I like to look at the stats for this blog, just to see where people are from and what they are looking at. Sometimes they look at posts that I then re-read and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote it–or IF I was thinking. Oh, well. Today, I was reminded of a post I wrote when we were living down in Enterprise. It was about Thanksgiving and Christmas and how it just didn’t feel like either one, especially with the warm weather and Southern vegetation, such as palm trees. Well, what a difference a couple hundred miles and a couple years make! Rules are made to be broken, aren’t they? THIS year, I’ve broken my self-imposed rule of “No Christmas before Thanksgiving in our house!”, which means no Christmas decorations, no t.v. shows, no music, etc., until the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t know what it is about this year, though. Maybe it’s that the weather up here is colder than 4 hours to our south, and it seems to have gotten colder earlier, this year. It was 17° this morning–colder than the White Mountains of New Hampshire! Granted, it’ll be 70° this weekend, but still–these last couple days–BRRRRRR!! Most all of the leaves are down, too, making it look more wintery. Maybe it was just a rough year, world news-wise, financially, homesickness-wise, etc.? I don’t know. Of course it doesn’t help that the stores were getting Christmas stuff in before Halloween, a couple rogue radio stations started playing Christmas music as soon as Halloween was over, how dare they, and then…there’s the Hallmark Channel. I have watched I don’t know how many sappy, sweet, romantic Christmas stories. It’s not even Thanksgiving, yet, and I already have a pre-lit garland on my bookshelf. But you know what? I don’t care. I am not forgetting about Thanksgiving, but I am so very excited about Christmas, this year. It’s the nostalgia and joy that it brings. Plus, the biggest factor, I think? Last year, after another lonely, less-than-festive season, I decided that was it, I was going to make things different from then on! I wasn’t going to be left feeling sad and unfulfilled because there was not much in the way of celebration with family and friends, which is what is one of the most special things about the holidays, especially Christmas, for me. When we lived in New England, we would have an annual Christmas open-house party. It was usually a week or two before Christmas and people were told they could come by any time, even if only for a few minutes, leave whenever, bring their favorite dish or beverage, or not, if they didn’t have time, and children were welcome because we had sitters for them. Our goal was for them to not experience any added stress to their already hectic holiday season, but just to come and enjoy themselves. It was our gift to them. The first house we owned was the PERFECT party venue, but we also had had parties in our much smaller condo, so size was irrelevant; it was the people. Family would come over, first, then friends and neighbors would trickle in. Some would stay for just a little while and others were there until the wee hours of the morning. That latter group was just a handful of us and we’d sit around the dining room table talking, laughing, eating, and doing the occasional shots, occasional being a relative term, perhaps. Anyway, that was all years ago and in spite of all the time that’s passed, I still get comments from individuals about what a wonderful time they had. They loved my family and even though they may not have known a lot of the friends, there was always such a mix of people that everyone that came got along splendidly with at least a few others, had a grand time, and left with a big smile. That’s what I want to start up, again, down here. I had initially balked at the idea because we live in a small rental home. When it’s not your own, it doesn’t feel like you can make everything in your home and yard just the way you want it to be. We also don’t know a ton of people and most of my Southern Man’s family and our friends live almost an hour away. I’m not going to let that stop me, though. Whoever shows, we’ll have a great time, regardless. I did have some concern when it came to the alcohol issue. I wasn’t brought up Baptist and, although my family isn’t a bunch of lushes, we were brought up around alcohol and it wasn’t considered a big deal. However, we do live in the Bible belt where many folks we know don’t drink and a few don’t even like to be around it. I considered having an alcohol-free hour–I jokingly referred to it as an “unhappy hour”–but have decided I’m just going to do what I’ve always done and I’m sure it will all be fine. If not, they can chalk it up to my being a Yankee heathen who occasionally likes to break the rules–even my own. :)
A few months ago, when cleaning out my car that we were going to sell, I came across a few of these:
