A Chicago Christmas

Although I only spent 5 years in the city of my birth…I remember it well!  There was a snow on the ground and more in the air, as mom announced that she had retrieved Laughing Santa…and that I must come to see him!

Before me was the little, stuffed, Chief Elf…with his brightly painted face and the crank on his back.  The more that mom turned the crank…the more heartily Old St. Nick laughed.  I watched his antics and reveled in his laughter and wondered how he was able to be so human and yet…seemed not to be so?

There were many, uniquely wrapped, gifts under the 8 foot aluminum Christmas Tree.   Pointing at the shiny artificial  Tannenbaum was a rotating light with a cover of multi-colors that diffused the spectrum of color of the subsequent glow of the beam.

We had returned from our excursion into the city where we saw the new release of Walt Disney’s movie, Lady and the Tramp.  And, the information overload for me, at 3 years old, was tremendous…and ‘visions of sugarplums danced in my head!’

Soon dad and me and mom sat under the Tree as a, mysterious visitor, took our photo…’and that is the rest of the story.’

It was after dark and our outside Christmas lights were lit…and we heard a terrible commotion on the roof of our house in Sauk Village.  It sounded like someone had been on the roof and fell off.  As dad answered the door, I heard him proclaim…’Why come right in!’  There before us…was Santa Claus in all of his red suited, and white bearded, and pipe smoking glory!

Santa laughed, a lesser laugh, than what I had expected…and he wondered if he could use our phone to call Mrs. Claus?  He went on to say that he and the Missus had been involved in a spat when he left and he needed to ensure that there was a home for him to return to…when the Christmas Eve work was completed.  Dad showed him our one phone in the hall…and he began to dial.  We gave him his privacy…he looked like that he needed it.  We heard him say, ‘but…but…but,’ on several occasions, and then he joined us in the living room.  Santa said that he had patched things up and inquired was there anything that he could do for us…before he resumed his journey.  Mom responded that she would like for him to snap a family photo of us under the Christmas Tree.  Santa took her camera and took two pictures…in case the first one did not come out right.

Dad poured the, ‘spritely old elf,’ some eggnog and asked if he wanted something stronger in it…and he smiled with the rosiest of cheeks and said, ‘absolutely!’

As Santa left, on our carport were the reindeer and a bright red glow…from Rudolph’s nose.  Donner and Vixen called out to Santa and asked, ‘where’s ours?’ referring to the spiked eggnog.

So, that is how the Brooks Family Photo…was taken.

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‘Waiting For Godot’

‘Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett.’    Wikipedia

”The play is a typical example of the Theatre of the Absurd, and people use the phrase ‘waiting for Godot’ to describe a situation where they are waiting for something to happen, but it probably never will…’    Wikipedia

So, I often say that I am, ‘waiting for Godot!’

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Aren’t we all waiting for many things in our lives…that have not exhibited themselves ever…or at least not on a semi-regular basis We wait for Godot when we seek justice and fair treatment for all peoples…not just the majority or those who are favored by the political class.  We wait patiently for our elected leaders to care more about their constituents than their own interests.  What a treat it would be to witness a concerted focus to address global warming!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We live in a country that, by all available measurable criteria, live in multiple realities.  There was a famous book, many years ago, that was entitled, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.  This book demonstrated the difficulty in men and women communicating with each other and understanding and empathizing with each others point of view.  Today points of view are dictated by the television news network that you receive your news from.

When I was a teenager, men simply understood that they were going to be drafted and be sent to Vietnam.  My cousin, Billy, was drafted.  The only reason that I was not drafted was due to President Carter abolishing the draft before I became of age to go!

We all watched Walter Cronkite on CBS or Huntley and Brinkley on NBC and we basically received the same news.

We wept when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, central standard time.  Somehow, we understood that we would never be the same…and we have not!

