can you imagine the tacky shit we were hawking from a place with a name like that? I know, I know – we were adding to the evil propagation of commercialism, but hey we needed the money and wanted presents, so….

Either our memories were really selective, we were out of our minds or we were just getting too old for this shit but man, it kicked our asses. For that six or seven weeks we just worked and slept and barely had any fun at all. With the schedule we had there was no time or energy to tend to things like trees, decorating, Christmas movies or anything. Luckily we were working in shopping malls, so buying gifts wasn’t an issue.

Anyway, Buffy and I were kind of glum because we weren’t being able to dramatize our insane love for Christmas and we knew we’d be way too beat to try to put a Christmas dinner together. And at the time, I guess we didn’t have any Martha Stewart type friends so we were pretty much on our own. But Zelda piped up and said her roomie was a Martha Stewart type and did all that Christmas junk every year and we had only to arrive on time and we too could have a big Christmas dinner and enjoy and admire the whole Christmas ambience created by another.

Well that kept us going all the way through the selling season – which was hideous and exhausting. And through til Christmas morning. We got up and had coffee and toast and exchanged gifts and chatted. But then we noticed the time was ticking away, tick, tick, tick. Still no word from Zelda. Hmmmm. We started getting those knots in our stomachs. As if the Grinch had been by the night before and we just hadn’t noticed that it was really December 26th. I called Zelda a couple times but no answer.

Our stomachs were growling and we were starting to get really bummed out. Finally, the phone rang and it was indeed Zelda. Yay! Christmas was saved! Except…Well I guess Martha Stewart roomie decided she wasn’t into it that year (and hadn’t mentioned it to Zelda) and they decided they were going to order some deli samiches and did we want to come over and do that.

Well no fucking way did we want to do that. So then there we were sitting in the living room completely bummed out, with no tree, no food, no hope. We were sad – big time. Then I said, ‘screw this shit.’ There was no way we just weren’t going to have Christmas. So, we jumped in the car and went to the local grocery store.

Of course it was slim pickings, no turkeys to be sure – but they had chicken, and instant mashed potatoes, and stuffing mix and corn. No pumpkin pie but I think we got twinkies or chocolate cupcakes or something. So, we paid for our stuff and went home.

While I started dinner, I told Buffy to get out the ornaments and lights. She squealed with delight. She strung lights on the walls, put ornaments out on every flat surface – now we were having fun. But we didn’t have a tree. We HAD to have a tree. Oddly enough about a week before we’d had some pretty bad wind storms – so bad in fact that a huge branch got snapped off the Wisteria tree in the front yard. I told Buffy to get the Christmas tree stand ready then went outside. After some looking and thinking and finding a hacksaw I found a branch that had some shape and might fit in the stand.

I brought it inside and we managed to get it to stay upright with some jury-rigging, spit, chewing gum and prayers. We strung it with lights and hung a few ornaments, plugged everything in and turned off the lights. “Ah….” it was Christmas after all.

Dinner was ready and though chicken isn’t turkey and the potatoes were kind of soupy and our tree was really just a branch I fished out of the yard, it was grand. Just as we sat down to eat, “It’s a Wonderful Life” came on television and we both let out a hoot. It was the finishing touch to our chia pet Christmas.

Ironically, of all the many Christmases I have celebrated in my life, this is truly my favorite. Because it was our spirit and spirit alone that made it happen – despite all the many pitfalls. And the utter spirit of play of Buffy who was with me all the way in making Christmas happen. And I really loved that little tree more than any other because it proved that even a lowly stick could be something beautiful. In fact, I loved it so much that this year I found an even bigger stick and made another ‘unique’ Christmas tree – it’s pictured above.

For me, Christmas isn’t what other people make it for you, it’s what you make it for yourself.

Thanks for reading (putting up with) this series of memorable Christmases. Much of it was probably too warm and fuzzy or just plain boring – but hey, that’s my life.

Merry Christmas everybody.

