Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

2009 has not been the best year, that's for sure. From the election (sorry - not an obama fan in the least) through the rest of the garbage the year offered (socialism, here we come! Kwame Kilpatrick, the economy, the outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries - hey! Don't they go hand in hand?), it's not been the best year America has seen. Then again, neither has the last twenty years or just keeps getting progressively worse.
And the spiral continues...
So, being the good patriot that I am (I am proudly wearing my "Don't Tread On Me" t-shirt I received for Christmas), I make sure I keep up on the current news and follow through, whether in praise or protest, where I feel is necessary.
That being said, where 2009 has been a good year for me personally is in the living history/reenacting world.

Filming a scene at Crossroads Village

Aww, who am I's been a GREAT year in living history for me, beginning with the celebration of President Lincoln's Birthday Celebration, through our big Memorial Weekend reenactment at Greenfield Village (As Promised - Pictures from the Memorial Day Event at Greenfield Village), through our first film shoot, our period-dress visit to Crossroads Village (Our Recent Return Visit Back to Crossroads Village), to the big Jackson event (Jackson, Michigan Civil War Muster), to our Christmas reenactments of recent weeks. I'm not certain how many events I participated in this year - more than 20, that's for sure - but I can tell you each was wonderful in its own way. But, there was one in particular that stood out up and above the rest...the small event that took place in Waterloo, Michigan this past June (Self-Hypnosis + Authenticity + 1st person = Time-Travel). This was one of those rare events that literally brought me back "there"... in time...ala the movie "Somewhere In Time."

My "wife" took wonderful care of me while I was "sick" in Waterloo. We stayed in 1st person even when no patrons were about.

Yeah, I'm nuts. But, you already knew that.
I remember thinking at the beginning of 2009 that there was no way the coming living history events could ever be as good as those I participated in the previous year.
And yet, they were.
Actually, they were even better!
Part of the reason is that I truly, actively, participated in the events. No tent sitting here! I did my best to stay in a 1st person mode of conversation while visitors were mulling about my 'post office.' Or even while I had "the fever" at Waterloo. And, I also attempted to stay in that manner while it was just reenactors around as well. Unfortunately, there are many (too many) reenactors that, for some reason, cannot - will not - take part in this form of progressive reenacting. (Fortunately, the wonderful reenactors at Waterloo truly did a fine job staying in 1st person). Not only do many not take part but, worse yet, they make fun of you for staying "in character" when the patrons have gone home. Now, some very good friends of mine - military reenactors - were able to sleep over night in the McGuffey Schoolhouse in Greenfield Village ( after the Holiday Nights presentation had ended. Not only did the men stay in 1st person mode the entire evening - remember, this is after the public had gone home - they played period correct games, read from Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol," read from the holy bible, and spoke of nothing in their contemporary lives.

Soldiers playing a period correct game at the McGuffey Schoolhouse

How cool is that? They did it for themselves.
This is what I would like to see happen more often.
My resolution for 2010 is to just ignore those 9 to 5 reenactors (please see my blog from last spring Are You a 9 to 5 Reenactor?) and make even greater strides in my living history impression.
If these guys in the military can do it, than so can I / we in the civilian contingent.
This is what makes me happy and I will not let any 9 to 5-er ruin my time.
Speaking of happy, a very good friend of mine, who also reenacts, likes to call the Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village her "happy place." This farm is a historic structure where she can visit nearly anytime she'd like to because of its proximatey to her home (about a half hour drive). Like me, she will dress in her period clothing to visit the Village and enter the farm to just sit...enjoying the fire, the kitchen conversations from the presenters as they cook food in the way it was cooked in the 19th century, and, really, just to get the over-all feeling of, well, being back there. She has also mentioned to me that sometimes she'll close her eyes and repeat over and over "it's's 1863..."

"it's's's's 1863..."

Need I add that this woman does a remarkable 1st person as soon as the period clothing is on?
All of the reenactments I do help me to reach my own personal nirvana much in the same way that the Firestone Farm helps my friend reach hers. I guess we all need our happy place to go to, whether to get away or to just plain relax. I thank God that I have living history to take me and my family away to such a place.
I can't wait for the 2010 season to begin. But, it couldn't be anywhere as good as the 2009 season...or could it?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas Carol

The following are snippets of Christmas celebrations as described by Charles Dickens in his short story "A Christmas Carol." This is my most favorite of all Christmas stories, and it's from these wonderful descriptions that my family has attempted to base our Christmas celebrations upon.
If you have not ever read the book of "A Christmas Carol," might I suggest that you run out and purchase yourself a copy? It is a wonderful story that encompasses all that is Christmas, including the birth of our Savior.

