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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas Gone is my Christmas Present (c)

Christmas Gone is my Christmas Present

Christmas Gone is my Christmas Present

As I've aged, I have realized that Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas until it's over.
It's not until after all the baking ingredients are bought, baked and consumed that I find Christmas. Christmas for me happens long after a turkey is stuffed, baked and devoured. It's not until after the gifts are all purchased and given and family has come and gone, that I can find that childhood Christmas peace the seasons about. The gift of peace that became evident because of that first Christmas.

The house is now quiet from its annual Christmas Day celebration. The fancy nut and chocolate dishes are left with a small array of what once was. The baking that earlier slid from overladen platters is evident only from crumbs on the many dessert plates scattered and hidden around the room. Punch glasses in varying degrees of half empty and half filled compete with dessert plates for position. The kitchen is filled with dirty plates, cups and bowls that we only use for fancy occasions. It's a special kind of mess, thats all around the house that's only at Christmas.
"Let's leave all this cleanup till tomorrow and go to bed." The wife directs as she tops the stairs. "You coming?" She asks, more out of courtesy than a need to know.
"No" I'm just going to drain the last of the coffee from this pot and enjoy the lights on the tree for a while." I respond, knowing she can't hear me anyway behind the bathroom door.
I turn off the little orange light on the Mr. Coffee maker as the upstairs goes dark leaving only the Christmas tree to guide my way back to my old favorite chair.
Oh look, I can see the floor under the tree again. For weeks it's had a condition where colorful boxes and bags would appear at it's base, blocking floor access. And by doing so, any way of watering the now fire hazard that's been in the house for three weeks.
Tomorrow,...I'll water it tomorrow, I think to myself as my butt is halfway down, in motion, beyond the point of I'll stand up and do it now before I forget. But it's today! I see only three numbers on the digital display of some gadget around the TV. I was expecting four. I try to convince myself it's still Christmas Day. I never changed that thing, whatever it is, on the TV stand to Standard Time. Then I remember I never have. Some magical thing happens and it does it on its own. Wish the stove could do that.
Christmas is over. Done, complete, finished. That was a short two months. From Halloween till now, almost two months of everything and nothing but Christmas. I guess I'm glad it's over. Maybe I can breath again? That was a lot of work to get to this moment! All the 'they need, they want, they gotta have or it's not good enough', is done.
I exhale at the thought, blowing across the top of my coffee as I take the first sip. As I focus on the level of coffee in my mug I see a reflection of Christmas tree lights in the coffee. It's just me and the tree now. I don't know how I'm going to break it to him that he's now trash. The now highly decorated, illuminated but poorly irrigated, fire hazard will soon be striped of all it's illumination, man made bobbles and bangles. Soon to be tossed aside and then dumped in a yet unknown location. It's once proud eight foot splendor has started to become a needle dripping, unloved eyesore.
Pondering on which neighbors are away on holidays, and would enjoy an eight foot fir horizontal on their front lawn upon their return, I'm visually drawn to a childhood memory. Back in the tree behind the 20,000 or more bright LED lights, hidden by plastic ornaments from China and Korea is my childhood Christmas memory. A glass ornament of a choir boy holding a hymn book, mouth open eyes closed, singing Pop Goes the Weasel. Well probably not, but as a kid it was fun to think that he was. He was with two other singers back then. The first boy band. From Germany, and hand painted.
They originally had been my grandmothers which would make the last remaining member of the group about 100 yrs. old. Which would make him old enough to be in the Rolling Stones. Nothing says Christmas like a little glass figurine of Mick Jagger hanging in the tree.
As a kid I would lay under the Christmas tree and enjoy the colored lights, ornaments and the smell that the tree held. It smelt like the little cardboard tree dad had around the rear view mirror in the car.
Ornaments would sparkle under the colored lights and compete with tinsel to see who could outshine the other. Christmas carols would play on the big stereo HiFi. A source of pride for my Dad. He would brag about that it was big enough to bury him in. All these sights and sounds then combined with the heavenly smell of Mom's Christmas baking and that little cardboard tree smell. Both together, creating an outdoor cinnamon kind of aroma.
My problems were too few to worry, which is the luxury of the young. I had needs and wants that money could still buy. My whole life was ahead of me and it looked exciting and good. It was a time, that as a kid I could lay under a Christmas tree without someone dialing 911. Just lie there in peace and be hypnotized by the sights, sounds and smells of home comfort.
I take another sip of coffee and wish for more sugar. My little singing old choirboy is looking straight at me through,...I was going to say lights and ornaments, but time, seems more correct. He looks across the time that's been my life. From my youth filled with happy Christmas memories with all the family there. To what my life's become 55 yrs. later.
My Dads gone now, but we didn't bury him in the HiFi. We wished we had of when we were try to get rid of the thing though. My Mom can still bake but infrequently is her main dish now. And me, I only lay under the tree to water it now. Which if not done in a speedy manner scares the wife.
I've married, twice, and am now happily into my 25th year with my second wife. We share three wonderful children and four even better grandkids. We've worked together to build a family we're proud of. I'm lucky to have lived long enough to where money can't buy me what I want anymore. And all my problems I thought were a problem are in my pine scented rear view mirror.
The furnace kicks in and reminds me to turn down the thermostat before I make it to bed. My coffee's cooled to where gulps replace sips. And my shoulders relax as I breath deep the satisfaction of another happy family Christmas.
Was all the work and effort worth it? Yes it was! All through my life. Thank you Mom and Dad. You made memories that will last more than your life times. It's was your solid foundation that you set for me, so that I can build on for my family. The one my wife and I are forming, that's being enjoyed and remembered by my kids, and their kids. We're building on solid rock, sitting strong in these stormy times.
Ahhhh I breath out and reach over to squeeze the wife's hand...Oh ya.
All is right in my world little choirboy. Even though outside my door trouble, hate, disease, and wars abound. I'm at peace. Bethlehem peace. An inner peace, found only because of that night so long ago. A comforting peace, that spans throughout all time. An all encompassing peace to surround the grandchildren. One to shelter and comfort their fears of wars, disease and home grown terror. A peace that's anchored by strong roots in my humble home. Now reminded by an old, still precious, almost hidden symbol. One that was once celebrated at the forefront of our family Christmas tree. So much like the real meaning of Christmas for most of us. It's still there. Once you get past all the glitz and noise of the season. Down deep behind the lights, ornaments, presents and other distractions. So precious, still valued,...that quiet kind of Christmas peace.

