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Archive for December, 2009

I awoke this morning to the sound of a scratching and a moan at the bedroom door. The lovely woman lying next to me responded to the sound with an equally pathetic moan. In the twenty seven years we’ve been together I’ve managed to pick up on a few of her nonverbal cues. That moan was the, you need to let the dog out. It is single syllabled and has a much lower tone than the, could you check on the crying baby? This is a nonverbal vocalization that is one tone higher and is carried through two rolling syllables, it implies that she’s been up all night and it’s my turn. It has been quite a few years since I heard that particular sound. This morning it’s my turn, I rub my eyes trying to achieve some degree of focus, the clock at the night stand suggests its 7:30 a.m. I roll from my prone position, grab a robe, and exit the bedroom to let the dog out.

I feel that non verbal communication is the key to survival of any marriage. Just look at the animal kingdom, with ears laid back, a tail curled downward, we are witnessing signs that indicate this animal is about to bite your ass! You need to stop doing the thing that is pissing it off, or else.

We could do well to take some lessons offered by the late great Marlin Perkins, that old dead guy from the Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom. You never saw Marlin getting attacked by crazed beasts of the bush. Of course his freind Jim didn’t always fair as well.

“It looks like Jim may have gotten too close to that crocodiles nest. Look Out Jim! That Mama  crocodile doesn’t look very happy.”

“No shit!”

Today marks Twenty Seven years, real good years, of marriage. The key to our success is learning to read those signs. When those ears are laid back, proceed with caution. Don’t let them smell your fear, remember they’re more afraid of you, than you are of them. Yeah right!

Happy Anniversary 27 Years.

Happy Anniversary Janet Rae Gest, I love you.

Talk to you later.

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The snow is falling a bit harder now.  The Foothills along the Colorado Front Range and Northeast to Nebraska expect to get about 5-10 inches depending where you are. It doesn’t matter to me, I’m off for four days and I look forward to the peace and quiet. I can smell the comforting aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee coming from the kitchen.

A few years back I ran into this Pipefitter on a job who told me this story, I’m sure it’s all true, well some of it anyway.

His name was Stan Clausen, we called him Uncle Stanley. Uncle Stanley was famous for telling stories; stories that were sometimes less than believable because they usually involved the consumption alcohol, or they were being retold while under the influence of alcohol.

I was  working in downtown Denver at the time, putting up one of the many high rises being erected during the big oil boom in the early eighties. It was Christmas Eve, and a Friday, so the HMFIC decided to shut the job down early that day, production was a joke and lets face it by 1:00  the crew had dwindled from 15 men to about 6, many not making it back from lunch. Those that remained, Uncle Stanley included, all agreed that in keeping with spirit of the holiday we should  meet at Kilroy’s for a drink.

Kilroy’s was a little local bar, within walking distance of the job site, today townhomes stand where the bar used to be. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon when we walked into the bar, the  ironworker’s  from American Bridge and Iron, the contractor doing the steel erection on the job had beaten us there, that was no surprise. We grabbed a table by the front window and ordered the first round.

The walls in the place were draped with strands of red and silver garland, twinkle lights hung over the mirror behind the bar giving it that warm holiday glow. The barmaid, was sporting a red Santa’s Hat, with a sprig of mistletoe pinned to the top of it, an inviting offer once the beer had kicked in. The first beer went down fast and a second round was called for, with a shot of  tequila to warm the spirit. It looked to be shaping up to a long night. Being an apprentice the honor of buying a round was out of the question, some unspoken rule that I was willing to abide by.

As we sat at our table, I noticed an old Blue Cadillac that was parked in front of the bar, it’s trunk was open and the driver was fussing with items in the back. One of my journeymen saw that my attention was drawn to the action outside our window and commented. “Looks like somebody’s  having a five finger discount, trunk sale.” I looked to him and asked him what he meant,  my tongue felt like it had grown too large for my mouth as the second beer and tequila were beginning to take affect. “The tools in the trunk, what color are they painted?” I looked back out the window, the afternoon sun was casting long shadows down the street, the light was fading but I could still see in side the trunk of the Cadillac. It was filled with electric power tools, side grinders, Milwaukee  Port-a Bands, and steel cases with the name Hilti Rotary Hammer on the panel, each of the items was spray painted with florescent orange paint. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought  if it had not been brought to my attention. “Orange.” I said it almost in disbelief, like some little kid being shown a card trick, then asking the magician how did you know?

