Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Retrospect

Today is Christmas Eve Day and I am sitting at my desk watching the fine snow continue to fall. This morning was church and then my wife and I had an enjoyable lunch with friends at a local restaurant.

The snow started to fall while we were in church. We walked in and the ground was clear. We came out to a light coating of white and extremely slick roads and sidewalks. Uh, "extremely slick" is being very kind - I almost fell on my dignity as I headed for the car. As we drove to the restaurant, I decided - after attempting to stop - it was wiser to continue on through the yellow light. When the group broke up to head home, I decided to go "that extra mile" and see a house I thought we'd look at later if it truly piqued our interest. I slowed up to look at the home and then attempted to turn into a driveway to turn around. My wife kept telling me "Don't hit the telephone pole" like it was my goal in life. I didn't - repeat DIDN'T - want to hit the pole. In fact, I didn't even want to go off the blacktop driveway and into the yard... but, I did. Fortunately the gravel at the edge of the driveway and the first crops of grass stopped me and I only "trespassed" about 3 feet into the yard. With luck, the spring rains should wash away all the evidence.

While on the highway, cars were going faster than I wished to drive and some of them seemed to have difficulty remaining in their lane. I decided to take the back roads home with a lot less traffic. Of course, that didn't mean the roads were any better or safer.  Approaching my driveway at the outrageous speed of 15 mph... Yeah, I almost overshot the driveway, finally slip-sliding my way into my driveway which is gravel.  As one would expect, even it was slippery so there is this little wiggle in the tire tracks leading up to house.

I'm inside and have NO intention of going outside except to let the dog out. Our dog will go out, potty and immediately return to the house. We are watching (dog-sitting) our son's dog. It is spoiled rotten, and has been raised in a fenced yard. Why do I say spoiled? You have to be outside with her while she does her business. If I tie her to the chain - 30 ft with a pole out in the middle of yard - so she has plenty of running space - she will whine and bark to come back in, totally disregarding her business. But, wait, she remembers that she had to go potty and well, SURPRISE!  To avoid that surprise, I stand out there in the weather and wait for her to run off her excess energy and do her business. Sounds like a little wimpy dog, right? Wrong, this is a pit bull with muscles that exceed mine about 3 to 1, maybe 4 to 1. Plus, if she wasn't so damn lovable I'd just turn my back, but she's just a big lap dog who doesn't realize she isn't a lap dog. Maybe I should note at this time - the dog has decided turn about is fair play - if I leave the bathroom door open, she watches me. If I close the door, she patiently waits outside the door, sticking her nose as far under the door as possible. Personally, I don't think these moments should be shared, but...

I've digressed. And I usually do. Sorry.

Christmas. I remember as my kids got older, my parents and in-laws didn't seem as much "into" Christmas. I mean they shared a couple of gifts, but the Christmas morning hoopla was missing. Now, I have grandchildren and great grandchildren. The children are spread here and there with their in-laws spread even farther it seems. So, we had our "family" Christmas last weekend, 12/19, with all them present - all 28 of us in one house. Talk about chaos and fun. We even had 7 kids who are under the age of 3 to keep things hopping.

So, today my wife and I head to church and it is Christmas Eve Day... but, it doesn't feel like any other day of the week or year. I mean, tomorrow is Christmas and we'd probably just sleep in and finally, some time during the day, decide to open the gifts we bought each other. No hoopla. No whoop-de-doo-dah. The gifts? More likely useful items that either of us could have bought any other day - jammies, underwear, socks, gloves, etc. I could have bought my wife jewelry but I've done that over the years for special occasions, birthdays and other gift days. She has more jewelry than she will probably ever wear. Some I've even forgotten I've bought for her... let's just say, when she passes, the DILs and granddaughters will each probably receive a beautiful piece of jewelry to remember her.

Outside the snow is still falling. It is beautiful. The fine snow is dusting all the tree and bush branches.

