Monday, November 21, 2011

The Year I Got Christmas Back

When I was a child there was nothing more magical, than Christmas time. The four weeks leading up to it were ones of great anticipation, and when Christmas morning dawned I was filled with a sense of joy and serenity, unlike any other day of the year. Back then the holiday season never seemed hurried or hectic, in fact, it was quite the opposite; it was always over too quickly! I got older though; children came along, and the season began to be something that exhausted me, rather than refreshed me. The words that were written by Glenn MacDonough, in 1903, sadly, began to ring true:

Toyland. Toyland.
Little girl and boy land.
While you dwell within it,
You are ever happy then.
Childhood’s joy-land.
Mystic merry Toyland,
Once you pass it’s borders,
You can never return again.

As a very small child I attended church with my family, at our Lady of Good Counsel parish, in Detroit; not far from City Airport. Back then I didn't count down the days until Christmas on a calendar, but, rather, by how many candles were lit on the Advent Wreath at our church each week. The church itself was swathed in purple, and I think, perhaps, that is where my love for that color first originated from. I think that color is intertwined in my memory, with the feelings of hope and anticipation that I associated with those special days, when throughout the church the melodic notes from the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," echoed, in my ears.
A trip downtown to visit Santa at the J.L. Hudson Department store was also, an important component, of the Christmas experience. First arriving downtown, intrigued by all its "big city" hustle and bustle, and then circling the block to look at all the holiday fantasies, supplied for the public to view, in each and every window of that grand old store.  If that in itself wasn't exciting enough, it was followed by an elevator or an escalator ride up to see Santa. The store's lights twinkled, and Christmas magic accompanied us on every floor that we passed. Children were ushered over to sit on Santa's lap by one of his helpers, then once seated we would politely make our requests for the one or two toys that we had so carefully selected.
Each year there would be at least one night, when, under a darkened winter sky and the swirl of gently falling snowflakes, we would jump into our car to go out to look at Christmas lights together. In the case of my family, that usually meant a drive alongside Jefferson Avenue, in Grosse Pointe, that aristocratic suburb, that neighbored our Detroit city borderline. The mansions, wrapped in their elaborate Christmas packaging, were sure to inspire many "ohhhh's and ahhhh's" as we peered out of our car windows, before making our way back home to our more, humble dwelling. Finally, on Christmas Eve my siblings and I would wait in the basement to hear our doorbell ring, and then to hear Santa's heavy footfall, as he left our house. At last with great joy, we would bound up the stairs to savor the moments of gift-giving, and for us, the giving was truly equal to the receiving. The following day was the important one though, for at mass we celebrated the birth of the newborn King, and even as very small children we understood that this was, for our family, the real "reason for the season."
All of those memories began to fade though, and for many years I feared that I would never experience them again. Then a few years ago, my sister invited our family to join hers, as we attended Old St. Mary's Catholic Church, in Greektown. Dressed in our Christmas best we made the drive from Romeo, and a little bit of that old joy came back when I saw the first twinkle of Christmas lights downtown. It was when we entered Old St. Mary's though, to celebrate the 5:30 mass that Christmas Eve, that I was truly transported back, once again, to that magical place that was the Christmas I remembered from my past. The altar was resplendent, with towering Christmas trees adorned with sparkling, white lights and shimmering, iridescent tinsel. As a breeze would stir the tinsel, each strand would reflect the gold from off the altar, making the trees take on an air of quiet, Christmas majesty. The entire expanse of the altar was covered with beautiful red poinsettias, and as I took it all in my eyes opened wide with childlike wonder. Soon the trumpets sounded, heralding in all the hopes of this special day, and with them, my love for the season was finally restored. A sense of peace settled upon me as I listened to the mass, and it remained with me long into the new year, whenever I thought back about my visit to Old St. Mary's.  My sister's kind invitation had given me the one gift money can't buy; she gave me back the Christmas I remembered, so fondly from my youth.
To all of you, whatever your beliefs may be, may this holiday season and the new year that follows it, be one of peace and tranquility....and of joy equaled only to that of your fondest childhood memories.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Heartfelt Thanks!

