Christmas is upon us—again. I’m trying, God knows, to feel the Christmas spirit, but it is eluding me.
I want desperately to celebrate and enjoy the holiday season and all of its trappings: glittery ornaments, happy songs, gifts, Christmas trees, decorated houses. (Notice I left cookies off this list—I have no trouble enjoying them!)
I’ve heard all of the advice—you need new Christmas traditions, you need to focus on the positive, do for others, (which I’ve done), and you need to let go of the memories that hold you back.
Too bad it isn’t that easy.
The harsh reality is that Christmas will never be the same for me now that my husband is gone.
And dreaming up new traditions seems to be daunting right now.
Strangely, this feeling come upon me full force after what was supposed to be the start of a “new tradition.” (Isn’t that phrase an oxymoron?)
I attended a spectacular Christmas show at a local church the other night. A show that is famous in Orlando for the singing and the extravagance of the production.
It was all that—200 massed voices, all on key, singing favorite carols while perching in the branches of two gigantic Christmas trees. Meanwhile, an actor portrayed a harried director who doesn’t get the real meaning of Christmas—only to discover it before the end of the show. There was a recreation of the Biblical Creation story, complete with life sized elephant and giraffe puppets. Children danced, sang, and were incredibly sweet.
Yes, all the elements were there…
But I came home feeling even emptier.
Now I’m dragging myself through the season, trying to find something to cling to in order to make this a Christmas to celebrate.
So, I’m heading to snowy, cold Buffalo hoping to find the meaning of Christmas in the arms of my family.
Readers of this blog know by now that I am a native of Buffalo, New York.
Yes, the Buffalo that made headlines last week for a monster snowstorm that buried parts of the region in up to 7 feet of snow in a day. Not fluffy, oh-how-pretty snow, rather wet, heavy snow that is hard to walk through and exhausting to shovel. The snowstorm which is being called “Knife” by the Weather Service also included embedded thunderstorms—adding to the already anxiety producing event.
One of my sisters still lives in the house we grew up in. She sent a picture of the street right before she was liberated from her snow-bound house. It was impossible to discern a street or steps leading down from the porch. All that could be seen were piles of white, featureless snow.
Now try to imagine what it was like to be literally snowed into your house. You can’t open the door because there is a snowdrift that makes it impossible to push the door open. Even if you did open the door, your egress would be hindered by the heaping mounds of snow. There would be no reliable visual clue to help orient you to the front steps leading out of the house, or to the street.
If you tried to walk, the snow could easily reach your hips, making walking almost impossible.
Most of us could handle this for a day or maybe two—but imagine living like this for 6 days.
You are actually imprisoned by snow, knowing that someone from outside would have to come and shovel you out of the house—or you would have to wait until the snow compacts and you might be able to open your front door.
For my sister, this story has a happy ending. She was finally freed after 6 days by a combination of front loaders that came down the street and plowed it out, neighbors who worked together to shovel out the entrances to their houses and a moderation of the weather.
Thirteen people died during this storm and buildings collapsed.
Yes, Buffalo does get a lot of snow—but this storm was monumental and unforgettable. It was not the “Oh goody—I have no school today” kind of storm.
It was a weather event that changed lives.
Hello dear readers,
It’s been a while since I put a story on this blog–so I thought I’d give you a treat. This is one of the stories I plan to include in my next book, a collection of short stories.
Kathy Joyce Glascott
War Is Declared
It was Friday night, the first night of her new job waitressing at Murphy’s Bar and Grille, and Sandy was nervous.
Entering the bar, she quickly joined the staff sitting around a table in the back dining room. Tom, the bartender and manager, introduced her to everyone.
“Sandy’s going to be helping out on weekends as a waitress,” he said, nodding toward her. “So, this is the setup. You and Peggy work the dining room at your assigned tables. Peggy’s going to give you the fifty-cent tour, and show you how it’s done. Right, Peggy?”
Peggy looked Sandy up and down. “If you say so. It ain’t exactly rocket science. You take orders and bring food, and make sure you get the money.”
Ignoring his ace waitress’ cavalier attitude Tom continued, “I’ll show you how to order at the bar. Okay?”
Sandy nodded, wiping her sweaty palms on her pant leg.
“Don’t worry; it doesn’t get too busy until around six. And the rush ends by eight-thirty,” Tom said.
Peggy smiled smugly. “C’mon, green horn. Let’s get started.”
