Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Continues

When I was little Christmas lasted precisely one day.  December 25th.  That was it.  All that junk leading up to it, like the decorations in the stores, the tree in our house, Grandpa's elaborate model train platform were just so many torturous incidentals designed to make us kids suffer with hyper-anticipation as we waited for that all important morning when we'd run down the stairs to attack the bounty that Santa had provided.  Once midnight struck to usher in December 26th the big people might as well have packed away every last ornament and festive doo-dad back into its box and carted the whole mess back into the attic where it lived throughout the rest of the year.  Because Christmas, as it was to my small brain back then, was OVER!  Finis!  Kaput!  DONE!  Once the presents were out in the open, that was IT – all there was to it.

I’m not entirely sure when my childish somewhat Scrooge-like view of Christmas got turned upside down but it was sometime between when my daughters were born and now though I couldn’t put a year on it.  It was a gradual realization in spite of the, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” stuff that I’d known at least on a cerebral level since I was able to talk and repeat the Bible stories I’d been told over and over.  It was as if my Grinchy heart grew a little year after year somehow until it was so very easy to look beyond what was wrapped up in gaily decorated packages with my name on them to the joy of the season manifested in all different sorts of ways as it was radiated from the faces of those whom I love.

Now, thank God, when gifts are being exchanged and opened I’m so often beaming and enjoying taking pictures as I’m watching everybody opening their spoils that I have to be encouraged with a, “Dad!  Open something!” before pulling on the end of a bow of a present on my pile.  And, I suppose I thank God too that in some ways it took me so long to grow up (well, in most respects) on the inside even though there was some sacrifice to be made in experiencing the “magic” of Christmas along the way of becoming a grown-up.

Anyway, here I am on the 27th of December and it’s STILL Christmas!  It will be for as long as I want it to be – until I finally resign myself to admitting that it’s high time for the Christmas tree to come down.  It might have been in early March once, at my worst, but there isn’t a night while it’s up when I don’t spend a little time just staring at those lights and baubles with the same childlike wonder with which I studied them when I was four years old and nearly burst from the anticipation of the big day’s arrival.  And there isn't a year when I don't spill a tear or two on the final night of the tree being up when I light the lights for the last time and pray fervently as my Daddy did every year at our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, "Please, Lord, may we all be here again next year," knowing all too well that while all prayers are answered, the answer isn't always the one we want.

Okay, time for the scooter stuff...  I was out today riding around just for the fun of it because the air’s still relatively warm and I’m taking advantage of the chance to ride at every opportunity.  I headed to the county park where I sort of officially herald the arrival of spring each year when the gates which close off access to it are opened after being locked annually at the start of winter's fury.  Imagine my great delight when I discovered that the gates are still open!  They’re usually closed up tight in late October or sometime at the very latest in November most years, but there they were today just as open as the pearly gates are to the righteous!

And although I wore a jacket over my tee shirt and flannel while I was riding, it was perfectly comfortable to be without it as I posed beside the scooter near the tables from which I write to the blog outdoors at times when it’s suitable to do so.

On the way back to the house I passed by a Christmas (???) display for which I had to do a quick U-turn to get some pictures of it.  It’s exactly the sort of thing I would do if I had the resources for no other reason than to score the kind of reaction that I had to it in passers by.

A clearer view without me in the shot, followed by a detail portion.

And there it is, folks!  Christmas goes on whether in a traditional way or in the avant-garde.

Because of a death in a family amid my circle of friends I’ll be away from the 29th through New Year’s Day, only to get home in time to pack for a week long trip that will have me visiting friends and loved ones from the 3rd through the 10th of January.  If I don’t check in here till after then, I’ll see you when I get back no doubt with some pictures and tales to share.

