For once, we here in Reedville were too far north to get hit by the big blizzard. All those folks who chortle smugly as we get our ‘lake effect’ snow most of the winter got to chortle out of the other side of their mouths and it serves them right. Yesterday we got an inch or so of snow, the kind that falls in big fluffy flakes like that which one sees on Christmas cards. A rather odd sight was to be seen in my very own back yard, where there is a spring of water which keeps right on seeping forth come hot weather or cold. This spring was lined with a flock of robins who apparently hadn’t heard about the migration thing. They were strung out along the area where the water movement leaves a line of earth visible in the snow and seemed to be eating something, but I can’t imagine what sustenance could be found in that cold water. Surely no earthworms could be abroad in these temperaures. Is it possible that they eat the forget-me-nots that seem to spring up in any patch of water around here? Actually I knew that robins don’t really fly south – or at least a lot of them do not, despite people believing that that is what they do. In winter robins retreat to woodlands and are rarely seen, giving rise to the migration belief. I read somewhere that old-timers used to say that if you just kick the bushes near a woods in winter you’ll find the robins. I am not sure who was out kicking bushes in the snow to discover this, but it sounds like he had a lot of fun. We here in the northern boondocks have our simple pleasures.
Christmas, which I generally dread, was not bad at all this year. As long as I lived on the farm, Christmas was magic. Then, after I moved to California, it was a lonely and sad time for me for a while – so much so that I scheduled some elective surgery over Christmas one year just to get out of the house. Then I met Tumwell and all the magic returned. Tumwell was a total kid when it came to the holidays. He brought the magic back for me. I had to watch him like a hawk to make sure he didn’t sneak a peek at presents before the appointed day. I am a purist; I want to open everything at once on the actual date. He always wanted to open gifts early. We finally arrived at what became our tradition: gifts were opened one minute after the midnight between the 24th and 25th. On Christmas morning we would rise late and go to Tumwell’s Mom’s house for Christmas dinner. She gave me the nicest gifts. One year she gave me a pair of tap shoes – the real deal. I still have a teak rocking chair she gave me. Each year the Christmas meal got more elaborate, because Tum’s mom always included every dish I had expressed a liking for among all the meals I had previously had at her table. Once Tum asked her why she was making something or other again for Christmas and she said, “Well, Dave likes it,” and Tum said, “What about what I like?” He was kidding of course, but it was true – she seemed to take me very much into account in her meal planning. As her youngest son, Tum was expected to eat what was he was given.
But then I went to Saudi, and Tum and his mom both passed away, and since then Christmas is more of a hassle than anything else. For the last several years Caitlin, a newly married niece (well, ‘newly’ when it first started) has invited all of us in the area to her home for Christmas. The first year this happened she was living in a house in the town south of Reedville where my Mom also lived, but she and her husband have since purchased a beautiful home on the main street of a village an hour’s drive east of us. This house was built in the 1890’s and then was carefully restored by its previous owner and is a perfect place for a Christmas. The problem is that more and more of my brothers have been returning to the area and this means more and more people for whom I must buy gifts with less idea of what to get them and far less money to do it with, now that I have retired. This year, I had a couple of things I bought in Bali that served as gifts, but then I was forced to get out and do some shopping for the rest of the gifts. I got out earlier than usual – that is TWO days before Christmas, instead of one, but actually once I got out and started shopping, I kind of enjoyed it. I felt pretty good about most of my purchases. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to get the “perfect” gift, just something that fell into an area in which each recipient was interested. After that, it was relatively easy. I have a tendency to get caught up in a right-wrong axis in things, and to forget that the world doesn’t rise or fall on my choices. I did propose (and my proposal was eagerly accepted) that the adults exchange names next year and each would buy only one gift. That will make future years SO much easier. Besides, this year Zeke (Caitlin’s husband) has installed a pool table in the cellar of his home, so there was something fun to do. Do you know what the difference is between a basement and a cellar? When a basement is more than half underground, it is a cellar. I know you will thank me for this info, and you are free to act superior and correct others when they misuse the terms in future, as do I.
