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We Need a Little Christmas

DSCN6864Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

DSCN6840DSCN6843For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet

DSCN6847Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry

So climb down the chimney
Turn on the brightest string of light I’ve ever seen
Slice up the fruitcake
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen boughDSCN6881DSCN6874

For I’ve grown a little leanerPhoto on 12-3-14 at 4.52 PM
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older

DSCN6856And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
Need a little CHristmas now

For we need a little music
Need a little laughter
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter

DSCN6831And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after”
Need a little Christmas now

 

A bit of a sit-down

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“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.  

From “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

On a marathon mission to get some Christmas gifts, I stopped for a some refreshment and a bit of a sit-down. An elderly woman was enjoying her lunch with what appeared to be her granddaughter. They seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. Large shopping bags filled with  purchases nestled atop empty chairs at their table. I couldn’t hear their conversation, but the scene reminded me of a long ago December afternoon with my mother.

Ma wanted to do some Christmas shopping.  I offered to take her. My mother learned to drive later in life. She approached 50 years old when she took to the wheel, after my father passed away. She drove mostly to work and back, which was barely a mile, and she would drive to our house, which was a direct route, with few turns.

On the day of our Christmas shopping, Ma drove to our house and then I drove my car to one of the shopping malls. I dropped her at the door of Carson’s and parked the car. We shopped, ate lunch and shopped a bit more. It was a pleasant time. My mom kept asking me what  I wanted for Christmas.

Ma really tried hard to buy me the perfect gifts. I often regret that I wasn’t more appreciative of her efforts, though, I promise you, some were really hard to appreciate. One day, I will tell you the story of my 21st birthday and my “party dress”, which has grown to legendary status.  Let me just hint that it had to do with gold lame, rhinestone buttons, dozens of pleats – in 1970 while I was in college! 

We walked and talked and shopped and reminisced.  It was a slow go as my mother had rheumatoid arthritis, which affected all her joints, but, especially her feet. As she started to tire, I thought aloud that we should head on home. We worked our way through Carson’s, via the lower level so I could get her to the elevator.  As we walked through the housewares section, I stopped to look at the Pfaltzgraff Christmas plates. Ma looked as well.  I casually commented how I always thought it would be fun to set a Christmas table. 

Four place settings and two more shopping bags later, we lumbered into the elevator. There was a sprightly spring to Ma’s step as she smiled at me. “I think I finally bought you something you like” she said – and she had.  The original Christmas Heritage pattern, I bring them out each December, recalling the day my mother insisted on gifting me with them for Christmas.

I thought about my mom and my Christmas dishes as I observed the women sitting across from me and made a mental note to bring the plates out when I got home. These dishes were one of the last Christmas gifts she ever gave me. She added to them before she passed on, and even spoke of them in delirium once when she was deathly ill with pneumonia, muttering something about giving the doctor a silver dollar to buy me more Christmas plates.

The doctor never got that silver dollar, but, Ma survived pneumonia – and I received a few more plates for Christmas that year.  I’m glad I took the time to eat and rest while shopping, for, in so doing, I recalled my mother and that sweet day more than 2o years ago; a very dear memory, indeed, and a far greater gift of Christmas heritage.

Simple gifts

DSCN6842 - Version 2Tom’s one week post-op eye appointment brought good news; the eye is healing well, better than expected, actually, and especially considering all he and his eye have endured. With a few less eye drops to be administered daily, we remarked on how nice it was to be given 30 minutes back in our days.  We both said “Merry Christmas” for it was a gift, indeed, and felt just a wee bit of weight lifting from our shoulders.

As I backed the car from its parking nest, I mentioned that it was closing in on the noon hour and wondered aloud if Tom would like to have a nice lunch to celebrate the good news at Francesca’s in Forest Park?”.  Cleaning out my wallet a little earlier, I came across a gift card I had been given as a thank you for someone I helped out a few winters ago. The Francesca restaurants are a delicious chain of Italian restaurants across the area and Francesca’s Fiore in Forest Park was on our way home.

As we looked for a parking place along the busy, city avenue, it seemed the only option was a paid city lot.  It’s hard to haggle over such things when lunch has already been paid, so, into the lot I turned, parked the ever faithful mocha VW with latte interior (I’m going to miss this caffeinated car some day). Tom, with those blackened glasses one needs to wear after cataract surgery, and I looked about to pay.  Perplexed, we wandered a bit when Tom of the afore-mentioned glasses and dilated eyes, said “it’s free“.  There was the payment post, all wrapped up like a present, informing whomever that Forest Park was lifting their parking fees during the month of December. As we walked, we saw meters up and down the street with their meter mouths all taped up, on a coin diet for the season,  and our steps were just a bit lighter at this gesture – a gift of free parking. Quite a nice municipal gift, don’t you agree?

