Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ghost of John Bolaris: the Great Mid-Atlantic Nor'easter of 2015

I woke expecting today to be everything I did not want. There would be no getting out. No visiting a friend as I usually do on Tuesdays. There would be no morning walk. Instead my exercise would be found at the end of s shovel, that is if we had survived the Armageddon predicted. As I woke in the cozy warmth of my blanket and not buried in the broken remains of my collapsed roof was at least some relief. After all, just before bedtime some talking head on the Weather Channel was prattling on about the distinct possibilities of fallen-in roofs from the over-bearing weight of what was to befall us, not to mention the downed power lines flinging us into darkness and stranded motorists perishing from hyprthermia on our drifted roadways.

This was it for the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast, the white swirling equivalent to Katrina hitting New Orleans. This was a "Historic" snowstorm about to fall. Its name was Juno and it was a mean-bastard of a blizzard. Schools had already announced closings as did some businesses. Public transportation was already going to cut off early and no planes would be flying into or out of the area until who knew when, maybe never again. Philadelphia's mayor called for closing the city. New York was to be devastated, New Jersey was to wash out to sea on giant waves and New England was to be obliverated.

This was the perfect storm. First a Yankee Clipper would soften us up and then a Nor'eastern would drive an icicle through our heart.

There was nothing like this since John Bolaris announced the Storm of the Century on WCAU in 2001.

And it pretty much was as much of a bust.

We just can't blame poor John this time.

I opened the front door preparing my back for the pain to come and then stopped short. Huh…wha…?
The street looked like a street. It had a white film, looked chilly, but had no depth. Cars were not only going down our hill, but coming up it with no spinning or slipping wheels. All the sidewalks looked as if everyone had beaten me to shoveling.

There was a bit of fluff covering my driveway, but the dreaded wet, heavy stuff it was not. It was a light powdery sheen that sweep away like dandelion seed as my shovel slid through it.  I was not at all imprisoned within my house, but free to go for my morning walk after all.

I choose to go to Alapocas where I haven't traipsed for a long time and found its trails practically clear of any slipperiness. The unannounced freezing rain that hit us a week ago was a lot more troubling then this Historic Storm of the Ages predicted this week.

When I got home I put on the Weather Channel and two weather-babes were talking about the storm. They were doing their best to pretend it was as horrible as they told us it would be yesterday. The one girl was bouncing up and down on her seat, smiling and gleeful as she described the 5 inches that fell on New York City, but especially that…oh…oh…oh…there were places in new England with 20 inches and uh…uh…uh…the winds are whipping up the ocean by the shore and ah…ah…ah give me more, give me more!

What is wrong with these people?

I heard a lot of excuses today, how this gave us practice for the big one when it does come and how
there were only 11 accidents on Connecticut highways last night and how it was best to err on the side
of overkill.  Yeah, we need take precautions and we need to be warned of possible bad weather. What we don't need is several days of hype and hysteria. We don't need the threats of roof collapses and frozen corpses along the highway. We had worse storms last year than this. We have had many storms of badness last year and storms even worse than what was being predicted this time. The first year I lived in this state, February 1983, we were hit with two feet of snow.

There is an advantage to living as long as I have. I've been through these weather events all ready. I survived the deadly blizzard of March 1958, the one called the President's Day Storm, the one that dropped 50 inches of snow in towns nearby. It clogged up the roads and tore down power lines in multiple states. As for my family we were left with no electricity, no heat and no water for a week. The main highway was drifted shut and even the plow trucks struggled. No one was going anywhere for food or rescue.


Yet there was no big media circus promoting that coming disaster. There shouldn't be now either. The news should be the news and the weather the weather and not always a movie trailer of approaching terror. And when the storm arrives and underwhelms us as did this one we lose our trust in those handsome and pretty weather people. They become the boys and girls calling wolf and with each new storm we believe them less. And then one day they will warn us of real danger and won't be believed and people will die.

But I guess the ghost storm of John Bolaris is too sexy not to promote.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Night and Day: Fire and Ice

Like a symbol of this schizophrenic, volatile world were these last couple of days. One moment you are warm and cozy, calm and protected, easing down toward the hours of sleep, and the next you are reminded there is no safety and security here.

I was in the hall and the rest were looking at TV, but then my daughter was asking, "Why are there firetrucks out front?"

"Of our house?" I asked.

"No, along Glenrock."