Bob Niles

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Grandpa!...I Want That for Christmas (c)

Grandpa!..I Want That for Christmas!

Grandpa!...I Want That for Christmas!


It's starrrr--ted, the whole Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus multi cultural onslaught of advertising we've all come to expect at this time of year. A season bombed with every imaginable product to make it all happy and bright. Magazines, television billboards, bus stop shelters and every newspaper are heavily pregnant with gift ideas for every person you ever knew. And my granddaughter wants it all.
She has learned, through my wife, 'Ask and You Shall Receive'.
Now she knows better than to try that tactic out on mom and dad. They, as most parents do, give the kid the reality check and let them know 'You Don't Always Get what You Ask For'. And, to be fair to my wife, when our kids were growing up that rule applied too. But then God invented grandchildren for retail suppliers. And they with their wants, and gotta haves, fill the retail hoppers to overflowing at this time of year.
And you're welcome! On behalf of my wife and her gold Visa card may this time of year carry you through the leaner months ahead in 2015.
Me? I have little to do with getting out there in the trenches for the hand to hand charge card transactions. All the lining up before dawn in single line formation out side the business you're about to invade. Not my style.
I'm the spy kind of guy. More of a James Bond. I find out what information that grandchild posses in regards to their wants. I find out what makes them happy. Their desires. Sometimes I'll play the game of double agent and steer the kid into what they want because the wife bought it when it was on sale in July.
Mine is not an easy life at this time of year. Me being a spy, is not all the glamor filled Casino Royale nights one would expect being a spy. No, my days are filled in front of a TV with a forty pound child standing squirming and jumping on my lap. Preschool television to the point of brain dead boredom, then shockingly interrupted by Dora the Explorer socks to the groin. This is usually accompanied by 'Grandpa!..I want that or Christmas!'
The number of jumps on my swimsuit area determines how well the gift is liked. One, being I'd play with it until the next gift is in front of me. Two, being I'd play with it as much as the box it came in. And Three, being I like it enough to take it home from grandma and grandpas. And if there is ever a Four it's because I'm either gone numb in the once treasured swimsuit area or it's an iPad commercial.
This is the torture I must go through to get the little boogie eating, lap stomping, I need a drink (well so do I!) Beefaroni gulping, cartoon watching, I want everything kinda kid to express to me, what they want, so I can tell grandma what to buy. Sean Connery never had it this rough!
The whole 'Grandpa!..I want that for Christmas' starts about two days after her birthday in July. I soon tire of all her over information and do the old 'If you ask for one more thing you will never get anything'. To which she responds in quick fashion to,.. 'Gabriella (the other granddaughter) would like that for Christmas'. So now we're on to Gabriella would like that! Gabriella would love that!
Apparently Gabriella would like to have a under garment to handle bladder control because 'Hey we all Pee' as the commercial says.
"Why would Gabriella want underpants ( and here I'm assuming without a 'Barbie' on them) that these old ladies are wearing." I ask.
"Well they're dancing and having a good time and Gabriella likes to do both of those things." she reasons.
The conversations I have and punishment I take just to narrow down the gift field is brutal. If she could only write like Gabriella and make a Christmas list all this lap dancing she does could stop.(????)
But then my spy days would end. No more deciphering drawings for gift ideas or listening in on toy cell phone conversations. Me, following her around toy stores seeing what she shows an interest in. Or the hours in front of the bright lights of a television made to watch the very commercials I avoid like the plague when I'm watching TV on my own.
Maybe I like being a spy. Maybe I don't want to turn in the remote and drink box. I like the interaction had in getting inside their little heads to see what makes them tick.
Oh sure they lie and give misinformation. 'No! No! I don't have to go to the bathroom!"
I won't get fooled by that one again!
Suddenly I'm brought back to the now, and the present. The present she wants from this commercial. "Grandpa! Granda! I want that for Christmas!" Its a two jump, no three before I can stop her. So I'm shaken, not stirred by a remote T-Rex dinosaur whose eyes can change color when angry. It's a strong contender to be under the tree this year. It's it's fourth strong showing with two weeks to go before cutoff, and shopping begins. Then there'll be no more Grandpa I want this! Or I want that, it'll all be over. Mission complete.
The wife, little Miss Money Penny will refer to me as The Man with the Golden Card and start her mission using my intelligence as her guide. She approaches her buying for the grandkids as The World is Not Enough. And then come January and the bills I just give them to her and say its For Your Eyes Only. That bill in that envelope is A View to a Kill and a License to a Kill if seen by me. It scares The Living Daylights out of me.
She blames me, letting her go on her own! Me, Dr. No, is suppose to be there to hold her back.
Me? I blame that little cute boogie eating, lap stomping, I need a drink, Beefaroni gulping, cartoon watching I want everything kind of kid! And the fact that we are lucky enough to be grandparents we can Never Say Never Again.