The restaurant soon filled up, and Sandy found herself rushing from bar to kitchen to dining room and back again. She thought that she had the routine down, but every time she went to pick up an order, Peggy beat her to the platters of food, insisting they were for one of her tables. Soon Sandy’s customers were complaining that they were waiting too long to be served. She apologized over and over again and finally resorted to offering free desserts and extra refills on the drinks to quiet their complaints of being slighted.
Meanwhile, Peggy sailed around the room like a queen visiting her subjects, flirting with the men, planting a baby pink lip-sticky kiss on the older men’s bald heads.
Tom called from the bar, “Sandy, here’s your order for number five.”
When she started to reach for the drink, Tom leaned forward and narrowing his eyes, said, “You’re embarrassing us, girl. All I hear are complaints. Maybe this job is too hard for the likes of you.”
Sandy’s shoulders slumped. The pace was so hectic; she didn’t have a moment to catch her breath.
“And how many free desserts have you served? You’re paying for them, you know.”
Suddenly Peggy charged up and began to load the beers and soft drinks onto her tray.
“O-h-h-h, no, you don’t,” Sandy said firmly. “This isn’t your order.”
“Try and stop me,” Peggy answered, flipping her straw-like bleached blond hair.
Sandy elbowed Peggy out of the way, quickly picked up her order, and delivered it to the waiting couple. The wife, a bulky woman who wore knit pants and a sweatshirt with Buffalo Sabers emblazoned on it, scowled and said. “Finally! We could a died of thirst waitin’ for you.”
Sandy wanted to snap at the woman—and her husband who wore a baseball cap with the Buffalo Bills logo. Instead she bit her lip.
“Sorry ma’am, I’m new and I’m just learning.”
“Well, next time we’re askin’ for Peggy. At least she can get the food out before midnight.”
The woman shifted her bulk on the chair. Sandy saw Peggy scurry across the room with yet another tray laden with food.
“Oh shit,” she snapped. The woman looked startled.
“What did you say, miss?”
“She’s got my orders again!” Sandy said angrily, as her tray fell to the floor. It clattered. Everyone in the small dining room sat at attention.
“You witch, give me those!” Sandy shouted as she lunged toward Peggy.
“Help someone! She’s gone crazy!” Peggy screamed frantically.
Sandy grabbed at the tray Peggy held in front of her like a shield. She yanked the tray toward her, and the plates started to slide toward the floor. Peggy righted it, and pulled hard in her direction. Sandy countered with a solid tug. The plates clattered and filets of fried fish the size of a baseball mitt became airborne. Both women watched, mouths agape, as the fish spiraled toward them. They ducked, sending the large tray clattering to the floor while cole slaw, macaroni salad, French fries, rye bread and butter rained down on the nearby tables.
The patrons screamed and covered their heads with their hands. A few of the women held up overstuffed purses like umbrellas.
Other diners sat with their forks frozen in mid air.
Tom emerged from the bar, his face scarlet. Sandy thought she saw a pulse throbbing on his temple.
“What the hell are you two doing? Pick up that mess. And serve these customers.” Tom’s voice was filled with rage.
No one breathed in the silent room.
Hours later, after the frenetic rhythm of the dining room calmed down, Tom cornered Sandy and Peggy in the service area of the bar. A few of the regulars were seated on high stools, drinking beers and badgering each other.
“Listen you two. The only reason I didn’t throw your sorry asses out of here earlier is because it’s hard to find help.
Peggy sneered. “You ever think of paying better?”
Tom glared. “Another night like this and you’re both out on the street. Think about it, ladies—there’s only one other job where you get take-home pay the day you work…is that what you want to do? Everyone can be replaced.” He strode away.
Peggy leaned forward and, with her face inches from Sandy’s growled, “I can make your life pretty miserable. And if you think tonight was bad …well, I’ve been known to send other waitresses home crying for their mommies.”
Sandy wondered if working at Murphy’s would be worth the hand-to-hand combat in the war Peggy had just declared. Fingering the tips she had earned that night in her pocket, she imagined the money piling up, paying for new clothes, and maybe a car. She raised her water bottle as if as if proposing a toast.
“Don’t worry, Peggy. I’ll be back and ready for combat tomorrow. Cheers!”
I had extensive dental work done recently.
My dentist is a very kind, gentle woman who makes the experience as easy as possible. So instead of being tense and alert, worrying about whether or not something would hurt, I was able to let my mind wander.
While I was ensconced in the dental chair, unable to go anywhere while two people worked on my mouth, I started to think about several things.
I wondered about the first people and what they thought happened when a child was born. Were they surprised? Did they know what it was? Did they nurture the child?
After ruminating about this for a while, I began to think about the Universe and the existence of God. I concluded that, for me at least, that there must be a God.
