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Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

I was doing a lesson about Thanksgiving with Anderson. We watched some kid videos on the first Thanksgiving and about the pilgrims landing at Plymouth. We talked about what it means to be grateful or thankful for something and about what we each could list as what we are thankful for. He made a turkey out of construction paper and we listed something to be thankful for on each feather.

One thing stands out for me from this lesson that I can’t really discuss much with my six year old grandson. Not yet. But I will get there. What is it?

When the pilgrims arrived, they arrived sick. They spread their disease to the natives who had no resistance to any illnesses coming from Europe. So they died. A lot of them died. And what did Squanto do after most of his people died? He helped the pilgrims learn to hunt and plant things they could harvest for the winter. He helped them to learn how to fight the cold and snow that would come in the winter. And when the pilgrims decided to feast, the tribe came and brought them food.

And what did “we” do? We not only brought them diseases they could not fight but we also took their land and drove them to isolated and barren lands; lands that would bear no crops to sustain them; lands that were harsh. And it continues today as “we” take their sacred land and water and dignity. We take and take and take some more and forget the spirit of giving and helping that the natives showed “us” that first Thanksgiving.

Talk about a sickness.

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Stille Nacht, or better known to most of us as Silent Night, was first sung on Christmas Eve in a St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria in 1818.  The lyrics were written by John Mohr, a young priest.  He had written the lyrics in 1816 but hand no music to go with the lyrics.  In 1818, he took the lyrics to Franz Xavier Gruber who was a schoolmaster and organist in a nearby village and asked him to compose the music to go with the lyrics.  Both Gruber and Mohr performed the Christmas carol on guitar at the church that December 24th.

Since then, it has been translated into 140 languages and recorded by countless artists.  It is said that it is the one song that American, German, and French troops could sing together during the Christmas truces of World War I in 1914 because it was the one song they all knew the lyrics to in their own language.  I’m thinking that must have been some awfully inspirational sight and sound, out in the middle of battlefields, all those soldiers stopping their fighting, putting their guns away and singing together.

It’s one of my favorite Christmas carols.  To me, the lyrics and the serenity of the music are what the Christmas season should be about.

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The other day, I went out to look for Toblerone bars to put in my grown kids’ Christmas stockings.  I didn’t want the huge bars.  I was looking for some smaller ones that are actually hard to find.  I went to three stores and didn’t find them.  Finally, at Fred Meyer I decided to get the bigger ones because I could not find the small ones.  While I was in the candy aisle, there was a older gentleman stocking up on boxes of chocolate assortments.  He was looking for one brand in particular.  I don’t remember the brand but I know it was not a brand I had ever heard of.  He put about 30 boxes into his shopping cart.  An older woman came around the corner into the aisle and made a comment about him not leaving any for anyone else.  He smiled and said there were still two big boxes full in the back and he would pull them to the front of the shelf so they would be easy to find.  He did just that as she examined one of the boxes in his cart and asked what was special about those particular chocolates.  He explained that they are made in the town where he was born and raised and he grew up with them at Christmas time so now, every year, he buys them for everyone in the family and it has become a tradition.  They all look forward to those chocolate boxes.  She put the box back in his cart and maneuvered her cart past saying she was looking for orange sticks.  I had just grabbed a box of orange sticks (a favorite of my mom’s when we were growing up) so I showed her where they were on the shelf.  So what did she do?  She loaded up her cart with about 20 boxes of orange sticks because she can only get them at Christmas time!

I got to thinking about candy and Christmas and my childhood.  I remember looking forward to the bulk hard Christmas candy assortment my mom used to buy.  She would put them in a clear class candy jar with a lid on it (which I later learned was called an apothecary jar) and they were so pretty in there.  Then she would let us have a piece as we got close to Christmas day.  By night time on Christmas they were usually all gone!  My favorites?  I loved the candy ribbon ones but there were also some little round shaped ones that had white in the middle with a picture in it.  I don’t know what those are called but I really enjoyed those.  I can’t seem to stop thinking about those Christmas candies and it has been about three days.  I think I’m going to have to go out and buy some so I can get it out of my system.  Don’t worry, I won’t get more than just one bag.  I’ll leave enough for everyone else!

