MULTIPLE MOMS

As a young boy I approached my father with an important question. “Dad, am I being raised by a single mother?”

“Yes, my son,” he replied, “and you’re very fortunate. In later years you will have double mothers and probably triple. Your life will become much more complicated I’m afraid.”

“I don’t understand, Dad.”

“Well, Son, while you’re very young your life is pretty much in the hands of your mom, your birth mother.  I am your birth father and you can always come to me for advice on important matters like selecting fishing lures and kite flying, and with requests for allowance advances and, much later, for the car keys.  Eventually you will be asking me to explain women to you and I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. I am not qualified.

“Then one eventful day, probably the most important day in your life, you will fall in love. If you’re lucky the young lady will have the same tender feelings about you and you will marry and your wife will become your second mother.  Your mom, your birth mother,  will never let go and your wife’s mother will rightly assume she has gained a son.

“This triumvirate will have opinions and give you advice, sometimes conflicting, on many important aspects of your life from then on.  Fortunately,  you will retain complete freedom of action in some areas like selecting fishing lures and kite flying.”

IN PRAISE OF POLES

Every so often I’m unjustly accused of being anti-something or other. The other evening my wife, Barbara, a talented culinary artist, had again managed to set a delicious dinner before the king (okay, before her loyal attendant).  I was about to dig in when I noticed something odd.  “What’s that scattered through the salad?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s kielbasa, ” she replied. “I had some left over and I thought it would liven up the lettuce.”

“I love kielbasa, but I’m not sure I’d like Polish salad.”

“You don’t like the Poles?”

“Are you kidding?  I’ve always admired the Poles, the way they stood up to the Axis invasion in 1939, fighting on despite great casualties and disrupting Hitler’s time table  for his conquest of Europe.  Then there was the heroic battle at the Warsaw ghetto.

“The Poles also broke the German military code and turned over their data to the British which was a tremendous advantage during the war and saved thousands of live.

“Then of course,  there was Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement, encouraged by Saint John Paul II, our first Polish pope.  That Polish workers union forced Communist Russia to loosen its grip on the country and was the beginning of the end for the despotic regime.”

“No, I hold the Poles in great regard and if some accomplished Polish-American ran for president I might even volunteer to help with his or her  campaign.”

“And what if your Polish-American became president and asked you to join the administration”, Barbara asked and I replied that sounds far-fetched, but I would be honored.

“Then maybe we’d  be asked to dine at the White House some day,” Barbara said dreamily.

“Wow!  Dinner at the White House with our Polish-American president,  that would be memorable,” I said.  “But you must understand,  I might not eat the salad.”

 

 

WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO CHRISTMAS?

Christmas has changed a lot during my lifetime.  For instance, whatever happened to Christmas clubs?  We used to put a few dollars into our Christmas club at the bank every month, hoping to reach our $100 goal by December.  We often settled for a $50 balance.

A Christmas club nowadays might be something you swing wildly on Black Friday to clear a path to the amazing  deals at the electronics counter.

“Every day of the year should be Christmas” has been sung and proclaimed in many yuletide plays and movies.  I think we’re getting there. Christmas sales now begin right after Labor Day and end with a post-holiday door-buster event just before Saint
Valentine’s Day.

Have you noticed? The further we get from the real meaning of Christmas, the more hectic it gets as we get mauled in the malls and go to noisy  parties.  As some wag remarked, “Holiday office parties are a great chance to meet people you haven’t seen for almost a half hour.”  Comedian Phyllis Diller said the thing she didn’t like about the company Christmas party was looking for a job the next day.  An over-spiked wassail bowl can be as dangerous as a whirlpool or a tsunami.  Loosened lips can result in pink slips.

What helps is trying to remember your Christmas moments, like the first time you sat on that welcoming lap and looked up into the smiling eyes of Santa Claus, hoping you’d come out okay on his naughty and nice list. He was always willing  to forgive and forget.

I remember as a young boy, helping to assemble a life-size nativity scene in front of our church.  At one point I was left in the rustic shelter while the others went to usher in the historic  visitors.  For a short while I stood in the fading light of a wintry afternoon, looking down into the manger with Mary and Joseph.  The Baby Jesus was smiling up at us and I realized this was a Christmas moment.  I’d reached the stable before the shepherds and the Magi.

AN OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS, POSSIBLY NEOLITHIC

Last year I decided for the first time to get my Christmas tree the old-fashioned way. For over 75 years I’d made the all-weather Yuletide treks around town, beginning as my father’s helper, searching for a Christmas tree dealer who would charge what we considered a reasonable price for a respectable tree.  They are quite rare.