That is the street below us into which ours feeds. Sure enough, there were firetrucks on Glenrock, many, many firetrucks, all down around the corner as far as I could see between the houses.

They had snuck upon us. There had been no sirens blaring. My daughter heard something of a hiss and looked out and there they were. We had no idea why. We could see no fire along Glenrock, but straining against the night above and the glare below, it did appear there was smoke billowing from behind the house directly across from our street's entrance.

This was about 10:00. The last truck left sometime between 11:30 and midnight. The firehouse tweeted a fire at 107 Woodgreen, no other information except a photo of the house with flames shooting from every window.  The only other comment came from the News Journal Online's list of fire calls. It listed a home fire, electrical, but gave the address as 127 Woodgreen. Typing error or two fires going?

Typing error as it turned out.

We've had two other big fires in this area over the Christmas period, each in apartment complexes leaving several families displaced for the holidays. These were so close in time and near in distance my wife feared an arsonist. The one was ruled accidental, someone using their stove as a heater. The other, however, the one that burned 20 apartments -- maybe. One person died in that fire, a women, and her death was ruled suspicious. I have not heard anything further.

Fires are scary things. A little innocent spark can take away everything you have. We had a fire here a
few years back in 2010.  My wife and I were out to dinner and when we came home our sofa was sitting in the front yard and two lamps were by the driveway. It was dark and I saw the two lamps, because they were near my car when I got out. My first reaction was someone was dumping their trash at my place. The sofa was behind a bush and I didn't even notice it. When we entered the home was when I realized the sofa was missing from the living room.

My daughter, Laurel, was shook up for she had been there, which was fortunate. She was reading and smelled something. An electrical cord had gone rogue and somehow ignited the sofa with a slow burn. She called 911 and the firemen came and toted the flaming couch outside. They also turned off the circuit breaker in the shed. The only damage was a hole burnt in the carpet, the two lamps and sofa, of
course, and the jam on the storage shed the firemen ripped open with a crowbar. My daughter didn't know the keys to the shed locks were hanging on the kitchen wall near the backdoor. Oh well, could have been worse. If laurel had not been home we probably wouldn't have had a home to come back to.

We other daughter, Noelle, baked us a flaming sofa cake for our wedding anniversary.

We were much more fortunate than the people at 107 Woodgreen on Monday night. Their place appears to have suffered a good deal of damage.


The day after the fiery night, December 6, last of the twelve days of Christmas, it snowed. The temperatures had been mild so far, even warm on Christmas Eve, but that was about to change. It was 19 degrees out when I woke on Tuesday.

I had been scheduled to visit a friend, my Pastor actually, that morning, but we had cancelled the night before because of the threat of bad weather. I didn't think this storm would amount to much, but decided to err on the side of caution. I was glad I did. It began snowing sometime before dawn and continued until well into the afternoon. It did not lay down a two-foot mess as the storms did last winter, leaving behind only about three inches at my place (although the weather-people kept claiming there was but an inch.) Apparently depth doesn't matter; it's how it lay, which was as slippery as can be.  There were quite a number of accidents on the roadways during the day.

I choose not to drive anywhere, probably also a good thing. I did decide to take a walk and as I left a person came struggling to drive their SUV up our street that is a hill. He was just pass my driveway in the middle of the road with his wheels spinning gleefully in rebellion against further progress. This has been a winter sport for us since we moved here 32+ years ago; watching the many who believe they can conquer our hill in winter snows. Many try and many fail and nobody ever learns to bypass our street for the next where the climb is easier.

As my faithful readers already know I take a four to five mile hike every morning. Sometimes this is interfered with, but not often. I hike in all kinds of weather, rain, snow, hail, sleet as well as the blazing, humid days of summer.  On occasion the rain is too heavy or the snow too deep, but these are rare. Usually the morning finds me in one of North Delaware's wonderful parks, but as I said, this snowy morn I choose not to use the car. I decided to walk in my neighborhood.

I use to walk through the neighborhood every night years ago and twice on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays. For many of those walks I had a yellow Lab accompanying me, but Tucker died in 2009 at the age of 18, so since then my walks have been alone. They have also been in the parks and not through the neighborhood.

I set off down the hill, then up Woodgreen to view the house that burned. From there I crossed a footbridge above I-95 into the back of the old high school.

The snow was falling steadily. It was those small flakes and very powdery. It was already laying well, but it wasn't the kind that packed easily. It wasn't conducive of building snowmen along the way.