WC

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New Friends for Christmas – 12 days of xmas #11

The year I lost my mind and decided to move from California to Florida was pretty weird to say the least. If you have any doubts, go back and read my post called Road Trip. To say it was manic was really putting it mildly and giving me way too much credit.I don’t know if some ancient LSD crystal popped loose or just the usual screws, nuts and bolts that live between my ears – but by God I was moving to Florida. So I did.By the time I unpacked the car and locked the front door I knew I had made a terrible mistake. But see I have this problem – I am really fricking stubborn. I kept telling myself I had moved to Florida for a reason. That it was the right thing to do. That there was something there for me.Well maybe there was. A new friend. Someone I’d never have known if not for the momentary flash of insanity – that crazy drive and much of the misery I experienced while there.Lana was an instant friend. I met her first when I showed up at my first day of work for a firm that – come to think of it I’m really not sure what they did or even why they hired me – but I digress. I walked into the office and there was this lovely, lithe woman with hair down to her waist and kind green eyes. “Oh, are you Annie?” she asked.“No, I’m Myrna,” I answered. I have no idea why I said that, but I really did.

She did one of those exagerated double takes and I started laughing and told her I was indeed Annie. Then she started laughing. And pretty much from there on we were best buds.

Now the job…oy my aching head. Let’s put it this way – the woman who hired me wanted me to take over her job so she could move on to a better position within the company. However, I was not allowed to ask any questions nor ask for supplies or pretty talk to her unless she wanted me to talk to her. She wanted me to devine whatever it was she wanted me to do. And she had this insane obsession with a tasking program. So every morning I was to write tasks and send them to her and that way she’d know what I was doing. And then of course she got to send me tasks and I would get these prompts and weird things that were almost as annoying as that dancing paperclip that Billy Gates invented. Long story short within a couple of weeks I felt like I was going insane.

I would constantly check with Lana to see if I really was insane or if this boss lady really was working hard to make me miserable and to feel absolutely and utterly incompetent. Sadly, Lana confirmed my suspicions. Not too surprisingly, I was gainfully unemployed shortly thereafter. Oh boy was I screwed. The job had paid well and when I hit the job market in general it really sucked. The wages being offered were frighteningly low. I took a job with a real nutjob of an orthodontist (he actually believed his work was greatly helping mankind by providing prettier smiles – I shit you not). But at least I had Lana.

We did everything together. It was fun to have a great fun girlfriend again and it made me even sort of like Florida. She invited me for Thanksgiving dinner and there I met her wonderful husband and adorable little boys. We had a great time – but it was more than that – it was like being home for the holidays. Like being among family. I marveled at this because I had really barely met them, yet it seemed I knew them for a million years. I love it when that happens, don’t you?

Since Thanksgiving was such a hit and Lana and I became closer and closer friends, Christmas was a natural. We had all eaten tons of turkey on Thanksgiving so we decided on a different menu. Lana’s brother was in town and he volunteered to make a roast. I made a vat of homemade applesauce, brought a bag of presents and whipped up some mashed potatoes once I got there.

We exchanged gifts and it was fun. It really didn’t matter what they were – we were just happy to be hanging out. It was one of those Christmasses where nothing in particular happened – no special activities or hilarious accidents – just a bunch of people who really enjoyed one another’s company and yakked their heads off. Lana even bought a present for my doggie – a santa suit. Which I put on her as soon as I got home and took pictures.

So the evening was just that. An evening. A great one. And one that brings back warm memories of friendship and love. As I drove home that night, I knew at least a small handful of people in Florida were actually glad I came. And I guess because of them, I was glad too.

Retail Sales & 12-Yr Old Chivas – 12 days of xmas #8

 

Unencumbered and foot loose and fancy free and…unemployed….I agreed to do one of those Christmas sales stints. It sounded very good during the talking part. 30% of the sales, they provide the space and the goods and after 6 weeks I’d be about 5 grand richer. It sounded VERY good.

Now, I don’t know if any of you out there have ever worked in a mall during Christmas…but if you want my advise…DON’T. Frankly, you’d probably do better washing windshields in the 7-11 parking lot and the hours are much kinder.

This particular group of yahoos had a system are taped out. They’d been doing it for years and they knew just how to make it work for me. First I started ‘training’ under another guy so I could learn the ropes (read that as working for free). Since he was a friend of mine – a british chap and fellow writer, Giles, was pretty easy to work with. Of course there was that working for free part which I didn’t care for, especially since any sales I made went into his pocket but I agreed anyway because I’d passed up a couple of jobs for this adventure so now I was committed (or I should have been).