Dad and I would be haggling with a tree guy as snowflakes or sleet piled up on our mackinaws.  “You’re kidding, right?” Dad would say.  “That can’t be the right price for this poor excuse for a balsam.”  Neither of us knew a balsam from a sequoia, but we tried to sound like savvy tree shoppers.

“That’s a bargain at this price,” the tree guy would argue. “Yes, there is one narrow stunted side, but this is just the right tree for a corner of a dimly lit room.  And I’ll also throw in a few branches you can easily attach to the trunk to fill  in”

By then Dad and I were shivering and showing signs of frostbite so we paid the four dollars. {This was 1943) and watched as the tree guy tied up the balsam  (or whatever) and carried it to  our car, leaving a brilliant trail of green needles and muttering Christmas carols all the while. Well, he was muttering something .

I’ve had to endure this entire painful scenario every year since and last year I decided instead, to go into the forest and find my own perfect tree the way our ancestors did, hundreds or  maybe thousands of years ago.  It wasn’t all that easy, the searching, the chopping, the constant looking over my shoulder for a challenging  land owner or forest ranger, but eventually I emerged  with a beautiful specimen and only minor cuts and bruises.

On Christmas eve I sat before my prize, attractively decorated and illuminated with my family basking  in its glow.  “That’s a great looking tree, Dad,” my son said.  “It’s so sturdy with such strong branches.  What kind of tree is it?”

“It’s hard to tell without the leaves,” I said, “but I think it’s an oak.”

 

 

 

 

AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS, POSSIBLY NEOLITHIC

Last year I decided for the first time to get my Christmas tree the old-fashioned way. For over 75 years I’d made the all-weather Yuletide treks around town, beginning as my father’s helper, searching for a Christmas tree dealer who would charge what we considered a reasonable price for a respectable tree. They were quite rate.

Dad and I would be haggling with a tree guy as snowflakes and sleet piled up on our mackinaws.  “You’re kidding, right?” Dad would say. “That can’t be the right price for this poor excuse for a balsam.” Neither of us knew a balsam from a sequoia, but  we tried to sound like savvy tree shoppers.,

“That’s a bargain at this price,” the tree guy would argue. “Yes, there is one narrow stunted side, but this is just the right tree to be going  into the corner of a dimly lit room. Besides, I’ll also throw in a few branches that you can easily attach to the trunk to fill in.”

By then Dad and I were shivering uncontrollably and showing signs of frostbite, so we paid the four dollars (This was 1943) and watched as the tree guy lifted the balsam (or whatever) and carried it to our car, leaving a brilliant green trail of needles while muttering Christmas carols . Well, he was muttering something or other.

I’ve had to endure this painful scenario every year since and last year I decided instead to go into the forest and find my own tree the way our ancient  ancestors did.  I admit, it was not all that easy, the searching, the chopping, the constant looking over my shoulder for an anxious landowner or an accusative forest ranger, but I finally emerged with a beautiful specimen and only minor cuts and bruises.

On Christmas eve I sat before my prize, beautifully decorated and illuminated while my family  basked in its glow.  “That’s a great tree, Dad,” my son said. “It’s so sturdy. with such strong branches.  What kind of a tree is it?”

“It’s  hard to tell without the leaves,  ” I said, ” but I think it’s an oak..”

MOTOR MOUTH

“To make a long story short,” Al said, but it was much too late for that.  He’d been rattling on for a half hour about whatever trivial subject came into his mind, taking only short breaks to inhale and then get back to his long-winded dissertation about the deleterious effect of global warming on long underwear and snow shovel sales.

I was trapped. We were carpoolers back then and he had me cornered behind the wheel of my old Chevy while he pontificated ad nauseam.  I tried desperately to escape mentally at least, reading  every road sign  and singing under my breath – “99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer…”

You might find it interesting to know that between Route 287 in Parsippany and Willowbrook Mall in Wayne there are 506 telephone poles on the eastbound side of Route 46.  I might have missed a few in Pine Brook when I had to give way to an ambulance.

The ambulance reminded Al of his gall bladder operation six years previously and I was given yet another graphic account of the episode beginning with his initial abdominal pains and vomiting.  By the time he got to his rehab experiences and his  extensive critique of the hospital staff I was having my own abdominal pains. (I’m very impressionable.)

I had to exceed the speed limit to shorten his soliloquy and to keep from moaning.  I always blamed the moaning on a fictitious war wound to keep from hurting  Al’s feelings,  but that would set him off on a recitation of the rigors of his two-year Air Force hitch.  It was quite a dramatic account and I had to keep reminding myself that Al was a clerk typist stationed on an island called Staten.