We are told by our parents and our elders to work hard and ‘pay-our-dues’ and seek to excel in our careers!  We are assured that if we will apply ourselves…we will climb the ladder of success…and we will be another example of the American Dream!  We are told that anyone can be President of the United States and anyone can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company…the Horatio Alger story of rags to riches…is ours for the taking….

But, what if the person who is doing the hiring…does not play by the rules?  What if it is not…what you know…but who you know….?

Institutions agonize regarding their low morale.  They engage is studies….and consultants….and large committees…too investigate and conduct in depth research into the quandary of ebbing excitement about the work-place!

The answer is simple….we all wait….much as our Jewish friends wait for the Messiah…or justice and equity and fairness…and recognition of consistent hard work and a passion for the job….and someone who has placed their heart and soul into their career….being recognized for their efforts…rather than being passed over for a friend of the boss!

We are still, ‘Waiting for Godot!’

 

 

The Pencil

‘Maine is magical,’ Jane said with a wistful look in her eyes. ‘I have been noticing that you are especially fond of Wiscasset,’ Chet observed. ‘Yes I love the little store that sells so many unusual and unique items…like the wooden pencil that is clad in leather and is very wide,’ Jane answered. ‘I purchased a Porcelain Bulldog from the store last year in September and this last visit…I bought a man with a goat’s head dressed in opulent regalia,’ Billy B. smiled with satisfaction. ‘I wrote with the mystical pencil and the woman who was helping me said for me to write somewhere that I would like to visit…and I shut my eyes and wrote Maine…when I opened them…I was there,’ Chet laughed. ‘Yes I saw your foray into the Secrets of the Pencil…but I want to write somewhere that it is impossible to travel to without special help,’ Jane mused.

‘So you three are looking for a bit of a paranormal adventure,’ asked the old lady who took the Pencil out of its’ special locked case. Yes…we want to determine if there is a bit of magic in the unusual-looking writing device,’ Billy B. answered.

Reverend George Burroughs stood before the three on Witchtrot Road in York. Beside him was a lady clad in black and with a large hat covering her eyes. ‘Who might you folks be…and where are we,’ Billy B. asked incredulously. ‘Goodness me…you are in Maine children and what are you doing out on such a foul night,’ the lady in black asked. ‘And what is your name little girl…you look at me as if you know me,’ the lady continued. ‘My name is Jane and you are who,’ asked Jane. ‘Well I am Sarah Good from Salem, Massachusettes,’ the lady said. ‘The good Reverend is helping me escape Salem where they want to try me as a…witch,’ Sarah proclaimed. ‘Are you a witch,’ Chet asked. ‘Why no I am not…no more than Sarah Abbey who accused me of being spiteful and malicious. ‘I take a little nip of Gin for my rheumatism…but then again…who doesn’t, Sarah said.

Jane opened her eyes and looked down at the word she had written on the paper with the Leather Clad Magical Pencil…GRANDMA…

In Search of 65

‘In September 1963, before the Beatles were a blip on anybody’s radar in North America, ‘The Quiet Beatle’ was living up to his reputation by visiting his sister, Louise Harrison Caldwell, in Benton, Illinois. At the time the other three Beatles were vacationing in Europe, Paul and Ringo in Greece, John and his wife Cynthia in France. Harrison came to Southern Illinois with his older brother Peter, to hang out, play music, go camping and get a first-hand glimpse of life in the Midwest. While here he did an interview on a radio station in West Frankfort, bought a Rickenbacker guitar in Mr. Vernon, jammed with a local band at a VFW Hall in Eldorado, bought records at a Benton music shop, hung out with coal miners at a Bocci Ball Club, then lost (and recovered) his wallet, and turned heads and hearts with his ‘mop-top’ hair and Liverpool accent.’ Illinois Times

Benton is a lovely town in Southern Illinois. It is also the home of the renowned actor John Malcovich.

