What Christmas Means To Me

There is no doubt that since I lost my mom, the Christmas holiday has changed drastically for me.  Okay, I admit I should probably be further along with my recovery than I am, but remember I have no siblings, there is only me.  I do confess, I’m not where I need to be, however, I’m definitely not where I used to be.  This is the time of year when everyone’s heart grows, and warm wishes abound, and in trying to force the holiday spirit upon myself, I had to stop for a minute and remind me – it’s okay. I say that because none of this is about me or my family or how many gifts I can buy.  The season is to honor Immanuel, for without whom, life as we know it would be something completely different, I’m sure.  Regardless I sit back; I watch and listen to reports of who has finished decorating their tree, how many sets of lights have been used, and about the planning of the holiday meal.  While every blink of my eye produces another image of a time gone by.

I think back, and recall a story of me as a child.  That particular year I became overwhelmed with Christmas.  I took my teddy – he had been my buddy for some time –  I gathered him up, and went about my way leaving everything under the tree.  I think this says something about a person’s make-up.  Although, I know I’m not the only one that has experienced or witnessed this.  I’m certain everyone reading this can recall their traditions over the years.  As a child, my grandfather liked to provide a shoe box.  That magical box held the hard Christmas candy, nuts and fruit. I would walk around with it for one week, slowly eating the contents; savoring everything and making it last so that I’d still have some to carry me through the football game that I watched with him on New Year’s Day.  Then, as I aged, everyone always came to my house for dinner.  My mother would put on the spread for uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, grandparents, and for whatever reason, we never had a kiddy table – we all dined together.

But, as time goes on, and you get older, roles and people change – families develop new branches, and there is always someone else to move into the matriarch or patriarch position.  For me, as much as I want to hand down traditions, I can’t seem to get out of the past recalling the days of my youth, as I am sure many of you do also.  There is always something that pulls me back to a simpler time; watching that game with granddad or helping my grandma as she brought out the fruit cake that had been soaking in the tin since September.  When she’d grab the axe in one hand, and me by the other as we would head into the woods to locate that special tree.  I’m also thinking as I write, those customs sadly, did not make it this far; that is the fruit cake, the shoe box, and searching out a tree in the woods.  Maybe it’s a good thing because they can then, be special to me alone.  I also think, for the young people out there, those occasions would be more reminiscent of the dark ages, maybe, huh?

What Christmas means to me is all about family, but as I get older it’s all about the tsunami of memories, flooding my brain.  I go back to the old neighborhood in Queens, when everyone on the block shared in the spirit of giving, while we all went from house to house wishing each other well.  We all shared food, while exchanging those gifts and visited for a glass of eggnog or hot chocolate.  Lastly, what is this holiday without The Temptations in the background singing Silent Night or Stevie Wonder doing One Little Christmas Tree. What’s this time devoid of the lights twinkling on the tree as you watch A Christmas Carol with more eggnog; this is what it really means to me.  And if I had one wish this holiday season – other than wishing everyone and their families a very Merry Christmas – it would be to relive all those instances over and over, and over again.  Tell me your favorite thing about this magical time of year.

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto


Curious Habit


I admittedly have a little quirk that has been with me since my teenage years, and at the tender age of seventeen my father decided he wanted to break the habit. How do you make your children strong, then develop the urge to break that will.  I’m laughing still.  What is this oddity you ask?  It’s simply called curiosity.  Bring a bag of any sort into my presence, brown, or otherwise and I can’t seem to repress the urge to find out its contents.  Now, I had no idea the man had conspired with my mother, and that she had gone along with the crazy scheme.  In any event, I am now many years away from a teenager, but the pesky tendency continues to rear its head.  On this particular day, however, he came in from work with a couple of brown grocery bags – unpretentious enough.  He proceeded to place them on the dining room table then, he walked to the kitchen to greet my mother.  The misplaced packages should have provided a clue, but they didn’t.

So, here you have this inquisitive young person, prancing and dancing around the table, taking her time in checking out these problematical parcels.  As I’ve thought about this through the years, I can remember the odd presence on my father’s face.  You see, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but he underhandedly watched as I ritualized the process of peeking in the bags.  Now, I didn’t take the time to peer in the package on this specific day.  No, I effortlessly eased my hand into the first one sitting at the edge.  Still not gazing in, I moved my hand around the inside of the bag.  Doing that, alerted my senses to something strange in makeup.  So peculiar, I immediately turned my face to the top; drawing my hand out, and hovering my head over, there it sat – gazing back at me.  Could I be dreaming? This could not possibly be real.  But, it stared back at me; curled in the bottom, with it’s head waving from side to side. I certainly knew it would strike for sure. There, right in my immediate vision, a black snake with some weird stripes on its head.

