A Christmas Tradition I Wish We Shared with the Brits

Many British companies, especially those in the retail segment, have a tradition of creating special holiday commercials.

Some of them are rather wonderful.

Now, my husband, The Engineer, will tell you English adverts are better overall, and I tend to agree with him, though this certainly doesn’t mean there are no stupid ones. However, for the most part, British marketing departments appear to give their customers credit for at least a modicum of intelligence.

And when it comes to Christmas … well, see for yourself.

This Christmas will likely be one we remember for a long time to come. I’m sharing these to remind us to make sure some of those memories are happy ones.

Wherever you are and however you plan to celebrate, know that I wish you and yours a very happy Christmas. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, perhaps you can celebrate the dark nights of winter growing shorter (at least in the northern hemisphere 🌞) now the solstice is behind us.

Let me know which ad is your favorite.

On earth, peace and goodwill to all

Holiday Humor

When I watch these commercials, I often wonder what type of person actually surprises another with a vehicle. And when I think about how I would react to such a gift, I must say this Saturday Night Live sketch comes pretty close (if you subtract the extramarital flirting).

Scrappy Christmas

While I’m not really part of the “Scrap Happy” tradition started by my friend Kate and her friends, I felt I could offer another post on the subject — or at least a continuation of the first.

Since that post, I’ve continued to crochet stars as if they were needed to populate the night sky.

I’ve made at least seventy and am still going strong.

Some have gone to work with me, as thank yous to customers who donate to our staff fund for a local charity for families in need. Some have gone in Christmas cards and on presents. Some will go to my mom to give to her caregivers and friends at her facility. And some have gone on our tree.

It’s not our usual tree. But it’s going to be a weird Christmas for everyone, and things are no different here. Darling Daughter and I have not yet decided if it’s a good idea for her and Boyfriend to come home for the holiday. Somehow dragging the tree and all its ornaments down from the loft and decorating it seemed, not a waste of time exactly, but sort of superfluous.

I wanted something simpler, and chose to decorate the Norfolk Pine I’ve been growing for more years than I can remember.

I also strung popcorn for garland. (Note on stringing popcorn: After I’d already started stringing, I read it’s best to let the popcorn sit for a day or two so it doesn’t crumble so easily. This would probably make it easier. Still, the squirrels are enjoying the scraps, so that’s a good thing.)

I’ll admit I didn’t envision the tree turning out quite so Charlie Brownish. But that’s okay. I’m going to buy more lights. Twinkle lights make everything look better. (The Brits call them “fairy lights,” I think, which I prefer. I like the hint of magic in the phrase.)

In other scrappy news, three more lap rug/afghans went to my mom’s place for the residents.

One could also make an argument that my “Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter” is also scrappy. Heaven knows the recipes came from many scraps of paper stuck in many cookbooks in our cupboards.

And now, though I’ve shared it many times before, I feel compelled to (once again) share the best Christmas song ever. I know you are probably saying, “Kym, that’s your opinion,” but I disagree.

It is the best Christmas song ever.

Plane passenger makes 88-year-old woman’s dream come true when he gives her his 1st class seat class seat – Christmas Story #6

Official site of The Week Magazine, offering commentary and analysis of the day’s breaking news and current events as well as arts, entertainment, people and gossip, and political cartoons.
— Read on theweek.com/speedreads/885259/plane-passenger-makes-88yearold-womans-dream-come-true-when-gives-1st-class-seat

I Need a Little Christmas Now

When I was a freshman in high school, I had an amazing teacher for ninth-grade  English.

Miss Hamilton was the sort of person you remember — one who made an effort to help her students learn and appreciate the English language, to see it as more than words on a page.

For a kid like me, this probably wasn’t difficult because, at that age, I lived mostly through books.

But, Miss Hamilton did something I’ll always remember, something truly above and beyond.

She arranged a field trip for a group of her students to see a musical at the Goodyear Theater in Akron.

Just consider that for a moment. She voluntarily took a mixed group of 14-year-old adolescents out in public to see a musical.

Not a special, day production meant for school children, you understand, but for an evening performance,  as if we were regular people who just happened to be a little younger than the rest of the audience.

Like I said, she was amazing!

If I recall correctly (and I hope I do), her confidence in us was not misplaced. We all showed up, dressed in our finest, and enjoyed the play.

That show was “Mame.”