Christmas candy mix, photo from fijis.com

Christmas candy mix, photo from fijis.com

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When Anderson, my oldest grandson, was about 18 months old, he spent a lot of time at my house.  When Christmas season came around, I bundled him up one night and put him in the car and went driving around town looking at Christmas decorations.  At first I wasn’t sure if he could see them from the carseat but very quickly I found out that he could.  He loved (and still does) lights, all sorts of lights, so when I was driving around that night, from the back seat came a tiny little voice “yites”.  I looked in the rearview and sure enough, he had a big smile on his face and his finger was pointing out the window.  He could see them!  We drove around for about an hour and a half before coming home.  The next night we did it again, driving to a different neighborhood from the one from the previous night.  He loved it.  So that year, every night I would take him, just the two of us, driving around different parts of town to see Christmas lights.

The following year, we happened upon a neighborhood wth lots of lighted decorations for Halloween so we went every night in search of more lights, just Anderson and me.  It’s a tradition that he and I have followed year after year (well, this is the fourth year) for both Halloween and Christmas decorations.

Last night we included the little one, Spencer, who is 19 months old and just a couple of weeks ago got his carseat flipped around so it is now front facing.  I fixed hot chocolate for them both and put it in sippy cups and put them in the car and off we went.  I was a little hesitant about Spencer because he’s so young and I thought he might get bored and start crying and we would have to come home, ruining it for Anderson.  I should not have worried.  He loved it too and although he isn’t talking very much, by the end of the evening, I could make out “der summore” and “yook at dat” coming from his carseat right behind me.  And the best part was that Anderson didn’t mind sharing this special time with his little brother.  He enjoyed pointing out the lights to him and checking to make sure he could see the lights.

Tonight we went again and I guess it’s clear that I have inadvertently started a tradition for the boys and me to enjoy all on our own.  I think that Anderson will never forget because he’s done it with me enough times and I’m hoping before I have to stop these drives, Spencer will get it imprinted on his memory and won’t forget.  Yup, I’m at the point where I wonder, often these days, how much longer I will be around and how much “my boys”  will remember about their Nana.

I hope they remember.

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When my kids were little, we lived in southern California and each year, we would drive to nearby Pasadena to look at the Christmas decorations at the Balian Mansion (the Balian family owns a creamery with a locally well known ice cream) and then on to Christmas Tree Lane (where the huge pine trees are decorated by the neighborhood and lights strung across from one side of the street to the other for three or four blocks) and then on to a church that performed a live drive-thru nativity each year.

The drive-thru nativity was done only over one weekend each year and was a hugely popular attraction.  We would line up each year, sometimes three or four blocks away from the entrance and wind our way until it was our turn to drive-thru.  At the entrance we got a program with the narration for each scene.  As we drove through at about 4 or 5 miles per hour, there was plenty of time to stop at each scene and read the narration from the program so the kids would know what was going on in each scene.  When we finished, we would stop for cookies and hot cider at the end of the parking lot and sometimes, if the line was not too long, we would get at the back of the line and drive through a second time.

The kids loved it and looked forward to it each year.  I liked that it let us all focus on the true meaning of Christmas at least for a little while each season.

Now I want to start the tradition with my two grandchildren.  Today I spent hours looking online for a drive-thru nativity but I couldn’t find one.  I’ve looked each year since we moved here in 2008 but I’ve not found a drive-thru event other than the one at the Portland International Speedway where you drive through to see lit up Christmas decorations/scenes.  That’s not really what I want.  I want the Christmas story experience.  Tonight I did find a couple of walk through nativity presentations that are near us.  The catch however is that we live in Oregon where December is very wet most nights and when it’s dry, it’s freezing!  Our overnight temperatures this December have so far been hovering just above and below 32 degrees.  So I don’t know if I will be able to start the tradition with them this year.  They’re little, 4 and 1, so we might have to wait a year and maybe take the older one first and wait a few years to take the younger one.  But I do want to do this with them.  I think it’s important.  And traditions, old or new, are so very important for families.

