While going through our parents things the other day, we came across a note that I had written to my parents. The note, I don’t recall writing, but the event surrounding the need for the note, will be forever, vividly burned into my memory files. In fact, every time I think about it, and the possible outcome of that event, I cringe. It was no one’s fault really, it was just two intertwined moments that collided in a terrifying way. And I know that my parents reacted, as every parent would have to a potentially deadly situation. They yelled, and I was the target of their yelling. Looking back now, I totally understand why they yelled at me. It was because the whole thing scared them really badly, but had they known the facts that they couldn’t have known at that time, they might have reacted differently. I suppose that was why I wrote the letter. It just seemed very important to me to explain the full details, which they had missed. I felt like they needed to know that I wasn’t such a horribly mean person, who would do such a horrific thing.
I suppose I am getting ahead of myself here, so I’ll fill in the blanks for you. It was Christmas time, and around our family, that was one of the most special times of the year. We all loved Christmas. We loved everything from the shopping to the decorations. Which brings me to the whole problem. We not only loved the decorations, but we all felt like the Christmas lights needed to be turned on as much as possible. On this particular day, it was me who decided to turn on the Christmas lights, although it could have been anyone who found themselves in this unfortunate position. Our lights were plugged into an outlet that allowed us to simply flip a switch by the front door to turn on the Christmas lights on both tree and window. It required no crawling under the tree or behind the furniture to get to the outlet. Just flip the switch by the door. So that was what I did.
It was a totally normal thing to do, but the seconds that followed were anything but normal. Suddenly there was a flash, a sizzling sound, screaming, and a rush of activity. The lights were switched off, but the screaming continued. Unbeknownst to me, my older sister, Cheryl had decided at that very moment to stick her finger into one of the colored light bulbs that had somehow been broken, and as I flipped the switch, her finger proceeded to get a significant zap. I had no way of knowing she was sitting there behind the curtains, in front of the window, touching that light, and she had no way of knowing that I would pick that exact moment to turn on the lights. Nevertheless, that was exactly what happened.
I suppose that if it hadn’t been such a serious situation, my parents would have realized that I would never have purposely tried to electrocute my sister, whom I loved dearly, but in that moment who could think clearly. It happened, I flipped the switch, therefore, I got yelled at. As a parent, I know they were more scared than anything, but as a kid, I felt unjustifiably blamed. I guess I didn’t want to risk getting yelled at again, so I wrote the note to tell them that I really hadn’t done it on purpose. As I said, I don’t remember writing the note, and in looking at the spelling, I can tell you can tell I was pretty young, but I will never forget the moment when I almost electrocuted my sister, and I thank God that she was alright.
This time of year, everything is so exciting for the little ones in our lives…and even for the not so little ones. The littlest ones especially find the lights, gifts, candy, and the excitement of it all to be almost more than they can believe. Their eyes light up as brightly as the Christmas tree, and keeping their little hands away from the tree and gifts can prove to be really difficult. On Thursday nights, I spend the evening with my mom, Collene Spencer and my sister, Cheryl Masterson. With school activities and Christmas shopping to do, my niece Jenny Spethman often drops her daughter, Aleesia off at my mom’s so she can spend a little time with her grandma and great grandma. That means I get to see quite a bit of her too, and she is so much fun to be around at this age. She is such a goofy little girl anyway, and I don’t know if it’s the candy or the season, but she becomes even more goofy.
I have had a chance to hear Aleesia say a lot of things, and believe me they are all just as cute as they can be. She always calls the movie Despicable Me, Spicable Me and the Minis. She calls my mom, her great grandma, GeeGee. She loves to say Paaaaleese with her grandma. These are common mispronunciations among little kids to be sure, but such fun to hear the kids say. And as we all know, kids grow up so fast that before you know it they can say all their words without mispronunciation, and those cute little sayings days are gone.
