A SHORT STORY ABOUT THE JOYS OF CHRISTMAS ~
(originally posted December 2013)
The people were surrounding me stepping on my foot, jabbing with their elbows, bumping me into other people. I was pushing back just to maintain my balance. There was so much noise my head was pounding. A squealing sound near the ceiling of the big room made my headache worse. Long lines, crying babies, noisy talkers, so many bodies pressed against me.
Why did I ever agree to go out shopping and make myself nervous and tired? Sure, she’s my best friend and her kids are normally fun and cuddly, but right now, I wish they were sleeping in their little beds at home. I thought it would be festive if Momma, Sabrina, my husband, Matt, and I met them at the mall for Santa pictures where he sits in the big chair surrounded by magic snow and more screaming kids.
Baby Bradley pulled on my coat asking, “What is that white stuff around Santa?”
It’s magic snow, Bradley,” I said as I smiled.
He broke away from his sister’s hand and laughed as he crawled around in the white stuff now covering his Christmas suit and matching hat. Children–the innocence of Christmas.
And that’s how it all started…with magic snow!
Momma said it would be a good day to get out and enjoy the season. Really! Well, I’m worried about her as well as myself. I would feel so bad if someone pushed her down and caused a broken bone.
My teenage daughter, Sabrina, with all sorts of tubes and ear muffs on her multi-pierced ears, is not listening to a word I yell at her. Of course she’s not because she hasn’t heard anything I’ve said since she was 13 when her aunt Elizabeth bought her those earphone things. I can tell from the rolling eyes—the only way she communicates with me for the past year—she wishes this “seasonal event” was over so she could meet her friends. I’ve learned to accept that all of us, as old people, are such lame companions.
My husband said he would just wait in the car and watch the rest of some ballgame on his phone sipping his café espresso .
“Well, of course, honey, that’s fine if you want,” I grimaced at him—and he smiled as if I just made a pass at him!
So much for thinking he would carry the packages. I looked back at him as the rest of us got out slowly watching for ice patches surrounding the van. Why can’t I be the one in the car with my Grande peppermint mocha latte? When do I get my Christmas wish?
Immediately I heard the shrieks of Bradley and his older sister running up and down the sidewalk. The kids were jumping up and down and waving their chubby mitten-covered hands beckoning us to join their fun.
As we entered the mall and I saw all the people, I remembered how horrible it could be shopping on Christmas Eve. If I survive this mob, I’ve still got to stop and get replacement bulbs for the tree lights. Got to go to four more stores for gift cards, and pick up the ingredients for my famous rum pumpkin pie. Rum? Maybe two bottles I’m thinking!
It’s coming back to me now how much I hate shopping on Christmas Eve.
In fact, I am so tired that if Christmas doesn’t hurry up and get here and gone, I may just see if Santa could use a new elf for next year—I hear it’s a year-long training in a far-away place!
Splat! Ouch! Ugh!
I’ve been attacked with something akin to a baseball bat! Oh, it’s just Baby Bradley and his bottle he’s swinging like a boomerang. The screeching sound in my ear is him laughing and squeaking.
My friend said,“Bradley, honey, don’t hit anyone with that.”
No problem, my friend, it’s not anyone—it’s only me!
A short time later, I got candy cane sticky kisses and hugs from Bradley and his sister. My friend and her two little ones left us to our shopping.
Where is my daughter? You’d think I could find her with all that electrical equipment on her head but I think she’s run away and left me in this colossal mess and disorderly crowd. Surely she knows if she retreats to the car with her dad, I’ll be left alone to fend for myself and Momma. Would she do that? In a heartbeat or a drumbeat or whatever her stethoscope-like wires hear when they are stuck in her ear.
Oh, no, where’s Momma! Did someone slam her to the floor and steal her huge purse. No, they couldn’t wrench it off her shoulder the way she ties that on…and they would be weighted down with its contents. But where is she?
“Oh, I’m so sorry ma’am – I didn’t mean to bump into you and step on your foot and elbow you and the little ones,” I said.
