Just trying to figure out where to put Aunt Florence’s gift of a lamp with a clock in it, could take days. You want to place it where if she drops by she can see it. Then again it’s hidden from the view of the general guest who comes to dinner.
Then there’s the pressure of which party to attend. How about going to the boss’s party? If you don’t go you will be out of the loop of gossip for months. Which do you choose of the boss’s parties do you attend, yours or the spouse’s?
Or do you go to the neighbor’s party? Again some of the juiciest stuff happens at that party… and you can ask the neighbors for the recipes for the foods you like.
Then again there is church. If you don’t go there- some fellowships make you feel like a pagan if you don’t attend the Watch Night service. Oh the dilemmas we have in our busy lives.
There is that scale in the bathroom. How we dread stepping on in first thing in the morning. Like the pressure to get the right gifts to the right people isn’t stressful enough- but let’s face it… eggnog, hot chocolate and Fluff fudge only comes once a year.
Then there is the staying up until midnight. For me I am usually up until that time anyway- but it seems that when I HAVE to stay up—I CAN’T. What’s with that?
But the worst is the New Year resolutions we are supposed to do. I find most adults have this attitude on January 1 that, “I am going to…” fill in the blank. By February 3rd the thinking is, “Well, I blew it, but I can start again”, By August it’s, “Forget it.” In October or November we say, “At the first of the year I am going to…” fill in the blank.
For me my ‘New Year’ is in the fall. I think it is a left over sentiment from when I was a kid. August/September was the time we got ready to start school. My grandmother, Dr. Ruby, would take a week off. She would pack me up and we would go to Chicago for five to seven days. Now we lived in Aurora which is about 95 miles south west of Chicago… a day trip… but I think she did the ‘shop-cation’ to get away from Grandpa Tom for a while.
I had two responsibilities when Dr. Ruby, Grandpa Tom and I would go on trips. I had to do the research with the maps (this was before OnStar, I-phone navigators, Google Search and computers who can talk our way through unknown places.)
I also read about where we were going so I could talk intelligently with docents and guides. If we went somewhere several times I also had to find a new thing to do in that town. Not only did we go to Chicago two times a year, but Springfield Ill, Waterloo IA, Des Moines IA, Lowell IN, Hannibal and St. Louis Missouri. With every trip my job was to find something new to do, be read up on the place, then be able to tell my Grandparents about the site.
Dr. Ruby gave me a great gift in these tasks. I read, I retained, I repeated what I learned. I became a teacher to the one person in my little life that had an education, one of the persons who stood before me as authority figure. It made me feel so important to the planning of the trip. It also gave me a sense of power being able to find such places as Santa Claus, Indiana years before it became the tourist attraction it is now. It allowed me to be vested into the trip.
Chicago was the easiest place for me to find new things to do and places to visit. However there were several things we did every trip. Dr. Ruby and I would go to her old haunts when she was an intern at Cook County Hospital. She took me to the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry – which could take me all day if I took a mind to it. We went to State Street, took a river taxi on the Chicago River, and to O’Hare Airport. I know the airport sounds strange- however she loved watching planes land and take off. We would go to a fast food restaurant to get take-out chicken. Drive out to a spot near the runway and just watch the planes.
Dr. Ruby was a well-traveled woman; it wasn’t like she hadn’t been on a plane. I remember her going to Cuba, Seattle Washington for the World’s Fair, and several trips to New York as well as California. Perhaps it was because Grandpa Tom wasn’t with her and she could imagine taking a plane trip without him. Perhaps it was because she wished she could have been a pilot instead of a surgeon, I never asked. It was just amazing to me that those big silver planes were going over my head, or raced beside us so close that I thought I could reach out and touch it.
We would go to movies and to stage plays. Those were the best memories for me. I love the excitement of watching plays with other people. To have the action on stage unfold before us with the audience reacting in real time to what is happening intrigued me. I love that the actors could slow down the pace or pick up the pace according the reactions of the audience.
I remember we saw “How the West Was Won” in panoramic screens. We saw “Brothers Grimm” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” which- afterward- she chose to tell me I had family on the Titanic. During the nights when we went to bed she cuddled with me telling me stories of the depression years, stories of my Mom growing up and how she came to open her own hospital in Geneva Illinois.
During the day we went shopping. This was before malls- or at least I think it was- I don’t remember ‘malls’ until I was in college. Grandma and I would troop up and down State Street and Michigan Ave shopping at Loehman’s, Carson Pirie & Scott, Marshall Fields and Wieboldt’s just to name a few places she would take me.
