SANTA IS TRULY REAL

In our day of plenty and abundance we tend to take for granted all the bounty that is ours on a daily basis. Most of us don’t have to worry about a roof over our heads, good food to eat, or even having many of our ‘wants’ gratified.

As some of you know, my mother was a prolific writer and as I was looking over some of her stories I was brought to tears by the one of my mother as a little girl with the same desires of all children, that Santa would bring her the thing she desired most. The thing is, this happened during the depression era and she was the twelfth and youngest child of an ageing farmer whose struggle to feed and care for his family was a constant worry. There was nothing left over for ‘wants’ even at Christmas time. They were lucky to get an orange and/or an apple in their stocking, along with some homemade vinegar taffy if they were truly fortunate.

My children and grandchildren have been privy to this story for several years but I thought my extended family and friends would enjoy it. This then is the story as she, Lora Lane Wright, told it.

“I poignantly recall the Christmas when I was seven years old and we were in the grip of the Great Depression. I knew not to expect many gifts, but I still half believed in Santa and I yearned for a “Mama” doll.

The annual community Christmas party in Conway was held in the school building and my family and I walked the short distance, carrying a kerosene lantern to light the way. This was a fun event and the men seemed to have the most fun of all as they tried to outdo each other with ludicrous and sometimes ribald gifts. There was much laughter and light-hearted banter as they enjoyed a brief respite from the almost insurmountable worry that was pandemic during those dismal years.

As we entered the building, a doll hanging on the tree caught my eye. I had no doubt that it was for me. At last, Santa took it down and started straight toward me. I was half way out of my seat and ready to reach for it when my mother gently pulled me back into the circle of her arm. Santa passed by me and gave the doll to a girl sitting behind me.

As we walked home, my mother held one of my hands and my brother held the other. With his other hand he carried the lantern. Suddenly, I began to cry. Without a word, he passed the lantern to my sister, swung me up on his shoulder and carried me home. The doll wasn’t mentioned.

On Christmas morning, I crept into the room where our tree stood. Midst the paper chains and strings of popcorn hung the most beautiful doll I had ever seen, far prettier than the one I had so coveted. It not only said “mama,” it also closed and opened its eyes.

My sister had been fortunate enough to get a job during the holidays and had spent most of a week’s salary for the doll. That was the year I learned for sure that Santa is real and his other name is “love.”

Let us remember this Christmas that Santa is real and what his other name is. Let us remember also those less fortunate than ourselves, especially God’s sweet, yearning children. Let us remember that Christ uses us to do his work and spread his love and cheer…Merry Christmas!

A BITTERSWEET TRIP

I just returned from a road trip to visit family on the East Coast for Thanksgiving. It was definitely bittersweet because it was the first time I’d been back there without my husband and everything spoke of a memory made with him. It was wonderful to see family, especially my youngest grandsons, who at their young age change so rapidly. I was able to witness the youngest gain enough confidence to take off walking solo….what fun and how cute! We clapped our hands each time he walked so he started clapping his own hands each time as well….priceless!

My seven-year old grandson lost his second front tooth while I was there; is there anything more adorable than a toothless grin from a cute little boy? These two milestones took my trip from great to sensational. The third grandson interacted more with me than he ever had before so I treasured each moment with the three of them…sure wish I could be around them on a regular basis.

On the first leg of the trip we stopped in Louisiana at the Froghead Cafe. The son I was with had lived briefly in Louisiana and he was hungry for Cajun food. I had crawfish etouffee that was…well not bad. On the way back from NC we stopped in Monroe, Louisiana at the Duck Dynasty store and then went to Willies Duck Cafe where we consumed more Cajun food. I had the sampler meal with Jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice. The Jambalaya was inedible, the gumbo was file style, that is, without okra; it was okay but not the best. The red beans and rice were the better of the three, but still not really good. I decided that if that was an authentic taste of Cajun food, then thanks but no thanks, I’ll pass. I much prefer my own recipes of the same foods which are quite delicious…at least to my palate.

There must have been something in the food that didn’t agree with me and played havoc with my system because we had to make an EMERGENCY pit stop, with my family laughing hysterically at me the whole time. Yes, that’s right, they had no respect for their elders. That’s okay though, what goes around comes around and one day they’ll get their comeuppance…I only hope I’m around to laugh at them.

The mild weather in Wilmington, NC took a turn for the worse right after we arrived and was very cold for that area, with a frost one night. It wasn’t good beach weather but it warmed up again right after we left…of course. The cold didn’t bother me however since I was there to see family and not the beach. My Texas family braved the cold and wind though and visited the beach a couple of times and chowed down on seafood chowder to keep their circulation moving.