I apologized profusely to a woman and five children strung out like a “Hands Across America” exhibit. I really had done nothing to her but it sounded nicer if I apologized to them as they continued on through the crowd forming a bulldozer-like barricade.
Momma, Sabrina, come back and help me. I’m dropping the packages and a boy has his Game of Thrones-like sword stuck in my back and he’s jabbing me with it.
I raised my voice above that of the blaring loud-speaker crying, “Come back and help me!
After what seemed like hours of abuse and stomping and noise, I realized it was quiet and dark. Oh, no, I’ve blacked out and am dying! The crowd of people are all finally gone and debris is all around me. My packages are strewn about with their contents lying hither and yon.
Oh, no! My ribs hurt as I chuckled because draped over my feet are the Santa boxers that are supposed to be a private gift for my Naughty Santa husband. My purse—where’s my purse? Ouch…that must be it I’m lying on that’s punching me in the ribs. Well, at least no one took that—one good thing. The sign which had been hanging near the checkout line was across my body. I could still read it though:
“Last Mark Down Items For Christmas Eve Shoppers”
Now I remember… I’m in the midst of the Joys of Christmas
U-Turns May Still Get You There
INSTALLMENT #1 TRAVELOGUE OF 2 SISTERS ROAD TRIP
Have you ever made so many U-turns you’re not sure if you are headed back to the beginning or on a completely different route?
That recently happened to me on a road trip. Best laid plans and all that! Had maps marked, turn-by-turn directions, GPS, and many other devices that should have made the traveling a little easier. But, you know, when you pass up that exit and you’re in the wrong lane, things fall apart right then.
And it doesn’t even have to be on a multi-lane interstate. It can be a highway junction in a small town that throws you off. Seems more and more junctions are being laid out to give an “easier” way around the town. Large or small, roads can get you mis-routed in an instant.
So after you try a couple of new perspectives on it and you’ve still not found your connection, you do the unthinkable: ASK FOR DIRECTIONS FROM A LOCAL. That doesn’t often turn out well even from the first statement when they begin:
You know where the old post office was? Well, you go down four or five or maybe six blocks and you turn by the old gas station. ‘course it’s closed down now and they’ve bulldozed it all down and widened the street there. I think it’s a flea market now or something.”
If I knew things like that and if I was from ‘round these parts’ I probably wouldn’t be asking for directions. Just then another voice chimes in:
“You know where old man Smith’s place is? It’s past that a bit…can’t miss it”
Oh, my, hasn’t that been helpful? You smile and return to the car and try to readjust your antennae…and, with a renewed spirit you start toward the old post office.
But I’ve learned in traveling (as in life) if you have to turn around and try again, something different will happen. It won’t be the same journey [even if you do see old man Smith’s place]…and you may still be lost. Why didn’t you ask them to draw you a map? But then why would their map be any better than all the ones you got from the travel agent, the state or the one you pulled up on your smart phone?
Oh, gosh, do you think that place we just passed was old man Smith’s!! I know the guy said ‘can’t miss it’ but I think we just did.
On one dreary afternoon when my sister and I realized we weren’t anywhere close to being able to tackle the up-coming city (because of an “alternate” road we’d taken in our approach), we made a major decision. We just threw all caution to the wind, tossed the state & city map into the back seat and braved the city one street at a time.
My comment was: You know our parents and grandparents traveled across this great United States in the 30s,40s & 50s with no map. Surely we can do it.
And we did. We found more things in that city than they’ve ever put on a tourist guide. We found beautiful scenery, expensive homes in a well-to-do suburb (even a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house). We located and identified six various kinds of art deco architecture within a 4-block area of downtown. We tasted that city’s grit to grime believing our new route through the run-down section would connect to another road. It did…just not the right road. When we photographed our last shot in the dying sunset, we found the right highway connect. At that moment we felt we had enjoyed that city more than any that could be on our trip.
If you missed the turns in your life, you’ve got some options:
- You can make a u-turn and head back looking at it from the other side
- You can analyze that if you “square it off” you’ll get right back where you were before (but remember…you were lost then, too)
- You can take the new directions from the locals and get a chance to see that old post office
- You can throw up your hands, toss the map out the window and wing it from there and see something else that wasn’t even on your list.