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I lived in California for the first 52 years of my life.  Of those 52 years, 26 of them were spent in southern California.  Certain things were on TV there that are not on in other places.  I didn’t know this until I moved away to Oregon.  Some of the things that are missing I don’t miss.  For example, while I lived in Glendale, especially the last four or five years I lived there, not a week went by when regular programming was not interrupted by live feed of a police chase.  Some were high speed chases and some were slower speeds but police chases, either way.  When I moved to northern California, these police chases weren’t on TV there.  I know that they are still on in southern California because I still subscribe to email alerts from the news stations in Los Angeles.

A couple of things I do miss.  One is the Rose Parade on January 1 each year.  While living in the Los Angeles area, the news would begin coverage of the float building just after Thanksgiving.  The bleachers along Colorado Boulevard began to go up before Thanksgiving.  During the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, there were segments covering the float building, local preparations, and then the arrival of the football teams competing in the Rose Bowl during each news broadcast.  On New Year’s Day, right at 8 AM, if we weren’t already up and tuned it, we would be awakened by the Stealth Bomber flying over our house on its way to its traditional fly over Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, the traditional beginning of the parade!  During the day, the parade would loop over and over on at least one local station so that if we had missed any part of it or just loved to watch it, we could watch all day long.

When I moved to Northern California, the parade was televised once and if lucky, we might catch an airing of an abbreviated Rose Parade during the day on some station.  Now that I live in Oregon, I haven’t found the Rose Parade televised at all…not once.  I’ve looked.  I’ve hoped.  It’s just not televised up here.  I don’t know why, other than possibly because Portland is known as the City Of Roses with its own Rose Parade (held in June each year).  Maybe they just don’t like the competition.  I don’t know but I do know that I miss it.  It was a family tradition since I can remember.  Growing up, we awoke to the parade every single New Year’s Day.  I do miss it.

Then there is the BIG EVENT.  The Academy Awards.  In southern California, coverage begins weeks before the award presentation.  In fact, it pretty much begins when the award nominations are announced four weeks before the actual presentation.  There are interviews with florists, caterers, fashion designers, jewelers, limo companies, and just about any business associated with the event, behind the scenes and in public view.  There are shows completely devoted to trying to guess who the winners will be.  There are trivia segments which feature little known facts.

In the week before the Oscar presentations, the media frenzy is in full swing.  The morning shows feature segments on the upcoming show as well as on shows of the past.  The afternoon news has segments on how the event presentation is impacting local area traffic and business.  Even the meteorologists get involved trying to predict what the weather will be on the afternoon/evening of the award presentation.  The late night news features segments interviewing some of the nominated actors and film industry people.

On Oscar Sunday, it all escalates to include round the clock coverage of something related to the Oscars.  Each TV station competes to find an angle the others haven’t done.  It is far worse than Super Bowl Sunday.  And yet, it’s tradition and somehow, we all looked forward to some part of the Oscar coverage.

And in Oregon, we don’t get that.  We do get a few Oscar related segments, but those are on the National shows like Good Morning America or on the evening national news shows.  It just is not a big deal here.  And I guess that’s understandable.  The Oscars celebrate the movies and the movie industry is a big, big, BIG deal in southern California.

In any case, I miss it.  I’ve never missed an Oscar presentation broadcast with the exception of the night my grandson was born.  He was born early in the morning but when I went to visit him in the afternoon, they wanted me to stay until the nurses came and kicked me out at about 10 that night.  We did have the Oscar show on the TV but the volume was very low so it would not interfere with the baby sleeping or with my daughter trying to rest or with the general quietness of the room.  So I didn’t hear it.  I’m hard of hearing as it is and with the volume almost completely muted, I didn’t hear a word.  I had to wait until I got home and caught some of the coverage on the late news.  I didn’t miss it though.  Some things are more important than Oscar.

