Presents and Gifts

David and I opened presents Christmas afternoon.

I got lots of cats. Faux cats: cat calendars from an old and dear friend; cat socks and a “book throw” dotted with cats, from David. I also received Jeopardy socks and sloth socks and a backdrop.

Last year David gave me a tote bag with a sloth on it, the source of many compliments from oncology nurses. The sloth socks make me think there might be a subtext brewing, though; if there is, it’s justified.

The backdrop is designed to make Zoom friends think I live a more picturesque life. The apartment walls are pink, a pleasant pink, the same pink of the living room and dining room in the house I grew up in, but as background on Zoom they  look sick. My computer doesn’t have the oomph to support a “virtual background.” Dear husband has taken care of that. All we have to do now is stick the backdrop on the wall where the camera can find it.

William and Ernest received catnip mice. Ernest said his was okay but no big deal—he doesn’t do drugs—and headed for the litter box. William was delighted with his mouse, started batting it around, but was distracted by the sound of Ernest scrabbling around in the litter box and abandoned the mouse to listen. Returning, Ernest swatted the mouse once but by then William was in the litter box, and Ernest had to pay attention. They are social animals. So much for the mice.

About that first sentence: I never imagined writing it. In my youth, presents were a morning thing. The adults were so excited that they dragged us out of bed about four o’clock in the morning—no exaggeration—because Santa Claus had come and they couldn’t wait. No breakfast—we had to see what Santa had brought!

No one argued with them.

Back row: Lynn Worden, Mary Veazey Barrow, Wray Worden, Mary Whiting Worden, Mary Veazey Worden. Front row: Jim King, Steve King, Lee King, Kathy Waller

Correction: most of the adults. My father wasn’t quite so eager. He woke daily without an alarm before six a.m.—farm hours, even though he hadn’t farmed full-time since before World War II—but he didn’t wake up until he’d had two strips of bacon, fried; two eggs, basted; two pieces of buttered toast; and two cups of coffee, black with sugar. Then he achieved consciousness. Christmas morning for him was modified torment. He participated in the Santa part—I think Mother provided him with coffee—but waiting for breakfast was probably like being a kid and having to wait to open presents.

I was thinking the other day about Christmas presents I’ve received. Off the top of my head:

Doll beds with blue-and-white blankets my mother made. She backed them with white flannel.

A little stove with a real oven and tiny cake pans and a tiny box of cake mix.

A pogo stick.

Dolls. My mother loved dolls, so I got one every Christmas. The one when I was eight came wearing a white lace bride’s dress. She also owned a white blouse and some black velvet slacks.

But more than the presents are the memories that accompany them.

The doll blankets lasted for years after I’d put away the dolls. A lot of kittens and puppies were bundled up in them.

My cousin Lynn, about twelve when I got the oven, spent Christmas vacation with us and helped make that little bitty cake.

I tried out the pogo stick in the street in front of our house on Christmas Day but couldn’t make it work. I never played with it because it was so sturdy—my father was probably along on that shopping trip—that my six-year-old poundage wouldn’t make it budge; nor did my father’s forty-plus-year-old poundage. The pogo stick hung on the wall in the garage for years, waiting for someone heavy enough to make the spring depress. The whole truth: I was so acrophobic that I wouldn’t have been able to bounce on it anyway; the pedals were too far off the ground.

I made the doll a suit, a rather nice one, because my mother wasn’t into playing around with the sewing machine; if I was going to sew, I was going to do it right. I found the suit last year when we moved, unironed but intact. I guess the skirt got lost in the six-decade shuffle. Note that the cape is lined. I couldn’t make a lined anything today. Or unlined. My manual dexterity has departed.

One year it wasn’t the presents I remember but the living room floor covered wall to wall with discarded wrapping paper, so Sabre, the Cocker spaniel, couldn’t figure out how to get across the room to the front door.

So many other presents over the years, so many experiences, so many memories.

My mother told me once about a Christmas during the Depression when there were no presents at all, but the Christmas Eve sky was clear and bright with stars, and the family decided it must have looked like that on the very first Christmas.

I didn’t say, of course, but I thought that must have been terrible. No presents. How could they bear not having packages under the tree, and surprises, and new toys.

So I grew up and things fell into place and presents fell into perspective. I’m still pleased to receive them. But the truth of the cliché applies: It’s the thought that counts. And the people behind the thoughts.

And with perspective comes new definitions: Presents come in boxes wrapped with colored paper and tied with ribbon and bows.

The thoughts, the experiences, the memories, are gifts.

The Road to Bethlehem

THE ROAD TO BETHLEHEM

If as Herod, we fill our lives with things and again things;
If we consider ourselves so important that we must fill
Every moment of our lives with action;
When will we have the time to make the long slow journey
Across the burning desert as did the Magi;
Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds;
Or to brood over the coming of the Child as did Mary?
For each one of us there is a desert to travel,
A star to discover,
And a being within ourselves to bring to life.

~ Author Unknown

Casper (name)
Journey of the Magi (1902) by James Tissot. Public domain. Via Wikipedia.

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“The Road to Bethlehem” appears on other websites, where it’s attributed to Anonymous. If you know who wrote it, please share the name and, if possible, other documentation, in a comment, so I can give the poet credit for his creation and can search for information about copyright. Until I know more, I will assume the poem is in the public domain.

