It’s complicated. My parents were immigrants who migrated after WW II with barely any belongings. They made their way in America and wished for their children success thru education. I succeeded. We were never poor. We were never hungry. But the struggle of middle class was not lost on me. I regret there were few pictures of the family. I was the one to take interest in 1966 when we returned to NY from WV. A Kodak Instamatic 100 camera! A few snapshots. What did I know? Three years later I was on to BxW film and developing my own. Amateur. There were few images or negatives from that time.
An early picture, I estimate at about 4 yrs old. Obviously it looks like Christmas. We lived in a tiny apartment in Astoria. Look at all the presents! I do not know who took the picture. It is the only picture I can refer to from that time. There might be others in Eric’s possession of my mom’s things. Colleen has been anxious for me to pursue my heritage and ancestors. I don’t resist her but feel it is an overwhelming task to backtrack even within my own generation.
What goes up comes down. Umm.. we decorate for Christmas. Decorated. No one came to visit. The whole thing was just for us. Kids? We acted like big kids. We played Christmas music. We danced around. We had big smiles. We opened and put up (most) of our decorations. Ha ha. We are exuberant. We have bins and bins….
This year the new stuff was “carolers” that Colleen had admired but we had not bought because $$. We found a bargain. Always! You wait long enough… We don’t have that long, but…
And a few more Santas. Santa? Yeah, we started collecting Santas. Yes, we are overrun. And besides, who’s it for?
Us! I am unashamed to admit that I like Christmas and the cheer surrounding it. It makes me smile. Coleen smiles. When she smiles all is right with the world. Good enough for me!
And, don’t forget the gnomes, please.
I have been indeed fortunate to have experienced unusual things with Colleen. Sunset, unique never to come around again in the same form. Great? Another tomorrow? Sure, but not the same.
We have seen the Christmas tree decorated in wildflowers collected throughout the year. Unique?! Different?! Sure! Truly a labor of love.
Charles Dickens great grandson doing a one man show of the Christmas Carol. Sure! Special! … until it was canceled. Hopefully it was not due to covid. We don’t know and don’t know if we will ever see it again.
I have often wondered if my pictures are better than snapshots. Not particularly. They are merely anchors of my memory to recall events and times past. Sure, sunset is unique. Haven’t we all seen a great one? Without being too sentimental, I think they are all special and to be enjoyed especially with the one you love.
I am old enough to remember developing film. I developed my own film in my own makeshift darkroom. No drug store for me. Usually it was long enough that I did not recall what or when the first frame/picture was taken. Ha ha!
Nowadays, I download images from my memory cards from four cameras. I am not daily nor even weekly sometimes. I just get around to the task and download to five redundant external hard drives. Yeah! I bet you don’t. mistakes happen 100% of the time. yes, capitalization?! I missed two days and forgot to download the memory card of those two days. I picked up the error eventually. I cringe at all the inaccuracy. I’m doing the best I can.
Christmas, New Year’s, it was not a long time between downloads…. A lot happened. Gnomes, carolers, groups, weather, oh my! Boring? Excitement? Day to day journalism.
Who’s it for? Me? Legacy? Family? Compulsive? Ha ha. I am justly detail oriented and keep a record. I do not trust that things last but am hoping this legacy will prove helpful to the grandchildren and beyond.
You start with getting one… for the tree top… whatever. They grow on us. Collecting? Collection? Suddenly… we looked… we laughed. Everywhere! As usual a simple idea got out of hand. Exuberant enthusiasm. No brakes!
It’s just Christmas. Nope! We collected more Santas, more carolers, more…. It would appear we are making up for lost time. We might have, could have, maybe shoulda… been together fifty years. Nope, we are just, ha ha, I am indulgent of Colleen’s whims. Oh boy! There are limits. We are not getting a Porsche.
Yes!! Oddly! Happy Valentine’s Day! True love!
I casually offered. They accepted. You learn new things every day. How about the cat tower? Hmmm… I had not thought about that nor had ever tried it. Cooperation? Hardly?!! Mike and Jen thought (innocently) they could hold all four cats for a single take. A single picture? They have seen Colleen’s pics. We did it with seven cats across the table. Easy! About 101 pictures later… They had great ideas and we improvised as we went along. Nut crackers, cat tower, oh my! Done! I’d do it again… no cats were harmed… a few scratches later…
So long ago
…way back in 2018. Merry Christmas to all!