So for about 10 days (straight, no time off) I worked Giles’ stand and made some pretty good sales. Of course the company was real swell and paid me a ‘draw’ from my future sales at my own stand, just to help me get by.

Anyway, I finally got my own stand – in West Covina. Which may sound nice and everything but it was about a 30 mile drive from my house and it was a particularly cold and rainy winter season – oh and I really hate to drive the freeways. Oh and I had to go through downtown L.A. to get there. Yeah, that was really great – especially since my heater decided to quit on my and I had to keep a steady supply of napkins handy to wipe away the fog on my windows.

Anyway…I got my own stand in the mall and honestly it was a pretty nice mall. And to be fair to Giles he did come and help me set up and hire some high school girls to do some selling for me – and the sales, well they were smoking. I was able (because of my desparate financial situation) to justify selling gold and silver plated jewelry by just completely ignoring the fact that it was junk. But if you put anything sparkly in front of a person during Christmas they just want it. Truth.

So for 6 weeks, 16 hours a day (not including drive time), no days off I sold. I sold and I sold and I sold some more. I learned how to take naps with my eyes open and while talking to staff and/or customers. For a release I would walk the mall and buy things. Once a week I made a field trip to the company office to restock and get my ‘draw’. Happily gas prices were dirt cheap at the time and with as hyped up as I was on coffee I hardly ever thought of food.

Forget the fact that I didn’t know what I looked like without the pallor and blood shot eyes, that I ended breaking up with my boyfriend over the phone and quite frankly, if I was even conscious by Christmas day there really wasn’t anything to remain conscious for. The minutes, hours, days, weeks went by in a blur of Christmas muzac and the eternal hum of hundreds of shoppers.

Finally came Christmas Eve. The mall was closing early and so I’d only have to work ten hours that day. My girls who had worked for me were so sweet that they pooled their money to buy me a plaque to commemorate an ‘in’ joke we’d developed over those few weeks. And honestly, it was one of the best Christmas presents I ever got because it was so unexpected and it spoke of true affection and good times from some girls who probably should have spent their money on clothes, make up, jewelry and their boyfriends.

Finally, six o’clock rolled around. The big boss came by and congratulated me on my sales which apparently was WAY over what they expected and told me to roll around on the first to pick up (what was left) of my commission check. I gave him the keys to the safe and the receipts and off to home I went.

Giles and I had planned to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together since we were both on our own for the holidays. So I got home, showered and changed, plastered on some make up and went over. I looked like I’d been on a 12 year drunk and didn’t know my name (see picture above).

When I got there Giles was all smiles, wished me a ham sandwich and a happy Christmas. Then he whipped out the big surprise he’d been holding back on for weeks. A 12 year old bottle of Chivas. Now, from what I’ve heard that’s some pretty impressive stuff. I believe it is scotch but maybe it’s whiskey but really I couldn’t tell you the difference anyway.

So me and my pal Giles drank off that bottle of Chivas for the next two days. Occasionally pausing for ham sandwiches or an old movie on the telly. We were so exhausted I’m not sure we even spoke all that much. It was more on the order of grunts and groans and “I’ll have another.” By December 26th we had finished that bottle and were ready for the New Year. Sometime in the next couple of days we got some sleep and finally I went to get my commission check.

Sadly, Santa didn’t have much leftover for me. Just enough to pay the coming months bills and maybe a little extra if I was strict. I actually sat down and computed my hours against what I made and it turns out I made about $3 an hour. Who knew? I could have worked at Kmart and done the same, plus I woulda had that 10% discount. Live and learn and don’t do mall sales! 😉

WC

Two Little Girls & Christmas in Utah – 12 days of xmas #4

 

He was the love of my life. His name was Michael. And the moment we met the connection was instant. Because in the next moment we were a ‘we.’

He was a carpenter and could make anything. He was smart and wise and had gentle blue eyes. I loved him with all my heart.

On our first Christmas Mike wanted to go home, which was Utah. He had two children from a previous marriage, and it made me a little nervous to meet them under such circumstances. They were quite young and since they lived in Utah and he in California I thought they wouldn’t want me gumming up the works and stealing their attention from their father. Was I right.

They were 5 and 6. Julie was like a little china doll with long dark hair and mesmerizing blue eyes, so deep you could get lost in them. And she had an adorable habit of singing conversation to you rather than just plain old talking. Her older sister, Annie, looked more like her dad with sandy hair and a quiet manner. They were cute and nice when they met me but kind of shy.

