Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

I grew up in a large family.  There were seven kids plus my mom and dad.  My dad was the only one who worked, as was the norm in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My dad drove a fork lift at one of the local canneries.  The only way there would ever be any money for Christmas gifts was for my mother to save money in a Christmas Club account at the local Bank of America where she made a weekly deposit.

One year my brother David, who was about eight years old that year, fell in love with a toy he saw on a TV commercial.  It was a cannon that shot hard plastic balls.  It was called the Mighty Mo.  The commercials showed the Mighty Mo crawling over and through rough terrain all on a miniature scale, of course, but it looked really neat.  The clincher was the footage of the cannon balls launching out of the Mighty Mo!

David had to have one but we were taught to not ask for anything, not even for our birthdays or Christmas so he couldn’t ask for one.  We lived a block away from Safeway and my mom used to send us on daily trips for the odd supply she needed before the next week’s big grocery trip.  Safeway carried a few toys then.  They placed them on the shelves high above the produce department as those shelves were normally empty.  On one of the trips to get something for my mom, David was thrilled to discover that Safeway had about two dozen Mighty Mos on their shelves!  After that day, David volunteered to go to Safeway every single time my mom needed something.

Every day David returned from his Safeway run to report exactly how many Mighty Mos were left on the shelf and every day, as the number dwindled, he gave my mom his report in a sadder and sadder tone.  First there had been two dozen then only eighteen.  Soon there were less than a dozen and when there were only four left, David was really sad. About three days before Christmas, David reported, with tears in his eyes, that there were no Mighty Mos left at Safeway.  When Christmas arrived, David was the only one of us that was not excited about it.  We all wanted him to be happy like we were but nothing got him excited.

On Christmas morning, we got up and my big brothers helped us girls get dressed and ready to go upstairs to open presents.  That’s what we did each year because it gave my parents a little extra time to get up.  When we got upstairs, David was the last one to go into the living room where the tree was with our Santa gifts unwrapped.  When he came in he found us all with huge smiles on our faces and our eyes intent on his face.  He didn’t know what was up until he looked under the tree and found his Mighty Mo with a big red ribbon on it!

We all enjoyed that Mighty Mo for several years.  David especially liked to shoot the cannon balls out of the Mighty Mo from the top of the stairs in the back yard.  It was a fun toy.  I only wish my brother David was still around to tell the story himself.

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The Package~a re-post

One year, when I was about four or five, there was a huge boxes with my mom’s name on it under the Christmas tree.  It was a shiny silver wrapped package and it was from my dad.  My mom is a kid at heart and loves, loves, loves, gifts.  She was like a little kid opening the box, with absolutely no idea what could be inside.  We all stopped opening our packages to watch her.  She opened it and inside she found a lot of newspapers and another package wrapped up in silver paper.  She opened that one and she found more crumpled newspapers and another box!  By the time she got to the fourth box and still had not found a present, she was really mad at my dad.  She thought it was a mean joke.  He said it wasn’t and urged her to continue looking for her present.

She opened about three more boxes, each smaller than the one that had held it.  Still no gift.  My dad urged her to keep on going, although by then she had tears in her eyes and was convinced that she was the victim of a cruel joke.

Finally, she came to a very small box wrapped in metallic gold paper, with a large bow on it.  The bow, in fact, was bigger than the box!  Inside that box was a wedding ring set.  She cried as she tried it on.

When my parents had gotten married years before, there had been no money for a wedding ring so my father had taken a silver quarter and made a ring for my mom and a matching one for himself.  That’s what my mom had worn for almost ten years until that one Christmas when she got her “real” wedding set with a diamond!  She was so happy that it made the rest of us happy for her.  I remember crying because my mom was so happy.

That year was one of many happy Christmases in my past.  My brothers and sisters and I were all together with both our parents.  We had each other and we were glad we did.  There were more years like that one but soon enough, reality would creep in on our family and the happy times would end.  But that one year was a sweet one.  No wonder it is a favorite Christmas.

