Monday, December 30, 2019

Ripping off the last page

Farewell to the twenty-teens. The time has gone quickly. Hard to believe that we are looking at 2020. The world did not come to an end when the third millennium began. Now we move into our twentieth year of that millennium. Time, slow down.

Many are saying good-bye to a year that brought sadness and heartache. And, babies were born, birthdays were had and memories were made. There is a nostalgic feeling that comes over me when Christmas is over, and the new year stares me in the face. I do not need Auld Lang Syne to remind me of the past. It never fails to track me down when January first rolls around.

Since many of us no longer use a paper calendar, we miss that ripping off that last page and turning over a new one. Rather like that turning over the new leaf with the resolutions that are made and, too, disappear over time. Perhaps I am just a little tired as I write this. The tree stands creating that warm glow that I love so much this time of year. It will come down and life will resume as usual.

There is so much symbolism in our holiday lives. Life and death in the tree that has blessed our weeks of celebration. Gifts that we shared that still bring smiles as we go forward with a newness from what we have gained in that giving and receiving. Photographs in our minds recall events we live over and over of children laughing and meals that are the cause of many a resolution. The embracing memories of what Christmas means to us.

May your new year be blessed with good health and happiness that you gain from giving and receiving. May love surround you and freely spread from you to others. May the losses in your lives remain in the dear memories you cherish. Let us all go into the new year with hope for peace and goodwill to every child, woman, man and every earthly creature and plant that lives on this lovely globe. Happy 2020, dear friends.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

On a bed of straw

The baby lay in the manger. He was just a baby. He came here to be just a baby, just a man, human. There was a baby in the manger.

Each year I unwrap the nativities and place them on shelves. The first nativity is a tiny one I bought when I first moved to Dayton to live on my own. It was made in Germany. A small, blonde baby rests on straw. He and his parents are made of light pieces of wood that fit into a box that is about two inches square. The second nativity is one my parents gave me. Plastic Mary and Joseph look over the baby in the manger. At least they won't break or dent, and are made of a substance that will be here long after the world ends.

The third nativity is Loren's. It is one from Mexico with a very festive Mary and Joseph. Their dark skin is closer to that of the original baby in the manger. Next is my favorite. It is one I gave to my parents and is from India. It, too, is carved from wood and painted beautifully. Their skin the color of almonds.

The last all-inclusive nativity is made by Precious Moments. A group of white children make up the scene with the last more recent figures being that of a black-skinned harpist and his goat. His color is perhaps the most like the real baby. Quite an assortment, wouldn't you agree?

A baby. A baby who needed a diaper changed. One who nursed and one who cried. One who was a brother to the following children who ran and played the same as all do. So often we forget that Christ was a man. He was a man of color. He was a man who spoke in a strange tongue. He was Jewish. He came from a foreign country.

The man gave his life. We do not own Christ. That baby did not come to make a name for himself. He came for us to find a new life. He came to experience life. I have Jewish friends, friends from other countries. I have friends who are non-believers and those who are devout. I am not the judge. That baby in the manger is the proof that we are all accepted in God's sight without judgment from our fellow peoples.

I have several nativities. I put them out every years but I know that the baby in the manger is not what that the manger is about. It is about acceptance of people who spoke another language, about shepherds who lived with their flock in a poor way of life, about humble beginnings in a barn. Yet, kings came to pay homage. All are signs that the baby in that manger was probably a dark haired child who was blessed by them all regardless of who they were.

It is about love. Someone said that you should always say, "I love you", when you hang up the phone. I agree. I go a step further and signs cards and letters always with love. I hug people I don't know and tell them I love them, because I was told to love by that baby in the manger. I am not to love only one color of people or only Americans or only Christians. I was told to love all. If you know nothing more about me in my writings, know that I give love freely and with all my heart for it was asked of me in a stable. Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad, my friends. Happy Hanukkah, my Jewish friends. Happy Kwanzaa, my African American friends. I love you. Pass it on.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Lovely red-nosed reindeer

he upper floor of the department store held wonder and delight for the young children of the city and, especially, for those rural kids whose dreams soared when the family made their yearly trip to the Rike's to view the wonders of the Christmas season.

