New Year’s Day 2019… Resolution Reruns

With 2019 just a few days away, “Auntie Jo,” my sassy, brassy alter-ego, tells me the time has come for me to start posting re-runs. She reminds me I’m losing my touch, that I’m over the hill and sliding. My synapses are no longer synchronizing my syntax, my spelling has gone freeform, and my punctuation, always iffy, is out of control.

Tired of her nagging, I’ve had 5 years of posting this blog so there are plenty of stories to fall back on. I’ll be boring you every week from now on with a message from the past.

I’m hoping 2019 will be your best year yet, and I thank you all for your messages of encouragement and appreciation.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

So, did you or didn’t you?  Are you one of those super optimistic people who trot out the same old resolutions year after year, ever hopeful that this will finally be the year when you’re able to hold on to one long enough to say you kept it?  Do you have your list permanently engraved in your memory so you don’t have to write it down? Or maybe you come up with a new list every year, thinking that sooner or later you’ll hit on something that works?

Well, let’s review a few of those resolutions.  How do they stack up? After all, there are only so many ideas we humans can come up with for self-improvement.  We tend to think alike when we start kidding ourselves.

What’s Number 1 on almost all of our lists?  GET BACK IN SHAPE! Exercise more, eat healthily, lose weight and quit smoking if it applies.  Number 2 would probably be our promise to spend more quality time with family and friends. This would include cutting way back on the boob tube and social media.  Somewhere in there we’d vow to read at least one thought-provoking, inspirational book every month and, in general, clean up our act. Sound familiar?

Give it up, guys.  We all know we’re doomed to fail. Our promises to ourselves may give us a lift as we sing “Auld Lang Syne” on the last night of the old year.  We’re excited, eager to unveil the new us, ready to become better people. So, what happens?

Unfortunately, January 1st is what happens. That is decidedly the single worst day of the year on which to attempt any changes. Why?  Well, that’s easy. It’s those darned New Year’s Eve parties on December 31st that we can’t turn down. Take for instance, the most recent occasion.

We all partied that night, we know we did.  We even remember parts of the evening. We put on goofy hats, blew gaudy noise-makers, tried to prove we could still Jitterbug, ate tons of greasy, gooey little things and glugged down who knows how much eggnog.  Then came a confusing count down when some kind of a ball dropped somewhere, accompanied by a Champagne toast. And we called it fun!

So now we’ve arrived at January 1st.  New Year’s Day is dawning bright and full of promise.  And where are we? Cringing under the comfortless comforter, peering out of glazed eyeballs, head throbbing and tummies very, very iffy.  We’re expected to bound out of bed and do push-ups? Cook oatmeal? Welcome a thundering herd of raucous offspring who’ve discovered the discarded noisemakers?  All in the name of a few rash promises we made in the enthusiasm of the night before? Fat Chance!

Worse yet, we’ve obligated ourselves to read the first chapter of  “The Rise and Fall Of The Roman Empire” when we can’t even pick the darned thing up!  This is exactly why January 1st is the absolute worst day of the year for new beginnings.  Quality time with the family is a distant dream, something to be postponed indefinitely, along with any vague intentions of self improvement.  There have to be better times to begin.

So once again all those needed New Year’s resolutions have been sabotaged and we’re feeling more than a little guilty.  Surely there’ll be other opportunities to keep them – like maybe next year? We already have our lists, just in case.

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Three Christmas Trees

1900 – Papa and the boys hitch Old Dobbin to the bobsled and set off into the nearby woods, looking for the perfect Christmas tree. Dobbin’s harness jingles merrily and the boys’ cheeks are red with excitement as they head up the hill.

Meanwhile, Mama and the girls finish stringing cranberries and popped corn into long red and white ropes that will decorate the tree, then Mama heats a big pan of mulled cider and the girls set out plates of molasses cakes.

Harness bells are heard drawing closer and soon the door bursts open. A tall, fragrant tree is carried triumphantly into the warm room, its piney scent mingling with the spicy odor of the cider.

Papa sets the tree carefully into a pail of sand and the red and white ropes are wound around it. A wooden star, shiny with gold paint, is fastened securely to the top.

The family softly sing their favorite hymns, “Adeste Fidelis” and “Oh Holy Night” as candle holders with tiny beeswax candles are clamped to the sturdiest branches. A bucket of water is placed behind the tree and Mama lights the candles. The bright tree glows with life.

Mugs of steaming cider and molasses cakes are passed around and everyone agrees this is the most beautiful tree ever.

By the time the candles flicker out it’s time for bed. The children hang their stockings from the mantle, leave a glass of milk and a molasses cake for Saint Nicholas and are soon fast asleep.

Later that evening, quiet figures are glimpsed setting lumpy packages carefully under the tree. There are hand knit caps, mittens and scarves for all, and carved wooden dolls and prancing horses. The girls are given lengths of calico with matching ribbons, and sturdy boots are set out for the boys. A few peppermint sticks go into each stocking.

The house grows quiet once again and the proud tree stands watch as strains of “Silent Night” are heard far in the distance.

 

1960 – Dad, Mom and the kids pile into the station wagon, heading for the nearest Christmas tree lot. The kids sing “Jingle Bells” at the top of their lungs, mittened and scarved against the cold night.

Once there, they carefully look over the selection. The  flocked and spray-painted trees catch their eyes, and a few metallic trees set back under a shelter interest Mom briefly, but they settle on a beautiful noble fir, straight and tall. Dad ties it securely to the top of the station wagon and they rush home to set it up.