Mike’s mom, Marilu, was a hoot and a much better Martha Stewart than well, Martha Stewart. I learned that she had raised her three boys Mike and his two brothers pretty much on her own and I thought she’d done a wonderful job of it. She had a lovely home, beautifully decorated and a tree that took your breath away. Beneath that tree was an avalanche of presents, many of them for me. She couldn’t have been sweeter or kinder to me.

It felt wonderful to be in such a warm and welcoming home and I knew that it would be a Christmas that would go down in the history of my life. One I would fondly recall over the years. Heck it was like being in a Hallmark commercial for cripes sakes.

And then…the next morning. Have I mentioned that I’m not an early bird by nature? Oh no, the time had long since passed when I was up at the crack of dawn. Of course, at first light I heard the girls, muffled voices and laughs. But they were easy to ignore…at first. I simply burrowed beneath the quilt and reveled in the joy of such a comfortable bed.

Sadly, Annie and Julie weren’t as interested in my reveling as I was. For reasons known only to them there was an intense need for them to slam in and out of my room. “Aren’t you getting up?”

“No,” I mumbled and burrowed deeper under the covers.

Out they went. Slam went the door. A few minutes later. “She’s still sleeping?” Again, out they went, again slam went the door. And it kept up and up. Til finally, I took the hint and stumbled out of bed. I was none too pleased and asked Mike what it was all about. Like a good boyfriend and father he ‘spoke’ to the girls and they apologized as sincerely as they could muster – but I’m pretty sure I saw a glint in their eyes at having acheived their objective.

It put a wrinkle into the day and I feared our stay there. There were several more days to go and I worried that without even trying I’d gotten Mike’s girls to hate me. This is never a good sign, especially in a new relationship. So I put on a happy face and tried to befriend them. They weren’t too interested in that – they were polite but not really warming up to me. Oh drat!

Later that day, we were all doing to a showing of a holiday show for the kids. I had been smart and borrowed a very warm coat from a friend, since I heard it got powerful cold in Utah. Though it was relatively warm (for Utah in the winter) I took the coat with me. The girls wore light jacket over their sweaters and jeans. When we arrived at the theater we realized that we would be standing in line, which was quickly becoming long and winding.

It was only going to be about a 30 minute wait but, hey we weren’t in L.A. – we were in Salt Lake City. Suddenly the sky clouded over and the temperature dropped by about 20 degrees. Even I felt a chill under my nice big fur coat. The girls were shivering within minutes. We suggested maybe we should pass on the show and go to some nice warm place and eat or have eggnog but the girls’ hearts were set on the show. So I opened my coat and invited the girls in. We all snuggled inside that spacious warmth like it was a big family sleeping bag – but still the girls were cold. So I did what anyone would do – I took off my coat and wrapped it around them. Then the four of us did that kind of huddle you do at highschool football games when it starts to snow and you have to stay til the end even if you’re freezing your bageebers off.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally allowed inside. Honestly, I don’t remember a thing about the show. What I remember is that suddenly two little girls loved me and wanted to sit next to me and in my lap and fought over who got to do what.

I was officially adopted at that point. The rest of our stay was just like a Hallmark movie without the tears. And when it came time to leave it felt as if I was leaving my own children. We all cried and said goodbye and made plans for a summer visit. But that seemed oh so far away.

But we got in our VW bug, now loaded with gifts, and pulled away from the curb. I watched out the window to see if I could see the two angel faces in the window, that I knew were there.

“We’ll see them soon, honey,” Mike said as I wiped at tears.

I nodded, looked straight ahead and immediately started wishing for summer.

WC

Why Yes, It Is a Wonderful Life – 12 days of xmas #3

 

I moved to California when I was 20. It was a big dream come true for me as I’d always wanted to live in the land of summer for as long as I could remember. Though when I actually got to the land of milk and honey I experienced some serious culture shock. Having grown up in the midwest I was a bit too much on the wholesome side to have taken easily to some of the things I saw in L.A.

Long story short, after a couple of years I pined for home and family and was terribly lonely. In a moment of insanity I agreed to come home at my mom’s behest. To my utter amazement, my view had changed without my noticing. Almost as soon as I got home my world became so small.

