The Tinsel Master

I wanted to help, but I could tell my attempts I made annoyed my brother Casper. He frowned at me when I tossed a strand of tinsel over one of the balsam boughs. Both ends of the heavy, lead tinsel strands did not hang down evenly, nor were they across from each other. That would not do! The job needed to be done perfectly. Regretfully, I knew I wasn’t able, nor did I have the patience.

Plopping down onto Mom’s rocking-chair footstool, I looked around at the living room. Our beautiful Christmas tree stood in the far corner. The ornaments were evenly spaced among the branches. Now Casper, the tinsel master, was neatly…so very, very neatly hanging uniform curtains of tinsel on each branch and twig.

All morning Mom had been cleaning the house. Along with the fragrance of the balsam tree, I could smell floor polish. Mixing delightfully with these scents were the aroma of sweet, spicy things baking in the oven. I sighed with satisfaction. Everything was perfect. Mom made me a brand-new flannel nightgown to wear tonight, plus I fully expected my annual Christmas doll would be wearing a matching one! Continue reading

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It’s a Gift

I looked at the calendar. A kaleidoscope of childhood memories flooded my mind. December fifth, the Eve of Saint Nicholas had meant so much to me and the children in my class during the late 1950’s. Not only did the mystery surrounding our celebrations excite us, but we looked forward to receiving candy and the satisfaction of letting Santa know what we wanted for Christmas.

Saint Nicholas visited everyone at home while we slept, but for some of my classmates, he left goodies in socks, for others, in their shoes. At my home, Saint Nicholas left our treats in a cereal bowl left on the dinner table.

Before going to bed on the fifth of December, Mom had us write a letter to Santa, detailing what we wished for. My big sisters helped me before I knew how to write. After our letters were put in an empty bowl placed where we usually sat at the table, we were sent to bed.

While we were sleeping, the Saint came by and collected the letters for Santa. Then the Holy Man would fill our dishes with a handful of peanuts in the shell, a few vanilla-chocolate drops, chocolate covered raisins and several hard candies. My favorites were the raspberry-filled and peanut butter filled ones. A big, bright orange topped off the dish. Continue reading

Discounted

Arnie and I gratefully sank into opposite sides of the booth we were shown. Relieved we were somewhere warm, we slipped off our coats. Turning over the menu, Arnie exclaimed with a smile, “What do you know, we’re eligible for the senior discount!”

Our winter birthdays were one month apart. He had turned 55 years old at Thanksgiving. At Christmas, so did I. Up until then, we thought senior discounts started at age 65. This restaurant started them at 55. It was a small perk, but it warmed our hearts on that cold and blustery January day.

Arnie liked to tease me by telling our children that I was much older than he was. After my husband died unexpectedly, four months after he turning 56, I thought to myself as I grappled with grief, “Now I will truly be older than Arnie. What a cruel joke!” Then the years began to roll by as I continued to live and work.

Two years before I retired from being a Certified Nursing Assistant, I had a patient one day who touched my heart. It was an old man who hadn’t received any company during the previous week. Not a single flower or plant had been sent to him. I resolved to spend a little extra time talking with him as he washed, changed gowns and brushed his teeth.

Later, as I charted my activities, I happened to notice that the patient’s age was listed as 63 years of age. That was exactly how old I was at the time. Shocked, I realized I had thought of him as an old man. Soothing my sensibilities, I rationalized, “Surely, we’ve aged at different rates!” Continue reading

Treasure

The air smelled earthy, spiced by the many plants in various stages of shutting down for winter. Closing the garden door behind me, I stood silent, looking around at the rows and listening to the slow drops of condensation dripping from the plastic hoop building ceiling. The sound of the drops falling to the dusty soil below seemed exaggeratedly loud, “plop!…plop!”

The outer leaves of the most delicate plants were dark and wilted, nipped by Jack Frost the night before. A harder freeze was forecast for the next few nights. It was time to put my garden to bed for the winter.

Although I am a hard-core list maker, I didn’t need to make a list today. I knew what needed to be done first and what needed to be done last. The plants that would freeze when the thermometer lowered to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, needed to be carefully dug up, replanted in pots and taken into the house. Poinsettias grow lush during the summer in my hoop-building garden. If too many of their roots are broken when transplanted, they don’t do well. Continue reading

Ribbon Mountain

Although it was Sunday morning, Mom didn’t have chicken roasting in the oven. That was my first clue the day was going to be different. The second clue came by eavesdropping on my teen aged sisters in their bedroom.

Betty said, “I heard Mom ask Rosie if she and Glenn were going to come with us to Rib Mountain on Sunday. Rosie said they would come, and so would Agnes and Jim. Have we ever been there before?”

Mary answered, “I don’t think so. Some of my friends have. They said it was a nice park and they had fun climbing around on the rocks.”

Racing downstairs into the kitchen, I found Mom cutting slices of bread. She had already cut at least two loaves. I excitedly questioned, “Mom! Are we really going to have a picnic on Ribbon Mountain?”

“That’s Rib Mountain,” Mom laughed, “not Ribbon. Yes, we’re having a picnic at the Rib Mountain park.”

I frowned. “Rib?” I had sincerely thought it was Ribbon Mountain! Once in a while when the weather was right and we were on high enough ground, my brother had pointed out the small mountain to me. It appeared to as a faraway mist-covered hill.

I watched as Mom put large chunks of bologna into the meat grinder and began to turn the crank. She opened a jar of dill pickles and put several of them into the grinder, too. When she added mayonnaise to the mixture, I realized what she was doing! Mom was making bologna sandwiches, just like she did last summer when we had a picnic at the Eau Pleine Park. My mouth watered. Ground bologna sandwiches were delicious! Continue reading

Noodley Cough

My family trooped into church up the right-side aisle, genuflected and filled the entire fourth-from-the-front pew. I reached up to scratch my head, knocking my small curvette hat askew. Mom removed her white gloves and set them down next to her purse before straightening my headgear. I twitched and flounced my short, fluffy, Sunday dress, uncomfortable because my bare legs were sticking to the wooden pew.

A few minutes after the Mass started, I heard someone cough. It was a very strange, wet sound. Somewhere between a gurgle and a bark. From time to time throughout the next hour I heard the sound. Mom didn’t like my turning around to see who was coughing like that. She turned me firmly face-front.

In the car on the way home after church, I asked, “Who was that man in church with the…” I stopped to think what word described it best…“noodley cough?”

All my brothers and sisters laughed. “Noodley?” They questioned in chorus.

In my seven-year-old mind I could picture the cough sounding the way a plate of buttered elbow macaroni looked. Continue reading

Really Scary

I tossed restlessly. There was something not quite right in my dream. The kitchen I stood in had a clean black and white checkered floor, a clean table and counters, but a strange, grunting sound was coming from a closet near the entrance.

As I watched with horror, the closet door slowly opened, out lurched a broom monster. It turned toward me and swept quickly across the floor, grunting hungrily. I backed away, turned and ran. The kitchen suddenly became as large as a house. Broom Monster chased me up stairs and down, past the kitchen table and the closet again and again, all the while wheezing, “Ughnth…ughnth…ughnth!”

Feeling totally panicked, I opened my mouth to scream, but the second the smallest sound came out, I woke up and found myself in bed. Moonlight streamed into the room through a window. Next to me in bed was my big sister, sound asleep, breathing deeply. With each exhalation she made the sound, “Ughnth…ughnth!” Continue reading