You can do any of these things…and none are really wrong decisions.
But, failing to try again can be the most unpleasant of all. You’ll never get on the right road if you don’t turn around; you’ll never get to see the old post office and you’ll miss the entire journey.
Be brave! U-turn now…go back and see where you missed that turn…go back and try it again! Remember the last time you missed a turn and you just kept going? Yes, you do remember how that turned out, don’t you? Make some decision…because indecision is the same as standing still.
You’ll never know what you’ll discover on “alternate” roads. Here’s a few things I would have missed if I’d followed the exact directions.
Solitary road found during a U-turn in TX
Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Tulsa
Gates swinging open at Graceland
Monument to school desegregation in Little Rock
Rock of Ages Farm Barn Route 66 OK
Smallest portion of Route 66 (13 miles) in KS
Town of Santa Claus IN – decorated 365 days a year and lights turned on each night
Quiet road found during U-turn in TN
Metal from World Trade Center sculpture (ORNL)
Oak Ridge TN
Cumberland River in downtown Nashville
Directions are easier to see once you turn around!
I can’t guarantee you’ll find exactly what you are looking for with a U-turn or change in direction. I can guarantee that it’s different–and isn’t that what we are hoping when we’ve realized we made the wrong turn?
I looked into the sun, squinting to make out the road sign; As I U-turned to look from the other side, it was clear. Not clear that I ‘d found what I needed but clear I was lost. Sometimes, discovering you are lost is as good as knowing where you are. Make the journey; start the adventure; map it out; But when best laid plans come up short, make a new plan. Never too late to start a new journey on an old road.
Does Wind Whisper or Roar?
Later in this column, I’ll give you the scientific definition of WIND. But for the moment, think about wind only as a source of energy—something we can’t see but can feel. I consider it the most mysterious of weather conditions. Where is it? If it can be so powerful, why can’t we see it?
This winter of 2013/2014 has proved to be one of the most extreme weather patterns in recent years (in some cases decades).
Mostly we consider wind to be the “source” that:
- messes up our hair
- takes the dirt/dust in the air and collects it on our cars,
- sends the pollen into our red, watery, itchy eyes.
It is also that thing which causes your little speeding golf ball to take an unruly path away from the hole on the green.
And you may remember the frustration of trying to fly a kite which is difficult with too little or too much wind.
For all the things we can blame on wind, I want to consider it’s positive force—how it makes you feel. Whether you think of wind as in the concept of power or gusts or you think of it as a whisper fluttering the leaves, it undeniably has power like no other part of nature.
To me it is the way I feel in the wind. I know, scientifically, there is energy and power in the wind. But to feel the wind as it touches my face and body, to let it drift over my mind and thoughts, just to see it moving the other elements of nature is so representative of a force greater than you and I.
It seems to have the ability to make my mind clear – like clearing out the cobwebs. It actually affects my body & health. It takes only a few minutes outside in quiet solitude before I feel as if I’d done spring cleaning in my thoughts completely removing the problems and worries and enjoying the deep breaths I draw.
Regeneration is a word that reminds me of what “wind” does for me.
Let’s think about when wind mixes with a particular element–that brings on a whole new meaning.
- If it is snow blowing and swirling, then we have a blizzard;
- if it is sand or dirt blowing, then we have a dust storm;
- if it is rain that is moving with the wind, it may result in tornadic or hurricane force winds.
Sometimes those things bring us upheaval and disaster. So the ferocious manner of wind is not to be ignored. But think with me about the breeze and gusts that most often make up our day.
- The coolness of an autumn breeze;
- the snow moved softly by the wind;
- the pollen pushed forth by the blowing;
- the rain shower that blows upon us for only minutes.
Like most of us in the US, I’m awaiting those days that will soon burst forth giving us more pollen, more rain, more movement than has laid below our frozen tundra and iced vegetation. As the Spring of 2014 drifts upon us in a few more days (weeks), I hope I will be able to appreciate what the wind provides for us and greet it with welcoming smiles.