So…65 is barking at my heels and I continue searching for this Old Man’s role in the life of my Community. When I look into the faces of my fellow Southern Illinoisans I see The Forgotten People. We are infatuated with the happenings of the East Coast of our nation…and if the East Coast is having a dull news day…we look to the West Coast for valuable life lessons… the Midwest…Southern Illinois is forgotten. We people of Little Egypt have done alright with our hardscrabble lives and taking the lesson of Esther of the Bible and thus gleaning what the important or right people have left behind…and without a doubt, it has caused us to develop our own opinions of what is essential in life and our intrinsic value to our Creator.

Humble we are with a readily extended helping hand…when you know poverty and the struggle for bread…you recognize it quickly in others who are experiencing it. As I walk the streets of our little towns and hamlets and villages…I primarily encounter the poor and the marginalized and those who have effectively been forgotten by the affluent and the powerful. When we see each other…we know our brothers and our sisters…those who have come through the furnace of want and deprivation. Those who save all year in order to have a little money for Christmas gifts for their loved ones. Those who think before they drive somewhere…because they do not have the money for gas. Those who do not turn on the furnace but rather layer their clothing and wear mittens in their home…and wonder what those who have an abundance of money…will come up with next…

Money is the greater divider. Churches are no different. Many in our region look for a church where they feel that they will not stand out for their penury. The denominational churches did not seem interested in them…but the storefront missions…beckoned with open arms. Some of those with open arms have open hands for the hard-wrought earnings of their poor congregants. Many poor and needy congregations are proud of their ability to keep their pastor in the finest lifestyles…after all…they are giving to God…

Clean-Up On Aisle Five

‘It is getting bad on Aisle 5… I.A.,’ Giddy said. ‘No matter how often I visit the rebels…they still want to fight rather than talk,’ Giddy continued. ‘Told them that you are very proud of them and that they are an integral part of Home Department Store & Supermarket…but there

seems to be less and less of them that want to listen to reason, Giddy concluded.

Well, it seems like yesterday that I gave all of them a raise in pay and they were relatively happy for a while,’ I.A. mused. ‘Then they wanted shorter working hours and more holidays and to be off work every Sunday in order to attend church…but I see them everywhere but a church,’ I.A. said with a sigh. ‘Finally, they wanted their own manager that would be dedicated just to Aisle 5…and I agreed to that…until they killed him…

‘Each section leader in Aisle 5 wants to be the boss of the other section leaders…and they want an Iron Throne installed…you know like the one on the HBO television show House of the Dragon…and they want to be referred to as The Chosen,’ Giddy said in barely a whisper.

‘What do you think that the solution is…Giddy…is there any more that I can do to convince Aisle 5 that I care about them and have their best interest at heart,’ I.A.asked.

‘Aisle 5ers are set on lying about their colleagues and hurting each other with backbiting and slander and soon the knives will come out,’ Giddy said sadly.

‘Call Clarence and tell him that he has a clean-up on Aisle 5…and get my drafting table out and my T-Square and pencils and rulers…it is going to be another long night…’

Scrooge

‘Charles Dickens describes Scrooge as a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner. BBC Bite Size

Christmas is coming…of that, we can be certain. But what about us…what about how we treat our fellow human beings throughout the year? We go about our daily routine with tunnel vision to guide us. We see the needs of ourselves…primarily…and then perhaps we peer through a glass darkly…at the needs and happiness of those immediately around us…and finally, those who are not in our direct line of sight…do not exist and are not on our radar.

Sing unto the Lord On Sunday…we do…and heartily…that Jesus Loves The Little Children…and then we promptly forget them on Monday. The feelings or happiness of those around us matters not at all to us…as we know we are right…we are secure in that rightness…and the plainness of our perfection should be a beacon to all those around us.

Compare we do…those who we interact with. The manner in which we have lived our life is the gold standard…and all those who do not fit in the form…are rejected.

Laugh we do and mock and make light of those whom we hurt by our common sense economies. If people were more like us…would not the world be a better place…

Groaning and crying and gnashing of teeth we hear as our earth suffers under the Three Horsemen of; War and Famine and Climate Change. You need to look to other countries to find food insecurity…it is in your town or village…perhaps just down your lane.