At Fezziwig's Christmas Ball:'Yo ho, my boys!' said Fezziwig. 'No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's have the shutters up,' cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, 'before a man can say Jack Robinson!'

You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters-one, two, three-had them up in their places-four, five, six-barred them and pinned then-seven, eight, nine-and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

'Hilli-ho!' cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. 'Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer!'

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night.

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother's particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after nother; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them. When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, 'Well done.' and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.
There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind. The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him.) struck up 'Sir Roger de Coverley.' Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.
But if they had been twice as many-ah, four times- old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig 'cut'-cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.

When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr and Mrs Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas.

Christmas Morning:The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts' content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.
For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball-better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest- laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.

The Grocers'! oh the Grocers'! nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.

But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

At The Cratchit's:Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course-and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone-too nervous to bear witnesses-to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out. Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose-a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed. Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered-flushed, but smiling proudly-with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it
was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

'A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!'

Which all the family re-echoed.

'God bless us every one!' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Radio - Another Frivolous Kenny G Rant! (Probably important only to me, but what the heck!)

I am finding I can't listen to radio anymore. Radio, simply put, is as stagnant as I've ever heard it to be. Take classic rock for instance: groups I used to love to hear - Steve Miller, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Pink Floyd, Bob Seger, Springsteen, Reo Speedwagon, Rod Stewart, and others I simply cannot stand to listen to anymore. The same groups. The same songs.
Why, when there is so much more to choose from?
Let's go to the local country station next. Wait - this is country music, right? Couldn't be - sounds more like classic rock than country!

Where's ol' Hank on the radio?

There is plenty of room for traditional sounding current acts as well as the classic artists but they won't play 'em on country radio. Why not? Remember, it don't mean a thang if it ain't got that twang!
Two stations in Detroit are 24 hour Christmas stations from November through Christmas day. Let's see...Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, Holly Jolly Christmas, Happy Holidays, Jingle Bell Rock, I Want A Hippopotomus for Christmas, Do They Know It's Christmas, Happy Xmas (War Is Over)...played at least every two to four hours minimum - some are once an hour! With all of the wonderful Christmas music readily available, we're stuck with the same mall music over and over...
How about the news station...OK, the health care bill again, H1N1 again, the war in Afghanistan again, no money for Michigan's schools again...the same worn out stories we see, read, and hear about over and over everyday. There's gotta be something else out there newsworthy, isn't there? Just a quick search on the internet shows me there is plenty of other news stories to tell. But, alas, not on the major news station.
OK, yes, I am aware of NPR - - their news is pretty much the same as the major station's news, although more left-leaning. Not for me. The music they play is OK but I can't stand the DJ's. They're just so...laid back (is that the word I'm looking for?).
So what do I do while driving in my van...?
Cable radio? I wish I could afford that. Other things (like food and clothing and bills) take precedence.
So, I guess I will continue putting my own collection of music on tape (I still have a cassette player in my van - OK, so I'm a bit behind the times in some areas of technology. At least my oil lamp lights during blackouts!).
I worked in record stores for 19 years and have amassed quite a collection of music, from Adam and the Ants to Stephen Foster to Doo Wop, to Glenn Miller to ragtime to Hank Williams Sr to Holly and the Italians to MercyMe to Nirvana...what a mix tape collection I could make!

Holly and the Italians - great early '80's power pop

Maybe I'll start with a Christmas tape: song selection - - The Boar's Head Carol, The Gloucestershire Wassail, The Holly Bears a Berry, Riu Riu Chiu, All You That Are Good Fellows, Light of the Stable...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Time and Reenacting Go Hand in Hand

I can't figure some folks out. As much as they say they love reenacting, they stop as soon as the reenacting 'season' ends, as if there is a beginning and an end. Well, I realize that setting up a camp (and actually using it for its original intent) can be crazy this time of year - especially for those of us who live in the north - and I have to agree. But, that doesn't mean one has to stop taking part in living history activities, especially during the Christmas Season when people tend to look back to the past for their holiday traditions.
For 12 years I have taken part in the Holly (Michigan) Dickens Festival. Unfortunately, with the economy the way it is, those in charge have had to cut back...dramatically. This year I was one of those cut - ha! And I portrayed Charles Dickens himself!! However, I didn't prevent that little set back from dressing period and attending the festival anyhow, bringing along a few reenactor friends as well (It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas).
And, it didn't take me long to find other period activities to fill in the gap, like Christmas at the Fort (Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit---
I was with other reenactors - positioned in an actual period home! - and we portrayed a family and friends gathering at Christmastime in 1864 Detroit.