Please accept my most heartfelt and sincere wishes for a blessed, happy, and healthy 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Still Winter Scootin'

Although I had envisioned a cozy table by the fireplace at Panera Bread for today's post writing, it wasn't meant to be.  The line was practically out the door when I got there which caused me to spin (and I use that verb loosely) on my heels and beat it back to the bike to head to the much less warm and inviting McDonald's across the mall parking lot.  With the all the ambiance of an operating room with fluorescent lights, cast photos of "Leave it to Beaver" and "I Love Lucy" on the wall, and fins on the booth tops that remind me of the ass end of my dad's Plymouth Savoy, to be sure it's appealing on some level, but a far cry from that nook by the fireplace I'd been hoping to get at Panera.

Lest I sound like an idiotic ingrate, I'm not really.  It's December 21st and while the sun isn't shining brightly I am out on the scooter with the temperature hovering near 50.  Okay, perhaps I should start building an ark with the current forecast for the coming week, but rain I'll live with gladly.  I don't have to shovel rain so for as miserable as it might be to have monsoon season here for Christmas, when I take pause to think about how much shoveling this expected rain would bring if it were snow I'm more thankful than I can express in writing, but then again He, to Whom I'm thankful, doesn't need my expression to be in writing.

Unfortunately, I'm a curmudgeonly fellow.  To me that part of my personality is charming.  To those who live with me and spend good chunks of time with me, that "charm" tends to wear off fast.  On today's cardiac walk I thought the word "Grump!" to myself with every step hoping that maybe focusing on my grumpiness like a mantra might somehow make me more aware of my tendency to complain about everything especially when I can see whomever I'm with rolling his or her eyes and waiting for me to shut up.  We'll see how that works. 

Looking my curmudgeonly best

I mention this because I'm watching a McD's tractor trailer parking outside in such a way that it blocks two full handicap spaces.  I think that sucks no matter how you slice it and that it's inexcusable, but it won't affect me because I'll easily be able to sneak the bike out of the handicap space in which I'm parked.  Nevertheless that old compulsion to tell the driver what an inconsiderate oaf he is remains strong.  I wish all delivery truck drivers had to park legally to make their deliveries instead of inconveniencing countless other with their double parking and not respecting parking ordinances.  I'll be doing my best to bite my tongue if this driver is still out there when I'm leaving.

Really?  Do you have to park THERE?

You can tell, perhaps, that when I got here I had no particular idea of what to write because I'm doing one of those slice of life, rambling posts.  While I like to write there isn't always sufficient inspiration, but what the hell?  It seems no worse to me that a builder spending some time playing with Tinker Toys on a day when the weather might keep him from plying his regular trade outdoors.

On a bright note, in the middle of that last paragraph I was visited here at my table by a retired assistant police chief whose daughter it was my pleasure to have had as a student years back.  He was recently ordained to the dioconate here in our diocese and I'd been reading about him in the papers over the course of the past few weeks and had been hoping to meet up with him sometime soon to offer my congratulations and support to his new endeavor.  It's always nice to spend a little time with one of the good guys and he sure is one of them.  Without my wanting to take the scooter out today there's no way that I'd have met up with him because it wouldn't be like me at all to be at a McDonald's in the middle of a day, so coming out was a good decision after all it seems.
The McCookies were very good, the coffee at the perfect sipping temperature, and the  lighting decent for the few selfies I took.  Sometimes when I find myself thankful for little things like these it seems easier to keep on going with an attitude of gratefulness for all the good things in life.  I do pity those with no faith in a supreme being of any sort (though they very well might feel sorry for me with my pie in the sky beliefs) because gratefulness and thankfulness are so often in my thoughts.  I'd find it very "empty" for want of a better term to have these feelings where thanks of some kind seem owed, but if there were nothing besides fate, kismet, and shit luck to say, "Thank You!" to, I know I'd feel sort of lost in the universe and awfully alone.  I try not to thump my Bible here, but it is difficult for me to write anything of length beyond the size of a grocery list without being aware of my belief that there is Somebody out there who might not zap me a miracle every time I want something but Who I believe is walking the walk along with me and at least listening when I feel the need to talk to Him.

Well, it would appear that I have enough paragraphs to put this post to rest with a picture here and there between them.  With Christmas just around the corner let me take this opportunity, in case I don't write again before the day itself, to wish all of you fellow believers a most Happy, Merry, and Blessed Christmas.  I know wishes don't go awfully far these days, but mine is sincere and deep and if the good Lord sees that you need one to make something good happen for you, I hope mine will be the prayer that's needed.

