Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

A Christmas Newsletter

Every year at Christmas time since 1993, I’ve received a Christmas newsletter from a former co-worker. I’ll call her Becky. Back when we worked together, Becky and I were friendly, but not friends in the traditional sense. We occasionally went out to lunch together, but we rarely visited at each other’s desks, sharing whispered conversations about other co-workers nor did we telephone each other at home or hang out after work.

Nevertheless, every year, while we worked together and even after I left to take another job, I – and I imagine everyone else on her Christmas card list – have received a Christmas newsletter from her. The annual letter, one full-page long, sometimes two, recaps the previous year’s activities of her life, her long-time, live-in boyfriend, Nick, who I met once when he came to the job, and her other relatives and friends who I never met. Through her yearly newsletters, I learn who in the family got married, got a promotion, graduated from college, who’s sick, who died and how many nieces and nephews she has. Becky never had children. I also learned that a few years ago, she and Nick retired and moved together to Florida.

According to Smithsonianmag.com, the first Christmas newsletters were written sometime before 1948. The site further states that syndicated advice columnist, Ann Landers, who died in June 2002, “published complaints about the so-called ‘brag rags.’”

The first and only Christmas newsletter I ever wrote was in 1985. I remember that because my Aunt Ida saved her copy and recently returned it to me. “A keepsake,” she said. I was surprised that she kept it for all of these years. Since my computer file, containing that newsletter was corrupted and died long before the old computer did, I was pleased to have the copy. Thanks, Aunt Ida.

Back in the day, copier machines facilitated the distribution of Christmas newsletters. They were usually enclosed in Christmas cards. Thanks to technology the annual letter doesn’t have to be mailed anymore. Although some folks believe that the Internet may be the demise of Christmas newsletters; savvy computer users know that a year’s worth of family news and activities can be just as easily distributed via a website as it can on paper.

If your family and friends are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media, it’s likely that they find out immediately about new developments within the family. They’ve seen photos of new babies and pets, your current girlfriend or boyfriend, the fabulous vacations, the wedding, the new car, or the renovated house. So what’s left to tell? Oh, let’s see, I can come up with a few things.

This will be the first time in 33 years, that I write a Christmas newsletter, but I won’t put it in the mail. Call me progressive. LOL. Since much about my activities and those of some of my family members has already been shared on Facebook, it will be abridged news for some and a recap for others.

This was my life in 2018.

Aside from tri-weekly trips to the gym, my year has been consumed by blogging, feeding my voracious appetite for reading by devouring books, nourishing the activist in me by pursuing non-violent activities, anxiously observing the chaotic political scene, and writing. Speaking of writing, while researching my second book I discovered a significant family secret. No, I will not reveal it here. Maybe I’ll reveal it in the book; maybe I won’t. That teasing statement reminds me of a reflective quote by author, Lisa Unger, (you know how I love worthy quotes), “The universe doesn’t like secrets. It conspires to reveal the truth, to lead you to it.”

Wanderlusts and thrill-seekers may see mine as a rather mundane life. For them, I have two words:  different strokes.

I pulled myself away from routine in September and traveled to the Staton family reunion in North Carolina where I had a good time socializing with over a hundred family members, some of whom I had never met before, and friends. Our time together just wasn’t long enough.

Step back a year to 2017, when I cheered-on my proud Desert Storm veteran son as he participated in his second marathon in two years. As if the Marine Corp Marathon wasn’t a long enough distance, this year he completed the 26.2 mile NYC marathon, the largest marathon in the world. Two marathons in two years. Two medals. Go, son!

Our family had a near tragedy in July when one of my twin grandsons, the adventurous one, nearly drowned on the day after his 25th birthday while vacationing in Miami. Before being released from the hospital, doctors advised him not to fly home. So, he had to endure nearly a 24-hour long bus trip and required a few days more of recovery after that leg-cramping bus ride. Thanks to God and an alert lifeguard he made it back.