Then I thought about death and the afterlife. I wondered what death was like—do we just go to sleep and lose consciousness? Are we reunited with those we loved in life who went before us? Is there really a place or state of being called heaven?
Finally, I decided that it didn’t matter because if there is a heaven, living a moral life would certainly merit that reward. And if there isn’t an afterlife, well, we lose nothing by being moral.
I found it amusing that I used to wonder how much longer the procedure would take, and if and when it was going to hurt…
Ah, the marvels of modern and pain free dentistry!
Image source myteeth.co.za
I have had a love affair with the beach since –well, my earliest memory.
The sound of the surf as it rolls onto the shore is a comfort to me. The sand between my toes and the fresh, salt air are sensory delights.
To me, the beach is an ever-changing scene: boats drift or seem to fly by, with sails that can invoke the colors of the rainbow or resemble white sheets drying in the breeze. Some bob out far enough that I wonder what they are doing—fishing, or are they out for a cool day on the water? The cruise ships appear to be stationary out in the deep sea, especially at night when their festive lights outline them.
Seashells are the souvenirs of a beach visit. I enjoy walking along the shoreline, stooped over, hunting for a uniquely colored shell or one that is a different shape. I take a few each time, so that I can remember that day at the beach.
When I was a kid, my family went for picnics to a favorite place called Miller’s Beach several times a week. My Dad would arrive home from a steaming hot day at the steel plant. Mom would literally wrap the dinner she had on the stove up in a blanket and we would head off to the freshening breezes of Lake Erie.
We could hardly wait to run to the sand and surf as soon as we arrived. Dinner outdoors was delicious—no matter what was served.
I especially loved to watch the sun go down over Lake Erie—sometimes the sunsets were the proverbial blaze of color. Other times, the sky would turn the color of liquid silver and the water would reflect that back, the orange setting sun a burst of light that made it all even more magical.
I still long for the beach…and feel that same child-like delight at my first glimpse of the ocean.
My dog, Sparkle, went AWOL a few nights ago. She’s back home where she belongs now, and I’m being vigilant about making sure I know where she is at all times.
Here is the (almost) tragic tale.
It was a dark and gloomy night—okay, it was the latter part of the evening after a rainy afternoon. I had gone shopping for much needed food. When I got home, we went for one of our walks. I was relaxing by playing my usual word games on the I PAD—a marvel of modern technology that allows a person to waste all sorts of time. I assumed (thus making an ass of –well, you know) that Sparkle, my delightful companion, was lying on the floor near where I was sitting. I got up to stretch my legs and noticed that she was nowhere in sight.
“H-m-m,” I thought, “She must have gone to lie down on her doggie bed in my bedroom.” (I’m sure she thinks of it as her bedroom.)
She wasn’t there. I checked a couple of other known “dens”—no dog. Now I was worried. So I called her name. I heard a faint bark coming from the garage area.
Heading that way, I wondered if she was hiding in the closet in the guest bedroom where she and Dan used to hangout. No sign of her there, either.
When I opened the back door, I saw that I had left the door from the garage to the street wide open.
Then I saw it…Sparkle’s toy right next to my car which was parked in the garage!
And there is all her doggie glory was Sparkle—sitting on the grass. She must have followed me into the garage when I was unloading the groceries, and found herself locked out of the house.
I called her and she came right in.
After we were securely ensconced on the couch, she laid across my lap for a half hour, just wanting to be petted. I hope that she has learned her lesson.
I had a hard time getting to sleep that night thinking about all of the frightening things that could have happened: She could have been run over by a car, gone for a walk and gotten lost, been snatched by an alligator, been bitten by one of the many critters in our neighborhood…the list was unnerving.
I turned around and my daughter was leaving home for college. She was eighteen, a pretty, raven haired girl.
We packed her stuff (there was a lot of it) into her red car and our car, too, and drove to the Southern Tier of New York State.
Dan bought walkie-talkies so we could communicate. From time to time, he made her call me to tell me that I was driving too fast. I was aggravated then, but now this memory makes me smile.
I turned around, and it was time to say goodbye. In a cavernous dining hall in Binghamton, we embraced our lovely daughter whose tears mingled with ours.
We drove back home, a four hour trip, alternately crying and driving. Dan kept saying, “Just keep busy. It’s like a death…” I was annoyed by these words, but now I know he was right.
I turned around and my daughter was living on the other side of the continent. Our visits were happy occasions, but too far apart. Dan said, “At least she didn’t move to Alaska.” And that was our comfort.
I turned around and she became a professor at a University and found her soul mate and life partner.