“Natkin Orange, son of a bitch probably works for them to boot, that’s fucked up.” The men I worked with wouldn’t think too much about cutting out early and charging the full day, but to steal tools from a contractor? Especially a contractor they worked for, that was way below the line. Like some cosmic karma on cue, two of Denver’s finest, a “To Protect and Serve” emblem printed on the door, pulled up to the curb. The soft slush and snow sprayed over the concrete curb just missing the store front window, causing every one at the table to draw back instinctivly avoiding the gray liquid slop.

The red and blue lights of their cruiser, clashed with the holiday theme inside Kilroy’s. Uncle Stanley ordered a third round from Mrs. Claus the bar maid, who was beginning to look more alluring with each libation. She returned with the round, exchanging our empties with six Budweiser Long necks, “Man that’s screwed up, and on Christmas Eve how sad is that?”

My journeymen turned to her, “Stupid shit, deserved it!” Defining the line between what was, and wasn’t acceptable for everyone at the table. The barmaid sensing the general mood, nodded and made her way back to the bar.

“I spent Christmas Eve in jail once.” It was Uncle Stanley. Actually it didn’t surprise anyone, but words like, “You’re Shittin me!”, and “Get outta here!”, were followed by a, “What the fuck did you do?”

“Well actually it was kinda funny. I was working in Los Angeles welding beer tube at the  Budweiser  Brewery.” Stanley took a long sip of his beer, as if following some kind of script, the affect worked as everyone leaned closer to hear Uncle Stanley’s story.

“It was closing time, and I had just managed to get in two quick rounds at last call.” Uncle Stanley stated this fact like some kind of alcoholic badge of honor. “The problem was, I forgot to take a leak before I left, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.”

I looked out the window as the two officers were placing  handcuffs on the trunk salesman and gently guiding him into the back of their cruiser. A city impound truck had pulled up, and was in the process of hooking up the Blue Cadillac, the flashing lights on top of the cab cast an amber glow on the face of our story teller.

“So there I am outside the bar, it’s two in the morning and I got to pee like a racehorse.” Everyone at the table nodded, each of us recalling being in a similar predicament.

“So what’d you do Stan?” The question was on everyones mind. Ironically the answer was obvious to us all, but what kind audience would we be if we didn’t ask.

“I was trying to be as discrete as I could. I mean, I really thought that peeing in an ally was a whole lot better than peeing in the public street, however the L.A. County Police Department didn’t. So off to the county jail I went.” Stanley was on a roll, he told us he was booked for public  drunkenness, and urinating in public, obviously this was a common occurrence, considering they had a charge for it.

A forth round made it’s way to our table. I felt the need to slow down, but Uncle Stanley was just warming up, it seemed the more beer he drank the better the story got.

“So there I was, locked up in a holding cell, on Christmas Eve, Hell it was Christmas morning by now. The place wasn’t packed, there were two benches in the cell and I sat down and leaned up against the wall. Looking down at the floor and across to the other bench I noticed two shinny black boots, well one was shinny, the other boot was covered in somebodies lunch if you know what I mean.”

On the juke box the holiday classic, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” could be heard in the back ground, the ironworker’s from American Bridge and Iron were getting a little loud, and Uncle Stanley glanced over his shoulder annoyed. One of my journeymen yelped out, “Hey we’re talking over here!” Pretty gutsy, I thought. We out numbered them by three, not that that means anything to a drunken ironworker, but they must have been in the holiday spirit. They lowered their volume and Stan continued with his story.

“So here’s this guy with one shinny boot and the other boot that looks like a cat ‘ralphed’ on it.  He’s got the white furry cuffed red pants, the black belt, and matching red jacket. I say to my self, Stan… I think maybe you’ve had a bit too much to drink!” Everyone laughs, probably thinking the same thing. “So…  now I’m thinking, Salvation Army? Macy’s? What the hell is this Rent a Santa doing locked up in here?”

Using a gesture to emphasize his story, Stan gives a come hither motion with his hand, “So I invite this St. Nick guy to sit next to me on the bench, the old guy gets up and the dude sitting next to him slowly slides to the floor, right into the you know what…  yeah!”

