Sunday, December 14, 2008

December Poems

It's time for the "December" poems. One is from long ago .... must have been a very wet month that year. Or maybe it was my "too much to do" blues talking.


D defines DECEMBER,

my DREAD-full hidden DUNGEON.


© E.M. Ramos December 23, 1996

I was on jury duty this week. One thing, jury duty gives you lots of time to wait, and to write. So I finished a poem, the first I've written in many months. Enjoy the pre-Christmas frenzy, but take time to slow down and contemplate the reason for the season....

December ‘08

December’s sun burns cold.
It comforts not at all.
Christmas trees snicker at
malls making merry
while wintry Wall Street
winds wail.

Advent’s vigil turns up
the volume, squeezing
the last drop of silence
down the drain.

STOP sprinting and slow down.
LOOK deep within for warmth.
LISTEN for Him born
homeless and poor.

Breathe in the Light of the world,
the ultimate Christmas presence.

© E.M. Ramos October 9, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

More Old time memories .....

More about Holiday Time in the olden days.....

I think it was good luck to eat pickled herring on New Years Eve but why, I have no idea. I never questioned superstitions when I was a kid. I figured whatever might help, go for it! I never stepped on cracks in the sidewalk or walked under ladders either. And I ran when I spied a black cat ( now I know why you shouldn't let them cross your path!) The only "bad" luck I had with a good luck charm was a rabbits foot that I lost. When I found it many months later under my bed, all the fur had fallen off and it was a skeleton foot. Yuch!

Yes, Tina there was a fire in the house 2 doors away on Christmas eve many many years ago. It was scary. Lisa probably remembers more about that family, which had a boy her age and a girl your age. The father was a fireman, which was ironic, because I think it was all the extra Christmas lights that caused the fire. Happily, no one was hurt and the fire did not spread to the other homes. Sadly, the family moved shortly afterwards. Happily, Linda moved there! Another strange thing that night of the fire. Suddenly Uncle Jim appeared at our house, a surprise visit from Florida or California.

Yes, kids. There were Salvation Army bell ringers way back then. The musical "Guys and Dolls" was based on a Damon Runyan story that featured a romance between a Salvation Army worker and a gambler. I remember the Salvation Army bell ringers outside Macys when Nanny took me Christmas shopping. Just like Chase and I met them at the mall last week. When I worked for Catholic Charities, I understood the very good social work that the Salvation Army does and I always try to support them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Grandma's Story - Chapter 2 Part 2 "Christmas"

Continuing the story of the holidays back when I was a kid ...... the first part of this Chapter is on my November 23rd blog. "Grandma's Story" is being written for my grandkids in "grandkid language".

Chapter 2, Part 2

Our family celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. We hung up our stockings, actually they were Kiki’s long nylons, with our Christmas list attached. And the next morning, the stockings would be filled with fruit, German cookies, candy and toys, their toes bulging with oranges and apples. But the list would be gone!

We always bought our Christmas Tree and trimmed it on Christmas Eve, which was a very special day in our family. One of my favorite smells is Christmas tree; don’t you love the smell of Christmas? I loved seeing all the old familiar ornaments each year and adding to our collection. I remember when we bought the little wax ornaments: snowmen, Santa, angels – now there’s only one left. And how excited we kids were when Dad bought the first bubble lights. We all helped Dad decorate the tree. My sister Kathy would put the statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, angel and wise men in the stable with the blue light.

We would hear Santa’s jingle bells in my grandmother’s house and then run into her living room to open our presents. Afterwards, we’d go down to my house and open more presents. My Mom would usually finish her Christmas shopping and wrapping just minutes before we opened our gifts. One year Santa showed up and we got to see him in person in our own house! Boy, were my brothers surprised. I remember a very special Christmas gift: a Sparkle Plenty doll, that drank from a bottle and wet! Sparkle Plenty was a character in the Dick Tracy comic strip when I was a kid. But the best surprise gift ever was a Hi Fi Stereo from my Dad. It played records and had speakers. That was long before ipods and CD’s and even tapes. I spent many happy hours listening to my music on that stereo. What was your best Christmas gift ever?

Before my cousins moved to Pennsylvania, we would go to their house for more presents. All the gift giving was done on Christmas Eve. Christmas day was for church to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. I remember how grown up I felt the first time I was allowed to go to Midnight Mass with Nanny and Kiki. After Mass on Christmas day, Dad took us to visit relatives and friends who lived nearby. When I got older, I would visit my friends on Christmas morning, see their trees and presents, and exchange gifts.

We always ate at my grandmother’s on Christmas and we always had turkey. Back then no one made turkey except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. But the very special treat for my family was Aunt Kate cookies - Aunt Kate was Pop-Pop’s sister and she lived 4 or 5 blocks away. She baked her famous cookies only at Christmas and we have passed down her recipe from generation to generation. I will make sure you have the recipe to pass on to your kids!

On Christmas afternoon, we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa L. and all my L. cousins. After Grandpa retired, he went to live with Aunt Anna, my Dad’s sister. She lived on Long Island and driving back from her house was the first time we saw houses decorated with Christmas lights. It was so beautiful and so exciting. I used to paint Christmas scenes on our windows facing the street but it was a long time before anyone put lights in city windows.

Later on, Grandma and Grandpa moved to New Jersey to live with Aunt Elizabeth. On the way to the George Washington bridge I liked to see the giant ships on the Hudson River and dream about taking a cruise to Europe. When we saw Palisades Amusement Park (it’s not around anymore) across the river, we knew we were almost there.

Let me tell you about the Christmas of 1947. That year I prayed and prayed for a white Christmas. Well, it began to snow the day after Christmas on December 26th. It was a blizzard! It snowed and snowed and I thought it would never stop. The snow hills were higher than me and I was scared. I asked my Mom why it wouldn’t stop snowing and she said that maybe some kids were still praying for snow. I couldn’t understand that at all.

But snow was so much fun for us city kids in those days. We would “ski” down the snow hills in the street and make dams of the icy, slushy water. Our woolen snow suits would be soaked and freezing when we came in from playing. And do you know what happened to all the Christmas trees afterwards? When the people threw them away on the street? On my block the teenage boys would gather them up and light a giant bonfire – right in front of my house, where the fire hydrant was. One day I was in Nanny’s living room and saw the orange flames leap up to the second floor. That was really dangerous! I am very glad that no one thinks of doing that nowadays.

In the old days, Nanny’s sister Annie and her family would come to our house on New Year’s Eve. There were a lot of those cousins too. We always had to eat pickled herring on New Year’s Eve – it was good luck or something. On New Year’s Day my Mom got to cook and we all gathered at our house to have ham and Mom’s famous pineapple ring and cottage cheese salad, with a cherry on top.

So you see. Holidays for us were always about family and friends. Just like today in your time. Some things don’t change.

December 10, 2005