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Oh! Christmas Trees

I can often empathize with a blogging friend, Bibliomom.  As a single mom of two, she is going through an awful lot of things that I have had to deal with in my life.  She once posted a picture of the Christmas tree she bought only to find out that it was a lot bigger than it had looked when she picked it out.  She had trouble getting it inside her door.

This reminded me of the last Christmas my kids and I had a real tree for a long, long time.  Parts of this have been posted previously but I am adding some other Christmas tree memories.

We had always had real Christmas trees, not an  artificial one.  That’s how it was when I was a child and when I married, we always got real ones too.

In November of 1992, my husband left home, leaving the three kids and me behind.  When it was time to go out to get our tree the following month, the three kids and I went out and bought a real tree.  We always had a big 7 foot tree in that house so that’s what I picked out that year.  The guys at the Christmas tree lot tied it to the top of the car for us and we drove home.  When we got home, it became obvious that we had a problem.  First, in their infinite wisdom, the guys had tied the tree to the open windows of my station wagon.  We couldn’t get the doors open.  My son climbed out the window and went in and got some scissors to let us out of the car. By the time he got out, the girls had also climbed out their windows and I was the only one waiting, patiently, to be let out.  He didn’t cut the whole rope/twine.  He just pulled on it to get the door open enough for me to get out and cut one bit of the twine.  Then we had another problem.  The tree was too big and heavy for the kids and I to take it off the top of the car.  We couldn’t even reach it.  I went inside and called friends and a couple of the neighbors but no one was home or couldn’t help for one reason or another.  I called the kids’ dad but he said he wouldn’t come until the next time it was his turn to get the kids, in a few days.  I couldn’t leave the tree up there and drive all over town with it that way for three days.  Finally one friend called back and said her husband could come but not until the next day so the tree stayed on the car over night and in the morning, I drove the kids to school with the tree on top of the car.  I also picked them up after school with it up there.  Finally, my friend and her husband came and got it in the house for us.  It’s a good thing it was very cold or the poor tree would have died!

That was the last time we had a real Christmas tree for a long time.  The following year I debated about having a real tree or an artificial one and remembered all the hassle it had caused to get a real tree so I went to the local drug store and found a fairly decent one that was on sale and took that home.  The kids helped me set it up and decorate it but it wasn’t the same.  They accepted the artificial tree but missed having a real one.  However, it was nice to have a tree that we could set up year after year without having to cut one down each year.  When the fake tree got old and too tattered, it was replaced with another fake tree and the tattered one was donated to the school to use in the cafeteria.

In December of 2004, it was just my youngest (she was 14 then) and me left to set up the tree because she wanted to set it up before her brother and sister arrived on December 23rd.  We set up the artificial tree and decorated it.  She decided we didn’t have enough ornaments on it so we took a drive to Target to get a few more.  However, we walked out of Target with a new artificial tree!  Susie had fallen in love with a white pre-lit Christmas tree.  She also decided she wanted only blue and green decorations on the tree so we had to get a whole tree worth of green and blue ball ornaments and icicle ornaments.  I laughed because she decided she wanted that one and moved heaven and earth to get it.  She got someone there to agree that the tree should be a markdown item so we got the $150 tree for 60% off!  And it was gorgeous.  She even paid for the new green and blue ornaments with her money so I wouldn’t say it was too expensive.  She didn’t want to use the multicolored decorations we had because they would ruin her new tree.  All this she got away with because she looks at me oh-so-sweetly and smiles at me and hugs me and calls me “Mommy”.  And if that doesn’t work, she reminds me that she’s my “baby”.  Yup.  She knows how to work it!

We got home and had to take the green artificial tree down before we could even bring the white tree inside from the car and set it up.  It was a lot of work and although the white tree was sixty per cent off, it was still expensive but Susie was happy.  I made sure she helped take the green tree down and set up the white tree.  As far as decorating it, she took charge of the whole thing which was good because in previous years she had not shown much interest in helping to set it up!