In 1939 Robert L. May wrote a poem about an unusual reindeer, one born with a brightly lit nose. So who is this Robert May? Well, he was a copywriter for Montgomery Ward's catalog division. He was working on creating a story about a character that would be alluring to the masses. Before May had completed his work, his wife died of cancer. Mr. May was left with a daughter the sweet age of four. His boss wanted to relieve him from the burden of the project, but May would not turn it over. He needed that reindeer, much as we all do.

Robert's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the song we all love which was based on the May poem. Marks is also credited for the songs from the the movie as well as many of our other holiday songs. Many artists were approached with the song but turned it down. At the urging of his wife, Gene Autry recorded it in 1949. I was two-years-old.

We rode up the escalator heading to the 'Christmas floor'. I remember holding a doll that had just come in the mail. She was the daughter of Dick Tracy. Well, you know what I mean. An adored doll and a little girl who was standing with her sister headed up moving stairs to Christmas dreams.

Loren and I began our Christmas TV watching with my all time fav White Christmas. Then as we scrolled through the Christmas menu, Rudolph popped up. How could we resist!? I had been watching this show since I was a child! It was an old friend come to visit. Perhaps it is age. Perhaps it is fear for the future of my grandchildren. Perhaps, just perhaps, I was really seeing it for the first time. It was not just a show for children. It was not just a show about a man in a red suit and a reindeer with a red nose. This little movie made for entertainment and children's delight became so much more. It was about a man raising a daughter alone. It was about losing a wife. It was about rising above the circumstances of living and finding hope and acceptance.

In this day we see prejudice still raising its ugly head. Bullying comes in all forms and seems to be handed down from generation to generation. Instead of reaching out to those who believe differently, who look different, who worship differently, who are of different cultures, who are ill or look different, who have different sexual preferences, who are not what we expect, people seem to lean into criticism, pointing fingers, judging. All these people have 'red noses' yet are judged by many. One of those who was different brought light into the world. It came in a manager from a baby who was Jewish, who was dark of skin and hair, who came from humble beginnings, who dared to be different. We never know when a red-nosed reindeer will come into our midst.

As we stepped off the escalator, we were greeted by a big reindeer, nodding and bearing a lovely red, glowing nose. I was just a tot but already loved that reindeer. I am now an old tot and love him still. Even now, the movie is the No. 1 most watched Christmas movie. It still brings home the message of what love truly means. Remember, there is so much more if we look for it. May your holidays be filled with love, laughter and new beginnings. I send you my love.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Today we decorated the tree

No. Nope. I am not happy when we send them home. I miss them. I see the time pass in their lives. New teeth, longer legs and new questions that come with the awareness of an older age. Today we decorated the tree.

What is the difference between me at 40 and me at 72? Oh, that's easy. For those years in-between were filled with loss, sometimes pain and often fear of what would happen next. It's not easy being me. There is, however, another side to all this. I grew up. Pain and loss do that, you know. It teaches you in the harshest ways, yet it works. We learn to cope with loss if we are lucky. We learn to embrace it, understanding it is not what is gone but more about what remains. I sometimes think I could relate to just about everyone, because I have been everyone. And, I came through it liking myself. A real revelation to a woman who didn't think there was more.

We get side tracked with pain, age, sadness and loneliness. It doesn't matter your age, it just happens to all of us. No one gets through this life on a happiness card. Just doesn't happen. I am thankful for the struggle. I am thankful for all the parts that have made me the person I am today.

Today we decorated the tree. The twins come into our house as if they are in their own. Nolan talks my leg off while Emma is organizing me. They approach the day with enthusiasm that gradually turns into The Grinch on TV. It's all good, because the dialogue never ends. I cherish these moments and take in each and every part, because of all the things I have learned about life. Yes, I will always be watching over you. Yes, you can talk to me about anything, and I will be available 24/7. I listen to your jabber not missing a syllable. I can do that for you. Time will teach you what I have learned, so for today I give you memories.

I think aging is good for us. We never understand the next older age, because we have not yet lived it.  We cannot undo what has been done in our lives. We can help our families through those similar times. We can be our parents in decorating the tree, or we can be in the moment making our own memories.

We made little pots with succulents in them for the school janitor, teachers, office workers and kitchen help at school. The kids took hold of the idea and were totally focused on the people to whom they want to gift these cute pots, explaining why they wanted them to have them. I embrace the time I have with those I love not because I am living the past but because I am storing up for the future. I am making myself available to them in their joys and later in their tough times. I would keep them forever and will in my heart. Today I just made a place for myself in theirs.