Category Archives: Christmas spirit

Only Child’s Christmases past and Christmas present

tree05It is nearing midnight Christmas Eve. Mom and I are struggling to stay upright as we walk along the icy sidewalks in the dark. We hang onto each other. Maybe we should have worn our skates – the ice is thick enough, but it is bumpy. We have to make it to Holy Cross Church on time for midnight Mass.

It is something different for both of us as morning Christmas Day Mass used to be the norm for Mom Dad and  me. We would eat a small snack before, check out our stockings hanging from the mantle and then head for church. Afterwards, back home it would be a big breakfast, then the magic of digging out the presents from under the tree. Presents that Mom and I had wrapped – her at the table in the kitchen and me at the table in the dining room. When either of us needed more wrapping paper or scrotch tape, we gave the other warning so there was time to cover the presents not yet wrapped.

After the ceremony of the presents, Mom would finish preparing Christmas dinner – turkey, sometimes goose or a duck, if she was feeling adventurous. Sometimes instead of eating dinner at home, we took a bus and streetcar to my aunt and uncle’s place in mid-Toronto to celebrate Christmas with them, my grandma who lived on the third floor of this old house, and my three cousins.

But that’s when Dad was still alive. He died the month before Christmas. The year was 1965. I was 16.

Fast Forward to 2016 and Christmas is so different. Not just because both my parents are long dead, but I am now past the age where each parent died. I no longer go to church as I  no longer find it relevant or helpful in my life. Life for not only me, but most everyone is changed so much. And it’s not just because we are older; it’s what’s happened, what is happening to us and to the world. We have too many problems, too much sickness, too much poverty and don’t forget the weather. Used to be snow was snow and it was normal. Now, we get ice storms, freezing rain, even regular rain, flooded basements and communities flooded out  their homes, often forever. This is good?

Within all this bleakness I still celebrate Christmas ,but it is a secular Christmas. I don’t mean shopping till I drop, although the past week it’s been difficult to get out even for a loaf of bread, with all the snow, ice, rain, bitter cold and today the winds which are supposed to howl down on and at us. Not to mention an unexpected and unwelcome dental problem and more house problems, some related to the weather. Somehow I can’t help feeling that the Christmas baby in the manger has failed us all so miserably.

My Christmas is spending time with family and close friends – friends and I eat out and sometimes stop at their house afterwards to continue the warm visit. In my old age, I have fewer close friends. One died from cancer earlier this year, but beyond that I am just picky. I think the bottom line has to do with friends who are reliable, friends who are there for you and you for them. In family, it is my son and his girlfriend. My son has helped me so much   – now with this dental problem (the actual dental extraction is after New Year’s Day) . They will share the Christmas presents under the tree, and a Christmas dinner (chicken, not turkey as I’m now allergic to turkey – that is if I can find a chicken for a reasonable price, a chicken that isn’t so small and scrawny there is barely enough for one meal for the three of us. There seems to be a paucity of roast chickens and turkeys on sale, or not on sale, this Christmas).

There will be no church involvement here, not even on TV. Instead I have been almost binging on watching TV Christmas movies (old and new – White Christmas  with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney comes up this Thursday evening) and Christmas segments of the regular series I watch. Here I can get involved in other people’s problems instead of mine and know solutions will be found in the hour or two hours of the show. I know that some of these resolutions are too pat and don’t always happen in real life, but I need to get away from real life. To tell the truth, real life can well, really suck.

But I am not stopping celebrating Christmas – with the Christmas songs, trees, decorations, presents, food, music, good friends and family. And yes, even Santa. To me, he represents Christmas for children, maybe like a mascot. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget shovelling all that white shit (snow is a four-letter word) and keeping track of the weather that is coming so I know if I might be mopping up a basement or sprinkling salt on ice outside.

May all of you have a Merry Xmas, however you celebrate it.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

What I like about Christmas:

My son Martin, his girlfriend Juni and I ready to celebrate Christmas Day together

My son Martin, his girlfriend Juni and I ready to celebrate Christmas Day together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I hate about Christmas and winter

I do like the old buildings - it's the white stuff on the ground I don't like.