Back in the 70’s, these were given out at the seafood restaurants we went to when we were kids. There were two Salisbury, Massachusetts seafood restaurants we would go to: Markey’s and Brown’s, the former is the one we’d frequent more often. Both are still in business and sit across the street from each other, offering, perhaps, some friendly competition. When I found these, I immediately opened one up and the scent took me back to those days of going to the beach and out to eat lobsters and steamers and french fries and ice cream and so on, while we were there. My Mom was the kind of mom who would wash (if needed and possible) and/or re-use plastic sandwich bags, paper lunch bags, and wet nap(kin)s, among other things. I have turned into her, by the way, and get occasional flack for it, especially when I hang the clothes out in somewhat frigid temperatures. (They do freeze-dry a little bit, I swear!) After we ate, Mom would open up a wet nap…one wet nap… and that little 4×6″ piece of lemon-scented paper or whatever it was made of, would make the rounds of the entire family. If you were the last one to get it, it would still have some lemony smell to it, but would almost be completely dry and probably be lightly-scented with other things… like lobsters or steamers or french fries or ice cream and so on. This family-sharing of the wet nap could be one more reason why we all have pretty strong immune systems! On rare occasion, if warranted, a second wet nap would be opened. That was always a treat, especially for the person who usually got the last dibs. (Me.) Anyway, isn’t it something how such a little thing like a wet-nap can evoke memories from long ago? It’s funny that it does, too, since the 70’s were before wipes and hand sanitizers became the norm, as they are today. Nowadays, with everyone slathering themselves up at every turn with all the anti-germ products that exist, instead of using one particular product on the somewhat rare occasion, how many will someday associate it with a special childhood memory? Also, how many don’t have the strong immune systems they might otherwise have? But, that’s another topic. :)
Yesterday, I mentioned that I love clocks, watches, and gears. It brought to mind a clock I had when I was a kid. The first clock I had was an old, pink clock radio–the kind of radio that had glass tubes and had to warm up before it worked–old! I don’t know what ever happened to that, but it was replaced with a little wind-up alarm clock.
I loved that clock! It had an orange metal base and outside with a white face and hands and markings that glowed in the dark. I remember it being German-made. I haven’t been able to find an exact picture of it, but it was very similar to the clock in the first two pictures, but with a face more like that in the second two pictures.
I wish I still had that little clock! While I don’t remember what happened to the pink clock radio, I DO know what happened to my little orange clock…curiosity killed it…my curiosity. I wanted to see what made it tick. (I love the ticking of a clock or watch.) So one day, I opened it up. That was fine. The brass workings were held together between two metal brass plates that were screwed together. I unscrewed them. Little did I know just how jam-packed the inner workings of a clock are; it literally exploded, minus the big bang. It was like a gear bomb, just waiting to be let go and boy, did it! All those gears, all different sizes and thickness, just went all over the place. There was absolutely no way I could have figured out how to put it all back together. So sadly, I threw it all in the trash. I was not happy with myself. I was also without a clock. I didn’t have one all through the rest of my childhood school career, but still always managed to consistently get up on time. That’s called discipline, folks! Well, except for those one or two occasions where I overslept and had to run after the bus. One time, the bus driver didn’t see me, but the kids did. Talk about humiliating. We lived quite a ways from the school, so I missed that day. Anyway! Moral of the story: if you aren’t a watchmaker or a genius at puzzles, don’t open up any clocks or watches! :)
My paternal grandfather, who I never met, was a watchmaker who eventually started a business in the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Lawrence has a highway, Route 495, that cuts through it and as the highway becomes a double-decker bridge and goes over the once quite-polluted Merrimack River, you can look to the west and see a clock tower in the distance. Years ago, as we were driving south on 495, Dad pointed the tower out to us and told us that when his father was young, he would climb up into that tower to clean the clock or perform maintenance…or maybe there was pigeon excrement involved, I don’t remember. Anyway, that revelation always stuck with me and I would imagine this boy climbing up the stairs and cleaning gears or something. I really had no idea what it entailed or even if he was a boy. For all I know, he could’ve been in his teens or twenties, yet for some reason I always envisioned an Oliver Twist-type child dressed in dingy 1920’s clothing. Who knows, I may have been correct.
When my Southern Man and I first drove over that bridge as a couple, I pointed to the clock tower in the distance and said, “See that tower over there? My grandfather used to clean that clock.” After we had our kids, I shared that tidbit of family history with them. It eventually became a sort of funny tradition because every time we drove over the bridge, I’d point to the clock tower in the distance and say, “See that tower over there? Your great-grandfather used to clean the clock.” I would get a chorus of “YES, Mommy/dear!” in reply.