The rain would appear to be nearly imminent with how dark the sky has gotten since I took my first cookie bite so I'm heading out.  If you don't hear much from me after today it will because I'll be away from December 27th till the 3rd of the new year and while I'll most likely have the laptop with me I don't now how much opportunity I'll have to crank anything out.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2016 to all!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

God Bless Us! Everyone!

 It's two weeks and a day before Christmas Day and I'm out with the scooter once again, enjoying the warm temperatures which are very out of season but most welcome.  Today finds me at Panera Bread doing my thing with the tablet and Bluetooth keyboard which make writing here just as easy as at the old computer desk at home.

 I saw the cardiologist yesterday for the first time since being discharged from the hospital and going for a follow-up echo cardiogram, and to celebrate the news that I won't be needing a pacemaker I'm treating myself to a caramel scone and a hot cup of coffee.  There are people filling the place today and I find myself in an unusually great spirit feeling a kinship with them all though I don't know a one of them.  Whether each of them will celebrate Christmas I can't tell, but I wish for each person here with me in this place and time at least some of the wonderful things I've been feeling in the past few weeks as I anticipate the coming of Christmas.  I'm not expecting anything special or huge or noteworthy under the tree but I'm feeling many things inside of myself that I don't think I've felt since adolescence.

 I recall myself on a particular evening at my parents' house.  I was about 13 or so, sitting in front of the fake fireplace in the living room and enjoying the glow and atmosphere that the fake fire burning on the andirons provided.  It was as perfect a winter’s evening as any and I was nearly bursting with the same kinds of feelings I've been experiencing lately.  Although I was many decades from hearing about the concept of an "old soul," in retrospect the feeling of being an old soul was what I was struggling to understand on that evening so long ago.  It was as if I was reliving somehow Christmases that had come years, maybe centuries before I was even born, but of which I had been a part.  I was feeling a nostalgia for a period in history during which I’d not lived.  It wasn't a particular setting that I was remembering, but rather emotions and vague feelings that, although I knew I'd never experienced, were coming back to me as if through a stage scrim or fog.  These past few weeks I've been remembering that evening over and over again as once more in my life I'm sensing those same "memories" trying to come back to me in full measure as they did that night over 40 years ago.

I don't doubt that there's an element of having escaped from the frigid claws of the Grim Reaper in September when I was hospitalized and brought back from the brink of disaster that's at play here, making me appreciate not wholly unlike Ebenezer Scrooge the many things I have to live for and yet to experience.  There's a feeling as if I've been brought back from a purgatory of sorts, back to the land of the living with an appreciation for life that perhaps I'd never had before to this degree.  I suspect it's because of all that that I'm "reliving" memories that aren't really recollections but impressions of the best of what life has to offer.  Christmas has always been my favorite season and its being here now seems to have reawakened in me all of its old magic save for perhaps believing in Santa, though at times maybe I think I still believe.
To be sure, I feel a little crazy putting all of these nebulous but wonderful feelings into writing at age 57.  I should have felt and known these things about the gift of life all along, but like so many of us who become so accustomed to the running of the rat race, I lost sight all too easily of the so many things that make every season bright in its own way.

One of those Steve Williams type food shots that I'm always trying to emulate.

 This evening it will be my pleasure to join for dinner at the nursing home in which she is a guest an aunt who has been like a second mother to me all my life.  It is their annual Christmas party and I wouldn't miss it for anything.  Although my aunt no longer seems to be happy about anything most of the time, I pray that tonight she'll feel some of the sparkle that I can barely contain.  Although so many souls like her will be all around me, the same tired folks who litter the hallways of the place during my regular visits, I have no doubt that when I'm there tonight I'll feel like I'm with a bunch of kids waiting for Christmas to come.  Perhaps that's more wishful thinking than anything, but it's my prayer for them that they'll feel still some of the plentiful joy of Christmastime, and that I'll feel it all spilling from their hearts as we share the meal.