It looks like the weather will finally rise above freezing later this week and by New Year’s Eve it will be in the 40’s. By then the northern areas will have clear roads; the real north is remarkably efficient in clearing the roads. It is the border states that get overwhelmed and cancel everything when there is more than an inch of snow. I am debating driving to northern New Jersey to visit Freddie, a man I met a few months ago, for New Year’s weekend. Freddy is a very nice guy and his story is rather interesting. He married his high school sweetheart and they had three boys. When the boys were grown – or nearly so - Mrs. Freddie, who is quite an attractive woman who had received some flattering attention from men on the prowl over the years, began to fret that she had somehow missed out on all the fun and dating that other girls had. Eventually she left Freddy for one particularly attentive admirer and they got a divorce; however Mrs. Freddie found that these men on the prowl had no intention of doing more than tasting the honey and then flitting onward to the next flower, and she ended up somehow blaming Freddie for her subsequent unhappiness. To get out of a fraught environment, Freddie moved to a little villagedeep in the wilds of northern Jersey. One day a fellow employee at the company where Freddie has worked for more than 20 years invited him home. The man (for it was a man) came onto Freddie, and Freddie, who has maintained his youthful face and physique, says he thought, “Well, why not?” and thereby discovered that he liked the guys even better than he had liked the ladies, something that had not even entered his head previously. Thus the way was paved for my entry into his life.
Freddie likes to play music and is planning to trade his electronic keyboard in for a ‘real’ piano; he says he likes the feel of the real thing. Although I have not yet persuaded him to play for me, I noticed that the sheet music he had on the rack of the keyboard was very complex stuff. He had a large photograph of the Shirelles on one wall and when I said I really liked them and asked if he liked them particularly he told me that the lead singer was his aunt. He brought out the program from her funeral in northern California and some other things that he had acquired because of the relationship. So I am kind of dating a girl group by extension. Well, kind of dating. We seem to like each other, and he is a really nice man. He is intensely prosaic, though (other than liking guys), and very much a family man for his now-grown sons. The only thing ‘gay’ about him (other than the sex thing) is that he is very fond of Broadway plays. He regularly attends these with an elderly female friend who shares his interest.
I have only visited Freddie once, several months ago when it was still early autumn, but I have been thinking about him a lot lately. He said he wanted things to be an equal type thing; that he didn’t want me to be the one who always did the travelling (he is about 5 hours from me). I think he meant this, but he is a true Northern Jersey/New York City type who thinks anything outside a narrow radius centered in Manhattan is the back of beyond. He thinks I live somewhere within shooting distance of Sarah Palin, I think. So he is worried about driving in the winter so very far north. I thought this whole situation was languishing, but while I was in California, I found my thoughts turning to him more and more, so I e-mailed him and suggested I visit again. He sounded very eager to see me. I talked to him on the phone the other day and he is still all for seeing each other again. It makes sense for me to go there rather than the reverse because he works and I don’t. He views a trip here as a big undertaking, while I think a five hour drive is not all that big a deal, if the roads are clear.
We have nothing much in common – he is not a reader, he likes very different TV fare, he has no interest in the kinds of things I like, he will text several times a day, whereas I never text and only write e-mails – usually far longer than a text message. But he is a decent honorable man and we find each other fairly attractive. Maybe something will grow, maybe not. He is a creature of habit; he would have been glad to stay married and be Dad, then Grandpa. The gay thing came as a surprise, but now that he has discovered it, this is where he wants to be. He has been on the same job for 20 years; he plans to stay another six or seven years to qualify for a full pension. I never stayed on any one job for more than six years and that six year job was in Saudi where I had to sign two-year contracts. And I certainly never planned six years ahead for anything. There are a lot of reasons we are not a match, but maybe there are also a few reasons we can be. Either way, I am looking forward to visiting again. And then we’ll see.
Despite all the news about poverty and kids not having any gifts this year, I ask you, have you ever been in a house where there is a child, where that house is not jammed from one end to another with every imaginable brightly colored plastic toy? It seems almost obscene to me the number of toys a child has in the present era. And so many of them perform , leaving the child a spectator. Where are the Tinkertoys, the Lincoln Logs, the Legos, the Etch-a-Sketch? I am just asking; it was the toys that allowed me to build things that I loved – those and crayons and marbles – I made up more games using marbles than the manufacturer ever dreamed. When I was in Sam’s Club, I saw a huge super-size barrel of Lincoln Logs and I almost bought them – for ME. It seems to me that most parents awake each day and say, “Hmm- it is a new day, Kimmie needs a new toy!” Maybe it is just me, but I do know that the most pampered kids with whom I went to grade school never had nearly as many toys as has every kid I have seen lately.
And a Happy New Year to YOU.