It was nice to see my three youngest sons together, playing basketball and swapping stories from their childhood. It’s amazing how much a mother can learn, after the fact, about her sons just by listening to them talk. Wow, how did they ever survive and grow to adult hood?! We also celebrated Chris’ birthday while we were all together with a chocolate peanutbutter cake which was delicious.

I count myself lucky to continue making memories with family in the same manner my husband and I did for so many years, by driving across the country. I’d like to thank them publicly for including me in their road trip and making me feel so loved.

As much as I enjoyed the trip I must admit I was glad to get back home since I managed to come down with bronchitis again. My allergist warned me that I’m allergic to the air I breathe and I certainly breathed in a lot of different air with their coresponding pollen in the several states we went through. It kind of sucks to take a lovely trip and come back home sick. Oh well, that’s the way of life and I have my new sweet memories to hold close and savour while I recover. I must confess that I’m already beginning to fantasize about my next travel opportunity…

THE FAMOUS STRESS DIET

For one reason or another I’ve been feeling a lot of stress lately; I don’t deal well with stress so I did some research into the best stress busting foods. I’ve always believed there is food for everything that ails a person [the food as medicine concept] and its true in this instance as well. Here is the famous stress diet:

Breakfast: 1/2 grapefruit, 1 slice whole wheat toast, 8 oz. skim milk.

Lunch: 4 oz. lean broiled chicken, 1 cup steamed zucchini, 1 Oreo cookie, herb tea.

Mid-afternoon snack : Rest of the package of Oreos, 1 quart rocky-road ice cream, 1 jar hot fudge sauce.

Dinner: 2 loaves garlic bread, 1 large pepperoni double cheese pizza, 1 large chocolate milkshake, 3 Snicker bars, an entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from the freezer.

If this doesn’t end your stress there is something seriously wrong with you and you should see a doctor immediately. If you follow this diet for any length of time you may also have to consider going on a weight loss diet.

But in all seriousness there are a few foods that will help with this malady. Complex carbohydrates such as a whole grain toast or muffin, a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and honey, or tabbouleh salad; The dark chocolate cure is real, it reduces levels of the stress hormone and lowers blood pressure almost as well as drugs. Combined with nuts or seeds it decreases anxiety and depression and elevates moods; Kale chips made with olive oil is another mood booster. People who consume olive oil daily enjoy a bigger boost of the feel good hormone serotonin; A smoothie made with cow’s milk, soy or almond milk, cocoa powder and a banana; Broccoli and ranch dip gives a hefty dose of folic acid which helps decrease stress; A roast beef sandwich on rye bread has iron and protein and salmon with Omega 3 both help eliminate stress; Even just a warm cup of cocoa or herb tea will help since a warm drink of any kind gives one the feeling that all is right with the world. Of course exercise and a good night’s sleep along with eating the afore-mentioned foods will go miles towards relieving stress. Personally a bowl of hot homemade soup also does the trick for me so I’ve been making soup a couple of times a week….not that I really need a reason to make soup, its one of my favorite things to eat and I always have ingredients on hand to make some kind.

I’m in the process of drinking a cup of hot cocoa for my afternoon snack today, minus the Oreos and ice cream. If I had Oreos I’d probably eat those, but I’m not in the habit of keeping cookies in the house…that’s too dangerous. If that doesn’t work I’ll resort to eating Dove dark chocolate pieces with almonds. I have to admit that I do always have that in the house though I strictly limit the amount I eat; most of the time…some of the time…well who’s counting those small pieces anyway? If one or two are good for you then half a dozen two or three times a day must be better, right?

My last sure-fire way of relieving stress is to have a change of scenery, such as going on a trip. I have a trip coming up this weekend that I’m very excited about. That should help me a lot since I won’t have to do any of the driving like I had to the last time.
Just to be sure of eliminating all my own stress I’m trying all the tips I’ve written about and the ‘famous stress diet’ is at the very heart of it. Try it, I think you’ll like it.

 

 

I DID IT!

This is our last warm day before the cold really sets in so I decided to make the most of it and I went shopping…oh boy did I go shopping! I found those boots on sale that I’ve been threatening to buy and in the words of the salesperson that waited on me,’ I’ll be the rockingest granny ever! ‘[my granddaughter already says I’m the cutest granny…lol] I’m not really sure what the salesman meant, but I’ll assume he meant it in a good way. Maybe he’s just not used to seventy year old women buying boots, but it was for the sake of warmth not fashion. The boots aren’t flashy or anything, just ordinary black boots but I can’t wait to wear them with my skirt on Sunday; I anticipate being much warmer without my legs exposed to the frigid air.

The sale included half off on the next pair of shoes/boots so I browsed around and found a pair of shoes that I like on the discontinued rack and got them for next to nothing. I’m pleased with my purchases and feel I got the most for my money. That’s important because It’s hard for me to buy anything for myself [especially at my age when I may not be around long enough to justify spending the money] and I often have buyers remorse, but so far so good as I only feel elation.

