Adrienne Morris kindly posted a story I wrote about my dad’s birthday (relates to Christmas, too) on her blog. I hope you enjoy it!
Tag Archives: Christmas
Family Histories (Holiday Edition): Dad’s Birthday
Filed under Family history, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture
Your Sense of Play
I know that Christmas lights use too much energy. They aren’t the best thing for our environment. But there is something about the big light displays that bring me joy. Maybe you, too.
When I lived in California, there was a magical display every Christmas at a house at the end of a cul-de-sac. Another house on the street had a big lighted arrow, pointing to the display, which said: DITTO. That always gave me a chuckle.
In Phoenix, where I live now, there is a house with the same type of display, but this one also has window displays of vintage carousels and Christmas village buildings and characters.
Sometimes I wonder what motivates someone into putting so much time and effort and, let’s face it, money into such a temporary display. But I suspect it’s the inner child, which lurks inside many of us. It’s why some of us collect dolls, some love vintage or antique cars, and some spend every weekend off-roading. What do I mean by inner child? The part of us that loves to play.
Do you think that keeping a sense of play is important to your adult life?
A Christmas Photo: 1959
In this photo, which was taken in my grandparents’ living room, I am four (almost 4 1/2). It is marked with the year 1958, but I believe it must be 1959 because a photo professionally printed with 1958 has my hair shorter. Also, my darker-haired cousin in this photo is a sitting-up baby, and he was born in December 1958. This goes to show that it’s important to be careful about assuming that notations on photos are correct, even if the handwriting looks old.
My pretty mother has her eyes closed from the big flash, and I am standing with an opened gift in my hands. I look a bit overwhelmed from the excitement and the unwinding of anticipation. My aunt is smiling at me and Grandpa looks at the photographer. The little boys are my uncle’s two oldest children–the youngest had not yet been born and neither had my brother. My aunt was still young and unmarried, a college student.
The photo details trigger memories. Since Grandma watched me while my parents worked (Grandma and the Purple People Eaters), this living room was very familiar to me. Note the television with family portraits on top. That’s the TV I watched Grandma’s soap opera with her on week days. A chair had been moved out to make room for the Christmas tree. My aunt and I had helped trim it. Tinsel strands had escaped from the tree and ground into Grandma’s hooked area rug. I liked to pick them up individually and run my fingers together down the smooth surface.
I could smell dinner in the kitchen. Ham and Grandma’s special roast beef. If only I hadn’t eaten so many sugar cookie snowmen decorated with little silver ball bearings and sprinkles. Grandma and I had made those two days before. She rolled the dough and I cut out the shapes. When they came out of the oven, I ate all the misshapen pieces.
Without the photo I wouldn’t remember specifics. I treasure the memories accessible through all my old photos and am grateful that I have them to look at whenever I wish. I have deep sympathy for those who have lost their mementos in disasters like Hurricane Sandy. My deepest sympathy and my prayers are with those who have lost their loved ones and only have the photos and memories left.
If you wish to help the survivors of Sandy Hook, Newtown, this article lists some good ideas.
Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir
Poetry for Christmas
Before I could read I owned a picture book which looked like a Little Golden Book, but might have been published by a different company. It was an illustrated version of the lullaby, “All the Pretty Little Horses.” I begged my mother to read me that book every night, wanting to re-imagine all the different colors of horses.
A couple of years later, my mother gave me my first volume of poetry for Christmas, called Sung Under the Silver Umbrella. I treasured that book, even through the middle-school years when my friends made fun of poetry. I still have the book. For years I felt as if the book were my own little secret–that it had a readership of one, and that I was alone in the world with the poems.
Imagine my surprise to learn that one of Sylvia Plath’s favorite childhood books was the same one I loved. This book was first published for children in 1935, when Plath was three years old. When I got it, the book had been out for a full generation.
The poetry in this book isn’t very edgy by today’s standards. There isn’t even any Shel Silverstein in it. But it’s still a great foundation for building a poetic life. Here’s a sample from the book:
Some day I’m going to have a store
With a tinkly bell hung over the door,
With real glass cases and counters wide
And drawers all spilly with things inside.
There’ll be a little of everything;
Bolts of calico; balls of string;
Jars of peppermint; tins of tea;
Pots and kettles and crockery;
Seeds in packets; scissors bright;
Kegs of sugar, brown and white;
Sarsaparilla for picnic lunches,
Bananas and rubber boots in bunches.
I’ll fix the window and dust each shelf,
And take the money in all myself,
It will be my store and I will say:
“What can I do for you to-day?”
Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetry