Nov 212021
 

Through the years, we all will be together.

If the fates allow

So hang a shining star upon the highest bough

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

 

November 21, 2021 — Christmas music is one of my favorite aspects of the holiday season. And the station I listen to for half of November and most of December has returned “Holiday Traditions” plays Christmas oldies, mainly from the 1970s and before. I heard Snoopy’s TV Christmas special music on my first listening venture, Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” and an excellent version of “Silver Bells.”

I know all the words to these old songs; they somehow never seem to leave me. So why can’t I remember where my keys are but know every version of “What Child is This?” As a child, I played Christmas carols on the piano for about half the year. Until arthritis in my hands got the better of me a few years ago, I could still play a wicked “Winter Wonderland.”

Yet, as we grow older, the holidays change, as do we. Music and festivities remind us of happy times, which morph into memories of those no longer with us. This is both a curse and a blessing of living into seven decades. What a great blessing to have the loving memories of aunts and uncles, three grandparents, and a parent. Yet, I feel the loss more poignantly over the holidays. I can’t help but look back when I hear familiar carols and songs.

My best childhood memories came from when I was tiny. We visited both my father’s and mother’s sides of the family. My dad is the youngest of six — all five gone — Dad is about to turn 91. His family was so large that they often met at the community center in a rural town.  My aunt, a self-trained musician who owned four organs and a piano, cooked up performances with the children. We sang familiar songs. Some of my cousins were very good — some of us were tone-deaf. We made up in enthusiasm what we lacked in raw talent or the ability to sing on key.  These gatherings of my father’s side usually happened on a weekend adjacent to the actual holiday.

My family of origin attended our little Lutheran Church for Christmas Eve with its tradition of towel-headed children in Sear’s plaid bathrobes as the original First Family. We were Baby Boomers, with many shepherds and angels.  I was never cast in a lead role. Always too tall for Mary. We sang “Away in a Manger,” which today brings me tears as I can hear my mother’s sweet voice in my mind. (Six weeks before Mom died, she and I watched a holiday special on Christmas night while everyone else played cards. She couldn’t remember my name but remembered all the words to every verse of Martin Luther’s famous Christmas carol.)

I was singing at age seven at the community center in grotesque high water pants.

My brother probably doesn’t remember all the words.  He is two-and-a-half years younger and almost always squirmed out of Christmas Eve service by getting sick approximately one hour before the event.  My maternal grandparents and a parent would be there to cheer me, while the other parent stayed home to comfort the desperately ill child. But, sick as he was, my little brother always insisted I bring him the requisite bag of goodies, a peppermint stick, an orange, Brach toffees, handed out to all children after the service.

My maternal grandparents left for Florida days later after celebrating my brother’s birthday and his miraculous return to total health. When I was ten, my grandparent left before Thanksgiving. My mother frequently traveled the day after Christmas, taking my brother or me. I learned about Christmas lights in

Clearwater Boat Parade

palm trees and the view from the Maas Brothers Tea Room in Clearwater.  All the boats on the bay were decorated in holiday lights, and it was a very different scene from snowy, rural northeastern Indiana.  We drove through Belleair and luxurious neighborhoods in Countryside to see holiday lights and watched the boat parade.

I had a perfect Christmas Eve in 1990. I cherish those memories (and we have a 2-hour video that no one wants to watch but for me.)  Our son was about eight months old; his cousin was five months old.  We lived in our first home, a small two-story house with a driveway just big enough to accommodate two cars.  We put out crude luminaries on either side of the driveway, brown paper bags of sand with tea lights inside. My brother’s family arrived on a snowy, dark evening, tired from a 10-hour trip from Iowa.  My parents came from South Whitley.  Each of the babies had a Santa Claus suit — my nephews wore an expensive suit, my son’s was from the local K-Mart. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite fit him right in his baby belly, making him look genuinely like a rented store Santa.

My father read the Christmas story from the Bible (the Luke version), and then, for reasons I cannot explain, he read “Casey at the Bat,” a family favorite. The babies did not cry until time for bed; they cooed and laughed. We put them on the carpeted floor in their Santa suits.  Soon, their chubby legs were moving as if riding an imaginary bicycle.  So funny that this event entertained six normally sane adults for hours upon hours.  The younger of the two boys will have his first child early next summer.  I wish him the magic of that day with his child.

Holidays today are not always easy.  We are a nomadic society. My father moved 90 miles away from his family in 1949. My brother and I added to the chaos when we moved away from home in the late 1970s. Our son also moved away from home after high school, a thousand miles away. We see him most holidays, but seeing the wider group gets more complicated.  Families grow — that’s what we call a good problem.

The secret to a happy holiday season is finding joy in what is and not what could be—that game of “what if” is harmful to my soul. So, God willing — we will see many family members at some point over the next five weeks.  And I will listen to holiday music every day.  I allow myself to wallow in good memories. And we will have ourselves a merry little Christmas if the fates allow.