For Christmas of 2006, my older daughter Tina, had moved to Santa Rosa near her sister and me.   One weekend, her roommate’s boyfriend took the girls up to the nearby mountains to cut a tree.  Tina loved it and insisted that we should go out and cut a tree for my house.  We had never done that, although we had spoken of doing it several times.  However, we didn’t have anyone to go with us to get the tree and actually cut if for us as the friend that had done it for the girls lived an hour away.

The next day, my son came over with his girlfriend. We were making tamales so she could learn to make them.  Tony’s girlfriend drives a small truck and that’s what they had come to visit us on.  Tina and Susie weren’t sure if they liked Sarah.  They hadn’t spent much time with her.  That day they got to know her and liked her.  Tina felt comfortable asking her if she’d take us to go get the Christmas tree.  She agreed.

So off we went in two cars, Sarah’s truck and my car because there were too many of us to go in the truck.  We got to the tree lot up in the mountains just before closing, when it was almost completely dark.  The owner let us on the lot to see if we could find a tree in the dark.  The girls kept running from one tree to the next, finding fault with every one of them until they came upon a very large tree that they agreed on.  Not having done this before, it did not occur to us that the tree would look a lot smaller than it really was when it was out in the open.  We didn’t compensate for that.  Tony cut the tree down and tied it to Sarah’s truck and we all headed home.

When we got home, the tree was too tall for the living room.  Tony ended up having to chop off about eighteen inches.  He stood it up in the living room and then we realized that not only was it very tall, it was also very big around.  It literally took up half the width of the living room with very little room on either side.  By the time the tree was set up and ready to decorate, the girls had lost interest in decorating it and Tony and Sarah had left to her family’s Christmas party.  The poor tree stood undecorated in the living room for several days.  Finally, on December 23, I threatened to not give the girls any of the gifts I had for them if the tree did not get decorated that night.  The tree was as beautiful decorated as it was too big for the room. It was gorgeous and we had learned that next time, if there ever was a next time, we would be sure to measure the tree before cutting it down.

The year Tina and I moved to Oregon, 2008,  Tina wanted to go out and cut down a tree.  I had my doubts that it would actually happen even though we live in the middle of many “cut your own” tree lots.  As luck would have it, the Arctic Blast storm intervened with Tina’s plans and we could not go out and get one.  It began to snow on Dec. 14th that year and didn’t stop until the 26th.  I could not even leave my driveway!  So I pulled out the artificial tree that I had thought to get when Tina and I had gone to Target on Black Friday.  It was the exact same tree kind of tree we had in Santa Rosa, a white pre-lit tree.  And although that Christmas almost didn’t happen for us, because of flights being canceled, when they finally arrived, we had a tree.

One very moving thing that happened when I posted my Christmas tree story in 2009 is that one of my readers contacted me about a tree.  I had posted that we probably would not have a tree that year because we were leaving town on the 20th and would not return home til the 27th.  That year, I knew it was a good chance that it would be our last year together at Christmas (with the family going off in different directions) and after the near debacle of the previous Christmas, I had rented a house in California, which had been home for many years.  My kids all had ties there and one of them lived there so it made sense to go there for Christmas.  However that meant that we would have no tree.  My reader lives in the Portland area and offered a small artificial tree that I could have to take with me to California.  It was great!  We met in the Target parking lot near the airport when she went to pick up her husband.  The tree was not only pre-lit but also had music and rotating base.  It was great!  We enjoyed it and then left it behind for the next family.

This year, I am waiting for my daughter’s help to get my artificial tree out of my shed so I can set it up.  It will be the same white pre-lit tree which has become my favorite tree.

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When my kids were little, we used to drive around looking at Christmas decorations. We lived in Glendale in southern California, near Pasadena. Before the kids were born, my husband and I would drive around looking at the decorations and taking his niece or other friends and relatives with us. Our regular route included the Balian mansion (the Balian family owns a creamery and a well known local brand of ice cream), Christmas Tree Lane, and points in between. We went every single year. When the kids were born, we continued the same route, not missing a year until we moved away four Christmases ago.