Now, I don’t remember a whole lot about the play (it was forty-five years ago, after all) except for a fox hunt where Auntie Mame somehow managed to capture and keep the fox alive, and this song.

It’s “We Need a Little Christmas,” sung by Lucille Ball. I actually prefer Angela Lansbury’s version, but the YouTube video of her singing is just an audio clip.

The lyrics include the following:

“Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before
My spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking.

I may be rushing things
But deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas,

Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.

It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry.
So climb down the chimney.
Put up the brightest string
Of lights I’ve ever seen.

Slice up the fruitcake.
It’s time we hung some tinsel
On that evergreen bough,
For I’ve grown a little leaner,

Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,

And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
Need a little Christmas now.”

That night in the theater has lived in my memory for more than forty years, not only because of Miss Hamilton and all she did for her students, but also because of that song.

You see, Christmas, and the weeks leading up to it, have always been magical for me.

There have been many Christmas seasons that were special without much effort on my part: as a child; that first Christmas morning with The Engineer; and when Darling Daughter was at the delightful age when she was old enough to feel the joy and still young enough to believe in Santa.

But, there have also been many that were a bit — how shall I put this? — challenging.

The years in college when my parents were in the throes of a divorce, and it felt like my family was falling apart.

The one when I discovered — on December 23 — my first so-called husband was a pathological liar and probably a bit of a sociopath.

The year I realized The Engineer didn’t feel quite  the same way about holidays.

After Darling Daughter moved out, into her own adult life, and I once again had to decorate the tree alone.

Last year, as I tried to make the season all come together while coping with Mom’s crushed elbow and subsequent dependence, as well as my own six-week bout of bronchitis.

And this year, with Mom once more in the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure, bruised and battered from another fall.

I’m not looking for pity here. We’ve all gone through times like this.

Sometimes it’s hard to feel merry. And that’s when you need a little Christmas the most.

So, here’s the thing: After discovering The Engineer wasn’t as crazy about the holiday as I am — and to be fair, not many people are — I sat down and thought about what made  Christmas special to me.

Because it’s not fair to expect other people to make you happy.

To my surprise (and great satisfaction because it proved I wasn’t as shallow as I’d begun to think I was), I realized it wasn’t getting the perfect gift. Instead, it was the joy of giving them, the pleasure in baking and surprising others with goodies, sending out cards, holiday music, and enjoying the holiday lights on houses and our own little tree.

Even if I have to decorate it alone.IMG_2402Sometimes you have to make Christmas yourself.

Last year, that meant no Christmas cards because, well, I discovered I had more important things to do — like take care of Mom. And myself.

This year, I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I do know it will still be Christmas.

So, when I came home from the hospital today, after I worked on the paperwork involved in being the one responsible for an elderly relative, I forced myself to have a little Christmas.

Though I really only felt like sitting on the couch and watching Premier League football, I opened the seventeenth door on my chocolate truffle Advent calendar. And my cheese Advent calendar. And my wine Advent calendar.

We Christmas nuts are big on Advent calendars.

Then, I put on a Johnny Cash Christmas CD. It was an old one, full of hymns sung in his curiously pleasing, yet not actually melodic, way.

Since I was brought up in a churchgoing, country-music-listening household, this made me feel quite sentimental.

It was perfect.

I baked mince pies — straight from the Walkers Mince Pie box and made fudge — two kinds — to add to the 7-Layer Bars I’d already made.

With all that’s going on, I’m concentrating on the easy recipes. Maybe I’ll make the more challenging ones another time.

I packed up some goodie plates for my friends at the library and the post office, and for the nurses at the hospital who have been so kind to Mom.

Finally, I looked at my meal plans for the days around Christmas, trying to streamline them enough to make cooking a bit simpler, and yet still have meals that have most of what The Engineer, Darling Daughter, and I consider necessary Christmas traditions.

Sure, I’d love to do it all — every cookie, every meal course, every enjoyable event — but sometimes life intervenes.

One thing I’ve learned from my mom is to remember — no matter how much we (I) would like to believe otherwise — we aren’t in control, and sometimes we have to roll with the punches.

She’s in the hospital, with two black eyes and a swollen nose, struggling to breathe, with all dignity gone, confused about what’s happening to her, and still, she manages a smile for anyone who enters her room.

If she can do that, certainly I can somehow create a Christmas.