I turned around, and Dan and I left our friends and family and moved to the land of “always summer.” We made a new life for ourselves and basked in the sunshine and warmth of friendships. Visits home were joyous and nostalgic.
I turned around and Dan was seriously ill with a life threatening disease. He recovered and we adjusted to our “new normal.”
I turned around and the unwanted visitor came to our door again. He forced his way in and sent our lives into a tailspin.
I turned around, and Dan was a man old before his time, emaciated, lying on his death bed in Hospice House. At first, he knew his life was ebbing away. There came a time when he no longer seemed to understand that, mercifully. But he clung to life like a baby to his mother. His days became a living death.
I turned around, and he was gone. And I was alone.
I turned around, and my life changed in ways I could not have foreseen.
I looked it up on the internet, and I present these typical symptoms:
- I will sit and read for hours at a time, sometimes until my eyes are so tired I can hardly focus on the words on the page.
- There are stacks of books everywhere in my house—on tables, on chairs and footstools and, of course, in bookcases.
- I have been known to not answer the phone if I am in the middle of a chapter that I find fascinating.
- When I finish a book, I am anxious and at loose ends until I start the next one.
- I think about the characters even when I’m not reading the book.
- I have a Kindle and an I Pad with books loaded on them.
- When I read a book for my book club, I can’t wait to discuss it.
- I find it hard to give books away—even ones that I know I will never read again.
- I love libraries and bookstores.
I’ve been like this since I was a child, so I think that my case may be hopeless.
When I was a kid, my sister complained that I read too much and wouldn’t put my book down to play. And one of my teachers thought that I might have read every book in our local library.
Friends have suggested a support group to help me deal with this addiction… but I can’t go anywhere until I’ve finished reading this chapter.
Picture Credit: Kathy Joyce Glascott
I think everyone who moves away from home nostalgically remembers foods they loved and can’t get anymore.
New Yorkers wax poetically about bagels, pizza and well, just about everything else. Those of us from Buffalo have a soft place in our hearts for chicken wings (notice I did not say Buffalo wings), beef on weck, Ted’s hot dogs and the Friday Fish Fry , to say nothing about Anderson’s ice cream.
When I go back to Buffalo, I look forward to these delicacies. This last trip was no exception, of course. On my way to the hotel after I arrived in Buffalo, I stopped at Danny’s, a landmark restaurant, and indulged in the “Taste of Buffalo Platter” which included a small beef on weck with horseradish, and four delectable chicken wings. Weck, by the way, is a crusty roll with rye seeds and kosher salt on top. Delicious!
The next night, I had dinner with some family members—and I ordered a traditional Buffalo fish fry. If you’re from the Midwest or many places in New York State, you know what a fish fry is: a huge piece of fried fish served with macaroni salad (notice it’s not pasta salad—that’s for you fancy types), potato salad and Cole slaw. It’s not Weight Watcher’s food—but it’s yummy.
These local delicacies are not found in chain restaurants or upscale restaurants. This is comfort food and is found in bars, which usually have a back room which serves as a restaurant.
Is there anything better than the taste of home?
My husband had beautiful green-brown hazel eyes. They were, other than his thick, wavy, auburn tinged brown hair, his best feature.
When he annoyed me (too many times to count), he’d look at me, eyes all innocent.
“Don’t give me those doggie eyes,” I’d say. Then all the irritation and annoyance would disappear like a puff of smoke. (Of course there were times when his little ploy didn’t work—but that’s a different story.)
When we were first married, we lived with his widowed father whose loneliness was as real as the sky above and the ground below our feet. Living with my father-in-law meant that our lives were intertwined with the whole extended clan who lived all around us. Our first two years of marriage were played out on the family stage.
One night we had a huge argument in our bedroom, the only private place we had. I have no recollection of what the argument was about, but I do remember going to bed angry and resentful.
It was summer and I was on hiatus from my job as a teacher, but Dan had to go to work.
I don’t remember saying goodbye in the morning or if he kissed me before he left.
The day wore on, and with the perspective of time and a little distance, I began to mellow. I knew that I wanted to make amends, but I wasn’t sure of how. I could have called him at work (he was the boss, so it wasn’t a problem). I could meet him at the door when he returned, and we could apologize.
Yes, there were several options all limited by the presence of Dan’s aunt and cousin who had stopped by to say hello to my father –in-law.
I was in the kitchen, getting dinner ready, when Dan unexpectedly appeared.
I looked at him, our eyes met, and suddenly I was engulfed in his teddy bear embrace.
His aunt and cousin both said “A-w-w…” at the same time.
There was no need for words—his eyes said it all.