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Earlier today, I read about a friend of mine who took a fall.  She’s a little banged up and a lot embarrassed.  It reminded her about a time that I took a fall.  I’ve actually posted this before.  It’s one of my Christmas stories.  Although I have lost most of my old writing, due to technology failing me this year, I was able to piece this together.

Christmas of 1994 the kids went to their dad’s house on December 23rd and he was to return them by 10 AM on Christmas Day.  That year was a particularly bad one, financially, so there was very little money to spend on Christmas gifts.  All three of the kids wanted a computer and I had found a man, through the Penny Saver, that would build one for me and not charge an arm and a leg and he would build it to the specifications needed by/for the kids.  He took a payment to get the parts and then the rest when he delivered it on Christmas Eve.  I had checked with him and everything was on schedule.  I was glad because although this was a gift for all three of them, it was primarily for Tony, the oldest who needed it for school.  I had managed to get a couple of computer games at discount that I would give him for Christmas.

Tina wanted a bird.  I had found her a bird cage at a yard sale about a month before Christmas and I had it stashed in the garage.  I just had to get the bird.  I planned on getting it at the local swap meet on Christmas Eve while the kids were at their dad’s.

Everything was on target that Christmas Eve.  I got up early and was at the swap meet when they opened at 7 in the morning. I knew exactly where the pet stand was and I got there in time to get a beautiful lavender colored parakeet!  It was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.  I was so happy to have gotten it and it was only $4!  On my way out to the car I stopped and picked up a couple of small things the kids could use and got them at bargain prices as the vendors wanted to unload them quickly so they could go home.  I made my way home and set up the cage and put the parakeet into it.

Just as I finished with the birdie, the phone rang.  It was bad news.  The man that was building the computer for me was calling to say that the fan he had ordered for the computer did not work and he’d have to wait til the 26th to get another.  The kids would not have their computer on Christmas.  I was bummed but I figured I would make the best of it and was glad Ihad managed to get a deal on the bird and the few  things I had picked up at the swap meet.

I went to the grocery store to get what I needed for Christmas dinner and to see if I could pick up some stocking stuffers for the kids.  I was in the store for a long time and when I came out, it was raining.  I pushed the cart full of groceries toward the car and as I got within 15 feet of the car, I slipped in a puddle.  I fall flat on my back in the middle of the parking lot, in the rain, with all my groceries scattered around me.  I couldn’t get up and cars went around me.  It took about seven or eight cars going around me before  a man came running over to me and helped me get up and got me to the car. Then he picked up my groceries and got them in my car.  He actually offered to drive me home but I thanked him and said I could make it on my own.  I was too embarrassed to have him fuss over me or drive me home.  I had prior back and knee injuries so this was not good.  It took about a half hour of sitting in the car crying before I felt I could drive home.  By then the soreness was setting in and I knew I had to get home before the pain got so bad that I would not be able to drive myself home.  I had no one to call to come get me so if I couldn’t drive home, I would be stuck in the grocery store parking lot.

Once home I put the perishables away and took a pain pill and went to bed.  I slept for a very short time and wakened when I heard a loud crash!  I ran to see what it was and got to the living room in time to see  my daughter’s cat running past me with the bird in his mouth!  He had somehow gotten out of the bedroom where he had been stashed til he could be introduced to the bird.  The loud crash was the cat, Noisemaker, knocking down the cage.  I chased the cat all over the house until he let go of the bird.  It was clear that the bird’s neck had been broken.  Filled with anger and frustration,  I threw a shoe at the cat and sat and cried again, holding the dead bird in my hands.

I ended up going to bed and crying myself to sleep after taking care of the bird mess in the living room.  I didn’t even eat lunch or dinner.  I just slept.

When the kids got to the house the next morning, I answered the door with tears in my eyes and the only thing I could say to Tina was “Your stupid animal killed your Christmas present!”

The kids kind of rolled with the punches that day and enjoyed themselves and the gifts they had.  The day was fine and on the 26th, their computer was delivered and we went back to the swap meet and had my daughter pick out another bird.  They also had some Christmas money sent by relatives so they enjoyed the after Christmas bargains at the swap meet.