I do like the old buildings – it’s the white stuff on the ground I don’t like.

 

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Filed under 1960s, Christmas, Christmas spirit, Mom and Dad, Only child, Winter Weather

Only Child welcomes green Christmas

tree01Southern Ontario is going to have a green Christmas and I’m looking forward to it. Sure, a bit of snow falling and staying on the ground would be nice for between Christmas and New Year’s Day – as long as it disappeared for good January 2.

We’ve been experiencing milder than normal weather this month with the exception of a few days here and there. But it does make it easier to get around for that last-minute Christmas shopping or visiting family and friends.

Back the in the day when I was a kid (1950s and 1960s – the grey ages) we always got snow for Christmas – sometimes it froze over and it was quite slippery getting around. One Christmas Eve, when I was in my teens, Mom and I decided to go to the midnight Mass instead of doing the church thing on Christmas day. That was when I still believed in religion and all that stuff. I know it was when I was a teenager because it was just after Dad died, and I had just turned 17 earlier in December.

It was a cold dark night – no precipitation (you can tell I follow The Weather Network) but the snow had iced over. Mom and I hung onto each other as we walked to and from church.

Fast forward to Christmas 2015 – it is forecast to be sunny and a bit above normal. Christmas Eve will be much warmer and sunny with chance of isolated showers. Hopefully those showers will stay away so everyone can enjoy Christmas Eve. It’s going to rain on Boxing Day.

I used to chase around to sales on Boxing Day, especially when I lived in Aurora. One Boxing Day I did the sale thing with my son, Martin and his friend, also named Martin. The boys were in their teens and played in a band, so were knowledgeable about electronic products. I needed a new stereo set and they were along to help pick one out. And help me carry it home.

This year I would like to stay in Boxing Day and read and eat Christmas leftovers. Martin and Juni are coming for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day and bringing a ham. So we will spend Christmas together, exchanging presents and catching up.

Remember the true spirit of Christmas is not what’s in the bottle or boxes. To me it is spending time with family and friends and savouring the season, including the Christmas scenery I have created in my house.

How do you plan to spend Christmas Day? And Boxing Day?

Happy holidays to all for whatever you are celebrating.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Christmas holidays, Christmas spirit, Family, Family and Friends, Mom and Dad, Only child, Snow, Weather

Only Child’s meaning of Christmas

The Christmas tree decorated brings Christmas joy to Only Child

The Christmas tree decorated brings Christmas joy to Only Child

Christmas means different things to different people. To show what Christmas means to me, I’m going to take you back to last December 2013. Close your eyes and remember.

Early morning December 22, 2013, the lights, the furnace, the fridge, the freezer, the heat suddenly went off. Ice pelted down on southern Ontario and Toronto was badly hit including many fallen trees on power lines. Toronto lost about one-third of its tree canopy. It was like the wrath of God was unleashed full force and we were being punished.

The boarder and her cat (still living with me then) and I were stuck. We had water, including hot water because that is a separate utility here and the hot water heat is gas-run. So is the furnace but years ago turning on the gas furnace switched to an electric-turn on.

Mid-day Sunday, my son Martin phoned. He still had power; so did downtown Toronto. He wanted to put us up at a downtown hotel. We resisted at first – partly because of the boarder waffling and partly because I was worried about leaving the house. He gave me advice about removing the ice from the veranda and driveway (put down salt and a couple of hours later go out with a shovel and hack away/shovel it). I did that.

Next day, the Monday, the phone woke me up (a land line, my life line then). Martin again insisting we had to go into a hotel downtown because the temperature was plummeting later in the day. The room included the boarder and her cat. So, after talking to some of my friends on the block and elsewhere, I got the house situation straightened out (except for no power and no heat, so I left a tap in the laundry room on dripping).

