Remembering Christmases past can be a melancholy exercise for an old man. All of the grown-ups that told me about Santa Claus died years ago but I can’t get them out of my mind … not them, and not the trees.
In West Palm Beach circ. 1950 you could tell a lot by a family’s Christmas tree. Patsy’s dad, Dr. Stephens, always had a Canadian spruce that was so tall it had to be set up in the stairwell of their huge two story home on Greymond Drive. Sammy Bigbie’s family just cut down one of the scrub pines on the Bailey property next door and Kenny Yonovitz, a Jew, never had one in his home on Washington Rd. The ornamentation was always different too. Multi colored vs. all white vs. white and blue lights. Angel hair vs. tin foil ice cycles vs. spray on or soap flake snow–plastic angle or star on top … the list goes on and on.
Yes, we all remember the trees, but in my family they had a special significance. We earned a portion of our livelihood by selling them. Every year, around Thanksgiving, a refrigerated SCL railroad boxcar would be spotted in back of the Powell Bros. Produce warehouse on Clare Ave. and bundles of tightly bound trees from British Columbia would be off-loaded to trucks. The next stop was Ingram’s Supermarket on the corner of Belvedere and Lake Ave. Here, the trees were freed from their wire bondage, shook out, and leaned against the east side of the building where they would be sold to holiday shoppers.
Over the years, half of my high school buddies from the south end of town earned Christmas money by selling trees at Ingram’s for my Daddy. Running the Christmas tree lot even let my father play Santa Claus to quite a few families in the Palm Beaches. Some PBHS moms (Mrs. Browning, Mrs. Watson, and Mrs. Varney come to mind) picked up, as Christmas gifts from Powell Bros., some of the prettiest trees on the lot. The ladies were public school lunch room managers and among our most valued customers.
The net result of being in the business was not what you might expect. The Powells never had the prettiest tree in town. In fact, we always had “anything but!” By the time my mother had time to go by Ingram’s, the lot had always been picked over and the only trees left were too short, too spindly, too dead and dried-out, or too misshaped to be sold. Looking back … it made no difference. It was my family’s Christmas. We had a loving home and the world was right.
All of these thing happened some sixty years ago. Since then, Dee and I have raised a son and a daughter, seen the birth of five healthy grandsons and witnessed the evolution of everything around us. Nothing is same as it was: not my telephone, not my entertainment media, not the political discourse, not the climate, and certainly not my ageing body. Isn’t it gratifying that at least the Christmas tree, with its religious significance and magical charm, has weathered the test of time and remained as we all remember it.
Following this line of thought, I decided to take the time this morning, before the first of three NFL Football TV broadcasts and accompanying adult beverages numb my senses, to share my wonderful wife’s 2019 Christmas tree with all of you.
Maybe my memory should be added to the list of things that aren’t quite the same?
profile: definition ....
meaning: 1. a short description of someone's life, work, character, and information about the person's interests and beliefs.
meaning: 2. an outline of that same person's face as it is seen when someone is looking at them from the side. If you see someone in profile, you only see them from one side.
From these two definitions I can only conclude one thing: profiles as such and offered by job seekers, politicians, and aspiring writers, risk falling into very obvious categorical traps ..... they will be hopelessly self-edifying and boldly "two faced"!
To avoid these pitfalls I intend to state an illusion and immediately counter it with the fact. If the latter is too candid or disturbing, just disregard it! This will allow me to come off (in your estimation) as the fine upstanding, clean cut, like-minded, and adventurous elderly gentleman you were hoping for.
Illusion: I'm an accomplished "sailor" and have spent over 50 years routinely putting out to sea, first under canvas and in my latter years with only the diesel iron wind at my back.
Fact: In all of my voyages I've never spent more than eight or nine full nights underway and that was only because, over open water, Walker's Cay was too far from Palm City or Havana from Key West. In reality, as the sun begins to set I'm usually tucked into some snug little cove, the hook set, and an icy drink in my hand. I'm not an accomplished sailor, I'm a fantastic "anchorer"!
Illusion: I'm a semi-talented "writer" that creates interesting characters in situations and settings that, sometimes, move a story along.
Fact: In most cases, I am the "character" and I've already lived the story. Then all I need to do is figure out how to just pretend I'm sitting in some sleazy dive in the Keys after a few beers and start to tell my story to ........ (only problem is: .......... is it “i” before “e” except at sea?)
Illusion: Because I am openly conservative and speak with a Southern drawl, I'm looked upon as a right-wing good-ole-boy that picnics under Confederate monuments, lives and breathes Fox News, drives a gun-racked Ford 150, and wears his "Make America Great Again" hat to bed every night.
Fact: I'm very discouraged with what is going on in Washington in general and at the White House in particular. I supported its current occupant and, seeing what options are shaping up on the horizon, I may be forced to continue doing so but he(and we) could do so much better. Do I have to surrender my judgment and intellect to remain a Republican?
I won't dwell on the President's Smoot-Hawley like policies on trade and tariffs ... time and the markets will be the final arbiters and greed on my part forces me to hope for the best. Needless to say, I endorse his impact on the Judicial Branch of Government and I could care less what next week's "horndog rumor" and accompanying hush-money payoff have in store .... I'll leave that to his poor wife and "Morning Joe"! But I do have one pet peeve: we don't need a $5,000,000,000.00 wall to keep out Guatemalans and their Central American neighbors. They only constitute the latest installment in 4 centuries of migration to our shores and may be the hardest working bunch yet assembled. The hardships they are fleeing are not unlike the pogroms against Jews in the Middle East or the 19th century Irish potato famine. The seemingly demeaning statement of: "how would the roof ever get patched or the grass cut without them?" or a variation thereof has been directed at virtually every American's fore-bearers. Unless you stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock or the swampy landing at Jamestown, there was always somebody "better than you" waiting to curse your arrival ……… or put you in chains.
On the flip side of all of this, and without inserting its own Illusion, we don't need porn starlets and their attorneys being featured on Sunday morning talk shows answering pointed questions from wax haired "contributors" about our Presidents libido! What we do desperately need is a media culture that will demand the resurrection and employment of an old concept ...... news REPORTING! On my home cable TV hookup; Fox News is on channel 44 and MSNBC resides on 42. The Guide tells me that the channel between them ...43 ... is dedicated to financial news but that can't be true. The call letters may be CNBC but, judging from the disparity in the adjacent editorializing, it must be Star Wars! ..... the distance between the adjoining galaxies is so "far, far, away"?
Over the past few months I've become a reluctant, almost incarcerated, soccer fan. The game is played, not with a pitch .... but on one, lasts an hour and a half, and often ends with a score of nil-nil. I endure all this because my sole source of, even remotely, unbiased television news and happenings in the good old USA can be found only on the British Broadcasting Corp ..... go Cardiff City!
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