It was winter and the landscape I found depressing. Nothing had changed around the old neighborhood, as though it had frozen in time since I’d last seen it. Don’t get me wrong it was wonderful to see my family and old friends but I still felt like piece out of place. Like a new toy in a box of old favorites. People kept mentioning my California accent and how different I was. It was really quite surreal.

I think I lasted about 6 weeks before I was utterly miserable and wanted to go back to California. This did not go over well with Mom who really wanted me to stay for Christmas at least. I know I should have, I know that as a good daughter I should have let her have her way but there was something inside of me that just wouldn’t let me. I had to go back.

So, a couple of weeks before Christmas Mom and Dad took me to the airport so I could return to the land of summer and apparently my new ‘home’ in the universe. I remember Mom was so upset with me she could hardly speak to me and we all felt kind of sad. I kept telling my dad I was sorry but he just smiled and gave me a hug and said: “It’s okay Babe, you have to follow your dreams. You don’t have nothing without them.” (What a guy, eh?)

So back I went and Christmas was bleak to say the least. I’d given up my apartment and belongings, I literall had nothing but a few clothes and a lot of hope. A friend had offered to let me stay in his extra bedroom for a few weeks until I got re-settled. But he had plans for the holidays and so I was really left on my own.

It was pretty bleak. I think I had a bologna sandwich on Christmas Eve and watched old movies on tv by myself for the night. I was sad and depressed and so conflicted wondering if I’d made a mistake in coming back. I scolded myself for being so indecisive and loopy. That I could at that moment been with family, eating great food and unwrapping presents.

And then it was midnight and officially Christmas. I was alone in front of the tv and couldn’t sleep. A movie came on called “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’d never seen it and since I wasn’t about to sleep, I decided I might as well watch it.

I know this may sound really stupid and silly but really that movie changed my life. It made me realize that everyone does indeed touch the lives of so many others and that we all have an important and special place in the world. And that Christmas isn’t always about getting your wishes but more about celebrating your life, no matter what it is and where it is. That life offers us choice and second chances continually, if only we keep our eyes and our hearts open.

And though there were no fancy parties, presents or even company for me that year – it was indeed a wonderful Christmas. Because I realized I had a wonderful life too.

WC

A Christmas Surprise – 12 days of xmas #2

 

In a different house a few years later, when I was about 6 my brother Alan and my sister Kathy and I would wake even before the first light on Christmas morning. Apparently it was a habit by then because our parents were used to it and gave up trying to keep us in bed. But this particular Christmas when we got up and started ripping open packages and squealing they called down for us to take it to the basement. Not as bad as it sounds, as the basement was refinished and was a fun place to be.

So, like little soldiers, we grabbed our loot and made our way down to the basement. We argued and played and laughed. But then we heard a sound. It seemed to be coming from the laundry room. It sounded like a baby or something. So we, en masse moved toward the laundry room a little afraid and a little excited. It was dark and none of us were tall enough to reach the light switch so we stood like a little frozen statues and listened.

Why yes indeed, there was a little crying going on and it came from a box in the corner. We looked at each other and squealed like little baby pigs because we all KNEW what that sound was. We seemed to transport to the box across the room and lifted the flap. A puppy! A beautiful gray and black, little German Shepard puppy!

We carried the box to the rec room and oohed and ahed. I’m not sure but I think I managed to get her into my arms before the other kids could even think of it. Her fur was like velvet and she licked my nose. There isn’t anything in the world that a kid loves more than to have a puppy lick their face. She had that wonderful, sweet puppy smell and the tiniest little bark which would send us into a choir of giggles.

Somehow, Dad had managed to sneak down to the basement without our seeing or hearing him. And we might never have noticed him it if weren’t for all those blaring lights off his home movie camera – do you remember those? The kind that could now classify as headlights for a compact car?

We danced and mugged for the camera. Put her down on the floor and got her to chase after us and bark her adorable bark, wag her little tail. I loved this puppy like I never loved anything before. I wanted her to be all mine but I knew she was ours. (I was so bossy even as a little kid – duh!)

“What’s her name, Daddy?” I asked.

“Queeny,” he said without hesitation.

I grinned from ear to ear because I remembered. Our first dog was named Queenie and it seemed so fitting that our new puppy would continue to carry the mantle of that wonderful name.