I still remember that and get all teary.  The bird-killing cat is long gone.  The kids are grown and gone off on their own.  Bad years come and go.  In the end, as long as we’re together, we’re okay.

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This year, through a number of circumstances, I will be alone over the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend.  I have been trying to convince myself that it’s okay but the more I worked on psyching myself up to be okay with it, the more I realized that I was not going to like being alone.  I thought that I might volunteer at a homeless shelter or something but in the end, my daughter is going to borrow my car to go out of state so I will also be without transportation.  And although the Portland Metro area has an extensive public transportation system, I’m in a rural area and the bus just doesn’t go near me.  I would have to drive to the transportation center and leave my car and take a bus in to town.  In the end, my bus trip would be shorter than my drive to the transportation center.  I won’t have a car to drive there so that’s out.

Just as I was starting to feel a panic about being alone, I read a Facebook post that came across my Wall.  It seems that there is a reading event in which I can participate this weekend!  I’ve done similar events in the past and have really enjoyed them.  So I signed up to participate in Thankfully Reading, the 2010 edition.  This will be great!   This type of event offers participants the opportunity to participate in a group event independently.  Through blog comments and FB posts and Twitter tweets, we all get to know a little about one another and about what we are reading.  It’s a wonderful way to make friends and get some leads for books to read in the future.

Now I am looking forward to the weekend and looking through my Kindle books to see what I want to read this weekend.  I’m excited!

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When I was in high school (okay, it’s been so long I almost don’t remember!), one of the groups I belonged to,  California Scholarship Federation or CSF, had a carnation sale for Valentine’s Day.  About two weeks before Valentine’s Day, we would take orders for the flowers.  They cost one dollar each and the sender got to choose pink, red, white, or speckled carnations.  They also had to give us the class schedule of the person they were sending the flower to.  Then on the 14th, we spent the day delivering the flowers to the classrooms.

It was a neat little fundraiser for our field trips and it also let a lot of people do something special for their favorite valentine for just a buck!  However, as with all things high school, it also meant that those who didn’t get any flowers would feel out of place and those that gathered more than a dozen (usually the cheerleaders) would feel superior to the rest of us.  And although a dollar wasn’t a lot of money, I know that if I had a dollar, that would buy my lunch for two days!

My sister had a bunch of friends that I hung around with during freshman year.  They were all older so they had already lived through the humiliation of not getting a single carnation on Valentine’s Day.  So we pooled our money for a couple of weeks and then we ordered the carnations for each other so we’d insure that we would each get at least one flower!  See, there is always a way to make things work if you put your mind to it.

By the time I got to my senior year, I had also figured out that the best way to make sure I had flowers delivered to me early in the day was to give out only my first and second period classroom numbers.  That way the flowers had to be delivered during one of those two classes and I would be able to carry flowers all day long.  Besides, by then, I was doing the delivering of the flowers during fifth and sixth period so I wouldn’t be in my classes to receive any sent to me.

I had also figured out that if I wanted to send flowers to anyone anonymously but make sure they knew they were from me, I would give the class number for the periods in which I would be doing the deliveries and I would sign up to deliver to their class.  There was something about being able to hand-deliver a carnation to a special friend (okay, they were guys) and let them guess or wonder if the token gift was from me or not.  (Of course, they always knew it was from me!)

I don’t know if schools still do this or if it is even possible to get a carnation for a dollar and still have something left over for the group doing the fundraising, but I hope that schools still manage to find an affordable way for kids to send these little tokens to their special friends.  I know it was important to us and it is still important for each person to feel special and loved and thought of.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I saw my father cry and inside I cried too. She was being mean and I didn’t recognize her like that.

My father didn’t live with us anymore. He lived on the other side of town with a woman and her three children. He didn’t come around much. I was still in college four hundred miles away so I rarely got to see him. I knew what he had done to my mother, how it had torn her apart, crushed her. But I thought she was okay now. It had been years. They had attempted to reconcile several times. He would eventually leave and stay away for months. But he sometimes came and visited with my mother and they would drink and laugh and talk then he’d leave again. So I thought she was okay. (more…)

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[This is from a prompt.  It’s memoir.  Enjoy.]