I love to walk in snowstorms. It is invigorating. Yesterday was January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas and the scene in Claymont was Christmasy indeed.

Except it led to this:







Monday, January 5, 2015

Travel is Broadening and so are Big Macs and Fries

My friend Ronald is about to embark on a trip to Lala Land - gonna plop himself down with a friend right in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard one and one-tenth mile from Mann's Chinese Theater and the Walk of Fame. He post a video today of him on the East coast with the Atlantic Ocean rolling in the background. The photo on the right is one I took of sunset over the Pacific on a trip I made to L.A. a few years…man…actually decades ago now.

Like me, Ronald is on another journey these days, down a road called Old Age. He's decided to use this time to veer off on other highways and see some of this world.

I have kind of lost my desire for wanderlust anymore. Or maybe it's more I lost the wallet to finance such ventures. At any rate, I was fortunate enough to have done some jaunts about this country in years gone by.  Before the kids came, and my kids came late, the Little Woman and I used to make a car trip once or twice a year. Some were well-planned out and some were just spur-of-the-moment jump in the car with a couple changes of underwear and a toothbrush and go. It was like that when we decided to head off to Cleveland, of all exotic locales, one day in our fearless use. Rolling on out the Interstates with no spare tire and not even worrying about a flat.

Didn't have a flat either. Had the drive shaft fall out of the car somewhere about the Ohio border, though. It's what you call an adventure.

Most trips went without such mechanical treachery, drama coming more from getting lost than anything
else. Those drives were constant behind the wheel affairs, too. Get up in the morning, stop at whatever tourist traps trapped us that day and find another motel down the line by evening. We did so many places that way, Wisconsin, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and many other states. Only ever made it to one foreign country, Canada, and it wasn't all that foreign really. When we went through Toronto to Niagara Falls we didn't even need a passport.  That's the Little Woman sitting in front of the Giant Floral Clock at Niagara Falls, Canada.

After the kids were grown we did some more of those car trip things. Only difference being I preferred we have a destination to arrive at and stay a while rather than zig-zagging across the landscape of a thousand roadside attraction the whole
time. (I also always took a spare tire along.)  We still traversed a good deal of real estate, New England, Virginia again, and so forth. (Left is the Little Woman aboard the Skipback H. M. Krentz out of St. Michaels, Maryland in 2013.)

But it's the in-between I want to address, since those trips involved flying somewhere and are more akin to what my friend is now doing.  Well, sort of, except he is going purely for pleasure and my trips were always connected to business.  That didn't make them un-pleasurable, although somewhat lonely since I generally couldn't take the Little Woman along.Of course, if they hadn't been for business with Wilmington Trust paying for them I wouldn't have been able to afford to go myself. The odd thing was due to the financial craziness of airplane flight I was always afford a lot of free time for sightseeing. You see, if the business was Monday through Wednesday I would be booked out on Sunday (sometimes even Saturday) and not returned until the following Saturday. This was because you could get cut rate plane fares this way, so cut rate that it was cheaper to pay for several extra nights of hotel rooms and days of meals than to fly out on Monday and fly back on Wednesday. Crazy! (The Bank put me up in top-star hotels, too.)

Flying was the most bothersome part of all these trips. You had to get to the airport 45 minutes ahead of your flight and you had to make taxi or rent-a-car connections and all that. Sounds pretty tame now, a piece of cake. Now you got to be there three hours ahead and put up with all the security, scanning and probing and shoe removal, and maybe tossing away your bottle of water or tube of special hair shampoo. Man, I'm glad I didn't have to put up what the terrorists have inflicted upon we weary travelers today.

There were sometimes other things, like you plane's hydraulic system falling to piece in flight. I was on
my way to Phoenix via Continental when we made an emergency landing in Denver. They didn't even go to a terminal. They bused us off the tarmac as they rolled the pane into the maintenance hanger. Finally they rolled us back, packed us on and then sat us there because some other system failed. Really made you confident for the remainder of the fly-in to Phoenix. (Right is our approach over Phoenix on a sputtering hydraulic system and a prayer.)

Oh by the by, here is a poem inspired by a typical airport situation in those days.

FLIGHT DELAYED


Sitting in the airport.
Flight was scheduled long ago.

Please don’t leave your baggage unattended…

Squirming on a hard chair.
Maintenance breakdown I know.

Please don’t leave your baggage unattended…

Screaming of a lost babe.
My determined mind echoes.