So, tomorrow, my #2 son who is celebrating Christmas today with his 3 children, their spouses and children are like us. Nothing to get all excited about on Christmas Day.  They've invited us to join them for a day at the casino in Toledo. At first I hesitated but, again, it feels like any other day and it might be fun to do as something different. I mean, we could just sit at home... but, why?

The Christmases I remember from my youth are no more. Families are no longer just living a few miles from each other. Work schedules even force employees to work on Christmas. I remember in our town, each Sunday everything was closed except ONE gas station and ONE drug store - and those stores took turns rotating as to who would be open. Come Christmas there wasn't anything open except the police, fire department and hospitals - and I think they were running skeletal crews so everyone could have part of the day with their families.  Oh, and maybe the local Chinese restaurant was open. In my small mid-America "village" there was no Oriental restaurants back then.

If my #3 son was still an EMT on the fire department, he'd be working today and tomorrow, a 4 hour shift. My #4 son needs to go in and make sure the furnace is going at the steel mill. My #1 and #2 sons had to work yesterday (Saturday) and of course, will be back to work on Tuesday. My #2 grandson needs to be at work Christmas night to start the week and his wife needs to handle a shift at the local carryout. My #1 granddaughter will do a shift today at the hospital and a partial shift tomorrow for Christmas.

Someone told me they had a choice - they could tell their employers they wouldn't work those days. I think the employer response was simple: Work or don't bother coming back. Today there are too many people wanting good jobs, even mediocre ones, to demand too much.

It would be nice to go back to the Christmases of the 50s where children believed in Santa until at least the 3rd or 4th grade. Where families got together - grandparents, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered together to celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

[SIGH] Today it is all about how many and how expensive the gifts are. Several years ago my #2 granddaughter and wife were talking about Christmas. My wife told her one year she got a new doll and a few homemade clothes from her parents and grandparents. My granddaughter hugged my wife and said "I'm so sorry, grandma. You deserved more." Today's kids seem to get so many presents they don't know which one to play with first. I remember getting new pajamas, a shirt, a collection of classic books, and a Lionel O-Gage train set that I needed to share with my brother. My hanging sock had an orange, peanuts in the shell, a candy cane and a small toy stuffed down in it. That was the Christmas just before my 9th birthday (circa 55?) and was one of the best - I loved that train set. There were no other family members. Why? My parents moved to NW Ohio in 1953 from Iowa where my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived. We were alone with no nearby family.

Wow. I guess my parents were some of the originals who started to separate the nucleus family. I never thought of it that way until this very moment.

I was taught in high school that the nucleus family started to breakup in the early-mid-50s. I didn't see or understand what it was about.

The nucleus family. Back then there were neutrons, electrons and protons to make up the family. Over the years those have disappeared and there is barely the nucleus left - who can honestly say they sit down to a family meal at the table each night?  TV trays in front of the boob-tube don't count.

It's still snowing. Some things don't change. We'll have a White Christmas this year.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hiding Christmas

I raised four sons and as soon as the oldest one realized that Christmas presents were already in the house prior to Christmas, the game was on. With four boys ranging in age from 10 to 1, my wife and I decided we needed a better hiding place than the closet of the home office or spare bedroom.

By the time the youngest was ready to start the holiday search, the eldest was a teenager with a vivid imagination of where mom and dad would stuff a present... attic, basement, garage, the dark recesses of seldom used areas. It was a test of wits and I wanted to win.

We used suitcases, parent's underwear drawer, file boxes with fake names like "Dad's military" or "Grandma's Doilies" to keep the boys from rummaging through them. I even used my bowling bag as a hiding spot... uh, this one so my wife wouldn't find her present! I guess a golf bag could work, too, if you golfed. LOL.

Of course, as the younger boys getting older, so did the older boys. Move ahead six years. The four boys are now 16, 15, 9, and 7.

I'd like to say the older boys had matured and we only had to hide things from the younger two. Unfortunately, it is Christmas and even the oldest child can quickly revert to their youth. Our eldest was the sneaky kind. We discovered he had mastered the art of repackaging. That's right. He would open the present carefully, see what it was, then reseal it so none (mainly mom and dad) had no idea he had tampered with the gift. We thought he'd outgrown that trick but his wife caught him red-handed one year, so... As I said earlier, no matter the age, one reverts to their childhood all too quickly.

