Friday, November 30, 2012

The Gentle Ghosts of Christmas Past

Here we are, on the cusp on December, awaiting the first Sunday in Advent, but already jaundiced by the jingles on Christmas ads and counting the calories of sweet treats not yet consumed.  Even the hyper bright displays of Christmas lights are less than wonderful; warm weather and vigilant opportunism means some homes have been lit since the day after Halloween.

But these are mere tokens of Christmas, shades, suggestions, hints.  They are fake storefronts, window dressing, stage props to the Charles Dickens' Spirits of Christmas Future, Present and Past.  How terrifying did the Spectre of the future appear to youngsters like me!  How filled with melancholy and regret the Spirit of Christmas present compared to the wholesome, uncomplicated anticipation and happiness that was my experience!  And how nebulous and evanescent the Ghost of the Past, illustrating perhaps how fleeting human happiness is. 

Or, maybe, the Ghosts of Christmases past are only wraiths because our memories are as unreliable and impermanent as Polaroids, the images fading nearly as soon as they appear.  As we resurrect our Christmases past, we people our world with loved ones long gone, with steaming kitchens and fragrant evergreens, with beloved carols and pealing bells, with fireplaces and frost, with treasured toys, games, pets, and other perishables.  Come with me for a brief visit from the gentle ghost of Christmas past....

Classic Christmas Sweatshirt

...and another!

Merriment...and a ladybug retainer

more cookies, more laughter

just one of many classic hats

At Grandma and Grandpa Hurst's..hi tech

Grandpa, Ben, 1986

the Pound Puppy Christmas

Back yard Christmas 1986


Gingerbread guys and gals


Ninja Turtle exhaustion

Turkey at Redbarn

Super sledding 1991

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Girl Talk

'Where are the girls?'

Drawing on the stairs

Raw materials

While family get togethers are never quiet at 502 Spruce, this particular part of the family orchestration is missing just now.  After lunch, after the first load of dishes is sloshing in the washer, after the leftovers subject to spoilage are stowed in the fridge or the subfreezing back porch, after guys, large or small, have settled in for a nap, styrofoam trees, pompoms, ribbons, candies and hot glue guns transform the kitchen counter into Christmas craft central.
Careful consideration

An hour later, there are pompoms, gum drops, and peppermint wrappers on the floor, hot glue strings on the counter, the aroma of burnt marshmallows and melted M&Ms on the hot glue guns.  Aaron is a brave soul and glues his gumdrops like a restorer of an ancient Etruscan mosaic.  

Artistic license
Lizzie and Abbie are all about advise and consent.  The adults are mere collaborators, yielding to the color and content choices of the young enthusiasts.  They are in charge artistically and we are applauding from the sidelines.

What the guys think of crafting 
After mutual pats on the backs and commemorative photos, everybody heads home with leftovers for the morrow.  The house settles enough that I hear the gas log hiss and the underlying murmurs of the late football game. 

On the second floor I read the story of where the girls have been.  In the office a two handed basket  with a baby doll, eyes closed, within and another snoozing alongside, under the big desk.  Plenty of room to picture the two little girls, criss cross Applesauce, making believe.  When I carry my clean laundry into our bedroom, there's an unfolded Missouri road map, a little red suitcase with Going to Grandma's on the side.  It is probably 25 years old.  There is also a vintage shiny black Barbie case.  The Barbies' hairdos are a dead giveaway that the case just about meets the definition of a genuine antique.  Next to one case is a little notepad, a signature clue that like Kilroy, Lizzie has been here.  What destination did they see when they dropped their suitcases on the rug near the sunporch?  

Was it as exotic and festive as the little bedroom at the end of the hall?  Looks like the morning after of a fabulous party with doll clothes strung from end to end, twin Cardinal baseball helmets uptilted on the floor, and red crepe paper unearthed from who knows where wrapped around the four poster bed.  I know Josh took a nap in there this afternoon, but I don't think he is quite up to tying knots yet. Nope, the third leg of the journey...or was it a bon voyage party....definitely took place at the end of the hall.

I'm only guessing, of course.  What does a petrified grandma know?  

She can hope the big white house is a castle full of wonder and as many fairy tales as two little mommies, or globetrotters,or princesses can imagine.
Aaron's finished product
Princess PJ


P.S.....Gabe is not anti Christmas craft...he was at a bowling party!

Monday, November 19, 2012

As I Went Down to the River to Pray....

O sinners, let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O sinners, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the robe and crown?
Good Lord show me the way

Some people cry at weddings.  As a matter of fact, I will admit to wiping away tears a time or two myself of either sentimentality or heartfelt emotion.  Either way,  tears are a sincere expression on these occasions and hardly exceptional or unusual, whatever the motivation.