Everyone at the table lets out a moan, we were definitely getting into Uncle Stanley’s tale. Pausing he motions for the barmaid, and with his right hand he makes a circular motion, indicating another round. I am in trouble, my face has gone numb, and I dread the thought of having to rise from the table to go to the mens room. I make a time out symbol with my hand,  grab the back of my chair as I stand up, I fight to find my balance, and march off to the bathroom.

Minutes later I return to the party, a fresh Long Neck is sitting at my place. Stan picks up the  story right where he left off. “So I ask the guy, what did you do to get locked up in here? And I swear to God. He tells me…he says, it started out as a Breaking and Entering charge, but they changed it to criminal trespassing! At first I thought you mother fucker, robbing people on Christmas Eve, serves you right!” We all nod, ready to kick the Red Suited Robbers’ ass. “So here’s where it gets weird.”

I think, weird? Uncle Stan your sitting in a drunk tank, with a Rent A Santa that’s covered in vomit, and now it’s ‘getting’ weird? Uncle Stanley and I had two very different ideas of what was weird. Stan could see from my expression, what I’m probably thinking.

“No, seriously he tells me he is the real Santa Claus, and how Blitzen is getting up there in age and hes’ been misjudging his landings on the clay tile roofs. Next thing he knows, somebody has called the cops when they hear all the noise, he gets cited for criminal trespassing, and now he’s on a 72 hour hold because he lacks any kind of identification.”

My journeyman laughed out loud; “Stan, get the fuck outta here!”

“No really, I’m not kidding. The old guy starts to cry and carry on about his sleigh, and reindeer and how he still has to finish the run. I felt bad for the guy.” By now everyone is busting a gut and waiting for the punchline.

“So what happened next Uncle Stan?” The mood at the table was deteriorating fast, the alcohol was talking it’s toll. The look in Stanley’s eyes revealed a sadness, almost pleading for someone to believe him. Stan grabbed his bottle of beer and tipped it up, finishing the last of it’s contents. He fiddled with the damp label on the bottle. “What could I do? When they called my name for my release I gave him my I.D., he gave me his hat, and I let him go in my place.”

There was dead silence at the table at first, then a chuckle from one of the fitters at the table, followed by a crescendo as everyone howled out in laughter. “Stanley, you’re fuckin killing me!”

Uncle Stanley looked down at the wet ring on the table top left by his empty Long Neck for a moment, and then up at the crew. “Yeah, pretty funny story Huh.”

The barmaid, called out. “Last call fellas.” Everyone at the table looked to Uncle Stanley, waiting for his response. “Not tonight guys, I got places to be.” In unison the crew rose from the table and pulled out their wallets, indiscriminately they tossed down their part of the tip. We walked out the door of Kilroy’s, a fresh dusting of snow had fallen, the air was crisp and we could see our breath. Uncle Stanley turned left, and I with the rest of the group turned right.

I don’t know why I turned around, but when I did I saw Uncle Stanley don an old Red and White Santa’s hat as he rounded the corner on to Sherman Street. Merry Christmas Uncle Stanley; I said in a whisper, as he slipped out of site.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Talk to you later.

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Life is a series of stages, transitioning from one to another. The changes are usually gradual, occasionally they are accentuated with disruptions that cause us to alter our course, requiring adjustments until we regain control as we continue on our path.

The relationship I have with my wife and family is going through a change.

We Are Just Good Friends

Once upon a time there were two lonely people, a difference in their ages and cultures allowed them to be friends without considering the possibility of a life together, we’re just friends they would say to each other and they believed in only that. Overtime they became good friends looking out for one another, with walks around the lake and spending time in the park, talking about the future, they avoided the words marriage and I love you.

We Are More Than Friends.

The line separating  friends and lovers began to merge, the time on the swings provided him with a chance to hold her by the waist, the walks were now done while holding his hand. The mention of a life together was only inferred, each being cautious in selecting their words not wanting to be the first to commit. Their first time together was not the first for either of them, but it was the first time it ever felt right. When the words that each was waiting to hear finally came forth, they were hesitant, and cautious, hoping at first that the other may not have heard it, fearing how the other might respond.