In later years, when driving on the Route 495 double-decker bridge that goes over the now-clean Merrimack River, I was sometimes preempted with either my Southern Man or one of the kids saying, “See that tower over there? Grandpa’s father used to clean that clock.” I guess I started a tradition. Granted, it’s up THERE and we are down HERE, so who knows if that tradition will continue with the next generation. I guess time will tell. Meanwhile, that clock keeps ticking….
Here’s an interesting fact about the clock tower: “The Ayer Mill Clock Tower is the world’s largest mill clock. Its four big glass faces are only 6 inches smaller than Big Ben in London.” Pretty neat, huh?
Read more about the history of the Ayer Mill Clock Tower here:
Read about some of Lawrence’s history–lots of links of off this one:
Every year, this day is one that causes lots of statuses to show up on my family’s Facebook pages with photos and sentiments of a woman who influenced all of us (and there are a LOT of us), and is loved and missed by us all: our grandmother. Today, she would have been 99 years-old! She was affectionately called “Mum” by most of all of us, regardless of which generation we were born into. She is the only one of my four grandparents who was born in the United States, specifically Madison, Maine.
Mum had auburn hair and dark brown eyes, the latter of which many of us inherited. She was always looking for red hair and, especially, blue eyes in all her descendants, because her father had auburn hair and dark blue eyes. Sure enough, blue eyes showed up in her great-grandchildren, one being our daughter, and whenever she saw those baby blues, Mum would smilingly remind me about her father’s blue eyes. It brought her a special joy to see the blue-eyed little ones that were born, I believe; a glimpse and fond memories of her father. The red hair also showed up, more frequently than the blue eyes, in both my generation and our children’s generation. In fact, our son has red hair and my brother has two red-headed girls.
Most all of my happiest childhood memories involve Mum, my grandfather, and The Farm. You could tell how much he loved her. She was truly the wise matriarch, with a gentle countenance who had a way of making each of her grandchildren feel special. Her legacy lives on and, if you were to see all of us together, you’d surely see her in our eyes.
I fell in love with football when I was a high school freshman to the point that when I was a senior, I became a baton-twirling majorette just to ensure that I’d have to go to all of our games. (We had a very good year, incidentally–GO CHIEFTAINS!) My favorite college team was the Texas Longhorns. I have no idea why I picked them. Personally, I can’t stand orange clothing (not my best color), but I DO love cows, so maybe that was it. Yeah, yeah, I know, they’re Longhorns, not cows. I also watched USC, probably due to my love for ancient Greek and Roman civilization, and the Georgia Bulldogs. I don’t care much for bulldogs, unless they are the Looney Tune bulldogs, but I saw Herschel Walker do his dive over the pile at the goal line to score a touchdown and, after I closed my gaping-in-awe jaw, I was hooked.
So for whatever reasons, those were the teams I watched–oh, and also Boston College, of course, home of Doug Flutie. I think these were all decent teams during those years, but I honestly don’t remember. They must have had some redeeming qualities, though, right?
My love of football continued as I attended the University of Massachusetts, where I went to most all of the home UMASS Minutemen football games. However, it wasn’t until I moved to the South, that I learned what “REAL” football was. Little did I know, from what I’d watched on television, how BIG it is, down here. Before I moved from New England, one of my uncles commented on how Alabama had one of the hugest rivalries in the country, Alabama vs. Auburn. I knew nothing of it. I learned REALLY fast how much a part of the culture it is; how much of a pseudo-religion it is. REALLY FAST. You know how I learned? In 1991, I was a waitress at a restaurant in Southside Birmingham, called Rube Burrow’s, named after the infamous Alabama outlaw, Rube Burrow. (I had quite a few learning experiences there, come to think of it, not just concerning football.) During the Iron Bowl game, THE game between Alabama and Auburn, I waitressed, still relatively new to the restaurant–and to Alabama, the South, etc.. I worked a double. I made no money. It was a nightmare. My party of 4 became 6, then 10, 13, up to at least a couple dozen raucous people, all separate checks, all drinking, yelling out orders, and…yeah, it was horrendous, even the manager had trouble helping me out.