We took a taxi to the hotel and Martin met us there. He got us checked in and helped me set up my laptop with the hotel’s Internet while the boarder fed her cat. Then Martin took us out for dinner at Fran’s Restaurant and left me with a Starbucks gift certificate for hot chocolate for the boarder and me. Much later after Martin returned home, he phoned me at the hotel. Tanya, my friend next door had just texted him that the power had just gone back on. I called Tanya.

We stayed in the hotel for the two days booked. Christmas around noon, Martin in a leased car arrived, paid for our stay,  and drove us back home. That wasn’t all – he brought Christmas dinner – ham, potatoes, cream cheese, rosemary and cooked it. I supplied green beans and the dishes.

Looking back, I realize this is the true meaning of Christmas. Friends and family helping each other and celebrating Christmas together. To me, that includes taking time through the year to get small but useful presents for those close to me. I do it bit by bit when on holidays and afterwards. The only mall part was going to the Hudson Bay Company – but in a smaller mall and I focused on the department and the person I was buying for. To me Christmas is not about playing shopaholics at the mallChristmas is not about sitting in a church for Christmas services. You might say my take on Christmas is secular/spiritual, but definitely not religious. My Christmas spirit is (no, not in a bottle, although I like the occasional glass of wine) connected to family and friends, and helping others when and where I can. My Christmas spirit is listening to Christmas songs – secular and religious – it’s the music I like, watching Christmas movies – old and new – on TV, looking at decorated Christmas trees and decorating my two foot high artificial tree,  and walking around outside looking at the Christmas lights. May not be able to do that this year either as according to weather forecasts we are supposed to get very high winds with rain. Not happy about that and I’ve told God what I think about that and what is the right thing to do.

That’s my Christmas story and I’m sticking to it.

Happy holiday to all. And may it be safe, especially from bad and extreme weather.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas spirit, Extreme Weather, Hydro power outage, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto

Only Child prepares for Christmas

Only Child's vision of the Christmas tree

Only Child’s vision of the Christmas tree

Ho Ho Ho or is it a little of Bah Humbug as I go round and round on the Christmas merry-go-round. Gee, it was so much simpler when I was a kid (back in the grey ages, of course). Probably because Mom and Dad had all the responsibility and I just had to enjoy it all while providing a little help. I posted the below excerpt from my memoir last year about the Christmas tree, but I think it is worth posting again – because it brings back the awe of Christmas, which we often forget in the mad Christmas rush.

When Dad drags the Christmas tree into the house, I inhale the pine fragrance. It fills me with anticipation made longer and harder to hold inside as Dad attempts to fit the tree trunk into the stand.

I can’t watch the agony, so after Mom and I haul up the boxes of lights and ornaments from the basement, I sit in the kitchen and listen to the wall clock tick away time. I hear “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,” but it is only the green radio. I poke my head inside the living room.

“Is it ready yet?”

“Patience,” Mom says, handing Dad a screwdriver.

“It’s coming along.” He twists the red tree stand. “Okay, Julia, let’s push it up.”

And my parents heave the tree up to its majestic six feet, spreading dark green bristles in the corner by the archway and just brushing the mantle. Finally. I crouch down and dig into the box of ornaments.

“Wait a minute,” Mom says. “The lights come first.”

And she and Dad twine the lights throughout the tree and I hold my breath one-two-three until I think I’ll pop, as Dad plugs in the lights and . . .

Nothing. One light has burned out and the only way to find the culprit is to remove each light, one at a time, and try a light that you hope might work. It is worse than waiting for Santa Claus. But when the miracle occurs, when the lights shine red, blue, white, yellow and green, throughout the tree, Christmas leaps days closer. Mom and I tackle the ornaments. I’m like a dog given the “yes,” for a walk, prancing around, reaching my paws down and up, and placing big coloured balls, small bells, and white plastic icicles on the sharp branches. Mom and I wrap tinsel – thin wavy light and big gold, which almost hides the lights, but they sparkle through. Then, I suck in my breath and look way up while Mom stands on the stepladder and places the angel in the top spot. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