The Promise and the Commitment

The Promise and Commitment.

She always cried when she was happy,  she always cried when she was sad, but the day he told her he loved her, he could tell the emotion behind the tears, was good. Promises were made and dates were set, their passion continued to rise to the dismay of mothers who thought he was too young, and she was too old. They didn’t care they were in love, he made a commitment to her and to a faith unlike his own.

The time before their marriage was filled with long walks in the park, they flew rainbow kites and road bicycles built for two. There were long nights together, and Saturday breakfasts in bed while planning for the future. The year they spent together before they were married was carefree, the only thing that mattered was the time they spent together, the perfect time to strengthen their bond.

Two Become One.

The date they had set was December 26th, the mothers with sons that were too young and daughters that were too old, had to recant their positions; they saw a change in their children that neither had expected.  Mother nature had the final word on December 26th, 1982. For the two days before, the snow fell, 26 inches in all. The trip to the synagogue was challenging, the car was carried half of the way, traversing ruts and snow drifts; they left a day early to spend the night closer to the Temple. Seventy five people were invited to the ceremony, thirty five managed to arrive. With hooded parkas and cross country skies stacked in the corner, the foyer looked like a Klondike reunion.

Under a Chuppah supported by brothers, sisters and friends, vows were declared, rings were exchanged an age old tradition was replayed, the breaking of the glass. The bride and groom were escorted down the isle by their parents, from very different families with very different traditions, they retraced those same steps up the isle and out into the world as one.

One Become Five

Time moved on and children entered the scene, locks were installed on the bedroom door to afford a moment of intimacy and to avoid unpleasant surprises. A house that seemed to be just right, was soon becoming small, but they managed all the same. Eventually their family became a group of five, time for each other was put on hold and the task of raising the family became the number one  priority. Report cards and music lessons, concerts and birthday parties, with camping trips and birdwatching, trips to music camps and Israel, they were in the raising the family stage. It was a routine that morphed from year to year but with one common theme, just let them grow up to be happy, healthy and strong, and move on.

Locks? We don't need no stinking locks!

Relearning To Be A Couple.

And now we have arrived at our present station in life. Slowly the house that was alive and full of activity has become quieter, our son has moved out, married. Our daughter, the scholar, is talking about starting a family of her own.  With one child remaining, I feel for her as she pulls at her reigns, and what once was a wish to return to the simpler and quieter days we had once known,  is beginning to feel like a curse. No more music concerts, or birthday parties with eight screaming girls wearing flapping party hats, the house  seems larger, too quiet at times.

As we adjust to the ripples caused by these changes, I recall the days when I would wake up in your bed, hungry for breakfast and starved for your love. I would debate whether to go to the kitchen and cook us breakfast, or crawl under the covers and continue were we left off the night before. I know with certainty as we approach our Twenty Seventh Wedding Anniversary the passion we shared early in our marriage is still there. The difference now is we don’t need to worry about the lock at the door, or if the noise we make might wake the kids. Yeah, this is going to be fun, starting all over again, and I’m ready to start now. Well… maybe after breakfast.

Talk to you later.

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The content of this post may be considered too mature for some of my younger readers. If you have young children present, or you are an adult that believes in Santa Claus, I will give you to the count of three to escort them from the room. One … Two …. Three…

So when did you first learn the truth about Santa Claus? I was probably about six years old, and discovered it quite by accident. The revelation made me uncomfortable, I liken it to farting in an elevator full of strangers. The burden of the secret weighed heavy on the mind of a six year old.

At the time we lived in a large farm house in rural Wisconsin. The house was probably well over a hundred years old. My parents didn’t actually own the farm, nor did they work the farmland. They only rented the farm house and used one of the out buildings as a stable for a horse we owned.  There was a long gravel drive way that ran the length of the front yard, about quarter of a mile or so. The front yard resembled a wood lot, with huge oak trees and one very skinny, tall maple shading the green grass that grew down the long narrow strip of turf. Along the gravel drive a row of pink and white Peonies marked its edge. Their tightly wrapped bulbous blooms were always covered with a patrol of ants, little Peonies sentries guarding against raiders of the realm.  Sadly that home no longer exists, destroyed in a fire while we lived there.