Jules was pregnant and ready to have my first grandchild on my side of the family. Oh boy! A California Christmas. It was no white Christmas but it was unforgettable. Surfing. Fireworks. Christmas lights.
Santa makes the season unmistakable. It’s a lifetime ago. Jules has two kids. Things have changed so much in so many ways. I made an ornament. Colleen’s suggestion and idea brought to fruition. Now we gotta find more wood blocks for the grandkids. It’s been a nice few years since this one.
All the best to you and yours on this holiday.
Plural of mouse
The plural of mouse is mice. And so, the book reads, “T’was the night before Christmas and not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.”
Jules got me. She was about four or five. The illustration is of two mice. Aha! Plural mouses! She asked, “Which is the mouse? Which is the mice?” Of course the mices have names – Mouse and Mice! Every night she stopped me at this spot and asked her questions. I was stumped. One mouse, two mouse, but which are the mice? Which? Is the word “which” singular or plural? We never did clear it up. I remember to this day. And I am still at a loss for explanation. Some books – mercifully!!! – only illustrate one “mice” in the picture. It makes things eminently easier!
Madness! I have always said that computers are very good at keeping lists. Anything! Keep track, a computer keeps lists. Photographs or digital images, a computer can organize and keep the list. GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Of course… you have to keep an organized and logical list… Digital alone numbers hundreds of thousands of images. I have two catalogs – sort of – one before 2016 and another after. Don’t ask. It’s chaos. I just checked. Things before 2016 are in the 2016 and vice versa. Confused!? Yes, it gets very confusing in a hurry. I got a spreadsheet data base and redundantly copied backup files/images. In other words, you are organized, till you’re not.
Did you lose interest? Anxious? Do you keep track of your images? It’s important in the event you lose your pictures. Anxious now?
This was 2019, the pandemic was right around the corner. Xmas. Groups!? I use my tripod and gather groups together. Somehow everyone seems cooperative. Pictures were taken. Do I remember? This was a random spin through the catalog and we were in a lot of homes gathered together with family and friends.
Logic? Logical? Just when you think you have a viable system, a good list… you discover chaos. I have a method to my madness. Anyone following me will have chaos. All the information is stored. Nothing has been lost. I can still make a coherent list. Maybe. Ha ha. Christmas in June, oh my!
Puzzled? Me. The picture in my catalog stopped here. A kid skateboarding. Nice. It’s Christmas time. Shorts. Warm weather. Ummmm… got it! We were visiting California and my favorite daughter. Ahem, technically I have several daughters now…
Walking the dog? I guess we did. I would never have remembered without the proof of a picture.
California? We have visited more than once. I have no other context in which to remember which trip? Clues? Breakfast!? It’s always sunny. There are always flowers in bloom. We have never been during summer, so, the beach is relatively uncrowded. I like California… to visit.
In my past life, things were different in terms of holiday groupings. I have family. I have a different family now. I suppose there will be a family legacy passed on to others with good wishes and love. Groupings change. Nothing is absolutely known about the future in the present. Looking back retrospectively there is bittersweet memory. I miss family who are no longer with us. I am grateful for the time we were together. I am happy for the future in which I am living. Change is part of us. My secretary used to say that I would always say, “Something always happens.” Aptly, nothing stays the same. With lemons, be prepared to make lemonade. Bittersweet is the operative word here.
We did it! We did! We managed to have Christmas in five locations! We are the seniors. They are supposed to come to us? Ha! We were in fours states. I believe we achieved a state of grace. (How about, altered state?) It was work. It was fun. Our parents were bystanders. We are not! Bring it on! We did.
We have an extended family. We managed to catch up with multiple family groupings this holiday. It’s been nutty. Covid and whatnot has conspired to make it hard. In a mere moment plans changed. I was so punchy I did not know where or to whom half the presents were destined. At every stop I was inaccurate. I had packed for groups that broke up and met as different parts in different places. Confused? You bet! We were sleeping in one spot and cooking in another. At least I got a haircut and changed shirts. There were a lot of moving parts. Fun? We all had a good time. We must have had fun for me to still be writing about it a month later. All that I can attest, looking back, it was easier to herd cats!!