On one of the drives to the Balian mansion and then to Christmas Tree Lane, we stumbled across a church that had a drive-thru live nativity presentation. We drove through and loved it. Every year we had to find out in advance which one weekend the performance would be held so we wouldn’t miss it. Every year we would wait in a long line that wrapped around three or four blocks to see the nativity story in a number of scenes. Sometimes we’d finish and go to the end of the line and wait to drive through again.

After my divorce, I tried to keep things as normal as possible for the kids and I continued to take them to see the lights at the Balian mansion in Pasadena and to Christmas Tree Lane and then to the drive-thru nativity. When my youngest, Susie, was about four years old, we were on our way to see the drive-thru nativity. We drove on the 134 freeway and passed by the Huntington Hotel and a bridge that had been closed for earthquake retro-fitting. That night the bridge had been re-opened for the first time and was brightly lit. We noted it as we drove by and went on with our business. After the drive-thru nativity, we stopped at the end of the route for hot cider and cookies that were served by the church. We headed back to the car and Susie promptly fell asleep. We drove around a bit looking at more decorations then we headed home. Susie was asleep the whole time. When we were driving past the lit up bridge, Susie opened one eye and we heard her tiny, weary voice say, “Baby Jesus Bridge.” We laughed and asked her what she had said and she repeated it, “Baby Jesus Bridge.” Somehow, she had equated the lit up bridge with the Christmas decorations and the drive-thru nativity during which Baby Jesus was discussed.

We thought it was funny. Susie fell back to sleep and we drove on home. After that night, every single time we drove by that bridge (which was at least four times a week) she would shout out “Baby Jesus Bridge” as we drove by there. It became a family way to describe where we were at along the road: before the Baby Jesus Bridge or after? As they grew older, they would tell their friends that it was the Baby Jesus Bridge and it caught on. Everyone we knew referred to it as the Baby Jesus Bridge. We still call it that. Susie is now seventeen and we still all call it the Baby Jesus Bridge.

Some traditions, like driving around to view Christmas decorations, are intentional. Some, like the Baby Jesus Bridge, are accidental and somehow more special. I don’t live in southern California any more but when I do go back and drive by that bridge, I can’t help but think of my little Baby Susie calling out “Baby Jesus Bridge.” It brings back wonderful memories.

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10.  One Magic Christmas—I saw this when it came out (1985) and my kids were little.  I really enjoyed it. It is, basically, a variation of It’s A Wonderful Life.  It’s a good one though.  It stars Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton.  I hadn’t seen it in a long time but I always think of it as a very special Christmas movie.  Tonight, it was on Hallmark and I was able to enjoy it once again.

9.  While You Were Sleeping—I love Sandra Bullock!  In this movie, she plays a toll worker at the train station in Chicago.  One day she saves the life of a man that has been mugged and has fallen onto the train tracks when the train is coming. She pulls him to safety.  At the hospital she is mistaken for his fiancé and she doesn’t correct anyone because she has loved this man from afar.  It takes place over the holidays and there is a lot of “magic” happening .  I enjoy this one year round.

8.  The Lemon Drop Kid (1951 version)—This is a very, very old movie which I haven’t seen since I was a child.  It stars Bob Hope.  It’s funny but also involves “the mob”.  Bob Hope, at one point, is a sidewalk Santa and as he strolls through the streets with his girlfriend, they sing Silver Bells.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard is sung like that since.  If you can find this one, I highly recommend it.

7.  Charlie Brown Christmas—A classic.  This is the one I never miss.  The other Charlie Brown movies I will gladly skip but this one makes me cry every time, and I don’t cry at cartoons!

6.  Polar Express—This is the 2004 movie interpretation of the 1985 Chris Van Allsburg children’s book.  I loved the book since it came out.  I had it for my kids and when I became a teacher, I read it to my class each Christmas and we made jingle bell necklaces that the kids wore every day until Christmas.  It’s the story that reminds us all to “believe”.  A must see…or at least pick up the book.  You won’t regret it.