Of course, Queenie promptly peed and pooped on the tile floor and we had our first Christmas joy of cleaning up after her. Eeeeooooowww, we all said, our noses wrinkling in horror. But who could mind really when you had the best Christmas present ever?

I remember later in the day my dad taking Queenie out in the backyard, immediately beginning the house training – and watching the tiny little fuzzball trot along behind my dad, the snow practically swallowing her up so that all you saw was a bobbing head and waggy tail.

And my heart swelled up because I knew it was Dad who had campaigned for the dog in our behalf – Mom wasn’t so hot on pets at the time, the mess, the work, the feeding, etc. And I knew he probably had to campaign hard and long for her to say yes. I just hope that she felt it was worth it after seeing the joy in her children’s faces and hearts. I know I sure thought so.

WC

Trains and First Christmas – 12 days of xmas #1

 

The first Christmas I really remember was when I was about 3 years old (maybe even 2). I have no real recollection of what I got – probably dolls or stuffed animals or something girlie. But oh how I remember that my brother Alan got a geniune Lionel train set. It mesmerized me.

Dad had set it up under the tree and it just went around and around and around, all day long. I lusted after those trains. I wanted those trains. I wanted to sit on the floor and play with the boys and get my chubby little hands on those controls. This may be the first signs of my growing up to be an adventurous free spirit or a control freak. (Take your pick).

Whenever no one was looking, I’d sidle over to the tree. Inch by inch I’d creep, wanting, lusting. Never quite making it to the tree much less the controls. Dad would bark out – “Stay away from that! That’s for your brothers. It’s a boy’s toy!”

I’d make a pouty face and cross my arms over my chest and sulk.

Mom would try to offer me toys or candy but I wasn’t interested.

My cousin Tommy taunted me. “It’s not for girls. It’s not for girls. It’s not for girls! Nanananananana!”  If I’d have been bigger he would have experienced some slap down. No kidding.

So, I sat on the stairs and watched the boys play with the train forever and ever and ever. Never once getting the chance to touch the controls. Wishing I could be a boy for just one day so I could run that darn train. I think I actually fell asleep on the stairs watching that train. At least that’s how my memory remembers it.

For many years after that the train set became a tradition for many Christmases – somehow it went from a gift to an extension of our Christmas decorations. And I don’t specifically recall when, but at some point it went to the trainyard in the sky – because suddenly it just wasn’t there.

It was probably around the time we stopped having live Christmas trees because Mom started lusting after fake ones in hues of pink and turquoise.

And though there have been oh so many Christmases since then, I never forgot the gleaming, shiney, coolest of cool trains roaring along its track under my first Christmas tree.

WC

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I’ve always loved the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas and I thought it would be fun to use it as a theme for the 2nd half of my month of Christmas posts. We all have fond and not so fond Christmas memories and sometimes they make good stories (even the miserable ones), especially if you’re drinking really good and heavily spiked eggnog.

But my twelve days of Christmas aren’t about pear trees, milking maids or golden rings – mine are my twelve most memorable Christmases. Some are sweet, some a little sad and some are pretty funny.

Many of my memories are snatches of this or that. Like my sister’s habit of opening my presents after she got bored with hers and then running into my room to tell me what I got. Of course I made her go back and rewrap them but for sure, the surprise was gone once I saw the packages.

Or my mother’s habit of getting into a snit with my dad just as we were sitting down to Christmas dinner.

Or the fact that for years Mom hid the presents in the cubby hole in her room and we would check it out daily for weeks before Christmas. The only mystery was who was getting what. You’d think she would have chosen a different hiding place once in a while.

Or the forced photos standing before the tree showing off your presents.

The smell of turkey and the taste of perfect gravy oozing on home made mashed potatoes, my aunt’s Christmas aspic made of lime jello, walnuts, carrots and raisens oh and her pumpkin bread.

Falling asleep at the window trying to stay awake to see if there really was a Santa Claus. And the joy I felt when it snowed on Christmas Eve because I knew that meant that it was really going to be a perfect White Christmas.

Christmas trees and Christmas lights. School Christmas concerts – countless favorite Christmas songs and movies. These are all the things that I think of when I think of Christmas.

So prepare yourselves folks, I’m walking down memory lane for the next few days and I hope you don’t mind strolling along with me.