The Christmas that I found out was like most; anticipation and the magic of the Holiday filled the air. It was about a week before Christmas. I don’t even remember why I was in their room, it’s possible I was looking for something for my Mom. It could be  I was just snooping to see what was under that blanket in the very back of their closet. Whatever the reason, the mission was a success. Under the blanket hidden away, was the Coolest Yellow Plastic Car, it was huge, nearly large enough to sit on. I recall the cold sweat breaking out on my forehead; looking around to see if I had been caught, I stealthily replaced the cover trying to replicate every wrinkle in an effort to give it that natural look. A similar technique can be used to mask the nibble marks on a pan of brownies. “Natural” is the key, to do it successfully one must study the scene carefully before disturbing the area.

At our house no one was allowed to come down stairs on Christmas Day until we were given the “word”. Well before the signal was given to come down, we would be giggling and whispering to each other, secretly hoping that the commotion would hasten the call from our parents to join them. There was a whole production associated with Christmas Morning. First we would go to the tray that we had left out for Santa to see if he had eaten the cookies and the milk we had left for him. This guy had to be the messiest eater on the planet, crumbs all over the tray, the milk in the glass was all but gone, and the sugar cubes for the reindeer, missing.

Next were the harvesting of the stockings, these were filled with little bits of candy, fruit and sometimes nuts, there were also small inexpensive stocking stuffers. Tootsie Toys, if you’re old enough you may remember them. We would sit and eat candy and play with the little toy cars, biding our time for the big event.

My Dad always handed out the gifts to the children, making sure that each one received the correct time interval between packages. He would usually start out with the gift from Santa. There was only one from him and it was typically the “biggy”. I don’t even remember what I got from Santa that year, please we’re talking well over forty years ago. I do however remember what my little brother got from Santa that year. Yup, that Coolest Yellow Plastic Car! I don’t know what hit me first, the fact that he had received the gift I thought was destined for me, or the shock and realization that I had seen that very item in Mom and Dads closet over a week ago!

I struggled to hold back the emotion, embarrassment over my assumption that the Coolest Yellow Plastic Car was for me, and the disappointment upon finding out that one of the things that made Christmas Magical for me had vanished in an instant.

I never did tell anyone how I found out that Santa was hiding toys in my Mom and Dads closet, but eventually over the years, I think my brothers and sisters stumbled unto the truth too!

Talk to you later.

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Last night I was sitting with my wife on our fireplace hearth next to the Hanukkah menorah, the glow from the five candles gently illuminated and emotionally warm the darkened room. This is my favorite part of the holiday. Each night for eight nights I sit quietly, letting my mind drift as the soft music caresses memories from deep within me to be relived . Most are happy, some just images, brief snapshot of events that are personally meaningful to me.

What triggered the memory is anyones guess. Maybe it was the familiar tune, I couldn’t really say but the images were strong.  It must have been this spring, when the fence was getting replaced. I remember clearing dead vegetation and debris from last fall when I discovered it. Covered over with tangled vines and clutter I found the remains of the concrete moorings from a swing set that had long been discarded, they had to be from twenty years ago.

Right about now you are probably asking two questions. Where the Hell is he going with this? And why on earth would he save six fifty pound chunks of concrete from some long forgotten swing set? Give me a minute I’ll get to that.

As I wrestled the concrete pylons from their entangle nest, I was asking myself some of the same questions. “Why the Hell are we saving the pieces of rubble?” Rolling the first hunk of concrete over I nearly lacerated my wrist on a jagged iron stub, the remains of one of the support legs from our children’s swing set. As I queried, why I would be saving this piece of junk, I saw the faint out line of a palm print, it was smaller than mine and with a few strokes with my hand I was able to make out the scratchings of the word Mom.

The flood of memories returned back to me last night, as clearly as the day we poured the footings.  The hand print in the concrete was my wifes, I know this sounds weird, but it looked sexy. Her long slender fingers were delicate, looking and the imprint conjured up memories of her cool soft caress. This was the hand print of the woman that I loved, laid into stone for eternity.

Dislodging the next concrete slab and clearing the dirt from the impression I found the name Maren. She is my youngest, the tiny fingers of a toddler her hand print barely the length of my index finger. Today those little fingers are used to communicate to people. Creating images and signs for those that lack the ability to hear. Twenty years ago who knew the importance those little fingers would make to someone. I’m so proud of her.