Oct 062021
 

October 6, 2021 — About 10 p.m. last evening, I flushed the commode after doing my duty in the master bathroom. The water in the basin rose unexpectedly and spilled over the top of the rim. I jumped back to avoid getting wet, and the forty-foot tether of oxygen tubing that is my constant friend pulled the metal. vertical, toilet paper holder over and ruined four rolls of Cottonelle. (No cheap stuff for Mama.)

After the flooding ceased, I flushed again. I had my trusty plunger in hand and jumped into the delightful task of plunging before the water got too high again. I was successful, but there was already water all over the floor. The red chenille bathroom rug became the Lake Titicaca under my feet.

I moved the scales, a laundry basket, and the trash can to the adjacent master bedroom.

I had to mop the tile floor immediately, and I went to the closet for my Swiffer (used for emergencies.)  The twice-a-month housekeepers bring mops and soap. Unfortunately, like most cleaning products in this house, the Swiffer was long dead, batteries corroded in their little nest.

I yelled for Herman to go to the garage and bring me a bucket and a mop.  I grabbed the Spic and Span from the laundry closet. Thankfully, we had what looked like three brand-new boxes, unopened.

Herman took forever. I heard him coming up the basement stairs, breathing heavily. He carried our yellow plastic mop buck

See the source image

et and wringer, which he had already filled with water.

I’m not going to argue with him when he’s trying to help me, but I might have put the water in after climbing the stairs.

I cannot explain the mind of mortal man.

The water in the bucket was cold and looked dingy, though Herman said he cleaned out the bucket before dragging it from the furnace room in the bowels of the house. It’s too heavy for me to lift. He instructed me to add the Spic and Span, which I did after adding hot water from the tap.

I mopped the room. Herman said he would dump the dirty mop bucket water in his bathtub just yards away.

In anticipation of the bi-weekly housekeepers’ visit, he had just completed his laundry, and I was about to do mine. The housekeepers were due to visit a day from now. Our motto: “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” There were laundry baskets all over the floor in the bedroom. I made a path for him.

He wound the big yellow bucket and wringer through the path, me jumping out of the way with my plastic tubing in tow. The bucket of water flipped on its side at the lip between the bedroom floor and the hallway floor, expelling the cold, dirty mop water back into the bedroom and out into the hallway, edging close to my office, the exercise room, and the laundry closet.

I had used the clean towels for Niagara Falls # 1. We had no choice but to use my dirty laundry to soak up the water.

Thankfully, my pandemic wardrobe absorbs well – sweatpants and black t-shirts.  Sublime pride rose in my chest that my 44DD bras were particularly good soakers.

Now, eight loads of laundry later, I’m thrilled to have clean floors and clean clothes. Retirement is grand.

 

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Jul 092021
 

July 9, 2021 — We anticipate summer forever and then it seems to rush by. A friend told me that her grandchildren return to school in less than a month.  Returning to school in early August is a silly thing.  Why do children need to spend half their summer in school?  When I was a kid  (there it is, old person lingo) we didn’t go back to school until after Labor Day.  Of course, there was no air conditioning, and that was a big part of it.  Still, on the East Coast, many children do not return to school until mid-September.  This feels right to me.

In truth, it is not summer I highly anticipate.  It is spring.  In southwestern Indiana, summer means ozone days and chunky air. My home sits smack dab in the middle of five coal-fired plants, that are noted for polluting the air.  Combine that with the humidity of the Ohio River Valley, and summer can be daunting.  With my lung disease, I don’t go out much in the summer.

This summer has seemed strange to me,  but not nearly as strange and quiet as the Great Summer of Lockdown 2020, but different.  On one hand, we are delighted that things seem to be opening back up  But everyone seems confused.  On my one trip out of the house since Monday, I went to the local Post Office.  A  small sign on the plastic window  stated, “Masks are required inside the lobby.”  Which lobby?  The outer lobby?  Or this one where the sign is?  Did I miss the sign on the outer door?

I am fully vaccinated.  What should I do?  But I also have several health conditions and I’m not a teenager anymore.  (I’m 37, two years younger than Jack Benny, a name which also dates me.)

Yesterday Pfizer announced that those individuals who received its MRNA vaccine would likely need a booster within six months of their last dose.  Wow.  How will this be managed?  Will folks who received the Moderna jab, also an MRNA vaccine, also get a this shot?  And what about those who received one shot?  What will the tiny sign on the PO window say, “For those of you who have not received your third booster if you had two shots, please mask up.” Huh?

And the Big Elephant in the American room that I’ve not yet mentioned are those people who refuse the shot.  Imagine that all over the world, people are clammering for vaccines.  We’re so fat and sassy in this country that many people are just blowing it off like it is nothing.  I have news for you.  If there’s any virus left anywhere in the world, it is coming for you if we don’t vaccinate.  Remember from the old commercial:  It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature.  And, frankly, you can’t.  You can run but you cannot hide.

So, months into the pandemic, we are still in a holding pattern.  Or are we?  A relative who drove to Indiana from Chicago this morning told me that, “Chicago traffic is back.”  Everyone — it seems — is going everywhere again.  And that’s how the soup was made before.

I will likely wear a mask out in public for the foreseeable future.  We will mostly stay at home, thankful for hobbies than engage our minds and spirits, and be awfully careful. What is your plan?

 

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