Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow Day

My second consecutive snow day, and it's dramatically improved my spirits, which were already improved from earlier this fall. Snow days in Baltimore City are exceptionally rare, after all. We don't get the snow we used to. Good to see the old El Nino pattern of weekly ice/snow events settling in!

The City schools were scheduled to remain open through tomorrow before Xmas break. I wonder if they'll just call it a day and shut down again in the morning? I actually wouldn't mind going in tomorrow. I have some stuff to grab in my room before break so I can plan up. I also wouldn't mind giving out some treats to the few kids who would bother to show up.

Struck lately by a powerful reminiscence. I'm in the kitchen at our old house in Stewartstown, PA. I can't be more than 5 or 6 years old. My mother and her friend are making hard candies. They cook up sugar and food coloring on cookie sheets, then they snip the cooling gooey into strange little twists which we roll in powdered sugar. Mother has dozens of little jars which she's decorated with ribbons and little home-made ornaments and name tags and into which the candy goes. She will distribute these to the mail man, the milk man, my teachers, my bus driver, folks at church, local merchants, etc. Mother also knits little elves, santas, and angels, into which she inserts a Leggs egg before hanging them on the tree. On Xmas day these ornaments will be opened to reveal a small fun gift. She knits our stockings. She makes ornaments out of dough and bakes them in the oven before painting them. She has long strands of cranberry and popcorn, and ornamental strips of carefully folded Teaberry gum wrappers. She is industrious, she is skilled, and she is serious about making Christmas special for her family and community.

I was born at the mid-point of the last year of the '60s. I grew up in the '70s in a small town which was really still in the '50s. We had a milk man! He brought milk in plastic bags which we would put into a small blue plastic pitcher. You cut one corner off the bag and poured it. He also brought cheese and eggs, depending on what you left on a note in the small cooler on the porch. I think the dairy was Greene's and that the milk man was part of the clan. We called him Mr. Greene at any rate. Perhaps he poisoned our poodle? Or was it the mailman?

My paternal grandparents lived up the street. Grandma baby-sat us when Mother worked. Grandma always had Mad magazine for me. I played with toys from the '50s: erector sets, old toy bricks made from real brick. I set them out all over the floor in elaborate designs which I knocked down like Dominoes. Grandma would hide a few coins around the house for my sister and I to find. We'd take these coins next door to the grocer and we could buy bubble gum cigars and candy cigarettes and litte wax bottles full of sugar water with food coloring. There was a 10 cent Coke machine out front of the store with a pull-door and a bottle hanger hanging down. If you weren't fast enough opening the door and snatching your 8-oz glass bottle the door would snap shut and you'd lose your dime. There were crates of Coke bottles next to the machine for the Coke man to pick up and re-use.

I had the run of town. I knew every nook and cranny, and every easy mark for a handfull of treats. I roamed the cemetery, I climbed under bushes and up into trees.

At school I brought a dime every day to buy milk, and got two pennies change. Life seemed simple and beautiful, but like during the '50s there was a lot of darkness beneath the surface. It didn't last.


ellen cherry said...

i emailed my sisters about not giving stuff to their kids, but asking if i could instead contribute to their college funds or lessons for this or that. those kids lead a life buried in their stuff. i'm amazed. when i go to their house, there are piles and piles of plastic. i no longer want to participate, even in a small way, in the education they are getting about being good consumers. ugh.

you guys wanna take the bus with us to NYC on Christmas? we are seriously pondering a one day get away.

Nyarlathotep said...

We were talking a possible trip to NYC over the holidays. There's a good show at the Cooper Union, there's C. G. Jung's illuminated Red Book at the Rubin Museum, etc.

But Xmas day is booked for us: we're off to my 'rents in PA, and we have out-of-town guests from NYC, HI, and NC coming in.

I feel your pain. I want less stuff myself. How has simplicity become so complicated, so hard to achieve?

JosonCruz said...

Let's got to NY between christmas and new years!

I can't stand all the waste - geoff and i had to go to sears the other day - it's been a long time since i've been in a department store. it made me sick.

earth dragon said...

Strangely enough, you have described my life, prior to moving to Baltimore. Of course, the toys my grandparents had were from the 30s.