This last week, while my niece, Jenny was shopping, Aleesia and her brother Zack were at Mom’s house and we were watching kid movies. It’s funny how easily you can get used to those kid shows, when there is a little one around trying to say all the words they aren’t sure how to pronounce. That night though, Aleesia was having a lot of trouble concentrating on the movie. She kept touching the tree and pointing to the tree. Then she got up on the couch and looked out the window and saw the lights on the other houses and said, “Moo Lights!!” I laughed in spite of myself. I knew that she was trying to say “more lights”, but in my head I pictured cow-shaped lights. It was such a funny thought, that I could not keep a straight face.
Of course, what would Christmas be without candy. Christmas especially seems to be filled with baking of cakes, pies, cookies, and candy. By the time the holiday is over, the kids have had so much candy that is takes a couple of weeks to bring them back to earth. My sister, Cheryl had a really difficult time limiting the amount of candy Aleesia had. Aleesia kept coming back for more, saying, “Chocoleet!” She placed a strong emphasis on the “leet” part, and her high little voice just made it sound so cute. Of course, it was chocolate, but any candy would have been just fine.
I know that these days are very short, at least for Aleesia mispronouncing word, so I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to be around to hear her funny little sayings. They will most likely be said only this year, and then next year, she will either not mispronounce words, or the mispronunciations will be entirely different words. Either way, I think I will always smile when I look at Christmas lights, because the thought of cow-shaped lights called Moo Lights will always be in my memory files.
When Bob and I arrived at the nursing home where his mother lives, she immediately asked us if we had our guns. We usually go with the flow when talking to her, because with Alzheimer’s Disease, you just never know what she will say. She gets an idea into her head, and she goes with it. Things like telling us she cooked dinner, or asking what time she has to be to school are common topics, but she hasn’t talked about guns very much, so I wasn’t really sure what direction this conversation was going to take. When I told her we didn’t have our guns, she gave me a sideways glance, and I knew this was a serious conversation. She then told me that when “those guys” get here, we are going to start shooting at them. I told her that it was against the law to shoot at people, and she informed me that it wasn’t if they shot at us first. You just can’t argue with that logic, so we tried to change the subject. She was having none of it.
She told us that we needed to close all the windows and turn off all the lights before “those guys” got here…and that when the shooting started…it was going to be really bad. It was very clear to me that she was anticipating a real shoot out. It isn’t very often that she is impossible to move off of a conversation and on to something else, so we knew that we were going to have to play this one out. I told her that no one told us that we were supposed to bring our gun, and once again, I received a sideways glance that told me that she really did not approve of our severe lack of preparation for this upcoming battle. I’m not sure how I was supposed to know that we needed to bring our gun, but I can say that since she had informed us that “the boys” called and told her about “those guys” who were coming to have this shoot out, It seems to me that she had a definite advantage over us. If “the boys” took the time to call her, maybe they should have called us too, since it was to be our job to protect Mom from “those guys” after all. Shouldn’t we have been told this responsibility was coming before “those guys” were on their way…with guns!!
When we took Mom into the dining room for dinner…again trying to get her mind off of the upcoming battle, she still would not be moved. She made Bob close the blinds in the room, in case “those guys” showed up before she was done eating. When Bob told her that he was pretty sure they wouldn’t be there before we could get done, she didn’t look very convinced. Bob had to tell her that as soon as she was done eating, we would go out of the dining room and sit in a room with no windows, so she would be safe. She ate her dinner quickly and without any arguments, and when she was done, we went into the TV room. We were sure that it was a protected room without any problems, but she immediately noticed that the blinds across that room were open too, so we had to close those as well. We assured her that she was safe now. Then she said that pretty soon, they would be getting ready to call out the numbers. Suddenly, it became crystal clear that the shoot out was over, and…we were on to Bingo.
As we head into the Christmas season, my mind wanders back in time, to when I was a child, and Christmas was drawing closer. Mom and Dad loved Christmas, so the tree went up as early as possible. Decorating our Christmas tree was always a big deal. Of course, back then, we had a real tree, in fact I don’t think there were any artificial trees back then. The evening started with Dad cutting the tree to the right height, so it wouldn’t bend at the ceiling, but somehow, with the star on top it would almost touch the ceiling. The house was filled with the wonderful scent of pine, and we were filled with anticipation.