Hope we have that the stock market will soon rebound…while others hope…for a crust of bread…

‘You can help yourself…but don’t take too much…’

God Is Love

What a lovely service at First Presbyterian Church @ Carbondale this morning. I attended by Zoom but the love and acceptance and unity came leaping at me through the computer screen! It was a special service for LGBTQIA+ – Affirming/World Communion Sunday worship service and coffee fellowship. Our church joined with Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship, the Church of the Good Shepherd, and the First Christian Church. Pastor Kerry spoke about how denominational churches are broken and many of us have been cut on the jagged edges. It seems to me that we have taken the words of the Bible and fashioned ourselves a ‘god’ of straw to appease our prejudices and biases and learned hatred for others who are not like we are. Or in fact, a straw god to take out our frustrations of seeing others live their life as God made them…and we realize our secret may be revealed…that they are like us…that they are us.

Photos Courtesy of Lisa Hollabaugh

I saw a cartoon by the Naked Pastor the other day where a sheep wearing rainbow colors was sitting by Jesus. The caption read that the sheep was thanking Christ for sitting with him…and Christ responded…’Thank you for sitting with me.’

So often we thrash about searching for the love of God to shine on us. Today the brilliance of God’s love is shown at First Presbyterian Church.

Bridle Path

‘October is wonderful for riding horses,’ Jane observed. ‘I have been no closer to a horse than Johnny West’s faithful steed…Thunderbolt…and he is much too small for me to mount him,’ Chet said with a sly wink. ‘We will be with a trained Horse Whisperer and it is supposed to be safe for first-time equestrians,’ Neva J. announced. ‘We will drive the 57′ Chevy to Giant City State Park which is just a few miles from Carbondale…and we will put the top down on the way…if we do not freeze,’ Neva J. smiled with a mischievous glint in her brown eyes. ‘We will be riding on a Bridle Path that goes through the middle of the woods,’ Billy B. said casually. ‘If you have not been in the middle of Woods you need to be prepared for a bit of a unique life experience,’ Billy B. continued. ‘Due to the close-growing trees and the plethora of foliage it can be difficult to see the Sun…and the wildlife makes peculiar noises and sounds that are a bit disconcerting,’ Chet said matter of factly. ‘I thought that you had never been on the back of a horse,’ Darryl asked with a smirk. ‘I read Darryl…books…,’ Chet answered.

Exhilarating was the trip from Eldorado to Giant City. It was a cloudy day and the forest was naturally dark. Each sound from limbs cracking to squirrels scampering…produced visions of monsters hiding in the thicket. ‘I believe that we need to ride in a westerly direction,’ said the Horse Whisperer. ‘You believe or you know,’ asked Chet who had almost fallen off of his Appaloosa. ‘Well I have lost my compass and it is so dark today it is somewhat difficult to determine the path directional markers, the HW replied. ‘I saw a group of riders just up the trail… let us see if we can meet up with them to help us in finding our way out of this spooky place,’ Neva J. suggested. ‘It seems to me that we are going back the way that we came,’ Darryl mused.

Oh good…there are the hitching posts that we saw when we first entered the Bridle Path…but who are those people,’ Billy B. asked. ‘Greetings fellow horse riders…my you look familiar…is this the end of the Bridle Path…or the beginning,’ Jane said with fear of the unknown in her voice.

The HWs’ horse was riderless…

Goodbye September

Another glorious fall day is happening in Little Egypt. I visited Cobden, Illinois today and was once again impressed with the love and care that the residents put into their town. There is a great Antique Store in Cobden and the ladies assisting me with my purchase were very friendly. I found a little Cowboy from 1964 that I remembered immediately. He was made by the Marx Toy Company and I think I probably owned one just like him when I was a lad. Also, I found a little metal bank fashioned like a Model T Car inscribed with the name of a bank in Carbondale that I had never heard of.