Now, do you think I hung around to ask questions, or even clearly understand what had happened?  Absolutely not. The shocked teen’s hands went toward the ceiling, mouth blasted open, and she bolted away from that table. She ran out of the dining room, through the living room, out the front door, and banged through it never stopping to use the handle.  From there, she leaped from the porch onto the sidewalk, and headed out as fast as possible; not even with a destination in mind, only needing to get out of the presence of the threat.  My block had the length of two long city streets.  When the crazy man caught up to me, I had made it half way to the Avenue.  The rubber snake in the bag may have sent me, the teenager, leaping like a frightened, but curious feline – however, break the habit – never.

Also, as I have asked in each of my posts lately, if you’re here, please take a minute to go to the top of this page and click “like” on my Facebook Fan Page. Thanks in advance.

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto

Love of Music

I have loved music since childhood. I guess it’s because I grew up in a home always filled with someone singing or the stereo playing.  Of course growing up this way gives one an ear for good music.  Yes, just like the stereotypical black southern woman in the church choir – my grandmother, an aunt and my mother all began singing there.  In fact, not many people know this little tidbit of information, but I often think of it; as a little girl I remember my mom singing in a quartet.  They called themselves “The United Echoes,” and they sang live right here in Virginia on the radio in the ’50s.  Two particular gospel songs always come to mind when I recall that group – “I’m To Close,” and “Come Ye Disconsolate.”  Let me just give a little plug here, and say Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway have a spirit-filled rendition of the latter.  As soon as I got my iPod, those were two tunes that mandatorily had to be added to the “Gospel” category.

Moving on, in 2006 my mom had a minor procedure where she had to be hospitalized and undergo surgery.  She healed perfectly from the operation.  However, she did contract that dreaded HA-MRSA bug or Health Care Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (something running rampant in certain hospitals here).  One month later, my poor mother still had not returned home.  Her doctor wanted to make certain all the infection had been beaten.  He therefore, strongly suggested she remain for an additional week of antibiotic drip.  Her private insurance requested she be moved to another facility; a nursing home conveniently sat attached to the other side of the building – she simply had to be rolled on over.

I must say, these places are a story in themselves.  I spent the entire week with her there and got a chance to watch all the goings on up close.  During the day appeared like five o’clock at Grand Central Station.  Residents were allowed to move about, and one will forever stick in my mind.  The elderly, heavy-set African-American woman from farther down the hall in the other direction, and her wheelchair.  Although she suffered from dementia, she had no problem with her hands and arms.  The entire day she whirled herself around, rolled up and down the hallway, and sat right at the entrance of my mother’s room.  She would talk to me about how she loved it when I came to visit her at her home, and how she hated to see me leave; on and on she would go.

Then, one day toward the end of my mother’s stay, our new friend sat all the way in the room this time.  My mother lay in her bed with her eyes closed; quite miserable, homesick and trying I’m sure, to will herself anywhere but there.  Out of nowhere, and completely unprovoked, a deep soulful hum emanated from this elder – this grandmother to which time had been unkind.  One that sprung open the eyes of my upset and fed-up mother.  She snapped her gaze in my direction, and then to the woman.  For that instance we both got the impression of being immediately transported to another time.  A moment in the clichéd south – a slavery scene or a 1930s African-American movie with Mahalia Jackson humming an old Negro spiritual.  I got chills, and my mother could only stare at me and shake her head in amazement.  I read somewhere – every now and again, when you’re talking to God, you have to hum so the devil doesn’t know what you’re saying. The elderly woman simply turned her chair, wheeled herself back through the door and hummed her way down the hallway evidencing no matter how unkind time had been; dementia or no dementia, nothing would steal the song in her heart.  We all should have that much love for music, that absolutely nothing will steal it away.

Also as a reminder, did you take a look at the new historic place and pics at “View From The Roads?” And, lastly, if you’re here, would you be so kind as to click on the “LIKE” button on my Facebook Fan Page.  Thanks.