Thursday, December 29, 2011

Doing things I used to do

After so many of them, one Christmas tends to blend into another. Even the Christmas tree's I've done over the years tend to a sameness. That's all right, though, I guess I find it comforting, wrapping me up into the warm folds of a nostalgia blanket.

There's the ornaments from the 1940's given to me when I lived in that entrance on the alley apartment in Ocean City, NJ back around 1970. Jeez. That's when the local cops thought I was a drug dealer and was having me watched by the FBI. (Or maybe they were doing the watching but their observations were, I was secretly told, going into such a file. I've never cared enough to find out if it existed or not.) It was worse than they imagined; I was training to be a draft counselor. I also harbored, on occasion, a lost soul who did have legal problems for having been caught using drugs. When he 'went away' for several months, I inherited his dog, Happy. A truly wonderful spirit, that Labrador. He was the one who figured out how to put his mouth on and turn the doorknob to let himself out. He never figured out closing the door, though - which could be a mite disturbing at 4am in the middle of winter when winds would knock out the heater's pilot light. As it turned out, the lost soul was the scion of a wealthy Philadelphia area family whose fortune derived from a common household invention. It was one of his stories I never believed. Except that one Christmas, the one with the 1940's decorations given for the tree by friends when I lived in the apartment that opened into an alley, when I got back from a quick Christmas stay at my Dad's, there were a couple of presents under the tree. Donna had moved out to marry what's his name, so they couldn't have been put there by her. Lost Soul didn't have a key to the place and was away visiting another friend for the holiday. When locked up, that place was locked up tight. I found out the hard way when I left my key behind once. I had to wait for one of my roommates at the time to arrive.  The presents turned out to be for the lost soul, and one box for me. They were labelled. My gift was a crystal brandy snifter and glasses set. It was of a lovely quality. And it was nothing any of my circle could afford. It was from the Lost Soul's parents. It was a lovely thing to do. And little creepy in the way it was done.

That was my second Christmas living on my own. The previous year, I remember I was living way out from the center of town (on 33rd Street, right on the beach! Downtown was the 9th street area).  I was so broke. I managed to get a tree, but didn't have the money to get a stand. As the apartment was on the beach, I found a bucket and filled it with sand. Worked great. I think that was my favorite tree stand to this day. I had been able to afford a string of lights and two boxes of balls, one all blue, at Stainton's, the local downtown department store. They had an annex around the corner and down a bit where they put such stuff. During the summer, the annex would be filled with tables with penny and ten cent merchandise, a major stop every year when I was a kid on vacation staying at Great Great Great Uncle Harry's for two weeks.  Even though time has taken its toll and the boxes are no longer full, the remaining balls are still in use on this year's tree. As are the ones from the 1940s.

This year did see a few casualties, though. It will be remembered as the second year I gave up entirely on the seven dwarfs, of which I only managed to get five. Purchased at that 5 and 10 cent store that used to be on 6th Avenue south of 8th Street in NYC about where Cornelia Street came in but on the other side, they have officially been retired due to deteriorating conditions. (But the box of glass balls from there is still in use - the box fell apart, though.) And this year, I didn't use the little birds that used to attach to the tree limbs with little wires at their feet (they were a present with the balls from the 1940's). The little wires were pretty much gone, as were many of their feathers and a number of beady eyes. But every year I had them on the tree (and I still have a few to put back some year) I put two of them, beak nuzzling beak, the way Jerry Campbell put them once. Tradition. For Absent friends. The two glass balls with a red ribbon hanging inside, which have written on them "miracles happen" are still in use. For absent friends. I purchased one. The other was given to me by my step sister in law. As I opened it she said she didn't know if it was appropriate. It was, I assured her, it was. For absent friends.

Today is the birthday of Marianne Faithfull. She's 65 today. And Good God, but somehow she managed to survive all that. And end up as a great chant-hussy. You can sometimes hear the days, every one of them, in her voice. Happy Birthday, Ms. Faithfull. Happy Birthday.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

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From my Aunt Lorraine who estimates 1954 or 1955.

My father labelled this one.