Wind dusts off, cleans away, and refreshes the earth as well as our body. The power of the wind reminds me the source of all wind (all energies) is controlled by my Creator and that God is the maker and purveyor of this earth.
Scientific Information about wind: For any of you who wish to read a “scientific Description” of wind, you may click this link. It seemed to me to be very mysterious in its definition—a little like wind seems to me! http://www.weatherquestions.com/What_causes_wind.htm
For the wordsmiths among us, here are other words for wind:
breath ♦ breeze ♦ draft ♦ ozone ♦ puff ♦ blast ♦ waft ♦
whirlwind cyclone ♦ flutter ♦ cyclone ♦ flutter ♦ tempest ♦
typhoon ♦ zephyr ♦ ventilation ♦ chinook ♦ psithurism
Wind has so many attributes and has often been used in music & poetry.
One of the songs about “wind” is represented in the1969 Hollywood film “Paint Your Wagon” (They Call the Wind) Maria (pronounced /məˈraɪ.ə/) performed by Harve Presnell. Here is a video of that performance.
The exact opposite of Maria is when “wind” brings us the soft, wistful thoughts. “The Breeze & I are whispering goodbye…” For those who want to dance in the breeze, I’ve included that haunting melody here
The Breeze and I - words by Al Stillman, music by Ernesto Lecuona music written in 1929 as a piano piece called "Andaluza,"part of the Andalucia Suite by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona - words added later by Al Stillman - sung here by Caterina Valente, 1953
The breeze and I are saying with a sigh
That you no longer care
The breeze and I are whispering goodbye
To dreams we used to share
Ours was a love song that seemed constant as the moon
Ending in a strange, mournful tune
And all about me, they know you have departed without me
And we wonder why, the breeze and I
The breeze and I
Here is a little known fact related to weatherology:
As mentioned, the song “They Call the Wind Maria” was featured in the 1969 Hollywood film “Paint Your Wagon,” starring Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg. It was George Rippey Stewart’s 1941 novel Storm, in which he presents the storm which is the protagonist of his story and named it “Maria” (pronounced /məˈraɪ.ə/).
In 1947, Stewart wrote a new introduction for a reprint of the book, and discussed the pronunciation of “Maria”:
“The soft Spanish pronunciation is fine for some heroines, but our Maria here is too big for any man to embrace and much too boisterous.” He went on to say, “So put the accent on the second syllable, and pronounce it ‘rye'”
The success of Stewart’s novel was one factor that motivated U.S. military meteorologists to start the informal practice of giving women’s names to storms in the Pacific during World War II. The practice became official in 1945. In 1953, a similar system of using women’s names was adopted for North Atlantic storms. This continued until 1979, when men’s names were incorporated into the system.
Think about how the wind moves through nature and through you.
South by Southwest vs. West by Northwest
It was just a spur of the moment trip. I really had not planned to go anywhere last Friday, but there I was, driving west and headed to an old familiar place. I’d taken this road many times—back and forth to my dad’s place over the last 30 years. The road felt like an old friend. I knew where each turn was, where the speed traps were, and how far it was to the next bathroom. I knew where you had to stop and fill up with gas because THAT gas station was always the cheapest. And I would stop there again–just because. I knew I could make the trip in less than 4 hours.
You start off heading west on Interstate 20 as if you were going to California—because, if you don’t stop for several days, that’s where you’ll be—or at least El Paso for an overnight stop! In El Paso, you can catch Interstate 10 and then scoot across the edge of New Mexico around Las Cruces and Lordsburg. From there it’s just hours on to Tucson. That’s where your compass might become confused because you come to a crossroads.Crossroads can sometimes be confusing if you don’t have a clear idea of what your final destination is. But I didn’t need a map today…I knew the road and my destination.
From Tucson, you can continue to California by taking a hard northwest on to Phoenix and then set your sites on The Los Angeles area. Of course, don’t get me wrong…that’s more than the 4 hour trip that I’m making to west Texas…but if the music on the CD is right and the gasoline card and credit card have enough available balance, I just might keep on those west-bound roads and be sipping a cool drink on the pier in Santa Monica. Tempting!
