Tag: christmas

My Favorite Christmas Memories

When I think about my favorite Christmas memories there are three that come to mind. Two are from early childhood and one is more recent.

As kids we celebrated most of our Christmases at my grandparents’ house. They lived about an hour’s drive north of us. Their modest 2-bedroom apartment was not large, but as a kid it seemed huge. They had a fake Christmas tree that was alway decorated by the time we arrived. I especially remember the tinsel on that tree. I don’t see tinsel that much anymore.

There was always some kind of Christmas Eve gathering at that house. Small though it was, it was full of people. My grandmother was a terrific cook and there were all kinds of foods. I have a memory of fruitcake, which I don’t think I have tried since. The people (mostly family and close friends) always seemed cheerful and while I wasn’t aware of it at the time, there were probably spirits helping keep the spirits high.

Presents were piled under the tree. Sometimes we stayed overnight and sometime we drove home late. On the occasions when we spent the night, my brother and I slept in the guest bedroom. I would lie awake in the dark and wonder if Santa had come yet. I had a strong desire to creep out of bed and into the living room to see if he’d arrived, but I was terrified to do so. The should-I-stay-or-should-I-go agony of indecision is the sweetest part of that memory.

I loved those Christmas Eve’s so much that as the holidays approached, I would draw the scene in that apartment on paper, as if drawing it made it real. One year, after we’d moved across the country and couldn’t be at my grandparents’ for Christmas, I drew on a large poster board an incredibly detailed scene of that living room from memory: Christmas tree, presents and people all included. I still have that drawing all these years later. Looking at it made me feel like we were all there again.

Drawing I did of Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house. Was never good at drawing people, but these were some of my best.

On those Christmas Eves when my parents opted to go home, we always left late, it seemed to me. The drive was an hour and after all the excitement, it seems remarkable that I didn’t fall asleep. Instead my brother and I would play a game. We each looked out our windows at the star-filled sky, keeping our eyes out for Santa and his reindeer. There were quite a few times when one or the other of us would shout out with a potential sighting. I think we really convinced ourselves we saw the sleigh streaking across sky like a shooting star. Those drives home were so much fun. They melted away any disappointment we might have felt about not staying overnight at my grandparents’ house.

More recently, one of my favorite Christmas memories was at Kelly’s parent’s house. This was maybe seven or eight years ago. Kelly’s folks live in Florida and we drive down each December to spend Christmas there. Over the years various traditions developed. We all help to decorate the tree. We tour a local neighborhood with festive lights. This one year Kelly’s dad reintroduced me to egg nog, which I hadn’t had since I was five or six years old. I found that I loved it.

On Christmas Eve, after mass, after dinner, we all retired to the large family room and there, we proceeded to watch White Christmas, quite possibly my all-time favorite movie. We’d all seen it before, but this time we watched it with the audio commentary provided by Rosemary Clooney. The room seemed full of people. We chatted about the movie and the commentary. We drank egg nog. Despite the warm temperatures outside, Christmas was in the air inside. It was a very happy time. Kelly’s dad has since passed away, and as we get ready to resume our holiday traditions in Florida, I think about that evening often.

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All I Want for Christmas Is To Be A Syndicated Columnist

With Christmas just a few weeks away, I’ve been daydreaming. When I daydream–something that occurs with increasing frequency these days–I often find myself having imaginary conversations with people. Sometimes these are people I know, and other times they are constructs, like characters in a story, that allow the conversation to progress the way I want it to. Recently, in on one of these daydreams, someone asked me, “What do you want for Christmas?” Without hesitating I replied, “All I want for Christmas is to be a syndicated columnist.” Perhaps the most telling piece is that, while the conversation was imagined, I spoke those words aloud.

When I grow up, I want to be a syndicated columnist. I love to write, and I need to make a living, and it seems there should be some way to combine those. Of course, I’d need something to write about, and then there’s the matter of people to read what I write. These are details, of course, but perhaps we should consider them.