Please don’t leave your baggage unattended…

Starting to load first class.

While waiting on a rear row;
I don’t leave my baggage unattended.


                                                        2001

I remember sitting in those terminals and every few minutes the P.A. would squawk a bit then this harsh female voice would blare out: "Please don't leave your luggage unattended."  This was the extent of security back then along with two other rituals. One, you walked through a metal detecter and only had to pause if you beeped. The other was the probing questions at the checkin counter. "Did you pack your own luggage? Did anyone else have access to your luggage? Did anyone plant a bomb in your luggage?" Sure, you're going to tell them you felt your luggage with a odd-looking strange while you ran to the restroom. You know if you say yes to any of those questions there will be more questions and a hassle, so no, Ted Kaczynski didn't help me pack for this trip. No, my wife was nowhere near my bag. Yeah, those questions kept the terrorist at bay. I can't hijack de plane because I have to say yes to your third-degree questions.

Maybe one of the scariest things was a stopover in St. Louis. For some reason all their runways were down, except one. We landed and then I had an hour in the terminal before my changeover flight boarded. I am watching the coming and goings out on that one runway. Planes landed and took off from that ONE RUNWAY!  A plane would land, zip along and then another plane would taxi out and take off, followed by another arrival. I counted the interval between. It wasn't half a minute. I was glad to be out of Missouri without a 747 plowing through my DC-10 just as our wheels left the ground.

On the many trips I took for the Bank, I believe I flew a different airline each time. It struck me the similarities between these carriers. Without the logo painted on the tail you wouldn't know one from another and I suddenly realized how similar each hotel room was to each other, not to mention if I grabbed a lunch at a fast food place. Weather New York or Houston or Miami or downtown Wilmington, Delaware, a McDonald's was a McDonald's.

So Ronald, my friend, relax. You'll get through all the body scans that expose your deepest secrets and the tremors of turbulence I am certain. Have a great time in Los Angeles and with any luck you too may be inspired to write a poem about how Travel is Broadening.


First time I flew was American Air
                                    Straight to the airport in Dallas Fort Worth.
                                    I thought what opportunity to have
                                    Experiences beyond my own home
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    I took Continental to Arizona
                                    And a bus trip north to the Grand Canyon.
                                    It was ninety-two degrees in Phoenix,
                                    But from the bus stop window I watched snow
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    I flew Delta to Atlanta of course
                                    And stayed at a complex called the Omni.
                                    On Sunday I took a long walk downtown.
                                    Empty streets, no wait at the restaurant
                                    Where I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    TWA took me to chill Florida.
                                    The beach was lonely because of the cold.
                                    The unusual freeze led to disaster.
                                    At lunch I heard the shuttle exploded
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.
                                   
                                    It was Northwestern to Los Angeles,
                                    With a stop over in Minnesota.
Near Mann’s Chinese Theater a man stopped
By my table with a Rolex for sale
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    United took me to mile high Denver.
                                    I rode the van to the mountains of Vail.
                                    Paddled a raft down the Colorado,
                                    A fond adventure I contemplated
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    Every airline seemed like any other.
                                    Each hotel had the same lobby d├ęcor
And a picture hanging above the bed.
I wonder where the regional color went

As I sit and eat my Big Mac and fries.                        2001



By the way, a hustle did try to sell me a Rolex at Mann's Chinese Theater, so be weary my friend, be weary.


Hotel room in Houston.

Friday, January 2, 2015

There Was a Crooked Man…

…and he walked a crooked mile, 
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile; 
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse, 
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

So it went like this, see, I went to my Doctor's on December 18 of the year just passed. I wasn't ailing or anything, you understand. It was just a regular routine look under the hood and thumping of the tires. These become more frequent as you age. They keep a check to see what rusty part might have sputtered over the last half year.

I didn't see the actual doctor on this visit. I saw one of his Nurse Practitioners, of the female order. This was of no never mind, as my grandmother use to say, because I had a female doctor for a couple of decades until she closed down her office last fall. (If you are wondering about what a
Nurse Practitioner is, they are Nurses with above and beyond General Registered Nurse education, thus kinda super nurses  They can do pretty much everything your General Physician can do, they just stopped short of the MD.)

Everything went swimmingly. She found a heartbeat, always a good sign, and my blood pressure didn't burst anything on the sphygmomanometer. Always feels good when you can fly on through these checkups without them pushing some new pill down your throat. Of course, she gave me blood work for my next oil change, so there will be a bunch of scales and ranges that might say this guy needs some STP or something to keep the motor from knocking. 