 I see that it's about time for me to pack up here and head back to the house to post this to the old blog before I get dressed for dinner.  Though it'll be a short scooter ride back, I'll enjoy every turn of the tires and wear more of a grin than a smile on my face because of the joy in which I'm wallowing.  Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, dear reader, I have to hope for you at least a small portion of all that I've been feeling as of late.  It's all too good not to have, so I pray that you have it too in some good measure!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Scooter Christmas Shopping!

While in past years there was an occasional December day when taking out the scooter wasn't something that made everybody think I'm nuts, I don't know if there's been another December like this one since I started riding when every day's been a scooterable one for over a week.  I've been enjoying the very unseasonably warm weather very much and getting in a ride just about every day even if it's just a short one to nowhere so I can experience the joy of being out on two wheels at a time when I could be more conceivably shoveling snow.

Although most of my Christmas shopping was done there were a few odds and ends that I still needed to pick up so after consulting the great seers I layered up and took the bike out.  What a wonderfully refreshing time it was being out and about, especially to my spirit which was already ramped up with Christmas cheer and merriness.  

I got my shopping done in record time 'cause it's so much easier getting to where I want to be on the Piaggio than in the car.  Sometimes when I'm zipping along from place to place I feel like a busy bee zipping along from flower to flower.  I love taking off at a green light and looking in the rear view mirror a few seconds later to see the car that was behind me at the red light just starting to move.  I'll take those little thrills wherever they might be found.

Okay, the chartreuse jacket doesn't quite complete the Santa ensemble that the hat begins, but my reasoning behind donning it was that drivers wouldn't anticipate seeing a bike in December as well as they might in the months that are typically conducive to enjoyable scooter rides, so being seen would be more likely I hoped.  I'm not sure if it worked, but it was better to be safer I reasoned, and I did make it back from my mission unscathed.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for my friend, Paul, who writes "Scootin' Fool."  From his Facebook post a few days ago: "So, dumped the scoot and broke my collarbone.  Helmet saved my life. Head bounced off pavement three times."  I haven't gotten wind of just what happened yet, but I'm hoping he'll be up and back on his scooter as soon as he can.  Unfortunately coincidental is that Paul just recently started taking classes on motorcycle repair so I don't know if he or his bike will get fixed first.

The extended forecasts being presented by weather services that don't mess with their predictions to try to create false hopes that there might be a white Christmas are indicating that this pleasant weather just might last through Christmas Day itself.  I'll be perfectly happy if my dormant lawn is clearly visible on December 25th and beyond rather than lying under that blanket of white that some starry eyed dreamers will be wishing for.  If I get in a nice ride on Christmas Day it'll be a great ending to a year that wasn't too bad.

And don't tell me when typical winter weather arrives that I won't have a right to complain because of how good I had it now.  I know that all things tend to even out so I decidedly reserve the right to belly-ache all I want when the cold, snow, and ice are keeping me in the house or on four wheels.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Scooters Do That to People

Scooters are like babies in strollers sometimes.  People see one coming and their faces light up with glee as if they want to reach out and give it a kitchy-kitchy-koo.  They often come closer to strike up a conversation and while they don't often ask how old it is, they're been known to inquire about its miles per gallon.

Take my mom, for example.  Whenever she sees one of us coming near her with a camera, her head turns, her hands go up, she moves out of the way if she can - anything to escape from being in a picture.  It doesn't matter if it's her birthday, just a candid moment, Christmas Eve dinner - Mom does NOT want her picture taken.  She's not Amish or anything like that.  I think she's just afraid that we'll get a goofy picture of her and put it up for the world to see.  (She knows us well.)

Toss my scooter into the picture, however, and look at her get all cute and smiley.  I was in the driveway dropping something off for my sister and it was she who called Mom over to get into a shot with me.  She laughed a little and came right over, without a grimace or a hand to obscure her pretty face.

Leave it to the scooter to make her beam!  Scooters are just like that.  They bring out the best and friendliest in people!