What would I write about? Given that I have been heavily influenced by the writers like E. B. White and Andy Rooney, it seems like some kind of hybrid would be in order. I am not as much the farmer as E. B. was, and I am not as cynical (usually, anyway) as Andy Rooney was. So perhaps something in between. White wrote a monthly column for Harper’s from 1938-1943 or thereabout. I could write a monthly column. Andy Rooney had a column that appeared in hundreds of newspapers 3 times a week, I think. And of course he had his 3 minutes at the end of 60 Minutes. (Whenever Rooney was on vacation I called the show 57 Minutes). I think my syndicated column should be somewhere between three times a week, and once a month.

Both Andys (White went by the name “Andy” to some of his friends) wrote about ordinary, everyday events, but in their own distinct ways. Indeed, Andy the Second was heavily influenced by Andy the First, and if you don’t believe me, spend time reading some of their stuff. I can probably write about ordinary, everyday events. Occasionally, each of the Andys would write something more controversial. I could probably manage that from time-to-time as well. Indeed, it would be a great way to generate letters, and I’d finally have more than one correspondent to whom I could write real letters.

I imagine there are qualifications one needs to meet to become a syndicated columnist. First and foremost, one must be able to write, and preferably (though not a showstopper based on some columns I have read) write well. I don’t have many talents, but I’ve never had a problem putting words down on paper.

It would probably help if the writing is entertaining in some way. If readers respond to the writing in a positive way that is always a good thing. It also helps sell advertising. I like to think that my writing is entertaining, but who am I to judge.

I suppose it is a plus if a columnist is a journalist, or has some background in journalism. My degree was in political science and journalism, although really my degree was in learning how to learn. An editor would probably want some kind of c.v. for a prospective columnist. You know, have you ever done anything like this before? My c.v., humble as it is would read something like:

  • Wrote a monthly review column for a science fiction magazine.
  • Wrote a technology column for The Daily Beast.
  • Have written a blog since 2005 with 6,468 posts (including this one). Some people even like what I write and occasionally tell me so.

It occurs to me that the kind of column I would like to write is more or less the some kind of thing I write here. How would I pitch that to an editor? In my daydreams (there I go again) I picture that scene in Seinfeld, when Jerry and George pitch their pilot to NBC and when asked what the show is about, George tells them it’s a show about nothing. Well, my column wouldn’t be about nothing, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the stuff that sells newspapers.

I think this blog may be the closest I come to writing a syndicated column, and I guess I should be thankful for what I have. The editor and I see eye-to-eye. No one has ever pushed a deadline on me, or told me I couldn’t say that because it would scare off half the readers (or worse, the advertisers). I have no advertisers to answer to. Really, when I think about it, the only difference between this blog and a syndicated column is maybe a few million readers, and a paycheck.

It’s disappointing, really. It means that the next time I go out walking and start to daydream, and some faceless construct asks me, “What do you want for Christmas?” I’ll have to come up with something else. Maybe a salt farm in Maine?

Christmas morning

The Little Man has an ear infection and managed to have a bit of a rough night last night. He slept in this morning, however, much to the chagrin of everyone else who wanted him up so that he could open all of his presents. He finally got up about halfway through our gift unwrapping and he seemed to have a wonderful time opening all of his presents.

When he first woke up, he was a bit out of it and not too sure what was going on. But after he opened his first few presents, he got the idea pretty quickly. He got close to a dozen Thomas trains and a track on which to run them. He got some of his favorite Cars cars inlcuding Mater and Lightning McQueen. He got his own laptop computer and a Little People farm set. He got a work helmet and toolbox. The number of toys was nearly overwhelming and he seemed delighted by it all.

He is now sitting on the floor in his Santa Rocks pajamas playing with his trains, exploring and he has a big smile on his face. A very merry Christmas, indeed.

The weekend


No blogging this weekend as it was a mostly busy weekend with lots of activities going on. The weather had definitely become winter-like here in the Metro D.C. area, at least in terms of temperature. Saturday morning, after heading out early to get my haircut, the three of us piled into the car and heading into Old Town Alexandria to attend the Scottish Christmas parade. We found a good spot of view the parade, the only downside being it was on the shaded side of the street which looked about 10 degrees colder than the sunny side.  The Little Man was bundled up so he stayed nice and warm. It turned out to be a fun parade and I think I was most impressed by the Scottish bagpipers. The Little Man liked the motorcycles and firetruck and the dogs (there were many) that walked in the parade. We took the Metro to/from the parade and of course, the Little Man also loved riding on the train.