We had such a delightful lunch, chatting and chewing and caressing the moments of bliss on a cold but sunny afternoon with good news, good will, and good food the generous gifts of the day, all reminding me that gifts aren’t always those wrapped up in pretty paper with bows.  They are the simple gifts of life. My wish is that you find one of them today.

 

Happily Ever Aftering

Unknown I know the ending. I know it well. Still,  I felt salty tears emerge as King Arthur commanded the young lad, Tom of Warwick, to run, to hide, to grow up and have hope in the future.

Hope is what the end of the musical Camelot gives. Hope. In spite of the betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere and Arthur’s knights seeking revenge instead of justice, he finds hope in an eager young boy who has come to join the legendary round table.  There is still hope in Camelot as Tom of Warwick holds tight to the ideals of Camelot and Arthur hopes that he will grow up to seek a more civil society.

What an oft told tale it is of King Arthur and his round table, his knights and his beloved Guinevere, Lancelot du Loc and the evil Mordred. Merlin. For a six and some-year-old woman, who first encountered Camelot while on assignment for her high school newspaper in that sixties decade of assassinations and idealism, a far off war and civil unrest at home, innocence and awakening, seeing the musical Camelot all these years later was a revival of hope, a theme that keeps playing out in between the lines of my December musings.

As I sat in Oakbrook Terrace’s Drury Lane Theatre, immersed in the atmospheric set design and entranced by the exquisite costuming, I heard the Lerner and Lowe tunes bubbling up inside me before the songs sang lifted out. I know them so well, yet, they felt so fresh, and the production seemed again quite relevant to me.  “Camelot”.  “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight”. “The Lusty Month of May”. “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”  “If Ever I Should Leave You”.

So it came to be, as a guest of my dear friend Marilyn, for a brief and shining moment I WAS in Camelot. Thank you, my friend. Thank you.

Do you have a favorite song or line from Camelot?

Did you ever read T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King”?

Root

51dmwhFgvxL._SL400_Did you know that numbers can be calming, intriguing and unifying; a means with which to connect three novel characters statistically unlikely to become a unit?  I didn’t. Nor did I know how entertaining mathematical story problems could be. After reading a compelling review about a book I had not heard of, and knowing I would be spending a good deal of time in the car, I ordered the audio version, and have since enjoyed listening to “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Ogawa.

In this sweetly rendered story, a professor of math, an insightful housekeeper, and her ten year-old son spend their days together, introducing themselves anew each morning, and eventually becoming a unique family of sorts in the process. They do this amid conversations about prime numbers, the properties of zero – and Japanese baseball stars.

Ogawa’s novel is about a mathematical genius whose short-term memory is 80 minutes. He suffers from irreversible brain damage from a long ago a car accident. While he retains his mathematical gifts, his days begin getting re-aquainted with his housekeeper, always asking her what her birth date and her shoe size are. Perfect numbers connect them in time, no matter what he has forgotten about their last 80 minutes together.

The housekeeper is a sensitive and astute unwed mother trying to eke out a living while raising her son, who is named Root by the professor (because his hair resembles the square root sign) Root is the only character with a name in the book. In the course of the story, the professor insists that Root comes to his cottage after school each day rather than return home to an empty house. The professor recollects who Root is with the help of one of the many stickers, penned with pertinent details of his daily life. He wears the stickers, some faded with age, pinned to his suit. Root’s mother, the housekeeper, is the story’s narrator.

As Ogawa’s story entranced me, I found myself taking the longer way home or sitting in the grocer’s parking lot five minutes longer. My car idled in our drive as prime numbers and equations came to life and I found myself wishing the professor had been my Algebra teacher as he gently engaged Root in the art of baseball statistics and encouraged the housekeeper to dig a bit deeper in thought by helping Root with problem solving and in understanding how the answers to problems are reached.

I cannot remember reading a more engaging book, simply told,  about numbers and relationships. While I experienced “The Housekeeper and the Professor” on audio, it is a book that revealed itself to be one that I want to hold in my hand and experience through the words on a page. I will read it again, with my eyes instead of my ears. It is just the sort of book that stays with the reader long after the ending has come.

I should also add that “The Housekeeper and the Professor” is one of those books that was masterfully translated from Japanese into English.  It is one of those stories so beautifully told that it’s essence has stayed with me long after the words ended and one in which I found myself longing to share with you, dear reader.

This would also be an intriguing book for discussion.

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DSCN6603“But in this season it is well to reassert that the hope of mankind rests in faith.

“As man thinketh, so he is.”

Nothing much happens unless you believe in it, and believing there is hope for the world is a way to move toward it. “

Gladys Taber

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -

Emily Dickinson

DSCN6826 - Version 3

 

Thank you for all your prayers and good thoughts, candles and hope.  Tom’s surgery went well on Wednesday, he is resting and recovering. We remain hopeful and are armed with the many bottles of eye drops that follow cataract surgery,

A thank you to Marilyn for reminding me of Emily Dickinson’s words.

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