Epilogue: Omicron is among us. We did not escape unscathed. Members of the extended family pictured herein caught it and were tested positive. So far, all are fine. Those shots really work. Or, we are just plain lucky. My (neurosurgery) department motto was always, “Better to be lucky, than good.”
PPS: All is well. We were, indeed, lucky!
The quest for the perfect gift is serendipitous at best. You would never guess and can never quite guess what will be a hit. Certainly, capturing the moment of surprise and joy is just as fraught. Sometimes a moment passes too quickly to capture. And, sometimes, you catch the moment perfectly. Certainly, the joy is apparent. It makes me smile as I edit. Have you seen the new plant based food? There is something disingenuous in making fake meat. Either you eat meat or you give it up for … broccoli. You simply can’t have it both ways. ??? So, fake bacon? It was enough to make me an instant vegetarian! The moment? Everyone had their phones out. I reached for my camera/flash. One shot. That was it. One chance. Perfect.
Well, I hesitate to say, “Hell.’ It seems oddly incongruous to use the term in the same sentence with Christmas. Christmas hell? We are on the last leg of extended Christmas. We have been to Speonk, Elkins, Hurricane, and West Chester (not, in that order). Don’t ask. We did not make it to the Rocky Mountains. No mailboxes were illustrated in this post. (It was too humiliating.) Let’s start with dinner. Jane was late to the restaurant. She and Lee had hit a mailbox in the dark. Hit?! She ran over two (count ‘em!!) posts and crushed the mailboxes. Crushed!! And, her car would not start. She killed the (car) battery too. A very neat trick! Look under the tree. See, a couple Xmas stockings? No?! Yeah, missing. We never did find them. (Number?) Two?! Next, Jane’s toilet overflowed, and, kept, overflowing, as in, it just kept filling…up!! Up!! Help!!! The trash basket beside the toilet has holes in the bottom. What the…?!@#?$!! Yeah, yeah, needless to say I had taken my socks off but was still standing in ankle deep water. Don’t laugh… too hard. We lost stuff too. It went missing, or, who knows? We travel with a hot water bottle. Low tech, but, it saves the day in some houses we stay. The item (victim) other is a Sherlock game. Ha ha. Some of the cards went missing from the game. Sherlock!? Jane simply lost (a deck) of the game. Did she ever? (have/play with a full deck?). Oh my!!!… some days you just can’t make this sh*t up. Yes it was the Xmas from …. Note: no mailboxes were permanently maimed in the making of this post. Crushed, yes. Did I mention Lee overflowed the toilet – blocked the drain all the way out to the street…. ? The toilet filled because Colleen’s shower upstairs was filling the bowl. Oh! Yeah??
Lives out of backpack, gathers no moss, do I, admire or regret? If you carry all your belongings in a backpack, you are exactly opposite to Colleen and myself. We are happily overloaded with clutter. What to say? It’s easy to shop presents. Get nothing that won’t fit into an already full backpack. Dave’s already Noa’s favorite uncle. I was gonna say, ‘only uncle’ but, that ain’t true. Prodigal son? Not strictly. But he sure has a lifestyle only a few can imagine. I worry, all the while wishing him the best. From my vantage, we all put aside worry, this day.
I had the dubious fortune of visiting my old ornaments. Separated but not entirely lost in the divorce, they are remembrances. Jules and I reminisced over their (she and David’s) favorites. There was a horn; every year they vied to place this on the tree. They took turns; year by year they remembered who had put the horn on the year before. Colleen and I have a tree. Ours has a mix of old and new (memories). She brought ornaments from WV. We bought ornaments. New memories and new traditions are now part of me. Old and new, it’s something that makes you think hard at this time of the year.
It’s a completely foreign sight to see your grown children reading to theirs.
…We can’t return, we can only look
Behind, from where we came
And go round and round and round, in the circle game… – Joni Mitchell
Mice or mouse? Twas’ the Night Before Christmas – “…not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” The concept of mice or mouse, or, are they their names, plural vs singular, ah, that is the question?? Did it matter? Every night I read to “my” kids, and, Jules would stop me right here, without fail! “Which is the mouse? Which is the mice?” Without fail, we would pause. I gave my explanation. Jules expressed her doubt and confusion. We could never quite communicate our thought. It persists even now. Mice or mouse? It tugs at my heart to see my kids all grown up. A new dress? – universally beloved by little girls.