Today, I have a tiny (under two feet) fake tree that sits on an end table. It has LED red lights which I leave in their sockets year round when I pack it away plus a few miniature decorations. Putting up these and other Christmas decorations isn’t the big stressor.  Running all the errands, trying to get client work done, doing PR for my debut mystery short story collection  Beyond the Tripping Point, and rewriting my prequel mystery novel, sometimes make me feel like I’m on a runaway train. Of course there are all those Christmas parties and other socials (which I like) and wrapping Christmas presents and signing, addressing, etc  the few Christmas cards I still do (both of which I don’t like doing  – when my son was growing up he wrapped all the Christmas presents except for his. Not child labour. Martin just wrapped presents much better than my messy job of it). I prefer to buy the presents to fit the receiver and then opening my own presents.

Then there are all those unplanned added “happenings” to mess up your days – such as computer problems, transit delays, sometimes weather, and annoying sales people on the phone or at the door. A few minutes ago I just rudely sent one on her unmerry way – she deserved it after trying to get into my house to check my water heater…and she isn’t even from the utility company I rent my water heater from.

So, I gave the clients notice last week that I’m taking a three-week break from client work to do some rewriting of my novel, spend time with family and friends, and yes, to do some book PR. It’s either that or find my own rabbit hole or bum a lift on Santa’s sleigh back to the North Pole. Probably not the latter – I hate winter weather.

How do you deal with the Christmas rush?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Christmas holidays, Christmas spirit, Christmas stress, Christmas tree, Clients, Memoir content, Mom and Dad, Only child, Santa Claus, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child says foul to no toys

tree05The spirit of Christmas has disappeared from some of Canada’s department stores – at least for children. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I walked into the main Sears store in downtown Toronto on Sunday to find their children’s toy section had disappeared. Oh, a few selections of toys were scattered on shelves in the children’s clothing section but Children’s Toys were still listed in their directory posted on each floor by the escalators. Down the street at The Bay, children’s toys are no longer in their posted directory.

Santa’s rolly-polly stomach must be churning at this turn of events. The Grinch must be cheering – if grinches can cheer. Sure, toys are online (and in Sears case in their catalogue) but some of us like to get up close to choose toys for our children, grandchildren and in my case, a friend’s eight-year-old son. And what about the kids themselves? No more checking it out in person. Have we turned so technologically crazy that the personal touch has been booted out into cyberspace? Sure, we have stores such as Toys ‘r’ Us specializing in toys and more power to them. They haven’t forgotten the joys of experiencing toys up close.

When I was a child (back in the grey ages) it gave me great pleasure to look at toys in stores – whether big department stores (then it was Simpson’s and Eaton’s in Toronto) or what we then called “dime stores” such as Woolworth’s and Chainway. Afterwards, I would go to my parents and “Santa” and make my Christmas toy wish known. I usually received one toy that I wanted.

As I’m a former journalist I had to dig further about this toy disappearance. I asked a couple of sales clerks in the Children’s Section in Sears and received two different answers.

The first clerk lied. She pretended that there was a toy section but it was out in the corridor. She belongs out in the corridor at the very least. Clerk No. 2 was honest – she said Sears dropped in-store toys two months ago because children would knock them off the shelves, some were broken, but also in-store sales weren’t doing well, but toys are available at Sears online. I also talked to a lady in management and she said she didn’t know but to check online at www.sears.ca. I did and went to Sears Canada corporate section (see “Sears Canada Reports Third Quarter Results” http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=117881&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1757870&highlight=) and also read a Globe and Mail newspaper story, “How Sears plans to get its mojo back” by Marina Strauss, May 25, 2012, which is about the new Sears Canada President and CEO, Calvin McDonald. Read this story at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/how-sears-plans-to-get-its-mojo-back/article4209711/ and decide for yourselves what you think. Among other things, Mr. McDonald planned to have Sears eliminate toys in-store (but not online) and other items not selling well from in-store to try and bring the profits back to Sears. I blame dismal sales partly on not enough advertising – in the past few months Sears flyers have been almost non-existent. News flash! If you don’t tell them, they won’t come.