My husband used to get aggravated with me for not buying something I saw and liked the moment I found it. I’d wait a while to see if I still wanted it and then I’d go back to get it if the desire was still there; nine times out of ten the item would be gone. So he’d be happy with me for finding these boots and buying them on the spot…but then I have thought about doing it for a long while.

This afternoon as I hear the wind howling around my apartment ushering in that polar express I’m happy that I stocked up on food so that I can hibernate for a few days [folks I just don’t like cold weather], and when I do have to go out on Sunday, I’ll be wearing warm socks and boots. Now I just have to order those long johns from Amazon Prime with two-day delivery and I’ll be all set….with these things on hand another winter doesn’t look quite so bad.

WHAT DOES A MEMORY TASTE LIKE?

Some memories are happy, some sad, and some are delicious to the taste, Last weekend I had one of those delicious tasting memories in the form of a small glass of muscadine juice, which set my mind in motion remembering all things associated with that divine taste….and smell.

I remember mama making muscadine jelly and the aroma, which once smelled was never forgotten, wafting through the house. It was an annual event to trek into the woods and gather those luscious wild grapes in the autumn. There was also a place on Mt. Magazine where they grew in proliferation and sometimes we drove there and quickly filled our sacks and bags. Mama being partially of Scottish decent, never wasted anything so the skins, which were not used in the actual jelly and which were thicker than on tame grapes, were cooked down and made into a thick spread or into a filling for a pie…oh yum!

It was also from her I learned to make muscadine juice….the drink of the gods. How can one even begin to describe the sweet, tart, musky taste of that juice when it’s indescribable? The wild muscadine is an almost black purple color and to me the taste cannot be improved on. There are many varieties grown in vineyards now; bronze, red and white as well as purple. They all have a somewhat similar taste but each one is subtly different and milder flavored than their wild ancestor. When making juice one must have patience for it can’t be enjoyed immediately. The wait time is at least six weeks while the juice steeps in the jar until all the flavor is pulled from the fruit. But oh my, it’s worth waiting for! There’s nothing better than a cold glass of that heavenly tasting nectar.

For many years after I married, on our rambles through the countryside we took note of where the muscadine vines were growing and went back in the fall to gather the fruit…what happy memories. We also bought a fair amount from local vineyards. I ‘d then take a day to make jam and juice, starting early and working late. We had a large family to feed so we’re talking dozens and dozens of jars of each. For that one day an incredible smell filled my home and brought back childhood memories. The next morning a hot buttered biscuit loaded with the freshly made jam was sure to be on the menu; my mouth salivates at the thought. After my children married I carried on the jam/juice making tradition for many years, making sure each of them had a few jars to enjoy in their own homes. Sadly, muscadines are not so easily found anymore and the vineyards I knew have all quit producing. Several years ago when we moved to our retirement home a neighbor had some producing vines. He gave us some muscadines one year and I made a few jars of jam and juice, not enough to share but enough for my husband and me. After my husband passed away and I moved to Texas six months ago we found one remaining jar of juice hidden away in the pantry as we packed. Since the whole family was there we opened it on the spot and passed the jar around, each getting a taste or two. Need I say it was delicious…and need I say the onslaught of memories that taste produced? It was clear at that moment that a memory tastes just like, well, just like muscadine juice.

Sometimes one can find muscadine juice in specialty shops or sections of grocery stores as my son recently did. It was a white juice instead of the beautiful claret color that I used to make. And although it was good it wasn’t, as my daughter in law said, as good as mine. For those who have never tasted muscadine juice, you simply must try it if you get a chance. I do realize its not just the taste that has me so besotted, it was the family time spent in scouting out the whereabouts of the muscadines and then gathering them; it was the aroma that filled the air as they were worked up; and finally the delicious finished product that was enjoyed throughout the year bringing a feeling of love and a sense of satisfaction with each bite.

In this day and time few things that brought one generation such happy memories can be handed down to the next generation with the same result. I’m sorry to say that after many generations, this particular memory probably ends with my children. But on a positive note perhaps they will make some delicious memories with their children that will be handed down for a generation or two. What does a memory taste like….to you?

EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SILVER LINING

Sometimes it happens gradually and sometimes, much to our chagrin, it happens overnight. Yes, winter is often an unwanted bedfellow. Today the wisps of clouds suspended like uncooked meringues in the sky portend a lengthy autumn…at least that’s my interpretation. Maybe we should ask my brother who seems more adept at reading the clouds. I really hope our autumn will be long and mild for meteorologists are predicting a colder than usual winter.