Because it’s times like this you really need one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vilnius Airport Puts A Christmas Tree Made Of Confiscated Items To Highlight The Importance Of Aviation Security | Bored Panda – Christmas Story #5

With the winter travel season well underway, the Aviation security officers at Vilnius Airport opted for an unusual take on the classic Christmas tree, aiming
— Read on www.boredpanda.com/christmas-tree-prohibited-luggage-items-vilnius-airport-lithuanian-airports/

For 50 years, North Carolina Army vet has made toys for kids in need at Christmas – Christmas Story #4

Official site of The Week Magazine, offering commentary and analysis of the day’s breaking news and current events as well as arts, entertainment, people and gossip, and political cartoons.
— Read on theweek.com/speedreads/884020/50-years-north-carolina-army-vet-made-toys-kids-need-christmas

One Golden Ring: A Tale of Christmas Magic

This is the story of a ring — not like the Lord of the Rings, “My Precious,” and all that — but  sort of an heirloom my Aunt Celle always wore.

Because this is the story of her ring, I think you should know a little about this woman, who made her own way in the world, eventually marrying for the first time at age sixty-six.

Aunt Celle was my grandmother’s younger sister, which meant she was actually my great-aunt, and her real name was Lacelle.

Grantsville, West Virginia, where Celle was born is not a large place. Despite being the seat of Calhoun County, the population was just 561 in 2010, 99% of them white.The 2000 census figures show a fairly high percentage were poor (20%), and according to Google Maps, there’s a Dollar General, a chain frequently seen in poorer, rural areas. However, a 1942 history of the town indicates it was once a busier place, boasting five barbers and three doctors!

By that time, however, the Lang family was long gone, having moved to a farm on Road Run in Troy, Gilmer County. Aunt Celle’s father, Thomas Jefferson Lang, not only farmed, he also was a RFD (Rural Free Delivery) mail carrier, first as a contractor and later as a government employee. (As an interesting side-note, RFD actually began in West Virginia in 1896, though not in Calhoun County.)

For a long time, I assumed Great Grandpa delivered the mail by horse, but my brother Sam corrected that misperception, telling me Grandma once said her dad did the route by mule because the terrain was too steep for horses.

According to Sam, Grandma said sometimes the mail was early, and sometimes it was late. It all depended on how the mule was feeling that day.

Lacelle was one of six children, preceded by Leone Catherine (my grandmother), Harold Clare, and Fay Dorrette, and followed by Thomas Jefferson (always called Jeff), George W — likely George Washington Lang after his Uncle and, of course, the first president — and Darlette Kay.

From these names, you may think the Langs had a propensity for interesting names, and you would be right. Grandma named her children Merlin and Mescal Jean (always called Jean, and no wonder!).

The 1930s visited tragedy on the family when Fay, who was a nurse, died of tuberculosis at age twenty-four in 1933. The thought of one so young dying so shockingly young brings tears to my eyes.

Meanwhile, Celle continued to live with her family until she was at least thirty, working as a maid in a private house in 1940. This fact, which I only just discovered, makes me wonder. Whose house? Who was rich enough in West Virginia in 1940 to employ a maid? And what, exactly, would that maid be expected to do? Aunt Celle worked nearly 60 hours in the week before the census, so they obviously expected a lot of effort for her pay!

Leone married my grandfather, Everett Byrd, in 1925; Harold married Everett’s sister Alma Bird in 1930 (the Byrds/Birds seemed to spell the name however they felt like it, even in the same family); and in 1941, George married his wife Alah in Summit County, Ohio.

Grandma once told me Aunt Celle told her she never married because she never met a man as good as my grandpa.

I’m not sure whether to be intrigued by this tidbit or not. Is there some hidden story? Or was it just a sweet compliment? We’ll never know, but it should be noted this was well before Aunt Celle met and married Teddy Peters.

But, let’s get back to the plot of this tale.

As you can probably imagine, there was little work available during the Depression, and West Virginia was hit particularly hard.

My mom told me my grandfather worked digging ditches to support his family during the depression, and the 1940 census confirms this saying he was “assigned to public emergency work” as a “laborer, road work.”

It’s not surprising my relatives’ efforts to find better jobs left them scattered.

According to family lore (which I have not yet confirmed), Uncle Jeff rode the rails as a hobo during this time, eventually marrying at least once, maybe twice, and finally ending up in Florida.

Harold and Alma went to California sometime after 1940

And I’m not sure who followed whom, but Celle, my grandparents, father and Aunt Jean ended up in northeastern Ohio, not far from George.