My favorite season flies by like a supersonic jet. Tomorrow the Monster Movies begin.

‘Are you really going to wear your cousins’ Creature From The Black Lagoon Head…every day of October,’ Jane asked Billy B. ‘I think that it is a great improvement on my looks…don’t you,’ Billy B. responded with a wide grin. ‘I enjoy seeing the look on Mrs. B.s’ face when I enter the classroom with it on…she looks as if she has seen a monster,’ Billy B. chuckled. ‘Well I have been signing autographs for several days after I give my lunchtime performance as the Lost in Space Robot,’ Chet said with a contented sigh. ‘I am looking forward to the Halloween Special Showing at the Orpheum Theatre tomorrow…it is my understanding that John the owner has something terrifying planned for the audience,’ Darryl noted. ‘John has been a fixture in Eldorado ever since I can remember,’ Neva J. said. ‘And the funny thing about John is my mom remembers him when she was a girl…and that was a long time ago…and she says that he has not changed and that he ran the Orpheum during World War II,’ Chet said in a hushed voice. ‘I don’t know about John but his wife is a bit like a mummy…stiff and expressionless,’ Jane said with conviction.

‘The Casino Theatre was opened in 1909. By 1912 it was operated by the Turner-Farrer chain. It was badly damaged by a fire on April 6, 1927. It was rebuilt and reopened as the 600-seat Orpheum Theatre. It was still operated by the Turner-Farrar chain in the 1950s. The building still stands and now houses a plumbing supply business.’

‘Welcome to the Casino Theatre,’…John announced to the packed Theatre audience. ‘It is a fine April evening in the year of our Lord…1927…I hope that tonight’s Flick…does not get too hot for you…

Calls

Lately, I have been listening to an Apple TV show. You are correct if you read that I have been listening as the nine short programs are audio with some visual cues. When I read about it I thought I would soon be bored…but I am enthralled. What is absent visually…is made up in the viewers’ minds and it is a unique auditory experience. It is a sensory-altering experiment between time and space.

‘Are you excited about our Halloween Adventure that begins Saturday, October 1st,’ Billy B. asked Chet when he telephoned him. ‘Yes…after we discovered the Diseapearing Tree and visited Elder-Reado and Ichabod B…I wonder what will happen next,’ Billy B. continued.

‘Well, I still like the idea of our dressing in our Halloween costumes and enjoying the Special showing of The Creature from the Black Lagoon on Saturday…and you must be sure to wear your Lost In Space Robot Costume and I will have on cousin Genes’ Creature mask and hands,’ Billy B continued. ‘What do you mean our experience with the Diseapering Tree and Ichabod B…what Tree and I have never heard of Ichabod B.,’ Chet inquired. ‘October 1, 1963, was 59 years ago…when we were kids,’ Chet asked with some trepidation in his voice. ‘We both are having our Medicare Birthday…we turn 65 on the 24th of October…have you taken your meds this morning,’ Chet went on in a quizzical and confused voice. Billy B. said something but it was inaudible. ‘Billy B. where are you…I can not make out what you are saying on my iPhone,’ Chet asked. ‘What Halloween adventure are you speaking of…

‘I am on my way to your house…Chet,’ Billy B. said. ‘My childhood home was torn down in the 70s’…I live in Magnolia Manor…what year do you think it is…, Chet pleaded. ‘Well it is September 28, 1963, answered Billy B.

‘Hello…hello…hello…Jane are you there,’ Billy B. said in a furtive voice. ‘Why yes…Billy B…I loved your photos of Maine that you snapped on your Holiday a few days ago, Jane said with a voice older than her grade school years. ‘I can’t seem to make sense of something that Chet just told me…he said that he lived in the Magnolia Manner and that he and I were going to have our Medicare Birthday on the 24th of October,’ Billy B. said in little more than a whisper. ‘Indeed it has come to all of us from the Class of 75’ Jane said with a laugh. ‘Are we still on for the visit to Chet and the Halloween Party for him and the other residents of Magnolia Manor…

Home Is Happiness

The air is crisp this morning. October is on its way. Pumpkin Spice Coffe is in the cup and all is right with the world. Mylo is going to his grooming appointment at 11:30 and then will be the glamor shots. I think that we search for the feeling of home and the feeling of place and the warmth of our familiar home…wherever we travel. When we obtain that wondrous feeling…we mark our Holiday with the highest of praise…’We felt like we were home.’ Some people make us feel as if we are home. They seem to carry home with them. When you are in their presence…you know that you are alright with them…you are ‘Tops’ with them.