Once the tree was up, Mom and Dad would string the lights and garland, while the room was filled with the voices of all of us as we sang Christmas Carols and ate the wonderful snacks Mom had prepared for the occasion. Finally it was time to start decorating the tree. Each of us girls had our own ideas on true tree beauty, and while we didn’t always agree on what that was, we all managed to work through our differences to create a tree that we were all happy with. And we always thought that the current year’s tree was the best ever…and maybe it was, because as we got older, I’m sure ornaments were more evenly spaced, and our choices of placement put more of the elegant ornaments in front.
Those days of family tradition and all of us being together have changed a lot over the years. As more of us married or had to work, the traditional Christmas decorating event changed until eventually it was completely unlike the ones I remember as a child, but the love and the spirit was always there. While each family has their own traditions now, and it is Jessi and some of the other grandkids who come to decorate the tree for Mom and Cheryl, to me it will always be Mom and Dad who really made Christmas what it was when I was a kid. Their love of the Lord and their love of His birthday surrounded our home at that time of the year. They showed us what the Christmas spirit was all about, at Christmas and all year round.
This time of year seems to be filled with family traditions. Family dinners, shopping, and decorating all play a part. For our family, the day after Thanksgiving, being Black Friday is shopping day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is decorate the Christmas tree day. Since my girls are grown and married, it is the grandkids and me doing the decorating each year. We always have such a good time. The kids are getting older now, all teenagers, so there is a fair bit of goofing off and yet, they are much more help now too. The boys can handle the lights and garland, where before they always had to wait until I got the lights and garland on before they helped with just the ornaments.
This is a tradition I really enjoy, because it gives me time to be with my grandchildren doing something that is lots of fun and that we all enjoy. I think the kids look forward to it too. If one of them has to work, they are really disappointed, so we try to make sure that doesn’t happen. That can mean doing the decorating at different times each year, but that is ok, as long as there is a way to do it together.
We usually try to add Christmas carols to the mix, to put everyuone into the Christmas spirit. I don’t so much like it when the stores start playing Christmas music before Halloween, but once Thanksgiving is over, it’s just the right time. By then I’m ready…or as much as I ever will be…to start thinking about all that shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, and…fun!!! Here comes Christmas everyone!! Are you ready!!
My parents always liked to travel, and sometimes they didn’t have vacation time coming, but wanted to feel like they took us someplace. So along came going for a drive. I know lots of people who, like my parents, love to go for a drive around town, just for the pleasure of the road trip…even if the road trip is only 10 miles or so. It always took longer, of course, because we would stop and look around at all the sights. My favorite ride was up to the mountain, to look out point, or up to the hill where the Events Center now sits (though it was not there when I was little). We would always end up one of those places at night, so we could see the city lights.
Dad and Mom always liked the view of the city lights, but I think they also realized that with 5 girls, twinkling city lights would always be viewed with a sense of awe. It was the highlight of the whole drive. Sometimes we had to look quickly as we headed on into town, but other times we got to stop and just enjoy the beauty of the lights. We girls always called the lights The Jewelry Box, because the lights seemed to form sparkling necklaces and other pieces of jewelry. Sure, you had to use your imagination, but we were quite good at that.
Those drives and beautiful view of the city lights are things that we will always have in our memories. Mom and Dad just wanted to give us a chance to go for a drive, when there was not much else to do that didn’t cost a bunch of money for 7 people, but what they really gave us was a lifetime of memories. To this day, all of us love to go for a drive, and I don’t think any of us can come into town at night without remembering The Jewelry Box when we see the city lights.
We will always consider ourselves blessed because of all the places our parents took us on vacations. We have seen so many states, and experienced their beauty. We have camped out and stayed in hotels. We have learned about the Oregon Trail, and just about every other historical marker we ever came across. We have seen both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. We have been to Canada and Mexico. Yes, we have been very blessed because of our parents love of travel, but one place that has always brought special memories was right in our own back yard…The Jewelry Box.