Without my honey and my fireplace to keep me warm [I’m really gonna miss that fireplace and it goes without saying how much I miss my honey] I may have to take drastic measures to keep my blood from congealing; after all when one gets as old as I am the skin gets thin and the blood thickens. I  haven’t had insulated underwear since I lived in Alaska but that may turn into a necessity now. I may also need to invest in a pair of good warm boots to wear with my skirts to church….and that cold car this winter is gonna be a drag; another ‘not so small’ thing Bruce always did for me was warm my car up, even when he had to leave before I did.

That brings me to another related subject. I really can’t understand why women are expected to wear dresses in the winter and freeze while attending church. It would be so much more sensible to dress warmly; nine times out of ten its cold inside the church as well as outside. I mean who decided our dress code? Who decided that men would wear nice warm wool suits, overcoats, and warm socks and shoes while women would wear skirts, nylons and ridiculous high heels? Even when wearing a long coat the cold wind has a way of sliding right up a skirt and chilling a person to the bone. I just gotta say, not looking forward to it!

Let’s hope those weather men are wrong as well as the woolly worms and persimmon seeds. In a couple of weeks daylight savings time will end and it will be getting dark earlier…ugh! Even so it would be nice to have a long lovely autumn and a short mild winter. For what its worth, I’m putting in my order right now for just that, although I probably should have done it back it July. Oh well, better late than never, but I suppose at this late date I’ll just have to take what mother nature sends. And since I tend to believe those woolly worms, I’m going on-line to order my winter survival clothing….shopping, does this involve shopping?  Well now, maybe every problem does have a silver lining!

 

 

 

THE DRIVE IN MOVIE

One of my fondest childhood memories is the drive-in movie theater. It always felt like a celebration when we’d load up in the car and head out to see a movie. Sometimes we’d sit in the car, but many times we’d sit in the chairs by the concession stand…the air was cooler [although dustier] and it was much closer to the popcorn, candy, soda pop and hotdogs. I’m not sure which excited us the most, the treats or the movie but it all worked together for a magical feeling.

The first such theater opened in 1933 in Camden, New Jersey and was called a Park-in-Theater. It was the brainchild of Richard Hollingshead and was inspired because of his mother’s struggle to sit comfortably in traditional movie theater seats. What a good son he was to come up with such a fun solution. After experimenting in his driveway with various ways to watch an outdoor movie while sitting in the car, he opened the first one at a cost of $30.000. He charged 25 cents a car and 25 cents for each person in the car.

After his patent ran out, out-door movie theaters sprang up all over the country and the name changed to Drive-in theaters. The largest one was an all-weather Drive-in located in New York. It featured Parking space for 2, 500 cars and a full service restaurant on 28 acres.

The drive-in movie reached its heyday in the 1950’s to mid-60’s, with 5,000 of them across the country. It became synonyms with that era and the drive-in movie has been featured in many films. It was during this time period that my own memories were made.

I remember on a few occasions my oldest brother took me, unwillingly I might add, with him to a drive-in movie. In revenge he made me sit in the car while he got out and socialized with his friends. Once the movie was a very scary one, The Catman of Paris [yes I remember the title] and I was terrified there in the car by myself. After that I declined going with him even when dad said he had to take me. After I got old enough to date that was the cheapest place to see a movie so I had my share of dates there; I think at that time the cost was $1.00 per car…no matter how many were in the car.

My Aunt Ollie had a 38 Ford for many years. She called it Bessie and I’m assuming that she bought it new. She was a Sunday school teacher and she took her class, of which I was a member, on many outings in that car, from swimming to looking through cemeteries. After she sold it and got another car, my brother bought it and it was that car in which I sat by myself at the drive-in watching that scary movie. Oddly enough when my brother sold Bessie and went into the navy, Bruce bought her. I had no knowledge of it at the time, and I didn’t meet him until later but when he picked me up for our first date he was driving old Bessie. By that time she had seen her best days and the window on the passenger side wouldn’t roll up. Once when we went to the drive-in on a date it started raining and I had to hold a rug up across the window to keep the rain out….good times, good memories.

Later after we were married and living in California we saw Mary Poppins in a drive-in with our first child who was then a toddler. By that time the popularity of the drive-in theater had begun to wane. Today because of the high cost of real estate, the many walk-in theaters, video rentals, movies on demand, pay-per-view and other ways of seeing movies, the drive-in movie theater is, sadly, almost obsolete; less than 500  survive in the United States.

One of my sons has a large covered patio with an outdoor fireplace, a grill, a picnic table, zero gravity recliners and….wait for it….a large HD movie screen that covers one wall. I think he has taken movie watching to the next level, and its even better than sitting in a car at a drive-in. I ate dinner with them the other night on their patio and afterwards we sat in the cool night air and watched a movie. Might I say, pun intended, we had all the comforts of home. It doesn’t get much better than that….if we can eliminate those pesky mosquitos it will be absolutely perfect!

 

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