But, I digress, hiding became much more sophisticated with each year since we were now dealing with older children who walked the edge of adulthood. In other words, they finally had a brain. LOL.

Here are a few places that many people overlook as a hiding place.

1. Depending on weight and whether you have a suspended ceiling. A-ha! You put that together. Presents like shirts, skirts, slacks, pajamas or very light-weight toys can be strategically placed on cross-bars here and there above your heads. Children (and many adults) don't usually think a place above their head in clear view as a hiding spot.

2. If you still have a water bed, sometimes the manufacturer will place a small drawer at the foot, several, to save money, just placed a plain or decorative board across the foot of the bed. Yes, you have drawers on the sides, but many water beds have a small empty well that can be used to hide several items, large and small. Again, a child seldom thinks of this space... did you?

3. Continuing on bedroom furniture. Does your dresser have legs? No? I'm willing to bet that it then has a false bottom. With a little straining, you should be able to slide it out from the wall on one side and discover an opening to which you can slide in a present. We hid a couple of huge train sets under the wife's dresser.

4. And don't forget dad's big valet drawer and/or closet. Yes, sir, that hefty stack of drawers probably has a false bottom, too.  Again, another hiding place.

5. Of course, this also holds true for any large furniture pieces in the house - think dining hutch, a desk, end table, display case, grandfather clock, etc.

Caveat: If you're using the ideas of 3 - 5, remember, brush out the slide marks on the carpet in front!

6. Our first year in the Washington, DC area, we rented a townhouse and in the one bedroom, it had two huge double-slide doors. You know, the type with the vents down the front. If the gift is small (thin) enough, using a small, almost invisible hook to hold the item, place it high up on the back side so when the door is opened, it hides the item between the two sections. You might be able to place a thicker item if you know your children (or spouse) isn't going to push the doors ALL the way open.

7.  In our home, the hot water heater is enclosed in its own private little closet. When nobody was around, I installed a small shelf. Yes, I had my own personal hidey-hole that nobody knew about. I mean, WHO looks in the hot-water heater closet? It was a safe spot until my wife decided it would be the perfect spot to store her extension rod for her "spider killer." After that, it was still a safe child-proof hiding place.

8. This hiding place is extremely dependent on size. After the tree has been decorated and it is several days down the road, a small, discreetly wrapped in dark green package can be placed deep within the boughs of the tree, live or artificial. My wife's set of diamond earrings set in the tree from December 1st until Christmas. It was a lot of fun making her "hunt" for that gift in the tree.

Now I've not included many of the more obvious ones - basement, tool bench, attic, garage, car trunk and such. Of course, the space above the car in the garage is often overlooked. Still, a lot of the aforementioned places can be ransacked by those in search of their Christmas presents. In fact, I was thinking of using the attic in one of our houses when I discovered it was already in use by my youngest son as a "clubhouse" for him and his friends. The access was in his bedroom and thereby he considered that just an extension of his space. Yeah, attics are gamey, at best.

Now, we've used item #3, #4, and #5 for hiding things Christmas presents repeatedly. One year we told the boys they had been bad and well, we just weren't going to buy them any toys. The boys called our bluff on Christmas presents. They had searched everywhere except the sacred territory of our bedroom and was sure it was all hidden in our room. We allowed them to search the room, smug, knowing they wouldn't find anything. We had finished our shopping. And, as expected, they didn't find anything. Talk about four boys being good for the remaining time until Christmas - all of them hoping Santa would get them something, anything. I know, we're mean.

The funny thing about hiding place #6 - the bedroom was the one for the two youngest boys who were 10 and 12 at that time. They never discovered the presents hiding there. Of course, they weren't quite as serious about finding the presents as their older brothers.

Hopefully, you have found a new hiding place. If you have a good hiding place, share it with me. I'm always on the outlook for a new place.

Until next I ramble on...