Mom stirs up a pan of hot chocolate while Dad stretches out across the shag carpet and the kids hold the tree upright in the tree stand. He firmly tightens the screws that hold it in place and water is added to the base. The house fills with the piney fragrance of the tree.

The lights are next, the strands laid out in rows, each strand then  plugged into an electrical outlet to make sure the fat, round bulbs light. One unlit bulb means an entire strand is dark so each one has to be carefully tested. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” blasts out of the record player, followed by “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and  ”Jingle Bell Rock.”

Fragile glass ornaments have been packed away from year to year and now they’re unwrapped to loud “OOHS” and “AAHS.” Everyone carefully hangs their favorites, then an ornate golden spire is fastened  to the very top.

Mom passes around handfuls of silver tinsel with orders to hang one strand at a time. It isn’t long before this gets tedious and when Mom isn’t looking the kids begin to hang it by bunches, then finally clumps of tinsel are sneaked onto the back branches and the job is done.

Leaning back, admiring their efforts over steaming cups of cocoa, potato chips with French onion soup dip and snickerdoodle cookies, everyone agrees this is the most beautiful tree ever. Bedtime seems to come too soon but suddenly everyone realizes how tired they are. The stockings are hung from the mantel, milk and cookies are set out for Santa Claus and the family is off to bed.

Much later, Mom and Dad slip out and set gaudily wrapped packages under the tree. There are new crinolines for the girls and Levis for the boys. There are stacks of games, Betsy-Wetsy dolls and an E-Z-Bake oven, also Tinker Toy sets and an electric train. Apples, oranges and walnuts fill the stockings and all grows quiet again.

The noble fir stands watch and faint strains of “Oh Tannenbaum” are heard from afar.

 

TODAY -Great-grandmother wrestles a tall, narrow box out of her hall closet and slides the contents out onto the tiled kitchen floor. She begins to assemble her Christmas tree while the TV streams her favorite carols, including “Adeste Fidelis,” “Oh Holy Night” and “Tannenbaum”.

She fits each section of the tree into the next, clicks the stand together and sets it upright. The dangling electric cord is plugged into the nearest outlet and her tree sparkles and twinkles with multi-colored lights. In this age of instant gratification she gets a laugh out of her “instant” tree.

She pours herself a glass of wine and reaches for her box of ornaments, a treasure box of memories. Each ornament has been saved over the years for its special meaning.

As she sips her wine she unpacks the ornaments one by one, handling them lovingly and recalling the person who gave each to her or the special occasion it represents. Many are hand made, some by childish fingers and some by fellow craftspeople she’s known and worked with. A delicate golden angel, her own creation, tops the tree.

She misses the fragrance of real pine boughs just as she misses the color, the companionship and excitement of other years and other trees. Finally she sits back, sips her wine and nibbles at a gluten-free cookie, listening to the strains of “Silver Bells.” Tears come into her eyes and a lump forms in her throat, as she thinks of the many loved ones gone from her life.

And then her iPhone peals out “Jingle Bells.” She wipes her tears and picks it up to answer. A lisping voice cries out “Merry Christmas, GiGi, we’re on our way,” and she laughs in delight. Her beautiful little tree twinkles at her merrily and she hears “Jingle Bells” in the distance.

Feeling Your Age?

Someone, a very small someone, asked me recently how it feels to be so old. How I felt after that remark was speechless!  How does it feel? Maybe the question should be a two-parter, how does it feel inside? And how about the outside?

Inside is easy. Sixteen.  Call it wishful thinking, or second childhood, or whatever you want. I’ll always feel like I’m still sixteen inside, and that’s a good feeling.

Outside is totally different.  Being old on the outside can vary in feeling from to week to week, day to day, and even hour to hour.  There are days when I think I can still slay dragons. I don’t exactly bounce out of bed but I do give it some serious thought.  Then there are days when every hair on my head hurts, my toenails too. Maybe a brief top-to-toe inventory is called for here.

I’ll admit, I do look old. There’s no fooling anybody.  Layers of paint, youthful attire and hair extensions don’t camoflauge a thing.  Makeup sinks into one’s wrinkles and runs down the chin in streaks. Faded jeans with ragged knees only make people cry, “Oh, you poor dear, did you fall down again?”  As for the hair, mine has been white for so many decades, a green or magenta extension would only bring Halloween to mind.

I still seem to have plenty of curves but how did they end up getting  rearranged into lumps in so many of the wrong places? A double chin might be excusable, but 2 or 3 more on top of the original  don’t help a bit.

And wrinkles!  A few could be expected and accepted, but wrinkles on top of wrinkles?  No way. I have vertical wrinkles, horizontal wrinkles, and wrinkles that crisscross all the rest.  My ear lobes are wrinkled. Even my toes are wrinkled. Not the wet, puckery kind you get after staying in the pool too long either.  These are serious wrinkles, not bad enough to snag my sox, but I do need a larger shoe size just to accommodate them.

If only I could pull up all this sagging skin  and tie it in a knot at the top of my head, I might gain back some of the height I’ve lost,  not to mention getting an instant face-lift. Maybe I should try a handstand. The last time I ended up standing on my head (totally unplanned) I came out of the E.R. with 12 clamps on the crown of my head and bright red hair.  Anyway, physical appearance is transient. As they say, vanity is the last thing to go.

Appearance aside, how do I really feel?  How about my joints, my organs, my posture?  Joints, old and creaky, organs, old and leaky, posture, old and freaky. Some things just don’t bear talking about.

So how did I answer the small someone who was so curious?  I managed a big grin, crossed my fingers behind my back, and fibbed.  “It feels great, child. Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll be this old and you’ll find your heart is still young. And that doesn’t feel bad at all.”