Like some backyard archeologist I unearth the next massive slab. Using a twig to score out the etched name, which was probably written in his own hand judging by the lettering was Jacob. My oldest, his hand was a bit larger than his sisters although not by much. Jacob was our little builder, his most famous request for building materials was, “Mom! I need  some string, scotch tape, and a stapler.” His mother wise beyond her years, she knew the telltale signs of a plan being formulated. “Honey what do you need that for?” As if the answer were plainly clear, he responded. “We’re building a club house Mom!” Of course you are. Today my son is still crafting things, everything from wooden tables and art supply boxes, to creating beautiful music, as his fingers move across the keys of his clarinet. He will always be my starving musician, with a heart of gold.

There were three more concrete mementos left, a dogs paw print with the name Molly, Molly the  Mastiff. Our children’s first pet, sadly she provided them with their first  experience with losing  someone you loved. She passed away when they were still pretty young. I found my hand print, identified by Dad.

The last of the group was buried in mud I had to get the hose to remove the dirt from the surface, the name Tovah, was written below the shallow imprint. It was made by a young girl who struggled much of her child hood to find who she was. Not having many friends the hand print revealed the shyness of her personality. She is my scholar. The first of our family to graduate from college. An avid reader with a passion for history. She is no longer that shy uncertain person I once knew. All grownup now, she reminds me of my little sister, very smart, and sometimes very outspoken.

Somewhere outside under the snow lie the imprints of my little family, shuffled from one section of the garden to the next. They will probably remain in the back yard buried under vine and weeds until the next project requires their relocation. I will probably pause again,  smile, and recall that day when we set that swing set in concrete and left our hand prints behind.

Talk to you later.

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The Arctic freeze that hit earlier this week has released its grip. Temperatures soared to a delightful 35 degrees, things are beginning to melt, a meteorological reprieve of sorts. As frozen pipes reveal themselves, insurance claim adjusters dole out checks to stricken property owners.

Given its budget and the rate at which our city’s  street department addresses snow removal, couple that with more snow forecast for next week, it could be early March before we see the asphalt in front of our house again.

When I was a kid snow was something to get excited about. Unpredictable things happened when it snowed. We lived in a rural area near Madison, Wisconsin when I was growing up. Snow fall in the winter was as common as peanut butter on white bread. It was the unpredictable events that transpired  because of the snow fall that got me excited.  I remember building snow caves in the huge banks of snow that were left behind, as the giant county plows cleared the roadway in front of our farmhouse.

We laugh when we see the kid with his tongue frozen to the flag pole in “The Christmas Story.” Try yelling for help when stranded at the bottom of your favorite sledding hill, with your tongue stuck to the steering bar of your favorite sled. Left to resolve the problem on my own the solution was clear, the results were painful. Through teary eyes I could see the patch of tongue the size of a Canadian dime still adhering to the iron bar, as the taste of liquid iron filled my mouth. It was at least three days before I could eat anything with out drumming my fist on the table or tapping my foot on the floor, some kind of primal reflex to the burning sensation at the tip of my tongue. Even today I get a little panicky when an ice cube straight from the freezer sticks to me.

The best time I had sledding was on my Uncle Roger and Aunt Jeans’ farm. Their farm was… rustic. During the summer it was not unusual to find young goats sparing on the front porch, and the occasional  chicken wondering through the kitchen. Fly paper strips hung from the kitchen ceiling, like  curled amber tentacles dotted with their intended victims.  Eating a meal at the table took courage; as the sound of buzzing wings beat helplessly against the sticky surface of the dangling tentacles, like some abstract image of a Man-O-War jelly fish. As kids we were used to it, but to an outsider unaccustomed to the farm life it could be pretty overwhelming.

The winters on their farm were much different, the Shell No Pest Strips were no longer hanging from the ceiling, the goats and chickens were huddled down in their pens and coops, in an effort to survive the cold winter night.

Like this only in the dark.

