Friday, November 29, 2013
Getting the tree, putting it up, and securing it was just the beginning. Decorating it was like watching a Broadway show unfold. Out came the ladder. This led to my father stringing the lights. He was very good at this. He took his time-a lot of time hiding the wires way back in the branches. The strands of lights were always blue lights-his favorite. Then the boxes of ornaments packed neatly away the year before were brought out. Because the boxes holding the ornaments were the original boxes bought from Woolworths, Newberry's or Grants, they were handled carefully as out came glass ornaments and fancy-blown ones appearing as if they'd been hand-painted. The smaller ones hung at the top. After the ornaments came little plastic-type icicles.
And then came the final act-strands and strands of heavy lead-looking tinsel. It was so heavy that it would have taken a hurricane to make it move-and that's what made it as perfect as the perfect tree from which it was hanging. After my father-standing on his ladder-strung the tinsel up high-my mother hung each strand below. She was so meticulous-holding the strands in a certain way in one hand so she'd be able to hang the strands-one at a time-with her other. And she was just as meticulous when taking each strand off-one by one-and carefully placing the strands back in their boxes until the curtain rose again on this Broadway Show in a living room out in the country at Christmas time.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Void of any special effects, movies back then were more about the story and most of those stories were westerns-so many westerns and so many famous cowboys like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and John Wayne. But a cowboy who wasn't quite as famous was my favorite. I don't know why I liked Lash LaRue so much. Maybe it was because he dressed all in black-or had a horse with fancy accessories and a saddle which I loved. I wanted my parents to buy me one just like it. I didn't have a horse but it didn't matter. I wanted one just like his. He could ride his horse with ease while getting the bad guys. And he got those guys more often than not with his whip-a bullwhip that he could snap or swirl and save the day-or the damsel in distress.
He could do other things with his whip. I know because I saw him do those things in person. Lash LaRue came to my hometown. He really did. I went with my older brother to one of those theaters to watch him perform stunts with his bullwhip. Despite the size of the audience my brother and I somehow ended up on stage with Lash LaRue. I don't remember how that happened but there we were-me in my pigtails and my older brother in his very own Lash LaRue attire. My brother didn't have a whip but it didn't matter because Lash LaRue let him hold his-and then he let me hold it too! We stood there while Lash LaRue did stunts with his whip just like he did in his movies. No stunt men needed for this genuine cowboy!
From that day on I pleaded even harder for that saddle. I never did get one. I did, however, get some Lash LaRue comic books now and then-and that was fine with me.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
The Christmas edition of that magazine was an art form. From amazing photography to creative decorating suggestions-beautiful illustrations-seasonal music-poetry-and short stories, that magazine offered something for everyone all wrapped up in a big red bow or better yet-a poinsettia as poinsettias were always featured throughout the pages. When I could pull it away from others, I'd slowly make my way from the front glossy cover to the back. I'd read everything even though I was young. That didn't matter. It was the Christmas Ideals issue!
After studying the magazine my mother and aunts would get busy creating. They'd go to a local florist and buy Styrofoam squares-a few different sizes. They'd buy all kinds of decorative accents like shiny balls-some big and some small-in seasonal colors attached to tiny wooden stick-like things with one end pointed so they'd would go into the Styrofoam. Ribbons and bows were also purchased unless it was my grandmother who saved such things year after year. Branches sawed off of Christmas trees being readied to come inside were the last items needed for creating centerpieces that would sit on tables and hutches and mantles-just as centerpieces had year after year.
For awhile my mother, aunts, and grandmother met one evening a week. They called it their Busy Fingers Club. They'd do all sorts of creative projects. One of my aunts was very good at making candles by using milk cartons and little bits of used crayons. Her most beautiful candles were white-covered in glitter and wrapped in tissue paper. She somehow whipped the paraffin to get a certain effect. I don't know how. I just remember loving them. Maybe they were in one of those Christmas Ideals magazines-maybe not. It really didn't matter because when I think about it-my mother, aunts, and grandmother always put their own twist to whatever they created. I bet that magazine just got them in the mood-and they took it from there!
Thursday, November 21, 2013
My mother was very organized. She had a special box where she kept the list of names she intended to send cards to, sheets of postal stamps-each with the same Christmas image, a telephone book, and decorated Christmas seals she would lick and adhere to the fronts of the envelopes-the last step before having my father take the cards to the post office to be mailed. Organizing the list took her a long time. She'd have to make calls to relatives for updates to some. I loved looking at the list. It would be all scribbles; some names crossed out and some new ones added. She had the neatest penmanship-very small letters but very legible.