Family and friends at Historic Fort Wayne

What a magical time this event was! The home was candle and oil lamp lit and each of us had our impressions. I, of course, was the visiting postmaster friend and spent time writing letters and spoke of the importance of the notes from home and goodies being sent to the soldiers to keep their spirits lifted, while other members of the home spoke on the activities of women on the homefront during the Civil War, including making bandages, repairing old blankets, and crocheting/knitting socks, scarves, and mittens, all to send to our men fighting in the south. And, in between the visitors (and sometimes during the group visits) we played the old parlor game Questions and Answers.

A busy gathering of the homefront in Detroit 1864

Of course, our table top Christmas tree was a highlight for the little ones who stopped in - they're used to the large floor-to-ceiling trees that most folks tend to have in our modern times.
I cannot express just how wonderful a time we all had and how well we all played off each other when our visitors entered the home...our least for the night. Speaking of how family's of the 1860's lived their everyday lives on the homefront at Christmastime made it all seem so real...

Yours truly writing a letter to son Robert fighting somewhere in the south

And, still, there is more reenacting to come. Without an official event, I like to make my own - so, on December 27th many of us living historians will dress up in our period finest and attend the Holiday Homes Tour in Greenfield Village. Over the last few years my wife and I seemed to have garnered interest amongst our fellow reenactors in attending Greenfield Village while wearing our period clothing, visiting the homes still decked in their Christmas finery, and having lunch at the Eagle Tavern.

Civil War reenactors visiting Greenfield Village during Christmastime

In previous years we’ve had not only members from our Civil War unit, but those from other units as well. The thing that Patty and I have most enjoyed about going on the last day the Village is open for the season (to be re-opened in April) is that the Village is not very busy (for the most part) and we can spend a bit more time with the docents, asking questions and learning beyond what the general public seems to be interested in. We even had the pleasure of hearing some of the ghostly tales of the otherworldly visitors that supposedly haunt many of the structures in the Village.
And it's just a great time to be with others with the same interests in a historic setting.
Then there are those who also participate in the Village's Holiday Nights (Christmas at Greenfield Village: Holiday Nights), where many CW reenactors, including my son Robert, give a scenario of winter quarters during the 1860's while in the William Holmes McGuffey School.

21st Michigan members Mike, Andy, and Robbie at the McGuffey Schoolhouse

The neatest thing is that, once again a number of us that reenact dressed up in our period clothing while attending this past December 4th -like the planned December 27 non-event coming up, we visited just on our own strictly as visitors paying our own way in - and enjoyed the Holiday Nights affair by becoming part of the atmosphere.
Yep - we're nuts! But, we're good nuts.
If you truly mourn the so-called end of the reenacting season, look about you - I'm sure you can come up with a few living history events to take part in, or do as I do and come up with your own and invite others along.
Heck, have a period Christmas party in your own home - even the most modern home will have a taste of the 19th century with folks dressed 'proper' amidst a candle and/or oil lamp lit room.

Patty and Lynn during Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village - dressing period whenever we get the opportunity!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Meme

I saw my blogger friends do this so I thought I'd join 'em!

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Absolutely eggnog. Preferably C.F. Burgers

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa wraps the gifts, whether child or adult.

3. Colored lights on the tree/house or white? Colored lights. But, we do turn them off and light our tree candles once a year. I would like to try white lights one year.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Sometimes. This year we have a kissing ball.

5. When do you put your Christmas decorations up? My lighted houses go up right after Hallowe'en due to how long it takes to put it all up. The rest go up shortly after Thanksgiving.

6. Favorite holiday dish? Patty's stuffing that includes raisins and nuts taken from a very old (19th century) recipe.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? The evenings after the tree is decorated: we'd have the tree lights on, candles lit, fireplace roaring, and Christmas music (usually Nat King Cole) playing. That set my future course for all following Christmas Seasons.

8. When did you learn the truth about Santa? At nine years old. My friend's uncle spilled the beans. I still enjoy pretending to this day, however, and even my grown kids enjoy it.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Not usually.

10. How do you decorate a tree? With a variety of items: glass bulbs, tiny wooden pieces of old-time furniture, "A Christmas Carol" and Nativity figures, birds, popcorn (fake but very realistic looking), and various other Victorian style decorations. And real candles.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? I absolutely love it!! Especially when it shuts down the city. Yeah I'm crazy. But, only until after Valentine's Day. Then bring on the spring!

12. Can you ice skate? Haven't done it in many years.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? A record player in 1969. Now I could play Beatles records!! And a Lionel Train set as an adult, soon after I was married. Guys never grow up.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you? It's easy to say the celebration of Christ's birth (even though December 25th is more than likely not His birthday), so, that being said, my 2nd most important thing is tradition. Celebrating the Season by doing fun things as a family (Christmas at Greenfield Village, the Holly Dickens Festival, cutting down the tree, and watching Christmas movies together).