When I was a little girl, my mother would take us to all the parades in town.  My mom didn’t drive so we’d all walk together, all seven of us kids and our mom.  Downtown was about two miles away but we didn’t mind because we all loved parades.  Sometimes there were programs at the civic auditorium after the parade.  Those programs were always even more fun than the parades plus we’d get to sit down instead of having to stand up out in the cold.

One of my favorites was the Christmas parade.  It was the longest and the most fun and Santa Claus always gave out candy at the end of the parade.  After the parade, my family would go to the civic auditorium for the show they always put on after the parade.  There was music and little skits and at the end we got presents.  My mom would get tickets for the show and the presents ahead of time.  My dad didn’t make a lot of money working at the cannery and there were nine of us so we got to be one of the families that got to go to the special program and get the presents.

What was it about parades that made me eager to go?  I think it was mostly because it seemed to me that everyone was happy at the parades and I liked to be around happy people.  There were clowns, too.  I loved clowns and balloons and crowds.  Sometimes, if my mom had extra money, we might get a treat to share.  Usually, if we did get a treat, it was popcorn or caramel corn.  She’d get two of whatever she could afford and we’d all share.

Another thing I liked about parades was the music.  I loved to hear the bands coming down the street and leaving, going away from us.  But the one thing I didn’t like about parades was also the music.  When the bands were right in front of us, the big round drums that the boys carried in front of them, hanging from their backs, those drums made loud booming sounds and when they boomed, the boom was in my stomach.  It made me feel like my stomach was the drum and someone was beating on my stomach.  It made me want to cry.  I remember I’d try to hide behind my mother when the drums got close enough for my stomach to boom.  My sisters would cover their ears but that wouldn’t help me.  It wasn’t my ears that were booming.  I couldn’t explain to my mother why I didn’t like it when the bands got right in front of us.  She couldn’t understand why covering my ears didn’t make me feel better.

I wish there were still parades in towns where everyone could go and see each other and eat popcorn and caramel corn and watch the bands go by and the clowns and balloons.  If there were, I could just walk toward the back of the crowds when those great big booms came to my stomach.  That just might help enough.

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I sometimes feel bad about not being in touch with my father.  He lives hundreds of miles from me.  His phone number changes often and he never notifies me.  Years go by with no contact, only wondering how he is and what he is up to.  I sometimes long to be in touch with him.  It hurts to not have him in my life.  Then I begin to think and the memories come flooding back and the need to stay in touch with him subsides.

I try to bring good memories into my mind but I struggle with it.  I remember how he got drunk on my birthday EVERY year.  He got drunk a lot but it hurt me that he did it on my birthday and ruined the specialness of it for me and everyone else.  My birthday is on Christmas day.  Year after year, he’d be drunk by noon.  One year he almost drowned in the tub when he passed out while going to the bathroom and fell into the tub where my mother had just given my sister her bath.  Had it not been for the fact that we were all sitting outside the bathroom, at the kitchen table, ready to have Christmas lunch, he would have drowned.  My brothers, each under ten years of age, had to go in and help my mother pull him out of the tub and get him to bed.

I remember him humiliating us in front of our friends.  He was nice and funny and interesting when he was sober but he’d drink when our friends were visiting and he’d get drunk.  I remember the one time I was allowed to go out on a date and when the boy picked me up, he said something about him being a telephone pole.  My date was over six feet tall.  My family is all short.  My dad is five feet five inches tall.  I never wanted to bring anyone home again.  And I didn’t.  That meant I couldn’t go out because the rule was that if I didn’t bring someone home to meet my parents, I couldn’t go out with them so I didn’t date.

The night that I was a contestant in the Junior Miss Pageant, he drove, drunk, to the event, making me late.  Then he said I looked like a whore all dressed up and with makeup on.  I got out of the car in tears and he drove away while I still had the door open, almost running me down.