However, I made one little mistake. I didn't sit up straight enough, which actually is hard to do when your seated atop those examination tables with your feet all dangling down barely tapping the floor. There is no back to lean against and you just sort of slip into a slouch. 

She asked if I had any pain?

"Pain?"

"In your back from the curvature of your spine?"

"No, not really."

"Have you had a recent injury?"


"No. I've had this curvature all my life, as far as I can remember. I figured I was born with it. I got the usual Quasimoto and "ringing any bells lately" comments.

"I thought maybe I had Scheuermann's Disease," got to show off my own medical acumen. I think I pronounced it "Sugarmann's Disease". She didn't react much to my medical know-how though.

Now Scheuermann's Disease is characterized by a very distinct rounding or hump in the back as shown in the illustration on the right. This becomes more pronounced when the patient bends over. On the left is a photo of myself when we were laying carpet the other year and you can see why I would consider myself a victim of Scheuermann's. 




Ms Nurse Practitioner began typing on her pad. Next thing I know I am making appointments for X-rays and Physical Therapy.  I was quite surprised how quickly I could get these appointments.

I had three X-rays ordered, but only one for bone density actually required I set up an appointment. I Googled the lab locations and only one in my general area performed a Density scan. It was located out on Augustine Cut Off.  I could come get it done the very next day.

They told me come 10-15 minutes early, paperwork you know. You usually spend more time in doctors' offices filling out paperwork than anything else. I had the jump on them though. I went to their website and I filled out and printed the required new patient data form and medical history and some other stuff. I had everything together, man, Mr. Efficiency.

I had never been to this particular medical mall before, but I had good familiarity with the area where it sat. I still determined to levee 40 minutes before the appointed hour to allow time for traffic or whatever. It was the whatever that proved the problem.

So I am getting ready and want to take a shower, but decide to wait until some laundry finished. The digital readout on the washer said 15 minutes to go.  I checked after a bit and it said 17 minutes to go…what the hey! I go back and forth and the time jumps up and down, thus I stop and stand over the washer like watching it will make it behave and it just ain't acting right and then an error code pops up. DE, it says, whatever that means. I open the door and swish the contents about and I see the water isn't draining out. I close the lid and another code appears, FL. What's this, Freepin' Loser?

Upstairs to the office room to the file to the manual on the washer. FL is "Failed to Lock". Okay, the washer locks the door closed when it starts to keep you from thrusting in an arm and having it ripped off. DE  means the washer is off balance not allowing it to spin. How DE stands for that I don't know, but I got an answer. I rush downstairs, pull some of the quilts out (me wife was doing bedding) and now it locks and it spins and water comes out and I run upstairs and grab a shower while it is doing this and then dress and back down and yes the water has all spun out and I plop the bedding in the dryer and I put the quilts I pulled in the washer on spin only and I look at the time and I haven't got 40 minutes anymore.

I grab my coat and go rushing out and on my way. Still shouldn't be a problem getting there on time. I am closing in on the entry of Augustine Cut Off, speed straight ahead and turn onto Rt. 202 South and it is just down the highway. But I suddenly find you can't turn onto Augustine no more, no more. They changed the roads around here a couple years back, cutting off the cut off from 202 and I should have turned earlier on to Park Drive, but too late. I must enter I-95, go into Wilmington and sneak up on the Lab from the other side. 

I just make it. Whew, ain't I good. Old got-it-all-under-control Larry! The Receptionist asks for my medical insurance card and my
Photo ID.  Then she asks for the Doctor's Orders.

 Uh?

 Smack me upsides the head! I left the Doctor's Orders at home right where I laid them so I wouldn't forget to take them. 

"I don't have them," I whimper.


She begins perusing her computer and she finds the Doctor's Orders for the bone density test, but not the others. This is okay, because it was only the bone density requiring this appointment anyway. 

In moments a friendly lady calls my name and leads me to a back room, bidding me lie down on this … uh …bed. Sounds rather seductive, don't it, a strange woman, a back room, a bidding to a bed?  But the bed is hard and unglamorous to say the least and the back room is an examination room and the lady is a Radiology Technician. She isn't going to see me with my clothes off; she's going to see me with my flesh off. "I can see right through you," she will say. 