My cousin Charlie had prepped the sledding course well, although I don’t think Uncle Rodger was aware of it. Earlier in the day while Uncle Roger was asleep, after working the night shift at Oscar Mayer. Charlie had opened the spigot at the pump house, effectively flooding the upper barnyard with water. This man made glacier followed the contour of the terrain, down the rear drive, past the junked out Ford Edsels, along the corn crib and pig pens, and down the steep hill into the lower alfalfa field. At the bottom of this hill he had placed the ramp, as all good sledding hills need a ramp.

I don’t know how long he had let the water run, but by 8:00 P.M. that night he had created a masterpiece of glacial ice. We would start the run at the Ford Edsels and make our way through the upper barn yard and down the hill, we were probable doing 25 miles per hour when we hit the ramp. In the dark of the night from the top of the hill you could hear the sledder as he hit the ramp and then silence, for what seemed like two or three seconds. Then came a huge thud as gravity over came flight, dragging both rider and sled back to earth. It was certainly an activity suited for younger bones, and feeble minds.

I remember those days fondly, and as I write others come to mind, making fodder for another time.

Talk to you later.

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It was a pretty crisp day out there today. By pretty I mean very, by crisp I mean cold, and by cold I mean -4° F. It looks like it will get even colder tonight. Global warming my ass. My hands have warmed up, but I still got a bit of a chill inside. Too bad I don’t like brandy.

My spirit or my emotional state is beginning to catch up with the sites and sounds of the season. I don’t know if it is deeply seated emotions from my child hood or just the barrage of Seasonal programing on the air waves but it’s starting to set in. Given the fact that it is a little more than two weeks before the Holiday I will probably be completely saturated by the time it arrives  The truth is I don’t celebrate Christmas any more and haven’t for about 28 years. I don’t regret not celebrating it, but I miss the reuniting of family at this time of year.

My mother probably was the one who got the most excited about Christmas, arranging the Nativity diorama crafted from bits of wood and some small figurines that she had assembled. The Creshe as she would call it, was always placed in the living room somewhere out of the way but accessible  for viewing. As a kid I would rearrange the livestock, and shepherds, and the Angel above the manger, mostly to get a reaction from Mom. Traditionally she wouldn’t place the Three Wise Guys into the scene, pardon me Wise Men, sorry Mom; until after Christmas Day, those Catholics can be such sticklers for detail.

Grandma Jo was my favorite Grandma. She would usually send us an advent calender for the Holidays, we were pretty young at the time. Each night we got to take our turn opening a window, revealing a piece of chocolate which that child would promptly eat. With six kids you were locked into getting about four pieces up to the 24th of December, Mom usually got the 25th.  Grandma Jo would also send a package marked Do Not open until December 25th, this was always underlined to make sure we got the point. She always underlined things in her cards and letters, it was her way of driving home the message.  We never got toys from her, it was always warm flannel pajamas. She came from the generation that thought the best gift was always a practical gift. I always thought of it as the Great Depression Generation.

Was it just our house,  or did anybody else set out their shoes on the night of December 5th, St. Nicks Night? If you had been good all year you would get candy and fruit, if you were bad it was a lump of coal. The shoes never stayed out too long, usually we’d set them out before dinner and retrieve them after we’d cleared the table. I’m not even sure the tradition still stands.

Right about this time she would begin her Christmas baking, Swedish Date Balls, Phephernus, three kinds of quick breads and Fudge. The truth be known usually she would end up making a second batch, the first never making it to the Holiday, whether by design or default I couldn’t say.

Honey, I think its a bit too tall.

The tree was always a natural tree. One year Dad and Mom loaded up the car and we went up into Pike National Forest and cut our own tree. Mom always had a problem with spacial dimensioning. Her ideal tree was a full Douglas Fur with no bare spots. Dad was the craftsman in the family having been a Union Bricklayer most of his adult life. The man has spacial down to a science. If he says “I think it might be a bit too tall.” Listen to him, this statement falls under the category of; “Are you sure you want to do it like that? Mom was insistent and in our house if Momma wasn’t happy ain’t nobody happy. My father and Mother were Happily Married for over forty two years, the tree came down. It stood 12 feet tall, what’s a couple of feet between spouses. Traditions are what family and Holidays are about.

Although I don’t celebrate Christmas in my home, a part of me still is drawn to that place were the  sites and sounds of the Holidays stir motions and bring back colorful images of people and events  that will be a part of me forever.

Talk to you later.

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