WC

Ha, ha – ho, ho…funnies for you

Here’s a little assortment of little Christmas funnies…

 

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

WC

Myths, Links and Stuff

Okay, so here are some interesting things:

There’s a pretty popular myth that Santa’s style of clothing and the colors or said clothing have to do with coca cola. According to Snopes it’s not true. Read below:

Claim: The modern image of Santa Claus — a jolly figure in a red-and-white suit — was created by Coca-Cola.

Status: False.

Example: [Twitchell, 2000]

The jolly old St. Nick that we know from countless images did not come from folklore, nor did he originate in the imaginations of Moore and Nast. He comes from the yearly advertisements of the Coca-Cola Company. He wears the corporate colors — the famous red and white — for a reason: he is working out of Atlanta, not out of the North Pole.

Origins: Santa

Claus is perhaps the most remarkable of all the figures associated with Christmas. To us, Santa has always been an essential part of the Christmas celebration, but the modern image of Santa didn’t develop until well into the 19th century. Moreover, he didn’t spring to life fully-formed as a literary creation or a commercial invention (as did his famous reindeer, Rudolph). Santa Claus was an evolutionary creation, brought about by the fusion of two religious personages (St. Nicholas and Christkindlein, the Christ child) to become a fixed image which is now the paramount symbol of the secular Christmas celebration.

In 1804, the New York Historical Society was founded with Nicholas as its patron saint, its members reviving the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas as a gift-bringer. In 1809, Washington Irving published his satirical A History of New York, by one “Diedrich Knickerbocker,” a work that poked fun at New York’s Dutch past (St. Nicholas included). When Irving became a member of the Society the following year, the annual St. Nicholas Day dinner festivities included a woodcut of the traditional Nicholas figure (tall, with long robes) accompanied by a Dutch rhyme about “Sancte Claus” (in Dutch, “Sinterklaas”). Irving revised his History of New York in 1812, adding details about Nicholas’ “riding over the tops of the trees, in that selfsame waggon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children.” In 1821, a New York printer named William Gilley issued a poem about a “Santeclaus” who dressed all in fur and drove a sleigh pulled by one reindeer. Gilley’s “Sante,” however, was very short.

On Christmas Eve of 1822, another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, wrote down and read to his children a series of verses; his poem was published a year later as “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” (more commonly known today by its opening line, “‘Twas the night before Christmas . . .”). Moore gave St. Nick eight reindeer (and named them all), and he devised the now-familiar entrance by chimney. Moore’s Nicholas was still a small figure, however — the poem describes a “miniature sleigh” with a “little old driver.”

Meanwhile, in parts of Europe such as Germany, Nicholas the gift-giver had been superseded by a representation of the infant Jesus (the Christ child, or “Christkindlein”). The Christkindlein accompanied Nicholas-like figures with other names (such as “Père Noël” in France), or he travelled with a dwarf-like helper (known in some places as “Pelznickel,” or Nicholas with furs). Belsnickle (as Pelznickel was known in the German-American dialect of Pennsylvania) was represented by adults who dressed in furry disguises (including false whiskers), visited while children were still awake, and put on a scary performance. Gifts found by children the next morning were credited to Christkindlein, who had come while everyone was asleep. Over time, the non-visible Christkindlein (whose name mutated into “Kriss Kringle”) was overshadowed by the visible Belsnickle, and both of them became confused with St. Nicholas and the emerging figure of Santa Claus.

The modern Santa Claus derived from these two images: St. Nicholas the elf-like gift bringer described by Moore, and a friendlier “Kriss Kringle” amalgam of the Christkindlein and Pelznickel figures. The man-sized version of Santa became the dominant image around 1841, when a Philadelphia merchant named J.W. Parkinson hired a man to dress in “Criscringle” clothing and climb the chimney outside his shop.

In 1863, a caricaturist for Harper’s Weekly named Thomas Nast began developing his own image of Santa. Nast gave his figure a “flowing set of whiskers” and dressed him “all in fur, from his head to his foot.” Nast’s 1866 montage entitled “Santa Claus and His Works” established Santa as a maker of toys; an 1869 book of the same name collected new Nast drawings with a poem by George P. Webster that identified the North Pole as Santa’s home. Although Nast never settled on one size for his Santa figures (they ranged from elf-like to man-sized), his 1881 “Merry Old Santa Claus” drawing is quite close to the modern-day image.