She didn't say that. She did say she never knew a Radiology Technician who didn't have thyroid problems. 

She went behind a wall and this machine like something out of Flash Gordon passed over me, pausing here and there and making bips and peeps.

Once I was done, I quickly drove home, snatched the other orders and returned for another nice lady Radiology Technician, on a different floor and different back room, to X-ray my neck and my curving backbone.

I haven't heard any feedback on my X-rays to date. I moved on to my next assignment, Physical Therapy.



I admit to some dubiousness about this. I mean, good golly Miss Molly, I'm in my 74th year. What're they 
goin' to do about this crooked man now. I expect my vertebrae are pretty set in their rounded ways by now. Then when I arrived for my first session I had even more tremors of reluctance. I pulled up and could see through the slat-blinded windows a large room with equipment here and there. It was like a gym. Was all this going to transpire in open public, with other people, and (dread, dread) would I have to take my shirt off? The paper of instruction said wear loose clothing like workout pants and a shirt easily removed. I hated being a "skin" in high school gym class and nobody wants to see a 73-and-a-half year old man's naked chest. 

On entering I faced a counter and a loose-leaf notebook and a sign saying, "sign In", but I could not figure out the book and so just sat down in a nearby chair wondering how quick I could get out of this place.  A young man greeted me, but I had a hard time understanding what he said, but then a young
woman (almost anybody working still is a young man or young woman to me anymore) called me back to another back room, or side room actually, and bid me not to the bed within, but to sit on a chair. Her name was Kelly and she would be my therapist.

I have nothing but good things to say about Kelly and the others at NovaCare. She quickly made me comfortable, asked a few questions and explained about the backbone with a detached one in her hands. She then showed me several exercises, which I do there and at home, pictures of which are scattered about this piece.

She finally took me out into that big room, where others were being worked upon, but nobody had any shirts or otherwise off, although I saw them direct a lady to remove her pants, but she was wearing gym shorts beneath. I sat upon a chair and Kelly strapped a bulkily device about my neck that was 
some kind of heater disguised as a towel. She then pasted four electrodes across my upper back and shoulders. 

"Is this going to make me confess everything I've ever done?" I asked her.

She gradually turned on the juice and at first I felt hardly more than a slight twinge. She kept turning it up, telling me to say when to stop. I guess I'm a glutton for pain for I just kept indicating "up", even when it felt like a bunch of pins repeatedly sticking me. Finally the pins turned to a bubble effect and I said, "stop". I then endured this odd sensation for ten minutes to loosen up my muscles, whats left of them.

It was akin to having Flacco, my daughter's giant Siberian Cat playing the piano on my back.

But it felt good. Everything about the experience was positive and now I am visiting three times weekly to do my exercises and have my back electrocuted. And lo-o-oving it!

We will see if this leads to me standing up straighter in the end. I wonder if it will even make me taller. I long felt if I had not this curved spine I would have been six foot two rather than just six foot.

We will see.


 Flacco














Thursday, January 1, 2015

Christmas

Bah, Humbug, you say, what'd'ya mean Christmas? Christmas is over, you twit!

Well, no actually it isn't. This is the eighth day of Christmas and we're filling up with a lot of livestock. By the time the twelfth day rolls around we'll have a splitting headache from all those Lords a-leapin' and Pipers pipin'. and Goodness spare me, the Drummers drummin'. Christmas isn't over until the last partridge is plucked and poached, and that'll be January 6 or Epiphany or Three Kings Day or Fortnight or whatever you want to call it.

So we can still reflect of Christmas.

It strikes as odd that I find no photograph of me on Santa's jolly lap. It seems to be de riquer to have a history of your kid plucked down upon the big guy. I don't even have me with a faux Santa, like the photo atop this piece. That's my Grandmother in the chair in 1985, the year before her death, and my
three kids standing. This is transsexual Santa, though, my Aunt Edna playing the part behind the beard. But I do have kids in more traditional Santa laps.

There are no such scenes of me and St. Nick, however. I don't know why. I did go to see Santa as a child. I didn't go to all those phony-baloney impersonator helpers, either. I went to the real Santa, you know, the one in Gimbels, the one the big parade welcomed to Philadelphia. I mean, they wouldn't have a big deal parade like that for a spurious Santa Claus, now would they.

He came in at the end of all the floats and bands and balloons, but maybe not the firetrucks because a big hook and ladder pulled up to the side of Gimbels and Santa climbed rung after rung up to the window of Toyland, suspended briefly above the WIP sign waving, before he stepped through the window and took his place on the throne of wishful thinking.