I had noticed that before the game, everyone was crazy & happy, drinking to the impending excitement. During the game, it was slow because no one in the entire state of Alabama budges from whatever television their eyes–entire beings, really–are fixated upon. After the game…mayhem! Half the state was drinking in wild elation and celebration of the winning team, the Crimson Tide, of course, while the other half, the Auburn Tiger fans, drank away their sorrows. I remember numbly walking home to my apartment late that night, alone, with just a little money to show from my learning experience. I think I may have had one of Rube Burrow’s famous mason jar drinks before I left for home, who remembers? Incidentally, I’m really amazed I never got attacked all those times I walked home, late at night, before I was able to buy a
deathtrap– a car. I have some awesome guardian angels, let me tell you.
In addition to my waitressing experience, I also heard the anecdotes of crazy fans on both sides, including one of a fan vandalizing an opposing team fan’s office. Crazy people. Well, I married into these crazy people. You know how we have Red Sox Nation and Patriot Nation in New England? Well, it’s like that down here, too, but it’s either you’re a Bama fan or an Auburn fan. ROLL TIDE or WAR EAGLE!! There is no middle ground. You MUST pick a side. SO in our house, it’s been ROLL TIDE!! because my Southern Man is a die-hard Alabama fan. I am one by default. It makes the marriage easier that way, especially since I’m a Yankee, which has counted against me, at times. The kids were born into it. Then our son decided, based on his scholarship and desired academic program, to go to Auburn University–monkey wrench! The reaction from my Southern Man’s family was borderline threatening. I think he was almost disowned, but then sympathy won out because, after all, he is half-Yankee and doesn’t know any better. Regardless, our son is now a full-fledged Auburn Tiger fan. Our daughter seems to be leaning towards going to Auburn, as well. (Honestly, the campus reminds us a bit of the University of New Hampshire, just on a larger scale.) However, she says she really doesn’t care about the whole football thing. We’ll see. The only Southern college game I have attended was, ironically, the 1992 Auburn-Florida game. (So I guess it IS my fault, after all, that they’ve defected to the dark side.) I was blown away by the sheer size and excitement of the crowd. It was amazing! I think the Tigers got beaten by the Gators, if I remember correctly. My point is that regardless of the seeming apathy our daughter has towards college football and the whole Alabama-Auburn rivalry, once she experiences the game, live, in the stadium, it’ll be a different story, I’m sure. And we will have lost another child to the dark side. Oh, well. One of many decisions they’ll have to make, however misguided they may be.
This weekend is the big kick-off for college football. Everyone has been anxiously awaiting this and is so excited! I bet the clotheslines and dryers across Alabama are full of crimson and white or orange and blue apparel, even down to skivvies that MUST be worn due to the superstitious power they hold over the ability for them to determine whether or not the wearer’s team will win. Crazy people. Oh, wait, I think I’ve become one of them. While we wish Auburn the best in their schedule, out of a small sense of loyalty and support on behalf of our son, we will be rooting for Alabama, especially later on in the season when the Iron Bowl takes place. Alabama had a heartbreaking loss, last year, to Auburn. My Southern Man says it never happens twice in a row. My son disputes that and pulled all the stats out when I was on the phone with him just a little bit ago. I told him to take it up with his Dad. While we can’t know how good Auburn will be, this year, if they are anything like last year, which was the first with a new coach and a huge surprise to many in terms of their success, they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with and I wish them well. Except in the Iron Bowl.
Tonight, our daughter arrived home from studying with a friend to find this little greeter by the front door:
A young possum (or opossum as I grew up calling them) had clambered up onto our front steps. Yes, it looks sort of like an overgrown rat, especially with that naked, prehensile tail, but it’s actually a marsupial–like a kangaroo or a wombat or a wallaby or a koala or a Tasmanian devil. Suddenly, I want to watch some Looney Tunes…and have a snack.
Anyway, the poor little guy (girl?) was obviously not well-practiced in the art of playing dead, because it merely hissed once at our daughter’s friend, as it sat huddled at the edge of the landing. After blinding it with the flash on my camera, I turned off the front porch light and we left it alone. A short while later, it had gone on its way. Unless it fell off the steps because all it could see was spots from my camera flash. Sorry, little guy…girl. Opossum. Cute lil bugger, isn’t it?