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Tag Archive: Christmas Vacation

Dec 02

Hoping for decorations to reappear on I-70 cedar trees

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”–Linus Van Pelt from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, 1965

It is the week after Thanksgiving and that is when I begin to watch for the magically decorated cedar trees to appear along I-70 in eastern Jackson County.

You know the trees.

Those little cedars that sit alone on highway embankments and beg for attention. They remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree from the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent years, whoever faithfully decorated those trees in the 80s and 90s stopped.

I wrote about this before as have others, all wondering why. Was it a sad widower who decorated those trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who randomly decorated the trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

For whatever reason, I wish they would do it again.

Perhaps there are highway department reasons barring decorating trees along the interstate highways or simply the fact that it is not an easy task to do.

One must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, circle the garland around the tree, all in the dark of night without being seen by car headlights.

Otherwise if not at night, where would be the magic?

On the same subject, I recently noticed a similar AP story by Wayne Parry who wrote about a roadside Secret Santa in New Jersey:

“An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway”. A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

The highway department there says they are not responsible. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility. As the story goes, for the fourth year in a row, ornaments appear gradually and eventually grow to about a dozen by Christmas.

The mystery is enthralling to watch.

But I digress; back to our own Charlie Brown cedars along I-70 in western Missouri and a story that bears repeating.

Thousands of motorists along Interstate 70 watched each December for the first sighting of the decorated cedars; thousands wondered who was responsible.

The sweet and simple decorations brought joy to hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, they made us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might be climbing those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

I must leave that to the more athletic among us.

Some of those trees, however, are close to the outer road and technically doable.

I wonder.

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me.”—Emily Dickinson

Jan 14

Housebound with bad coffee

“I had some surgery on my feet, which has helped my back some.” –Merle Haggard

Before the end of calendar year 2009, I joined numerous others who met their annual deductibles and hurried into the hospital for long-overdue surgery.

In my case, it was my foot.

And yes, my back quit hurting, too, just like Merle Haggard’s.

The idea was to use the month of January to recuperate. Stay off the foot for at least four weeks with no weight-bearing whatsoever allowed.

Thus, for the first two weeks I am proud to say I became quite self-sufficient flying around the first-floor kitchen and living room in my wheelchair.

I worked on the computer, which we moved to the dining room table because it was the correct height and more accessible. I accomplished simple household chores with relative ease in all manner of creative ways. Life was good.

Until one day, that is, when I discovered some unpleasant revelations from my low vantage point.

For example, you have no idea how many dust balls one can see from the confines of a wheelchair. It sits low to the ground so every bit of dust along the baseboards jumps out at you as though in 3-D.

“I am becoming our Grandson Halen,” I moaned. You see, when the kiddo was two, he crawled around the floor picking up tiny pieces of lint and handing them to us. Now I’m doing that.

And then there are the deceased Chinese beetles and flies one can see “up close and personal” on the floor.

“Todd, where did all these dead flies along the baseboard come from?” I asked my husband.

“I don’t’ know Margo,” he said. “They are probably just living in the attic to stay warm and find their way downstairs,” he answered, completely non-plussed.

“Arghh,” I said, abandoning the Christmas Vacation vernacular and slipping into Charlie Brown lingo.

I am sorry to admit, dear readers, that what you just read is the most interesting part of my first two weeks of recuperation, except for my morning coffee ritual.

Perhaps, I should tell you about that after all since it is too late to put it in a Christmas letter.

Here’s the problem. We live in a two-story house; therefore, I limit my trips up and down to twice a day. This journey requires that I sit on the steps facing down and slide up, one by one, in order to get upstairs at night for bed. In the morning, the method is reversed.

The problem with being stuck on the second floor first thing in the morning is that I am dependent on someone to bring me coffee and fast. I adore my morning coffee, which must be made a certain way and with the particular kind of coffee I like.

OK, so I am a high-maintenance coffee drinker; I admit it.

Still, the hubby cheerfully brings me an early morning breakfast tray with a steaming cup of coffee, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Unfortunately, I can see the bottom of the cup. Not good for an aficionado of strong coffee like me.

He likes to count the scoops when making coffee so that it’s done exactly according to package directions. I, on the other hand, pour the coffee almost to the top of the filter basket and pronounce that close enough. This is not the same thing.

Dutifully, I drank his mild brew for a few days without making much of a fuss.

That is, until yesterday when he came upstairs with the first cup of the day.

“Yuk, what is this?” I asked after tasting it. “Dead Decaf?”

Turned out it was indeed a package of stale decaf coffee he found in the freezer. “I bought this at Café DuMonde in New Orleans ten years ago,” I complained.

There are two more weeks to go before I can walk downstairs in the morning and make my own coffee.

Other than that, being housebound is going swimmingly. I’m not complaining, you understand. I am just saying.

Dec 10

Skipping Christmas doesn’t work in real life.

Only a fortnight left until the holidays!

Plenty of time remains, though, for superwomen (and some supermen) to create miracles, a splendoras décor, joy for all, and a feast worthy of Paula Deen, famed Southern cook extraordinaire.

I figure, when I am 80, I can say or do anything and get away with it; such as, announcing that I will be in Hawaii from Dec. 1 until Jan. 2.

I will not decorate one whit. Nor will I cook.

I’m tired.

I grumble that I need a break from Christmas.

This year, in our household, I sometimes want to live the movie “Christmas with the Kranks,” or so, I am quick to say.  The movie, you may remember, is based on John Grisham’s novel, “Skipping Christmas.”

The Grisham classic is explained by its publisher, Doubleday, this way:

“Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether…because on December 25, they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise.”

Here’s the rub—no matter how much I might protest that I want to find my own Christmas Island (so dubbed by Jimmy Buffett) with sand and palm trees and lots of sunshine, I could never skip Christmas.

Friends and family know that I am the biggest marshmallow of them all when it comes to the holiday season, despite my complaint that it is just too difficult to “keep all the balls in the air” anymore.

My family will not let me forget the year I xeroxed a newspaper story about tiny cedar trees along I-70 that are decorated yearly by some anonymous local elf.

I loved the story so much that I included it in my Christmas cards.

Year after year, as we drive along the highway, we can’t wait to see if and when the little trees will be decorated.  When we first spot them, adorned with tinsel and ribbons, we are elated. They bring us joy in the simplest way as we drive past.

A friend in California, who received the newspaper clipping from me, wrote back and said, “You can’t fool me. You are the one who decorates the trees. I know you.”

I swear I am not, but I would love to be.

And speaking of Christmas cards and letters, if I do not get my newsy Christmas letter out by New Year’s Day, I start hearing from out-of-state folks who wonder why.

One year it didn’t get sent until Valentine’s Day, and another year it became a 4th of July newsletter. I think those were big hits just because they were unexpected. The point is, I always send my Christmas letter, no matter how late, and everyone knows it.  I am a sucker for it, and for yours, too.

Yes, I admit it– I love your Christmas letters, whether the practice is considered chic or not.

Another holiday tradition I am passionate about is watching Christmas movies.

I could never skip those, no matter how sentimental or sarpy the movie.  Even if I went to an island for the holidays, I would have to take my DVDs.

What is better than making some hot chocolate and watching our favorites: Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and  the Bing Crosby/ Rosemary Clooney standard, White Christmas.

Despite how much I might say I want a holiday from the holiday, I know that skipping Christmas would likely only happen in the movies, not real life.

Perhaps, the question I really want to ask is “why can’t real life be more like the movies.”

Henry David Thoreau figured that out a long time ago when he penned this advice: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines.”

Even Luther Krank finally arrived at the right conclusion: “Skipping Christmas. What a ridiculous idea.”