The Christmas cards my mother sent year after year most always featured Grandma Moses artwork. My mother loved the artwork. There was a little store downtown that was part bookstore and part gift shop. It was a ritual for her to go there to pick out her Christmas cards and then go next door to Woolworths or Newberry's for the Christmas seals. Sometimes I went with her.
Besides sending cards, my mother enjoyed receiving them. She'd open each one as if it was a present. She'd read the inscription-and sometimes make a remark or two. She always made sure my father knew who sent them cards. That way he could say thanks if he ran into them. Later she displayed some of the cards; kept others in a basket. I can't imagine how many hours my mother put into her Christmas cards-from selecting them to organizing the list-to addressing them and licking the stamps and seals. She never complained. Christmas cards were important back then-as much a part of the Season as was getting the tree-another tradition planned and executed to perfection as only my mother could.
Because of the phone's location there was no such thing as a private conversation. When friends called-words were chosen carefully. And when a boy called those words were scrutinized even more-especially with an older brother around who also used the phone-more often than not right when I wanted to or at the exact time I'd told someone I would call. Once I did get to use the phone I'd lose track of time. I'd sit on the floor in front of the bookcase in everyone's way until my mother gave me the evil eye which meant I'd been on the phone too long.
I still remember phone numbers from back then-2075 and 2049J are engrained in my head. That was the era of telephone operators so if you couldn't remember a number they would assist you. My aunt was a phone operator so it was fun when she was the one saying, "Number Please." There were phone books too-really thick ones with lots of ads and so many numbers. Sometimes my cousin and I would open the phone book up and randomly point to a number-and call it-then hang up. Or pull the standard joke-if they had Prince Albert cigars in a case-they should let him out! Click! We 'd laugh and laugh and do it again! Or even better we'd call a boy-then hang up before anyone answered. Try doing that today!
It's hard to believe how phones are now part of our wardrobe-stuck to us like glue. We are so connected that we are actually more disconnected-so dependent on that tool that we lose sight of what is around us sometimes. Instead of talking with each other we send electronic messages or check apps or play games or whatever else those things do. It all makes me miss that rotary phone sitting on a pillow. It never told me what the weather was in Hong Kong or anywhere else around the world. It never offered directions or answered any question I might have. It simply connected me for conversation and when that conversation was over-that phone stayed on the pillow as I went on to other things. It had its place. And that is where it stayed. And I never did know what the weather was in Hong Kong!
Sunday, November 17, 2013
We were told Santa came down the chimney although we didn't have a chimney but that didn't matter because we did have a fireplace. Every year our father would carry it down from the attic in an oblong box with the word Fireplace in huge print and a jolly Santa image on the side. It was an exciting moment-a family event. Our parents would pull the cardboard fireplace parts out of the box-slowly so as not to disrupt the parts piled on top of each other. Our mother was very good at packing them up after Christmas. She was an organizer. Everything had a place. My brother and I would wait as sides were fit back together-the mantle was on top and secured-and the logs were in place. It was our father's duty to start the fire.We'd stand back as if afraid we'd get 'burned' as the same logs that had sat in place the year before and the year before that lit up and the 'flames' began flickering-announcing the season of Santa Claus was here again. I don't remember wondering about the electrical cord or small bulb behind the fireplace or the metal pinwheel that would twirl when heated and once heated-the logs would flicker. None of that mattered. I was too young to connect the dots. It was Christmas! I believed!
On Christmas morning my brother and I would rush down the front stairs to find the fireplace roaring and our stockings bulging with little wrapped surprises-so many little surprises that our knitted stockings would be sitting on the floor beside the fireplace-not hanging from the hearth where we'd thumbtacked them the night before. Our tinsel-laden Christmas tree bought fresh from a neighbor's lot full of trees was lit as well. After checking to make sure Santa had eaten his snack and drank his milk, my brother and I would sit by the fireplace and open the little surprises. That fireplace always kept us warm. It always filled our hearts with the wonder of Christmas and magic of Santa Claus in that house on a bit of a hill.
Friday, November 15, 2013
As if that pony tail hairdo wasn't enough sometimes she'd wear her hair down. That amazed me all the more because that hair of hers curled up at the ends like a tunnel all the way around. It was quite the sight! She looked like some of the girls on Bandstand-the ones everyone knew by their first names-the ones who'd dance with the cutest boys and wear the coolest outfits and sit next to Dick Clark when the camera was on.
Pony tails are timeless. From My Favorite Genie to Lady GaGa-pony tails continue to show up on the big screen-TV screens and now on little screens we can hold in our hands. I'm sure cheerleaders still wear them-but they probably don't use Spoolies.