The Santa Claus figure, although not yet standardized, was ubiquitous by the late 19th century. Santa was portrayed as both large and small; he was usually round but sometimes of normal or slight build; and he dressed in furs (like Belsnickle) or cloth suits of red, blue, green, or purple. A Boston printer named Louis Prang introduced the English custom of Christmas cards to America, and in 1885 he issued a card featuring a red-suited Santa. The chubby Santa with a red suit (like an “overweight superhero”) began to replace the fur-dressed Belsnickle image and the multicolored Santas.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the burgeoning Coca-Cola company was still looking for ways to increase sales of their product during winter, then a slow time of year for the soft drink market. They turned to a talented commercial illustrator named Haddon Sundblom, who created a series of memorable drawings that associated the figure of a larger than life, red-and-white garbed Santa Claus with Coca-Cola. Coke’s annual advertisements — featuring Sundblom-drawn Santas holding bottles of Coca-Cola, drinking Coca-Cola, receiving Coca-Cola as gifts, and especially enjoying Coca-Cola — became a perennial Christmastime feature which helped spur Coca-Cola sales throughout the winter (and produced the bonus effect of appealing quite strongly to children, an important segment of the soft drink market). The success of this advertising campaign has helped fuel the legend that Coca-Cola actually invented the image of the modern Santa Claus, decking him out in a red-and-white suit to promote the company colors — or that at the very least, Coca-Cola chose to promote the red-and-white version of Santa Claus over a variety of competing Santa figures in order to establish it as the accepted image of Santa Claus.

This legend is not true. Although some versions of the Santa Claus figure still had him attired in various colors of outfits past the beginning of the 20th century, the jolly, ruddy, sack-carrying Santa with a red suit and flowing white whiskers had become the standard image of Santa Claus by the 1920s, several years before Sundlom drew his first Santa illustration for Coca-Cola. As The New York Times reported on 27 November 1927:

A standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers. The pack full of toys, ruddy cheeks and nose, bushy eyebrows and a jolly, paunchy effect are also inevitable parts of the requisite make-up.

It’s simply mind-boggling that at the beginning the 21st century, historians are still egregiously perpetuating inaccurate information like the following:

So complete was the colonization of Christmas that Coke’s Santa had elbowed aside all comers by the 1940s. He was the Santa of the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street just as he is the Santa of the recent film The Santa Clause. He is the Santa on Hallmark cards, he is the Santa riding the Norelco shaver each Christmas season, he is the department-store Santa, and he is even the Salvation Army Santa!1

As we just pointed out above, the modern Santa had “elbowed aside all comers” long before the 1940s, and well before Coca-Cola co-opted him as their wintertime advertising symbol. And we’re at a loss to understand how anyone could have recognized the Santa of Miracle on 34th Street, a BLACK-AND-WHITE film, as the red-and-white Coca-Cola Santa.

All this isn’t to say that Coca-Cola didn’t have anything to do with cementing that image of Santa Claus in the public consciousness. The Santa image may have been standardized before Coca-Cola adopted it for their advertisements, but Coca-Cola had a great deal to do with establishing Santa Claus as a ubiquitous Christmas figure in America at a time when the holiday was still making the transition from a religious observance to a largely secular and highly commercial celebration. In an era before color television (or commercial television of any kind), color films, and the widespread use of color in newspapers, it was Coca-Cola’s magazine advertisements, billboards, and point-of-sale store displays that exposed nearly everyone in America to the modern Santa Claus image. Coca-Cola certainly helped make Santa Claus one of the most popular men in America, but they didn’t invent him.

Last updated: 27 February 2001

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For those of you who would like to do something nice and Christmassy for our wounded troops you can send cards and letters to Walter Reed Hospital (202-782-2071) c/o American Red Cross, OIF/OEF Soldiers, 6900 Georgia Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20307
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For a great article and suggestions and links of fun stuff to do for Christmas you can go here

For fun crafts and links, here

For classic stories, recipes and more, here

If you are interested in donating to charities and want to check out how effective and good they are, here

If your imagination and budget have no limits, check out this place – they make some awesome stuff and it’s all custom.

And finally just a cool really nice site, here

Have some fun, check out some of the sites depending on your interests and see what you think.

WC