*

Find “The Road to Bethlehem” on these pages:

http://macrina-underthesycamoretree.blogspot.com/2009/12/desert-star-emerging-life.html
http://blueeyedennis-siempre.blogspot.com/2010/11/advent-prayer-and-poems-i.html

“The Year Is Going; Let Him Go”

For seventeen years after the death of his best friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, at twenty-two, Alfred Tennyson worked on the elegy In Memoriam. In effect, he wrote through his grief.

One of the last cantos in the book, “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” signifies the end of grief, the casting aside of the heartaches and pain of the old year, the return of faith, and the hope of a new and better way of life. Legend has it that Tennyson was inspired by hearing church bells on New Year’s Eve.

“It is an accepted English custom to ring English Full circle bells to ring out the old year and ring in the new year over midnight on New Year’s Eve. Sometimes the bells are rung half-muffled for the death of the old year, then the muffles are removed to ring without muffling to mark the birth of the new year.” (Wikipedia)

The poem was published in 1850. Read it slowly. Words composed 170 years ago are as alive as if Tennyson had written them with the upcoming New Year’s Eve in mind.

I need to hear them now. Maybe you do, too.

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Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
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The musical setting by Charles Gounod omits two of the poem’s stanzas.

Lost and Found

I’m posting at Ink-Stained Wretches today, but for some reason, I’m unable to reblog the post. So here’s the beginning, with a link to the rest. Or you can just go to Lost and Found and read the whole thing in one place. By the way, it’s not about computers. It’s about something I found while looking for something I’d lost. What I found was better—memories.

 

“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.”
– Eudora WeltyOne Writer’s Beginnings

In 2000, I wrote a story I titled, “Stop Signs.”

That was in the Dark Ages. Ancient desktop, probably Windows 3.1 and  WordPerfect. Hard drives. Floppy disks that didn’t flop.

I composed in cursive—sat on the bed with a pencil and a tablet, wrote a couple of pages, crossed the room to type the fragment into a document and make some edits, moved back to the bed to pencil two or three more pages, went back to the computer to transcribe and edit, moved back to the bed . . . And reaching “The End,” printed and penciled in more edits, then went back to the keyboard to type the changes, then printed and penciled more edits, then back to the keyboard . . .

It was my second foray into fiction. I rather liked the result, and as a naive newbie, I submitted it to a contest. A month later the North Texas Professional Writers Association notified me the story had placed first in its fiction division. They enclosed a check for $50 (real money!) and a copy of the chapbook in which winners’ work was published.

Later I became comfortable composing at the keyboard. I printed, marked the manuscript, revised and edited the document, went through that process several times, stored the file, ripped up the paper.

Down the road apiece, “hard copies” became unnecessary—just attach a file and email it off to contests or zines. Easy peasy.

And then came another desktop, and laptops, and new versions of Windows, one after the other, and CD-ROMS (writable!), and external backups, and online backup services, and cloud backups, and a whole raft of things I’ve never heard of.

The paperless society. Everything on record, available at the touch of a fingertip, no document or image ever lost.

Yeah, right.

Read the rest of the post on Ink-Stained Wretches, here.

What the Angels Don’t Eat

WATERMELON

When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.
It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took;
we know it because she repented.

~ Mark Twain, Pudd’nHead Wilson

I believe in eating locally grown food. I also believe in eating watermelon.

For a couple of months out of the year, I can do both.

For years, I did both, waited through long months of fall and winter and spring, until late June, when the Luling fields came in and brought the food the angels eat.

Waiting wasn’t easy, especially since I was at the same time waiting for roasting ears to get ripe. Field corn—horse corn—musty-flavored yellow dent: not the food of angels, perhaps, but only because they don’t know about it.

But this post is about watermelon. It’s high in fiber and potassium, low in calories, and available in grocery stories year-’round. A couple of months ago, I decided—I’ll wait for Stonewall peaches, but watermelon, wherever it comes from, I’m having now.

Except tonight, when David called from the kitchen, “This watermelon is bad. I just stuck the knife in, and look.”

I trotted in to see.

It was bad.

I’d never seen anything like it.

No matter. We always have a back-up.

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Read about square watermelons at Wikipedia. Common in Japan, they’re “purely ornamental” and “tend to appeal to wealthy or fashionable consumers . . . in 2001 they cost anywhere from two to three times a normal watermelon (at about $83).”

Note: Eighty-three dollars is much more than two to three times what I pay for a watermelon.

***

Another note: The corn pictured above is getting on toward horse stage. Humans eat it as soon as it’s ripe. I haven’t seen yellow dent corn in years. They don’t sell horse corn in grocery stores.

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Quotation at http://www.twainquotes.com/Watermelon.html

Image of whole melons by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Image of sliced melon by Stephanie Albert from Pixabay

Image of dent corn by moni quayle from Pixabay

Images of bleh melon by the Davises

Ernest, Vigilant

An hour ago, Ernest had his monthly dose of anti-flea medication.

Process: David sprayed calming spray and gave it time to take effect, then dragged Ernest out from under the china cabinet, put him on my lap, and held him steady while I squeezed the little droplets onto the back of his neck.

Afterward, David retreated to the bedroom to dose William, who is perpetually calm.

Ernest has been sitting beside me, in the same position, staring down the hallway, ever since David left. I think he would like to crawl back under the china cabinet, but he’s too calm to move.

But he is vigilant. Ever vigilant. He never knows when an enemy agent might assault him with essential oils and pheremones.

And what then? The possibilities are too terrible to imagine.

He’s heard about flea baths.

Ernest, vigilant