Another family tragedy occurred in 1954 when Darle died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. My mom said she went out to her dad’s barn and shot herself there with his shotgun. For some reason, I think she was my father’s favorite aunt, and I remember him saying something about her being told she had some kind of illness that couldn’t be cured. So she shot herself.

These are the memories of someone who was very young, so I may be completely wrong.

Whatever the reason, she was far too young to feel so desperate — only 36.

Back in Ohio, Aunt Celle remained single, finding work in Massillon at Eaton. My memories are scattered, but I know she lived in a converted garage, where my siblings and I would visit.

On the slender side, she frequently wore floaty nylon scarves around her neck, which sounds rather more fashionable than it appeared to me.

Of course, I was a child, so what did I know?

We liked visiting because Aunt Celle would take us out to dinner at exotic restaurants — like Burger Chef and the PDQ (“Pretty Darned Quick”). When my younger brother picked, it was always PDQ because they had hot dogs, but I preferred the milkshakes at the burger places.

My aunt spoiled us in her own way, but like many single people, she had definite ideas on how children should behave. I distinctly remember her scolding us for slurping those milkshakes.

Eventually Celle bought a house, where I believe my cousin (her grand-nephew) still lives. For a single woman who came of age during the Depression, this was quite an accomplishment!

I remember my Uncle Mac telling us how Massillon prohibited burning trash, but not having weiner roasts. He went on to explain that when Aunt Celle wanted to burn paper goods, she would stand outside and roast a hot dog over the flames.

I can so easily picture this, and the thought always makes me smile.

When I was sixteen when Aunt Celle married, and that same uncle kept teasing that he was going to call her and her new husband up on their wedding night, just to see how things were going.

Like me, Aunt Celle was born in February, and she had an amethyst ring with a deep purple stone that she always wore. She once told me someone asked if it was a particular kind of old-fashioned stone, and from her answer to him (which, of course, I can’t remember), I got the impression she’d purchased it for herself. She said she would leave it to me, and that promise felt like a special link between us, the two family members who shared a birth month.

However, after she married, Aunt Celle and her new husband (who I remember as being very nice) moved back to West Virginia, and I rarely saw them.

She returned to Ohio sometime before her death in 1994, but by that time I was always working at least two jobs and experiencing drama in my own life. Then I married and became pregnant with Darling Daughter.

These are poor excuses for not visiting someone who was so kind to me as a child, I know.

Lacelle Lang Peters Obituary

After Aunt Celle’s death, I certainly didn’t pine for the ring (“My Precious!”), but from time to time, I wondered what had happened to it, eventually concluding that it had probably gone to one of her other, more deserving, nieces who actually visited her.

Now, here’s the Christmas magic.

Last night, I met some friends for dinner, including one I’ve known since high school. She eventually became a stepsister when my dad married her mom, so we have a long and storied relationship.

While we were eating, I saw she was wearing a ring similar to my aunt’s. I mentioned the one Aunt Celle used to wear that she’d promised me, and kind of joked about how you should be careful what you say to kids because they never forget anything.

Reader, I had not seen Aunt Celle’s ring in a very long time and had no idea it was the same piece of jewelry. My stepsis was also born in February, and I thought someone had bought her a birthstone ring for her.

After we ate, she took off the ring and handed it to me.

I was speechless — which never happens.

In fact, our other two friends joked that they needed to take a picture because something finally shut Kym up.

“I’m pretty sure this is your Aunt Celle’s ring,” Stepsis said. “I found it in the bottom of one of Mom’s boxes when we moved her.”

When she showed her mother, my stepmom had no idea where it had come from.

Ponder on the generosity of this gesture for a moment. Stepsis could have easily kept the ring for herself. I would never have known, never questioned where it came from.

She didn’t. She gave it to me because she knew I would treasure it and remember Aunt Celle every time I look at it.

Now, I will also think of Stepsis, her honesty, and her unselfish gesture.

img_0735

Aunt Celle’s ring,
with my father’s class ring on the right.

Later, I tried to calculate how long ago Aunt Celle made that promise, and my best guess is forty to fifty years ago.

Was the ring in that box of my stepmother’s for twenty-five years?
Probably not, since she had no memory of it. Certainly my dad was the conduit, but he’s been gone for sixteen years, and we can’t ask him.

So, here ends a story of an heirloom, Christmas magic, and a stepsister/friend’s generosity.