5.  A Christmas Story—1983 movie set in the 50’s.  It deals with the family life and drama surrounding Ralphie (9 y/o) who wants a BB gun for Christmas.  We see him dealing with his little brother and having to suffer at the hands of the school bullies.  We see the world through his bespectacled eyes and although we realize that what he is going through is only temporary and he will survive it, Ralphie thinks he won’t survive it and he doesn’t understand why he has to go through it all.  I truly enjoy this one every year.

4.  Home Alone 2, Lost In New York—This one is a tough one for me to see each year.  During the course of  Kevin’s escapades, he meets a woman in Central Park who feeds pigeons. At first he is afraid of the Pigeon Lady but later, he befriends her and she takes him to hear music at Carnegie Hall where they discuss her life and why she is as she is.  She tells him that she once loved someone that she trusted very much but it turned out that they could not be trusted and that one day they stopped loving her and loved someone else.  Her life is as it is because she can no longer trust or love anyone.  This was the tough part for me because I took the kids to see this about three weeks after their dad walked out on us.  I could identify with the Pigeon Lady!  Aside from this, the scenes where Kevin’s mother is looking for her little boy lost in the big city, are really tear jerkers.

3.  White Christmas—I used to see this every year when I was growing up.  The 1954 classic stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney.  Aside from the musical numbers, it is a touching story of old Army buddies getting together to do something good for and old commander who has fallen on hard times.   Truly worthwhile.

2. Miracle On 34th Street (Natalie Wood version)—1947 B&W classic story of Susan Walker, a young child who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus because her mother has raised her not to believe in such childish foolishness.  Then one day, an old gentleman takes the place of Santa Claus on the float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when the hired Santa arrives drunk.  Then the old gentleman starts all sorts of eyebrow raising when he fills out his job application as Kris Kringle.  He truly believes he is Santa Claus and almost everyone else believes him, too.  Except the adults.  Then he is put on trial to see if he is Kris Kringle or if he is mentally unstable.  The ensuing trial ends up putting the entire Santa Claus, North Pole, reindeer, thing on trial.  The final court scene is one of my favorite all time movie scenes.  I won’t tell you what it is.  You’ll have to watch.  There is also a remake of the movie.  It bears the same title and was done in 1994 that does justice to the 1947 version.  That one may be easier to find.

1. It’s A Wonderful  Life—I cannot recommend this one enough.  The 1946 classic black and white Frank Capra movie stars James Stewart starring as George Bailey who has fallen on bad times and wishes he had never been born.   That sparks the appearance of Clarence, an angel who is trying to earn his wings.  Clarence takes George on a journey to visit the past with George Bailey and then to visit the world as it would be if George Bailey had never been born.  Definitely a must see movie.

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One of my friends, when I lived in the Los Angeles area, was Italian. Agnes lived near me. She worked as a Teacher’s Aide in the elementary school where my kids attended and later she worked in the attendance office at the high school where my two older kids attended.

When I got divorced, she became one of my best friends and I spent much of the time when my kids were at their dad’s at Agnes’ house.

The kids knew her well and liked her. We sort of became an extension of her family. They all knew us, my kids and me. We spent many holidays with them.

One of the years when I was alone for New Year’s Eve, she invited me over to her house to watch a movie then celebrate the new year with her and her family. I did go and had a blast. She made deliciously authentic Italian food and the house was full of people and noise and laughter.

The following year, the kids were with me and we were all invited to spend the evening with them. We went. The kids loved it. It was better than being at our house with just the four of us and it was better than being at their dad’s house.

One of the customs that Agnes’ family shared with us, and I believe it’s an Italian custom, is to eat lentils at midnight. They are said to bring good luck and money during the new year, but Agnes warned that we had to eat them right away, right at midnight.

My kids had never eaten lentils before that night but now they ask me on New Year’s Eve if I have my lentils ready for midnight!

I miss Agnes and her family. I haven’t seen them in years. I think a phone call is in order.

(Get your lentils ready by midnight! It’s a chance none of us can afford to miss! 🙂 )

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