Bob Niles (007)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pumpkins, Electoral Signs and Christmas Trees (c)

Pumpkins, Electoral Signs and Christmas Trees

Pumpkins, Electoral Signs and Christmas Trees
(from treasures to trash in one night)

After Halloween pumpkins look ridiculous hanging around the front yard. Their once broad grin and bright triangular eyes melt into themselves which give the appearance of a sixties movie star in need of a facelift.
And the same is said of our now past electoral signs of our hopeful candidates and our soon to be Happy New Year Christmas Trees. After the event has past the very next day they become trash. Get them out of the house, get them out of the yard, the wife doesn't want to see them anymore!
A lot of time and trouble was spent picking the right pumpkin, candidate and tree. And all were held in high esteem until Halloween was over, the candidate you chose failed and a new year begun.
To rid yourself of a pumpkin you just drop it into the new handy-dandy two wheeled green bin and TA -DAH it's gone. The dead tree that was once held in high esteem and was sung about is back on the car roof two weeks later. It's off to the firemen who kill it some more by chopping and or burning it. But the election sign is not so easily trashed, nor should it be. It can be used for many projects that concern or interest you. Or they can be shaped and formed to make a statement in the community.
My Dad for example, back in the day when election signs were plywood, would support the candidate with party colours closest to our house colour. He didn't care what the party stood for he just wanted the plywood to build a crappy shed and fence that unfortunately both matched in colour and vertical stability.
Today's election signs are made from cardboard and plastic that have no shed or fence building qualities. Why a big gust of hot air would send them flying! Makes you wonder how they made it through the campaigning.
So one has to get creative to recycle and reuse this free windfall. Such as,...turning the sign around in your front yard and painting 'FOR SALE' on it. Very popular choice in Richmond. Or you could collect them and trade them with your friends. "I'll trade you four Bill McNulty's for a Brodie, two Dang's and a Steves."
You could also cut and glue two dimensional artificial trees from them and replace the real trees they cut down in Minoru Park. It would better match the artificial turf on the fields than the real trees they plan on planting. And if they get sick you just repaint them instead of destroying them.
Why not have the school kids make snow geese from them and flood their school fields with them so the real grass eating, pooh fouling field fowls can't.
Use the back of the sign to write your appraisal of city hall completely in your native tongue (it's legal for now) with a rating from 1-10 at the bottom. Place the sign on the lawn at city hall and let them figure out if it's good or bad or the price of a dozen hot wings downtown.
Be sure to save a least one election sign of the person you elected as mayor. Then after a period of time (sometimes short, sometimes a little longer) when they screw up an issue you hold dear, paint over all the sign except for their smiling face. Then again completely in your own tongue write 'I put this guy in city hall and all I got was this crumby sign!'

Bob Niles

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hello? Hello? Excuse me... (c)

In Canada we celebrate Remembrance Day ( for our soldiers who have fallen in service ) which now seems to be in the way of Christmas.