Mrs. Bramlet called Billy B.s’ name for him to come forward and give his speech. It was Speech 101 at Eldorado High School and Billy B. was terrified. He had never enjoyed speaking publicly but had received some accolades for verbal book reports when he was in grade school…both from the teacher as well as his fellow classmates. As Billy B. began to speak…after the first sentence…he was in an element that he knew not from whence it came… The audience was listening to his every word and laughed at the funny parts of the discourse. When Billy B. sat down they clapped and Mrs. B. said that was the finest first speech of Speech 101 that she had ever heard. When Billy B. was with Mrs. Bramlet he felt at home.

Restlessness is not solved by getting less rest. Traveling the globe will not provide what a person is missing…when the missing component is within them.

Rosie was a loner in Eldorado. Her wardrobe consisted of varying colors of a dress worn in the 60s’ called a Moo Moo. She had lost her husband and she idolized President John F. Kennedy. She talked to herself a bit…as more often than not there was no one else to speak with. When people saw her on the street…they crossed over to the other side. Neva J. saw a diamond when she saw Rosie. She took her to the store and to the Orpheum Theatre to see her favorite actor John Wayne. Rosie enjoyed many meals with Neva J. and Billy B. Rosies’ teeth had rotted and Neva J. took her to the dentist and paid the bill for her teeth to be pulled and replaced with a new set of false teeth. Rosie soon began to shop at Muckleys Ben Franklin Dime Store and purchase some modern fashions from P.N. Hirsch and attend church with Neva J.

Neva J. was Home…for Rosie…

Always Forward

I have been reflecting on the great good that I witness people do…and who are more often than not neither recognized nor hear the words thank you…but rather get a kick in the teeth for their Christian efforts. I have experienced this on more than one occasion and it left me confused and sad and wondering what I could have done differently. Yet these precious human beings keep trying to do good and help their fellow women and men. It is not difficult for me to understand the statement that no good deed goes unpunished. After all…Christ was crucified by the same people that he came to help and bless and feed and clothe. Servants/leaders are angels among us.

The first of my favorite months is almost over…before it started. With our magnificent trip to Maine coming in the heart of this month…it has left missing time. However, October brings my birthday…and I relish my birthday. Since I have become a senior citizen I am proud and humbled to attain another year on the calendar. I remember the happy Halloweens of my youth and the fact of they make for a good jumping-off point for many fictional stories.

Harmony and peace are a bit discounted in our frenetic society. When I am away from our peaceful home where I have a distinct sense of place…I miss it…I am glad to return to it and reflect on the Holiday that I have just enjoyed. I have heard people speak of endeavoring to be comfortable in their own skin. This is a blessing that I have enjoyed for the majority of my life. I do not look to others for approval of who I am…I do not seek to fit in where I do not fit.

Kind words as the Bible says are like, ‘Apples of gold in pictures of silver.’ Administrators and managers and supervisors would do well to learn this lesson. Most of us perform to the level that we feel appreciated.

Everything comes from within. Both bitter water and sweet. It is easy to have eyes full and to be never satisfied. When we look to another to do our thinking for us…or to ‘Ape’ their behavior…or when we fashion them our ‘Golden Calf’ to worship and adore and to provide for us our inner happiness…we are saddened when we sought after results that do not come to pass. Neither preachers, politicians, or potentates…will ever provide the compass for your life that you already have waiting within you and ready to be used…