I don't know when I really became conscious of Christmas. I was pretty young when somewhere between the Air Raid warnings and blackouts of World War II days, things which scared me with the hustle to pull down blackout shades and huddling together waiting an all clear, I noticed another bit of excitement. Christmas preparation, which came subtly at that early time. I remember my mother and grandmom  bringing down a box from the attic from which they hung these red cellophane wreaths in each window. There was a candelabra with white lights that went in the larger front window to shine out toward the avenue, that being Washington Avenue in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

I do remember a visit to Santa. Our grade school took us. Santa took up residence in the "Historic" Log Cabin that was in a slightly different location in those days, not yet moved down into Kerr Park. We were led two by two along Lancaster Avenue escorted by our teachers. We went in one door of the cabin and out the other, stopping in the center to clamber aboard Santa and squeak out what we wanted for Christmas. I don't know what I wanted that year, but it wasn't a Red Ryder Beebee Gun, of that I'm sure. It might have been Roy Roger Cap Pistols, though. Santa gave each child a toy on that visit rather than some Candy Cane. I got a large tube of Tinker Toys.

Tinker Toys were round dowells of varied lengths and these thick circular pieces with holes all around.
You pressed the dowels in the holes and joined them together into things. There were also some thin triangular pieces you could stick on here and there. I loved that little Tinker Toy set.

There were other things I became aware of concerning this holiday. Two houses on Whiteland Avenue had lights in the windows, which I could see from my bedroom. One house was all red and the other green. There weren't yet a lot of homes that had lights, but the week before Thanksgiving you would see workmen busying themselves along the stores on Lancaster at center town. They were stringing lights up the lampposts and across the street. On Thanksgiving Day someone threw a switch and the town blazed with color for the next month.

In Kerr Park, about where the Log cabin is today, the borough erected a life-size Nativity Scene. They can't do that anymore.

Christmas was a big thing in my boyhood because it was a big thing to my folks, especially my mother. I got my years worth of everything on that day. I got my toys then, but also my wardrobe that had to last until next Christmas. Santa brought the toys, all on glorious display when I came downstairs early those mornings, put together and unwrapped before the tree. Once my parents had shook off their sleep (they always seemed extra tired Christmas morning, almost like they had been up most the night) we would gather about the living room and open the wrapped packages. I got mostly clothes here. I got my shirts and pants for the year, and my socks and underwear, too.

I got socks from my daughter Noelle this year. I told everyone when I was a boy it was hard to get joyful receiving socks, but as an old man I am overjoyed to receive socks. Ah, it has come full circle. I am now getting my years supply of socks again.

In 1947, during Christmas vacation when I was in First Grade, we moved from town to the back of a
swamp in Glenloch. There were no houses with lights I could see because there were no nearby houses. I was living in the sticks and December was a chill, leafless month there. But it was there I heard Santa come. I was lying in my bed all expectant for the morrow, the 25th, to dawn when I heard a whoosh of his sleigh circle the house and something thump down upon the roof. It had to be Santa for what else could it be? After that Christmas Eve no one could argue away my belief in the Chief Elf. That disillusion had to wait a couple more years.

Over Christmas Vacation of 1949, when I was in Third Grade, we moved back to Downingtown. We moved yet again, but just across the street, and it was nearing Christmas. I was home alone, a not unusual circumstance at this
point of my life, and Iva, the girl from across the street I had been friends with forever was visiting with me. (Pictured right, Iva and me in 1946, both 5.) We began to explore the house, peeking where we shouldn't and in the closet of the spare room, the guest room where we had really never had a guest, were stacks of toys, the very toys I wanted for Christmas. Oh wow, I declared, what a wonderful Christmas this would be. If my parents were giving me these great toys, think what Santa would bring.

Yes, that Christmas morning I stopped believing in Santa Claus.

Christmas Season began with Thanksgiving then and ended with NewYear's day, or perhaps for some on January 6. There was no display or sound of Christmas song on the day after Halloween. There was certainly commercialism in that time, but it was not as blatant and persistent as today. We weren't bombarded with Radio or TV commercials. Buying the best deal wasn't the emphasis of the season. It was a quieter time, a more respectful time, a more joyous time, a more reverent time and I miss it.


I hope your Christmas was merry and peaceful and so let it be for the New Year!