I remember how, instead of being proud of me for winning a full academic scholarship to one of the most prestigious private universities in the country, he fought me and disowned me for going away to school (I went all of 20 miles from home).  I remember how he refused to be a part of my life at college.  He never set foot inside my dorm.  He never agreed to meet any of my college friends. 

I’m trying to remember something positive.  I loved my father when I was a little girl.  I rarely saw him because he worked many hours.  He drove a forklift at one of the canneries in town and so during the canning season, which was a long one, we rarely saw him.  He’d leave home before 8 AM and not return until after 10 PM.  He worked seven days a week from April until late November.  His work was nearby so in the summertime, he would sometimes come home for dinner long enough to barbecue for us then he’d have to rush back to work.  He was a wonderful provider.  We didn’t have a lot but he gave us everything he could.  I won’t deny that.  I knew it then and I know it now.  I admired him for that. He tried to give us what he had not had as a child.  He hadn’t had much.  He had no father.  He had no education.  He had no family.  He had very little but the drive to go on and survive.

When my father turned 37, he had an accident at the cannery and was never able to work again.  He still had six of his seven kids at home, although my brothers were in their late teens and working.  He spent years seeing doctors, trying to get his back in shape to return to work.  He spent years seeing lawyers and workers compensation people, but was not able to return to work or provide for us in the way he wanted to.  This led to more drinking and more fighting between him and my mother.  Eventually, my father abandoned us and my mother.  I was in high school when he moved out and moved hundreds of miles away.

The last time I spoke to my father, it was on Christmas Eve of 2004.  He called to wish me a happy birthday and kept me on the phone for over an hour.  I enjoyed the first part of the conversation and I began to feel that maybe now we could have a relationship and my kids could get to know him.  Then he blew it.  He began to criticize me again.  He ended the conversation by telling me about how he and my oldest and only remaining brother no longer speak because of me.  He told me the reasoning behind that and blamed me for something I didn’t even know about; something I had nothing to do with except that I was the topic of a drunken conversation between my father and brother.  He blamed me.  Then it went downhill from there, as the booze he had been drinking during the early part of our conversation took over. He became belligerent and I ended up making an excuse to hang up.  I hung up and cried for a long time, realizing that I would never have the relationship with my father, that I had always wanted.

Last night, on Father’s Day Eve, I had a dream about my father.  I dreamt that I had gone to visit him.  I remember being happy and excited about seeing him.  He answered the door and began to berate me for gaining weight and for not dying my hair to cover the gray.  He criticized me because I looked old.  In the dream I began to cry, silently.  I woke up, my faced soaked in tears.

I still love my father. I still hope he has a wonderful day today. But I now know that the father I remember as being loving and funny, is gone forever. Except in the positive memories I choose to run through my mind.

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I wasn’t going to go any place this weekend.  Three days ago, my daughter began to discuss going to Los Angeles for her father’s birthday.  I’ve never been one to keep any of the kids from seeing their father so I began to plan it with her.  Then all sorts of things happened and we weren’t going to go.  Then she was going to fly.  Then she wanted to drive, but because she is only sixteen and has only had her license for about six weeks, I said no.  A four hundred and fifty mile drive is out of the question.  So she wasn’t going to go.  Then she tried to find a friend to go with her.  However, that gets tricky because her driver’s license is restricted (due to the fact that she is a minor).  She cannot have anyone under 20 in the car with her unless there is also someone over 25 in the car.  And she can’t drive between 11 PM and 6 AM.  None of her friends that could go are 20.  So she was going to fly.  I was going to stay home.  Mind you this has all happened since Monday afternoon.  Then around 7:30 she got home from visiting a friend and wanted to know if we could go back to the original plan where we both go in my car!

I said yes.  But we have no reservations for hotel/motel and it is a major holiday weekend and I don’t have anything ready yet because I was out with my other daughter til after 11 tonight.  And I am procrastinating.  So it is now almost 1 AM and I haven’t packed or anything.  And we are supposed to leave by 5:30 AM.

I’m tired already.

My bet is that she won’t get up on time.  She’ll end up not getting up until about 9 and we’ll get out of her by 10 (which was my original suggestion).  Just you watch!

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