Saturday afternoon was quiet and I really needed that. We got home and we all took naps. I managed to get a good amount of reading done–my first fiction reading of any significance in a long time. I’m more than halfway done with Jack McDevitt’s The Devil’s Eye which I am really enjoying. Stephen King’s blurb on many of Jack’s books if that he is the natural heir to Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, or something like that. It’s true. His fiction reads like Golden Age science fiction with a modern-day spin and as sheer entertainment, I enjoy it more than just about any other science fiction that I read these days. I’m looking forward to finishing up The Devil’s Eye and starting in on Echo.

Saturday evening we had a babysitter and Kelly and I went to dinner with Sarah and Jay at an Italian place in Crystal City. When we got there, the place was empty and for the first hour or so, we were the only ones in the restaurant. It was kind of nice having the place to ourselves. It’s always nice going out to dinner without the Little Man because we don’t have to worry about him pulling the table apart and we can relax and eat our meals slowly, which is exactly what we did. We were home by 9:30, but it was a nice three hours that we got to spend out with friends.

Sunday morning we headed out to a tree-farm that Kelly had found in Great Falls in order to choose and cut our own Christmas tree. However, when we got there, we learned that the “choose and cut” part was closed until 2012. We could have picked out a tree there, but we opted to head back home, stopping at Home Depot along the way to pick out a fresh cut tree. We got a 6-footer and brought it home, got it set in its stand. We then headed out for brunch with AJ and Denisse at our “usual” meeting place, which is the Cheesecake Factory in Clarendon. We had a nice brunch with an excellent waited who we’ve had before (one of the best waiters I’ve ever had, in fact). Then AJ and Denisse came back to the house with us to help us decorate the Christmas tree. I got a fire going in the fireplace, and made some hot cider. We decorated the tree while the Little Man napped, and then we spent a few hours playing Rock Band 3.

Sunday evening was spend in front of the TV, catching up on some recorded shows and movies.

It was a pleasant, wintry weekend. This morning I was saying to Kelly how these weeks just seem to roll into one another. One minute it’s Friday afternoon, then next it’s Monday morning and the cycle starts all over again. I’m looking forward to breaking that cycle in a few weeks when we head off on vacation.

And now a word from Scrooge

Now that the Christmas holiday is over, I feel relatively safe posting about this complaint that I have about the holiday season. My office building sits atop a high-end mall and it is jam-packed during the holiday season. There is a tremendous, ponderous five-story tall atrium into which I look. The atrium is so vast that it reminds me of the opening scene in Foundation when Gael Dornick first arrives on Trantor. At the bottom of the atrium is a food court, complete with Starbucks its attendant satellites. People scurry about like ants. It’s madness!

In the center of the atrium is, of course, a Christmas tree, and sitting in front of the tree is good ol’ Saint Nick. A line forms around Santa Claus and his elves happily exchange photos for cash. There is a sign in front of Santa Claus’s den that reads: “Please do not take your own photos unless you plan on paying for the photos” or some such thing. This is where I have a problem.

We all know that Christmas has gotten commercial, but when did Santa Claus get so commercial? When I was a kid, living in Somerset, New Jersey, Santa used to ride around on the local fire engine and toss candy to kids standing in their yards. I know: I choked on that candy! Isn’t this the guy that is supposed to ride around the world on a sleigh, giving gifts to good little boys and girls, free of charge!? There are a lot of people who would love to have their child’s picture taken with St. Nick, but who could not afford the $15 for 3 small photos. Why not let them take a picture themselves?

I think there should be a law that makes it illegal to be paid for dressing up as Santa. I think the law should further stipulate that if Santa is sitting in a mall, no one can charge money for photos taken with their own cameras. What I’ve seen these last few weeks has made me sick!

I felt much better this morning, however, when I saw that Santa had returned to the north pole along with his den and his collection of greedy elves.