She would make sure I was all equipped for school. Mary Jane’s, gym shoes, gym clothes, socks, dresses, shorts, pants, a coat, hats and mittens. Not to mention notebooks, pens, pencils, notebook paper and everything else that she thought I would need.
If anyone taught me the need of organization, being equipped and being ready with an answer- it was my Grandma. My Mother gave me the gift of always learning; gathering information, telling a good story and my brother gave me the gift of being able to duck from a flying pillow in a pillow fight. I had a well-rounded education in the basics I think.
So for me, I still get geared up for resolutions, new direction and changes in August. I find most businesses do also. Most of my clients have their change of fiscal years anywhere from June to October. New cars used to be released in September. When I was a child we looked forward to the TV GUIDE to see the synopsis’s of the new shows on TV.
It still rattles my world that TV shows are having premier episodes four times a year. Some of my favorite shows like “Switched at Birth” have two seasons a year. It is exciting to know that there are new shows being introduced all the time. Better chances for new actors, producers, directors and writers to have work. At the same time shows like “Dick Van Dyke Show” would have been lost with this new system. It was during the rerunning of the classic comedy show during the summer that people found the program saving it from cancelation.
My mother would clean the house during the fall instead of the ‘spring cleaning’ most people do. She liked cleaning the house then, as we would shut the windows for winter- and it was the last time for fresh air to move throughout the house. Funny I just thought of it- I didn’t have air conditioning until I went to college.
Does any of this relieve the pressure of what party to attend on New Year’s? Well I usually get invited to one- so it’s really a no brainer for me- but for me- New Years it isn’t a time of resolutions. It is a time to reflect on how I have grown- or not.
Do you remember when the family would gather around the Christmas Tree, New Year’s Eve, a loved one’s birthday and the ‘grownups’ would start talking about when they were little, a special memory they had. Did you roll your eyes- like I did- thinking to yourself- “Hurry up and dismiss us from the table so we can go play, for goodness sakes!”
One of our traditions when my daughter, Melodie, was growing up was to write a letter to ourselves on Christmas Eve. In that letter we wrote about what we learned the past year. When Melodie was 4 she wrote (with help from her daddy, Fireman Bob) that she learned how to write the alphabet and close the door when she went outside. From the ages of three and four she thought her name was “Melodie Shut - the - Door Lynn Sharp”.
Also included in the letter we made a list of what we wanted to do in the coming year. When she was 16 she wrote a funny ditty about algebra. Those letters are treasured by our family.
I firmly believe that our personal histories are being lost as well making new traditions. We are so busy with life- that sometimes our life is just lost. We diligently record what we see on our phones, digital cameras and Facebook- have you ever had a computer crash? With one virus you can lose years of pictures, letters and stories are gone.
Recently Col. Charlie was doing some research to purchase us a digital camera. One of the people he talked to was voicing concern about the clarity of pictures taken and stored on digital devises. I am trying not to think about it. Hate to think all the scanning and posting we have done to try to keep our photos in one place may be for naught in 15-30 years is disheartening.
Your family stories need to be preserved in some way. Write them into letters to your kids; weave your history into stories at bedtime, sharing an experience over dinner or an outing.
When Melodie and her family came over for Christmas one of our traditions is to watch The Christmas Story. One of the scenes is Ralphie’s parents sitting by the tree in the dark- they watch the Christmas lights in silence- each wrapped into their own thoughts and memories.
I told Melodie her Daddy and I would sit like that on Christmas Eve. After we finished with getting her to sleep and putting out the gifts, we would sit in the quiet as the lights twinkled and winked we would share the memories of the day, the past year and even our childhood
My oldest Grandson, Jay leaned forward in his seat telling me in no uncertain terms that I should write that down. Melodie and I looked at each other and grinned. She knows the notebook with my memories is always growing.
My “New Year’s” Resolutions have been made last fall and so far so good. I have been losing weight. I have only missed one deadline to my editor. I have been trying to do my follow-up with phone calls and e-mails. I have been trying to write something every day. If not on my novel, then to the newspapers, letters, my memories- to get the words on paper and out of my head.
So I am leaving you this month with the idea to write your memories. It’s never too late- you’re never too young. Make the promise not only to yourself but to your family that you will do something this year to make a difference in your life and to those around you.
At the same time- don’t wait until a certain date to make your resolutions. Make them as they come across your mind. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting to start… I know if I wait- I won’t.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year- may it be better than last year.