But I’ve overshot my daydreaming just a bit. I’ve just arrived near the small town of Cisco TX so this is one place I have to make a decision. Do I make that south turn and go on to my dad’s place—or do I set out on a 5-day trip that takes me all the way to California.
I know deep down he would think the trip west was a good idea. He traveled all of those roads for many years and told great stories of traveling across the US during the depression and WWII years working when they could.
I would love nothing more than to sit with him again and hear all those great stories. But a few years ago, his life, well-lived, came to a close. I’ve gone back only a couple of times since then…and maybe that’s enough…to see if everything is still the same in the town’s rock-road cemetery. What do I expect will change about it? I don’t know, but it feels as if I ought to watch over his place like he always watched over me.
…could do anything—and I mean ANYTHING! A carpenter by trade, that didn’t stop him from fixing my dainty jewelry, helping with homework, building a house for us, or making sure that we had enough to survive.Seems it didn’t take as much in those days to get through—something about our greedy desires have increased since the 50s & 60s. What we didn’t know about, we didn’t need.
I have just picked up a hamburger and cherry coke and I’ve made the south turn onto State highway 183 that will take me on to Brownwood, then a connect with US 377 on to Brady, TX.
A town of about 5,500 located in the geographic heart of Texas, Brady had been a place I had looked forward to visiting every summer when I was a little girl. My mother and dad would go for a visit to my Mama’s & Papa’s house there, and I’d get to stay for a couple of weeks.
That was just great—especially when I was the last of the cousins (and the youngest of a dozen) to still think it was cool to be gone for a couple of weeks in the summertime staying with some old people. My Papa grew vegetables and they had chickens. I didn’t like that at all so I’d just stand at the wire and watch my Mama feed the chickens from the pockets of her always-present apron.
My Papa would pick and dig up vegetables and put them on the big picnic table under the tree to ripen. I could already imagine those juicy tomatoes, that warm yellow watermelon, and those snap peas cooked in a big pot with potatoes!
Yes, my grandparents were old, but I didn’t mind because I was alone with them and my thoughts. They had lessons to teach if I would just listen.
The town hasn’t changed too much from those days. The roads are still made of shale rock and unpaved in most of the town. Many of the old houses still look like they did when we would drive slowly (because everything in that town was/is slow) to the town square.
The square, built around an old county courthouse constructed in 1878, never changed. There were maybe 40 stores around that square. As I drive in today, some are still closed up and some have transitioned from a theater to a hardware store, to a boutique, to a coffee shop, to another empty store in a dying commerce of downtown shops.
My destination is just a little off the square northwest on Highway 87 There, in the constantly blowing wind of west Texas, is the old cemetery. My dad’s place is looking sleek and clean—because nothing can stay long under that incessant wind. I tell him how much I love him, think to myself of how hard he worked, how much he liked Country Music & TV, how much he loved me from the time I could remember to those recent few years ago. Many times he rode his white horse (really a brown Ford pickup truck) to save me from a bad decision I had made or a situation that surprisingly turned bad.
I put some yellow roses in the vase near his name with birth and death dates. Then I blow him a kiss and let the wind clear my eyes. The skies look clear out here because the wind just blows the clouds out of those west Texas skies. I look up and I feel the power of God in that wind and I know my daddy is resting in His arms.
I’ll get another cherry coke and start that ride back. It’s less than 4 hours. When I get to the crossroad again, I’ll turn east back into central Texas. El Paso, Las Cruces, Phoenix and Santa Monica will have to wait for another time.
Driving away from the setting sun with the road humming along and my music set to old country music–the kind my daddy loved. I start to sing along, like my daddy always did. I felt sad but comforted by the trip to my daddy’s place.
In some ways, today I carved out a new journey down this old road. Traveling never looks the same when your purpose changes.
It’s good to know God will help you if you develop a new vision
or if you need to take a new journey
even if it is down an old road.
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