Today I post this story to thank all of the kind souls who have played a part in helping me to achieve a dream of mine; a dream which I am sure is shared by many others....TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO MAKE SOMEBODY PAY YOU FOR TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF!  In just a few short days I will be receiving my very first check earned from my blog, having finally met the $100 threshold stipulated by Google. It will enable me to say that I am paid to write, and although the amount of money may not be enormous, the joy I am feeling about my achievement is!
This past Christmas my oldest daughter Holly created a blog site for me as a Christmas gift, providing me with a virtual, clean sheet of paper, which would allow me to pursue my love of writing, and to see where the efforts of that pursuit might lead me.  On February 19th, my Adsense application was approved, allowing me to have advertisers utilize my blog site.  The way Adsense works is that the content of my stories determines the type of advertisements that appear along-side my blog.  If, for instance, I write a story about dogs, then companies selling pet products might be featured.  The idea is that if someone is interested enough in a particular subject to read about it, then they might be inclined to click on an advertisement concerning related products; when they do the blogger receives a few cents via Google.  I realize that the more cynical might say that I am actually more of a landlord who is paid for rented space than a writer being paid for printed prose, but I consider that more of a "glass half-empty" kind of perspective.  Instead, I choose to savor the moment, and to revel in the notion that I was successful enough in my efforts, that I actually got paid for them!
In reality, the money plays a very small role in the happiness I have attained through my blog. The real pleasure, for me, has been in knowing I am capable of writing something that others would take the time to read, during a period when lives are so hectic, that many people seldom have time to read more than a newspaper or magazine.  The idea that someone from Paraguay or Iran would ever read anything I had written was unfathomable to me a year ago, and the fact that these readers return to my blog multiple times has surpassed all of my expectations.  So thank you to all of the readers who have shared a moment with me these past 11 months, for you have, in truth, been the real source of my great happiness.  I am humbly grateful, to all of you.

*Although my daughters frequently remind me that it is bad form to share any statistics about my blog, once again, I am going to ignore them.  I find the stats kind of interesting, and I hope that you do, as well.
1. 4,755 visits have been made to my blog.
2. While visiting my blog people often read more than one story. The number of stories read is 8,763.
3. I have had readers from more than 25 different countries, including Japan, Russia, France, Sweden, Brazil, Columbia and South Korea.
4. "Fireflies and Tuna Cans" are the most common words used by readers using a search engine to find my site.  "Michael Chiolero" and "Impaled by a Catfish"  are the most interesting search words, though.  *Apparently, mentioning Michael in one of my stories, or having Janet Falendysz comment about her mother's impalement by a catfish, are sometimes, for a few returning readers, the most memorable aspects of my blog.
5. Favorite posts are:
    1. A Detroit City Childhood
    2. Picking Up the Pieces of Her Children's Broken Hearts
    3. Letting Go of Doorknobs, As the Universe Unfolds.
6. My favorite comment by a reader was from my story entitled, "Bring Two of Every Sort of Animal...But We Just Brought Our Two Dogs and Two Cats."  She wrote, "Don't know if I can post, as I do not even know you, but this story lifted me higher, than a friend with wine! It came on a low day, blessings. Joy."
7.  Any story that includes my delightful mother, Geri Garner, always generates many favorable comments.  I guess everyone loves my mother...especially me!
And last, but not least....
8.  I may have only made 32 cents a day, but that is 32 cents more than I was ever paid for talking about myself, in the past!
Thanks, again!!!!!  And I hope that the happiness you feel in the future is equal to the happiness I am feeling today.  Oh, and I almost forgot...when I was 46 years old I enrolled in college to get a degree in Early Child Devolopment.  My first class was an english composition class, and my professor was extremely encouraging, concerning my writing.  The first essay I wrote in her class was entitled "Fireflies and Tuna Cans," and as a way to pay tribute to her, that is what I named my blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

Poor is the one holiday that doesn't get much press, and quite possibly, that might be the reason why I enjoy it so much. I guess it isn't as marketable as many of the other holidays, because big business can't figure out a way to trick consumers into spending more money on it. For this reason, I think, more and more, it is treated like an afterthought, and as each year passes it is given less recognition than the one before. Halloween costumes and candy are still being discounted along the aisles of every store, when the first Christmas trees are put up for display, leaving little room or time for celebrating Thanksgiving. It is becoming the forgotten holiday; the holiday that never gets any respect.

Most people equate it with a turkey dinner, replete with all its trimmings, but to me, it is about family, and the opportunity to slow down and catch ones breath, while spending time with those we hold most dear. The food is, of course, a tool to achieve that end, and awakening early Thanksgiving morning, as my daughters join me to prepare the day's meal, has become a wonderful time for bonding, and for catching up on all the moments that might otherwise escape us. The hours in the kitchen are relaxed and leisurely; filled with fond memories and laughter, and the feelings of closeness that accompany them. They are the times from which new memories are created...memories that I hope my daughters will share with their own children one day, long after I am gone.

Our Thanksgiving meals are some years shared with my husband’s side of the family, and some years  spent with mine. Other years we have spent the day with just each other, or out delivering meals together to the homebound. Each year though, no matter with whom we share our meal or how we spend our day, it is a sacred time, and a holiday that I will always treasure. It might be, in fact, my favorite holiday of all, because it one of the few that has little to do with how much you spend on the day, but rather, with whom you spend the day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all…and may your day be spent with those you love.