I cry at baptisms.  When anyone, young or old, child or adult, climbs down those stairs and takes our preacher's hand as he or she steps into the water, I weep.  The words, 'I baptize you, my brother' or 'my sister' cut to the core of my being as something inside me recognizes  and acknowledges power outside my ability to comprehend or control.  This human ceremony is consecrated and designed, not merely by our tradition and understanding, but by the hand of God himself.  In baptism, we witness God in Man to our utmost gratitude and in spite of our limited cognizance.

This mystery is akin to the other vows we make in front of God's altar.  We cry at weddings at the solemnity of the promises pledged between two people, imperfect even as they are spoken.  We fail at these goals because we aren't perfect; we fail ourselves, those we love, and Lord only knows how many others, more times than we can measure.  But we still mean what we say, when we say it.

But this bond is different. What makes a little boy or girl stand up and make a decision so sublime and declare it to all their known world?  Who moves them to do this on their own, without Mom or Dad or friends or teacher from school or Grandmas or Grandpas?

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery ; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 1 Corinthians 15:51.

1 Kings 19:11-13 (KJV)
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Well there's no doubt that life's a mystery
But so too is the human heart
Mary Chapin Carpenter...John Doe Noe.24

Whatever the means, whatever the volume, it is a matter to ponder in your own heart when someone proclaims their faith before God and their neighbors.  That declaration is in itself evidence of a mighty leap of faith.

What a marvel! Surely it is permitted to shed happy tears for every miracle we behold....

Friday, November 9, 2012

Oh Beautiful for Patriot Dream

It will not be a surprise to anyone with a passing acquaintance with this blog and its author that I believe a picture is a fitting accompaniment to a thousand words.  This is a sterling example from the short, humble, and touching Veteran's Day ceremony at our high school.  

On the front rows sit grizzled and bent Veterans.  Facing them are an equal number of fresh faced five and six year olds wearing cocked paper hats bordered with stars clutching red poppies and small vinyl American flags.  

Enough....see for yourself.  How thankful am I?  Let me count the ways.  Be tearful. Be proud.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Micro Management....or Taking Care of Business

You get up every morning
From your alarm clock's warning
Take the 8:15 into the city
There's a whistle up above
And people pushin', people shovin'
And the girls who try to look pretty

And if your train's on time
You can get to work by nine
And start your slaving job to get your pay
If you ever get annoyed
Look at me I'm self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day..Randy Bachman

And there's nothing cold as ashes after the fire is gone....Faron Young

I would say I could hardly face the headlines this morning, but that would be hedging.   I simply didn't read the news this morning.  I didn't scroll through the Wall Street Journal opinion page and I haven't turned on Fox News.  I have yet to forgive my favorite pundits their rosy scenarios, even if they sincerely believed they were right.   Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn's close nearly clashing harmony comes to mind in Faron Young's classic cheatin' song:

Though the steam rolled off the coffeemaker, the morning was truly cold as ashes.

"How small of all that human hearts endure
That part which laws and kings can cause or cure."...Samuel Johnson

That quote was ever on our minds thirty years ago, but it seems to have fallen from favor.  Even as the media, blogosphere, and even Williams Sonoma entreats us to get closer to our plates by gathering honey from our own hives, chasing our own chickens around the yard, and washing soil and its associated wildlife from our own greens, our society either pounds its collective fists on the table of public opinion and yells, "MORE!" , or else sits in the middle of the sidewalk like a two year old at the zoo and says it can't go on.

Ha!  That felt good.   Not constructive, but cathartic.

So....rather than moping around in my flannel jammies and shuffling listlessly through the day,  I took full stock of what could be accomplished, election or no election.  It is a long list, believe it or not.  I like to think Randy Bachman was more focused on selling a catchy tune and making the big bucks than in creating a paean to the huddled workers of the world but if the driving beat doesn't get you out the door, the needling notion that self employment lets you 'work at nothing all day' gets under your skin.  Karl Marx said 'Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. ', meaning a relief from pain.  Experience has led me to the conclusion that work is a perfectly good antidote to disappointment, pushing aside that which cannot be cured for that which can.

In economic parlance, we turn our attention to the micro part of our lives rather than the macro.  Rather than mourning for that which we never did control and over which we could only exert the most miniscule and incremental of influences, we should turn our energies, passions, hands and hearts to that which we can.  Amen.  Long live our micro habitat, our milieu, our domain, our territory.  We are not the aggregate; we cannot budge the GNP, nor make the Iranians play nice.  But rather than 'rage at the dying of the light', we  do our part and :
Put on a Happy Face....

No more 'Blues in the Night'.  No more 'the sun will come out tomorrow'. No more 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'.  
I'll be... 

Taking care of business, every day
Taking care of business, every way
I've been taking care of business, it's all mine
Taking care of business. and working overtime
Work out

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After...

  A brief photo essay of the good things that depend on neither fanfare nor franchise.  For more, click on the link.  This is also an excellent exercise for those counting their blessings in November!