Speaking of misfortune, we lost two family members this year. The passing, in February, of my courageous, sky-driving, septuagenarian cousin, Akintunde Kenyatta, and my lovely Aunt Juanita Staton, in July. They will be deeply missed, but they left us with wonderful, lasting memories.

In September, my cousin-in-law, Alton Moore, husband of my cousin Patricia, was elected as Town Commissioner in Williamston, NC. Meanwhile, cousin Velda’s, grandson Justine went off to college.

With US travel restrictions to Cuba lifted, my world-traveler brother, Chico, and his wife, Barbara, took advantage of the opportunity and visited the Republic this year as did Velda and her hubby. Another cousin, Renata, said goodbye to the Big Apple and moved to the Peach State.

One of my most heartwarming experiences this year occurred after my constant postings on Facebook regarding my search for the daughter of a dear friend of mine paid off. I had not seen Phyllis since she went off to college in the 1970s, nor had I had any communication with her since her mother died in ‘83. Thanks to Facebook, we reconnected last month, and through a joyous telephone reunion caught up on old times.

There are other family highlights and tidbits that I’ve omitted, but I’m going to make this a wrap and wish all my family, friends and readers a very Merry Christmas! May you also enjoy a prosperous, peaceful and Happy New Year!

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Reminiscing Christmases Past

Dad at 5928 - vinyette view My dadMerry Christmas!  Feliz Navidad! Happy Kwanza! Joyeux Noël! Fröhliche Weihnachten! No matter how you say it, when it comes to Christmas time, celebrating the holidays is a long tradition.

Christians say that Jesus is the reason for the season. Skeptics merely see the holidays as an occasion for exchanging gifts. And some folks will tell you that they “don’t do Christmas” at all. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas and all things associated with it, including Santa Claus, that’s your prerogative. And since this is my soapbox, it’s also my prerogative to add that if you don’t celebrate Christmas there is no need for you to be a killjoy for those who do.

I miss Christmases back in the day when I was a child. And yes, my parents let my siblings, and I lend our imagination to the myth of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and other fantasies that many of today’s contemporary parents consider taboo.

There was one Christmas season that occurred during my adulthood that brings up a sour memory. It was an unhappy experience, but all of my pleasant Christmases before and since then, make up for it.

As I am writing this, I am listening to Christmas music. Nothing takes me spiraling down memory lane to Christmases past faster than when I pull out my stack of Christmas CD’s, especially the oldies like The Ultimate R&B Christmas, Volumes 1 and 2 and The Temptations Give Love at Christmas. I’ve had those CD’s for more years than I can remember. Songs like Do You Hear What I Hear by Gladys Knight and The Pips and Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas. OMG! Those tunes envelop me in nostalgia and send me to Christmas heaven.

Let me share some of my childhood memories of Christmases past.

Days before the holiday, I’d sit near mother and watch her write lots of Christmas cards which she’d later send to relatives and friends. Sometimes she would complain about the cost of a first-class stamp, which until 1958 was 3 cents, but it didn’t stop her from sending cards.

Back then (before global warming) the Christmas season was usually cold, with temperatures averaging 34˚F. And some years we even got snow.

When dad and mom could scrape together enough money to buy a live tree, dad would take the 10-minute walk from our home in LeDroit Park to the Christmas tree stand in front of the Safeway on 1st and Rhode Island Avenue and buy us the biggest Christmas tree that he could afford (which usually wasn’t very big because he couldn’t afford much). Years later, when we kids were older, my folks thought that artificial trees were the way to go. But, in the meantime …

My three siblings and I would delight in helping mom decorate the live tree. The first thing to go on would be colorful string lights with bulbs that screwed into sockets. The lights were wired in a series so that if one bulb was out, none of them would work. We had to plug the string into an electrical outlet and keep changing out bulbs in the strand with extras until we found the bad one. And then, whallah! The string would light up.

Fragile glass bulbs, red, blue, yellow and silver, went on the tree after the lights. Sometimes we’d accidentally drop a bulb on the hardwood floor, shattering it. Oops! After all the bulbs were placed, we’d toss thin strips of foil icicles onto the limbs, and our tree would glitter.