It is said that we are just “staff” to our cats. Ha! They certainly have free reign. Free range? Do as you (my cats) will. They are, for the most part, careful to step around all things breakable. Only Willow has a tail that has a mind of its own. He knows how to walk about with chaos in his wake. Have I ever considered that we might have one cat too many? Nope.
Gnome for the holidays
Gnomes were all the rage this year. We got some. Carol sent hand knit free trade ornaments. “They” got their own little tree. Yes, spinners have their own special wreaths. Air plants – here’s a new take for Xmas. Santas? Our mantle is full. Carolers? Colleen admired them. They are $$$. I like a bargain. We found these at an estate sale for $. Ok! Then, I/we could not find them. Nope!! I looked high and low, but, not behind the milk! Nope! I was even wondering if I left them in the estate and forgot to take them home. ??? of course!! Colleen found them while she was looking for something else. (not behind the milk!!) … we have a missing yoga mat… not any little mat, it’s a 6×8 foot mat. How does a mat that size go missing??
Making up for lost decades
We met when we were eight years old. We then orbited in proximity for five years. I knew Colleen (back then), though we remained not much more than acquaintances. We lost track of one another for nearly five decades. And now? We’re trying to make up for a lot of time. Does accumulating stuff help? … a lot of stuff? I would not know. We just go with it. One Santa, two Santa… one leads to another and another. You would think we were an old married couple. Well, old yes; together, not nearly as long as we will be from now on. If I had one wish….
It seems the beginning of my catalog has some highlights – shots over the years that were “keepers.” At least that is my opinion. They were pretty much unplanned shots that turned out surprisingly well. You may readily disagree. I like them. A very early effort was the child at a street market in London. The shot in the pool was a blurred image – wrong exposure, nice shot. Moonrise? It ain’t easy without adjusting the exposure. Motion blur (waves), moon detail, not bad. Wedding? I was a guest. It was a “grab” shot. The couple enlarged and kept it as a highlight. Panning – I learned with a San Francisco cable car. Reading about it is one thing; I gotta do it in order for the lesson to stick. Candid family? There are shots, and, there are shots that make you laugh out loud. Exhausted? Or, no turkey, please! Jules did not cook the meal… What else to say? I simply stuck the camera out the window and pressed the shutter once. Surprise!
Years later… pink juicer
This is a tale. Ha! Colleen saw a pink juicer a long, long time ago. We have been to many antique stores since (years!!). We have never seen another. I presume she did not buy it when first seen, because it was too $$. Oh! The waiting! Don’t they sell them? They sure don’t make any! I caved. This past autumn I went on eBay. Voila! Delivered! Done! Ah! She said I was so sweet! We haunted antique stores this Christmas for Santas and other such Christmas bargains. This shop, we almost did not go into. It was the end of the day; we were tired; and, how many antique stores can one wander into? Damn! Sitting pretty! Right there on the shelf! A pink juicer! The price was reasonable. It was almost surely coming home with Colleen at about any price! And who knew there was a pitcher that went under the darn thing?
You win. You lose. We have not lost… any cats. And we are pretty much safe with ornaments (too)… so far. We got some retro ornaments. Nice. It’s nostalgic. Ha! I/we never had ornaments that looked like this when we were kids. Bargains. One Santa was a little as a $1. I made the Santa blocks. Ok, “V” is for Victor. The other letters? Dave? “U, K, B??” Huh?! And where is “C” for Colleen? I’m in deep trouble if she figures out the names of old girlfriends?! For, now I will stick with the glow of that “found” pink juicer!
Santacon 10 years on
Santacon. Carol reminded me. I was there ten years ago in 2011. Do you believe it? The affair is an opportunity for a flash mob to gather at a designated spot. No warning. No permits. Party, and drink alcohol. It’s a photo op. I was able to get there one time only. The subway to South Street was packed with Santas and their “helpers” headed to party hearty downtown. Neat?! There was no unruly action going on while I observed. It was a good time had by all.
Now, we have our own little Santacon going. Colleen got a few… then went back… and scooped up… all the available Santas for sale. Ha! Santacon Delaware style! Ray, the cat, is a bewildered participant. We have a Santa themed tree this year. Colleen is brilliant. Great idea! I do believe… I do believe.