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Pumpkin pie with real whipped cream. Oh yeah!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Going to Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village (Christmas at Greenfield Village: Holiday Nights)

17. What tops your tree? An angel

18. Which do you prefer-Giving or Receiving? I'm not going to lie...I do enjoy receiving. But, it doesn't get any better than seeing your children's faces when they open up that special present that they were hoping for but not sure if they'd get.

19. Favorite Christmas song? "The Boar's Head Carol" and the original melody of "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

20. Candy Canes-Yuck or Yum? Eh - so-so. Better as a decoration than a treat.

21. Favorite Christmas show? The George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol"

22. Saddest Christmas song? 'Christmas In Jail' by The Youngsters from the early 1950's

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Christmas Season!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Greatest Generation

(Just some random thoughts that I have gathered on this Pearl Harbor Day.)

My mother and father are/were part of the "Greatest Generation" - that group of people who lived through the Great Depression and WWII. I'm sure that moniker irks some who feel that this generation is not the greatest. But, I have to agree with those that say they truly were the epitome of America at its best. Think about it, after the 'high' of the roaring twenties, life came crashing down, literally, for millions. But, for the greater majority of Americans, they persevered, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and working two, three, and even four jobs to eke out a living; my mother told me how her mother, a divorce', would sell apples at night after the kids were put to bed. She also told me of the Christmas present she and her three sisters received one year: two sisters received a baby doll, and the other two received a baby doll carriage. That was it. And now the four girls were forced to play together if they wanted to enjoy their gifts.
But they were very happy with what they got.
My great great grandmother, in her 80's during the 1930's, would buy a Hershey candy bar from the store and slice off and eat slivers instead of biting chunks to make it last a week or more.
Just two tiny examples of making due because of the Depression. All members of the family 'suffered.' That was just how life was and they made the best of it.

Then came the War. At the time of this writing, the National Geographic Channel is showing a special on Pearl Harbor, as I am certain the History Channel is as well. The United States was thrown into Europe's war whether they wanted to be in it or not. And the boys volunteered to sign up. They lined the streets, in some cases, for blocks to join the war effort. The folks in the entertainment field also did their part, sometimes to perform and other times to fight.
All proudly served their country.
Those at home collected rubber, metals, had paper drives, all to support the U.S. and its allies fighting overseas.
Then, when the war ended four years later, the men came home, many finding a bride, marrying and raising a family. Dad was off to work, mom took care of the homestead. was good.
Until their children became teenagers.
Can you say hippie?
Yep - all of a sudden, the 'greatest generation' was considered 'the enemy.' The hippies hated their parents, or so it was said. Maybe that was a media thing. Whichever the case may be, because of the media hoopla, these kids revolted, demonstrated against the war in VietNam (and I believe rightfully so in this case, although they should not have treated the fighting men so badly upon their return), struck out against America - the America their parents were so proud to be a part of, the America they fought to preserve just twenty years earlier.
Once again, however, these who were considered the greatest generation, stood steadfast in their ways and survived their son's long hair and beards, communes, wild music, drugs, and general psychedelia.
(Before I am attacked by former hippies, let me just say that in my family - and I believe in most families - this anti-parent attitude did not prevail. It was more of a media thing, but it sold papers and magazines.
I will add, however, that my father was not fond of his sons having long hair. That was a constant battle.)
So now, here in the early part of the 21st century, this greatest generation is elderly, and many are suffering all that goes with old age. My father passed away at a young age - 55 - while my mother, a lung cancer survivor, just celebrated her 80th birthday last month. She stood and told us tonight exactly what she was doing when she heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor - she was playing jump rope with friends on the front sidewalk of their home in Detroit. She told us about collecting rubber and tin cans for the war effort. She told us about Victory Gardens. Nickel movies. The "Pepsi Cola hits the spot" radio commercial. The thrill of riding in a rumble seat. Meeting, dating, and marrying my father, then moving in with his immigrant Italian family, feeling like an outsider because she couldn't understand their broken English.
My mother has been through quite a bit in her 80 years. From radio days to plasma TV's. From the old black and white film cameras to digital technology. From hippie children to having children become parents and grandparents themselves. (I can never make the claim to have been a hippie...I missed that scene myself due to my age, but I did witness it from a younger brother's view).
Contrary to what media and modern pop culture historians may say, there was no hatred or demonstrations at our house growing up. Nor were there in many homes of friends. Yes, there was long hair, wild music, even beads and waterbeds. But, most always showed respect to our parents.
Respect that they deserved as the greatest generation. Because of what those of their era lived through, I do not believe any other generation can come close to that moniker.