Mom frequently reminded us to keep water in the cup of the three-legged metal stand holding the tree so that the tree would not dry out because those old bulbs could get hot and set the tree on fire. For years, we had live trees. If I close my eyes now and concentrate, I can almost smell the fragrant pine that permeated throughout our living room. Aside from the pleasure of a live tree, as anyone who has had one knows, the downside to it is cleaning up all of the fallen pine needles.

After we decorated the tree, mother set a bowl of mixed fruit and nuts on the coffee table. A finishing touch.

Usually, Christmas dinner would be a fantastic meal like we didn’t normally have. Mother could burn! (Translation – mother was an excellent cook.) A turkey packed with homemade stuffing or a juicy ham topped with pineapple slices and red cherries was a luxury. The smell of cloves stuck in the ham mingled with the aroma of collard greens and ham hocks, corn on the cob or corn pudding, candied yams, and brown and serve rolls was so mouthwatering that even the kitchen walls seemed to salivate in anticipation of our family feast. Sometimes there would be a side dish of carrot salad with raisins, and usually some kind of pie for dessert. And our beverage back then – what else, but Kool-Aid. Mother’s Christmas feast was to die for.

After we all pigged-out, we kids would take a break from playing with our toys and we’d gather in the living room, around our only TV set, an old floor model, black and white RCA, and watch Christmas specials. Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown, and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer were some of my favorites. And if memory serves me correctly, sometimes my other favorites, musicals like Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz aired during the holiday season.

Some years, my folks would load us kids onto the DC Transit bus and take us downtown to see the animated Christmas displays in the windows of department stores like The Hecht Company and Woodward and Lothrop. Or if money weren’t too tight, we would take the train down south and spend Christmas visiting my grandparents and other relatives.

I remember one year, I might have been around 10-years-old, my Uncle Henry drove us to North Carolina and as we were coming back home, it was snowing heavily. Huge, thick, beautiful snowflakes like you would see in a Thomas Kinkade Christmas painting blanketed the landscape. As Uncle Henry’s old station wagon crawled along the unplowed highway, it seemed that every time we blinked, we would see another car stuck along the roadside. Sometimes one of us silly kids would say, “I hope we get stuck.”  In our naivety, we simply saw an opportunity to play in the snow and delay the trip back home. Nevertheless, my mother’s prayers and Uncle Henry’s skillful driving brought us back home safely.

Till my dying day, I hope to maintain the many, wonderful Christmas memories from my childhood.

Unfortunately, when I look at today’s world when Christmastime is dimmed – like other times — by so much evildoing and horrific tragedies, I am reminded of a line I read recently in The Blaze Newsletter, “Such memories fill us with joys in a brutal world ever more joyless.”

Still, my Christmas wish for all the children of the world today is that they will compile beautiful memories of Christmastime.

And for all my blog readers, I wish you peace, joy, love, and a very Merry Christmas!

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Remembering Christmases Past

There is no other season that makes me long for the good old days like Christmastime. Compared to the chaotic, anti-religious period that we live in now, Christmas season during the sixties seemed a bit more civil and so much merrier. And, oh how well I remember Christmas when I was a child.

 

I remember the gifts that my parents set beneath the Christmas tree

Toys, new clothes, and goodie bags all for my siblings and me

One year there was a set of drums, a bowling set, and Twister

A tin doll house and a doctor’s kit for me and my little sister

Some years we each got roller skates and a game like Candyland

Things that today’s techie children just would not understand

There were boxing gloves, Tonka trucks, and GI Joe for the boys

Because of finances our Christmases did not always bring lots of toys

But we had a loving family and with the joy that Christmas brings

Our bond was more important than any of the material things

I so enjoyed the sweet music from Christmases in the past

It’s just too bad that those good old days did not last, and last, and last

This season also makes me remember Christmas music played at the rink

I roller skated to Booker T and the MGs, but now they play Nsynch 

Before I go off on a nostalgic tangent, I’m going to stop right here

And wish all my readers Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

My gift to you is this beautiful Motown Christmas blast from the past. 

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