Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Reasonable Conversation...

Some holiday reflections on an early Christmas morning...

This is the 52nd Christmas morning I've experienced. The first few I was too young to realize what was going on. From about age five or so up until my 16th Christmas, it was pretty mind blowing. I can remember setting the cookies and glass of milk out on the dining room table before me and my sisters went to bed. In the morning, Dad would've pinned up a sheet so we couldn't see down the hall into the living room where the tree and the presents were. My two sisters and I would wake up early and get dressed and wait in our rooms until Mom gave the go ahead to come out. It was quite thrilling and mind blowing. Bikes, games, toys, sports stuff, etc. were usually what I took in those mornings. Some of the presents I remember include skittle bowl, rebound, hot wheels, record players and Beatles albums.

I remember how great a job Mom did decorating our home for the Holidays. It was a big house and had lots of neat nooks and crannies, which she took full advantage of. A gorgeous tree in the living room. Evergreens all around the various ledges within the living and dining rooms. The old-fashioned candle lights in all of the windows.

I contributed to the decorating every year by making my own "Readers Digest Christmas Tree.."

I also remember making these and hanging them all over my room:

I wonder if anyone does either anymore?

Dad was in charge of the outside lights. Every year he would wage a very personal "war" with the neighborhood kids who delighted in stealing some of our red Christmas lights. One year he was so determined to catch the little heathens that he hid in the trees to try and catch one. He never did, which was probably a good thing. Ah, to go back in time.

Dinner was always a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Mom would make her stuffing from scratch which meant all of us tearing apart pieces of bread the night before. TONS of it. A big turkey would go in around 6:00am. Mashed potatoes, gravy, various kinds of freshly baked breads. My Dad's olives. Pumpkin pies and tapioca pudding for desserts. Cool whip. Christmas cookies. No one went to bed hungry that night.

As I grew older, the holidays changed. Once I was married and began to have kids, it was about making it special for our girls. Each one would get so excited in the weeks leading up to the big day. Patty and I would plot on how best to get our shopping done and keep the presents hidden until the 25th. We looked forward to watching the traditional Christmas television programs like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman" with them. It was great fun to experience it through their eyes.

Its impossible for me to over stress the role that music played during the holidays. I remember singing great Christmas songs in high school and college choirs. The days in choir practice at Gateway High School. Mr. Bevan, my choir conductor. Choir concerts. Travelling to downtown Pittsburgh after school to sing by the KDKA Radio window at one of the local department stores, Kaufmann's, Gimbel's and Horne's (all of which are gone.) Farkleberries. The Children's Hospital Telethon. Good memories. This set things in motion for what came later in life when I turned music into a full time job. In the last seventeen years, music has taken on a different meaning for me. I entertain a great deal at regional Nursing Homes and Retirement Communities. The songs I sing get sung but once a year and it always gets to me that for many in my audience, this will be the last time they ever hear these performed live. Some residents sing full blast, which is fun, while others take a less active way of participating. The carols often produce some tears for some of them, and its a challenge for me to observe all that I do, while singing these amazing songs and keep myself under control. Its not easy sometimes. I wonder if I'm this emotional now, what will I be like when I'm their age? I also think back to the folks who aren't there anymore to enjoy them.  Marion. Betty. Jack. Mr. Carson. Etc. I'm also reminded of my Mom, who used to sing solo's on Christmas Eve. She passed a few years ago and I miss her a lot.
The end of a year is always a good time for reflection. Has it been a good year? All in all, I'd say yes, it has. Our health is good, we're comfortable, and our kids are mostly pretty healthy. Each one of our daughters has various challenges before them. Who doesn't? They're getting to the ages where its on them. They will bear  responsibility for what choices they make. Part of getting older, which is difficult for me, is to stand back and watch them do their own thing. We've never been overly controlling, but its still odd to me to see them decide about further education, work, relationships, etc. We do more watching now than we used to, I guess. As we should. We can see each one of our kids stepping further and further away as they get on with their lives. Which I guess is a bit of an affirmation that we succeeded in preparing them to be independent adults. Its a thing that makes us very proud but also sad because there's a yearning to go back in time for a moment and see them as little kids one more time. It won't happen, but you still think about it.

I think of my wife Patty, who's sleeping on the love-seat just across the room. She's coming off a seven-day stretch of 12 hour days and she's beat. But, she won't go up to bed until I do, which I love. She's no saint, but she is tough as nails, a great example for our girls and a great companion for me. I can't imagine being with anyone else. I just can't. We've been through too much, our wounds are too similar and our bond is just unbreakable. Its not always been easy, but I'll tell you its been worth it. She puts up with me and my long-windedness, my over-analysis of too many things, my love of hockey, my crazy performance schedule, and those moments (hopefully rare) when I'm just acting like a jerk. She and I both have our own private demons to battle and its good that we each know the other is on board for the duration, no questions asked. A permanent partner to experience everything, good and bad, with. I think, and she agrees, its what marriage is all about.

As far as Reasonable Conversation goes, its also been a good year. Readership seems solid and the discussions that grow out of pieces I write or share are so often informative to me and others. The blog seems to attract pretty thoughtful people. They don't always agree with one another, and the debates can be at times, pretty fierce. But, at the end of the day, civility prevails and sometimes we learn something we didn't know before. I know I have. I appreciate thoughtful conservatives like my friends Tim, Dave and Karen, who have an ability to express and defend an alternate opinion without personally insulting anyone. That's all you can ask, I guess...

It's late. I'm going to go wake Patty up and head up to bed. We have a big day tomorrow.

Merry Christmas...

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