While I may have to live with the new reality of no toys at these department stores, one thing stands out. If you are going to dump toys from the in-store roster, why do it two months before Christmas?

I won’t be ordering a toy online for my little friend next door. I’m headed for a bricks and mortar store that carries toys. I want to see and feel the toy first before I buy it.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas spirit, Grinch, Only child, Santa Claus, Sharon A. Crawford, Shopping

Only Child on the real Christmas spirit

Christmas carolers showing the Christmas spirit in song

Less than a week until Christmas and the Grinch is making himself known. He’s there in the mall parking lot as shoppers circle around and wait, wait for a parking space. He stands in line at the cash register, making sure something goes haywire (price check anyone?). Can you hear him laughing as some people still argue about what is the politically correct term for Christmas and worse, some offices, etc. are banning Christmas decorations?  Check out http://woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Xmas/oldmeaning.htm for some of the craziness in the name of political correctness surrounding previous Christmas years – including a sarcastic politically correct ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Christmas time was so much simpler when I was growing up in the 50s and early 60s. I write a bit about this in my memoir.

My parents give me a few dollars to buy Christmas gifts. I buy Dad socks or some other dad present and Mom, well, I put a lot of thought into her presents. After I check out the local jewellery store, I drag Dad in to look – not at jewellery – but at a ceramic wall decoration in white with red apples and purple plums painted on the front.

But the real joy of Christmas is wrapping the presents. A closed wooden door separates us – Mom at the kitchen table and me at the dining room table. Amid the “pass the scotch tape; now keep your eyes shut,” and the hurried covering of unwrapped presents, we could be wrapping side-by-side. I didn’t realize it then, but it was giving to someone I loved that filled me with contentment. It didn’t matter that the fireplace was electric; or whether Santa existed, when Mom and I wrapped Christmas gifts, we were like one. Dad never helped wrap presents, at least not when I was awake. He probably ate the raisin bread and drank the milk that Mom and I left for Santa.

 (Copyright 2011, Sharon Crawford. Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons)

Does it really matter whether we call it Christmas or just a holiday? Does it matter if we equate the Christmas spirit (which many seem to find only in a bottle) with Santa Claus or Jesus Christ or (substitute your own version here)? And please don’t all the Christians ride herd on me for saying that. I may not be big on religion but I do believe in Jesus Christ. My point is that many of us don’t have any Christmas spirit. We stress ourselves out trying to make the perfect Christmas with the perfect gifts, the perfect dinner and the perfect family gathering. Doesn’t usually happen. In short, we become our own Christmas Grinch.

First we need to think of  what  the Christmas spirit means to us and then put it into action. It is not charging around shopping malls at the last minute, but maybe it is helping out a family who has fallen on hard times. Or maybe it is visiting a senior member of your family (or any senior) whom you’ve neglected visiting because you were just too darn busy. Maybe it is opening your home to a friend who would otherwise spend Christmas alone (and maybe you would otherwise, too). To me the Christmas spirit is sharing who and what you are with others, trying to make a positive joyful difference. One of my writing colleagues blogs about random acts of kindness. Check it out at http://50gooddeeds.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/write-by-your-side/   – particularly this post – to get some ideas. I’m trying to adopt some of this. Every time I go out the door, I try to be open to any situation where I can help someone – even if it is only holding a door open or giving someone older than I a seat on the bus…and thanking the bus driver or streetcar driver when I exit.

And for those of us getting stressed out over Christmas, here are some tips to get through and over the stress and maybe enjoy Christmas. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Christmas_tips_to_reduce_the_stress

Ho! Ho! Ho! Joyful and happy Christmas to all.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas holidays, Christmas spirit, Consumerism, Grinch, Only child, Only child memoir, Santa Claus, Sharon Crawford, Stress