Holiday Memories 29 November 2015 First Sunday in Advent

I remember, and I have always loved, like so many people, the smell of cookies baking in the oven.

Now, let me admit that it never gets particularly cold in southern California, but we do get a chill, often, in late fall and winter, especially at night, and yes, even on the sunny days, so the kitchen – especially when cookies or cakes or bread is baking – can become especially inviting, both for its delicious fragrance of something loving in the oven, as well as being a source of warmth at the center of the house.

But what I remember today, so many years later, is the time I was a wicked little boy, and ate almost all the cookies my mother had baked for the meeting of her bridge-playing group of friends who got together once a week to play cards all afternoon. She had baked a batch of cookie cut-outs in the shapes of stars and trees and probably angels and santas too, and I had asked if I could have one and she said yes, but only one.

Then I think she went off to take a bath and get dressed and put on makeup and I just could not eat one. Then I could not eat just one more. Then one more no. Then no. What I remember most clearly is how wonderful the warm sugar cookie tasted going into my mouth and chewing it up and swallowing and oh I just had to have another and another and then I was rearranging the cookies on the plate, trying to make it look like I had not eaten another one, and then if I just moved this one over there, and no, it would be better if I just eat this one and then….

The ladies had a wonderful time laughing at me, much later.

How young and beautiful they all were, in their flowing dresses and fuzzy sweaters.

My stomach ached.

Get grandma at the airport

When I was a child, one of my grandmothers lived in San Diego, only a few miles away from our house, while my other grandmother lived near San Francisco, five hundred miles to the north. Many of those years she flew south to visit with us at Christmas, and we would drive to the airport to meet her as she got off the plane. I still remember, and feel, the old excitement of seeing her appear at the door of the plane, then quivering with pleasure as we watched her coming down the mobile steps which had been pushed up against the airliner. I struggle in my mind to think of the right word to name that moveable staircase – not ramp, not ladder, maybe gangway… but… but oh, the joy when she reached the ground and started walking across the cement field toward us.

Sometimes I would be allowed to slip through the fence gate and run across the hard ground to greet her with a big hug. Those were the days when “security” was for bank vaults, not airports. Those were also the days when I was little – six or seven – and was allowed, yes, even encouraged, to indulge in such extravagant displays of public emotion.

Thursday 26 November 2015 – Thanksgiving Memories


To begin with, I am thankful that I have memories, and even memory at all. Because the gift (or the mere existence) of consciousness, and life itself, is precious and valuable. Precious, and valuable. I do not mean to be redundant, but rather syncretic, for the tangible and intangible jewels of memory and life are multifaceted and so most precious and valuable in and for, oh, so very, very many ways and means. No matter whether you believe in creation or evolution, or both, or neither; life is, almost always, worthy of being and becoming thankful therefor and wherefor.

Even if you think I spell it wrong.

I am grateful to have such a long life of memories of the great American harvest holiday, Thanksgiving. Memories of gathering when I was a child with my brother and parents and our cousins and aunt and uncle and my grandmother – sometimes both grandmothers. We would trade houses most years, one year at my aunt’s and uncle’s either on Resmar Road or Dickey Drive, the other year at our home on Lemon Avenue or Woodland Drive, out there in the suburban hills of La Mesa, near unto Mount Helix on the eastern fringes of San Diego, California. In later years, after I got my driver’s license, I would often be sent into the “big city” to pick up my grandmother at her home in North Park. Sometimes I would sing to myself, over the freeway and through the streets to grandmother’s house we go, the dog knows the way to bark at the sleigh and bring her home to eat ho ho.

Down along freeway 94, then north up Wabash to Nile Street exit – an off-ramp which no longer exists – and a quick ten or twelve block slip and slide along Thorn street to 31st, to the house where my mother and aunt had grown up, and my grandmother still lived for many years later… but that is another story I shall not tell here. Suffice to say that both my older-than-I cousins married and each had a daughter and so we held more at the table.

Time passed, as it always does, and my father, as it turned out, was the first to pass away from the usual Thanksgiving feast crowd. I was twenty-seven that autumn. A year later my mother remarried and we began a new custom of sometimes (not always, not yet) going to the home of my stepsister and her husband, first down in National City and then later even farther out into the east county houses of Jamul. But as I said, not every year, no, for often the new family along with the old, would gather – all twenty something of us, now – far out in the desert at Borrego Springs, where my aunt and uncle had moved in their retirement, and my mother had also bought a modular trailer-home in the same park, called – very picturesquely – the Roadrunner club.

Once – or perhaps more than once – we even had the holiday dinner in the Cuyamaca (or Palomar) mountains, with the cooking focussed around the galley of my stepfather’s beloved motor home. Now that was an adventure I am glad I have not forgotten.





Holiday memories and the long, long, long time calendar.

Tuesday 24 November 2015.

When I was a child, learning and looking forward into my discovery of time and the calendar, I thought, and felt, that the year 2000 was far, far away. I knew that I had a chance of living to see the day when we said that was our year, our time, our date, but I also knew I would have to wait a long, long time to get there.

We got there. I got there. The night that 1999 changed into 2000, our family gathered in the desert at the little mobile/modular trailer/house my mother used to own, where she and my stepfather spent so many pleasant weekends and holidays throughout the twenty-nine years of their happy marriage.

That particular weekend – Friday 31 December to Monday 3 January – my brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces nearly all of them and some cousins too I think came down to Borrego Springs and we all slept over for one or two or three nights, spread out through the three bedrooms and living room of my mom’s house, as well as out in stepfather Herb’s motor home, and, I might not remember rightly, but I think somehow Mom actually rented another house nearby for a couple nights. All told I think there were twenty or thirty of us – my memory is fading now that fifteen years have gone by – almost sixteen, come to think of it.

My aunt Virginia had left this life by then, I am sorry to say. Mom had such good years in the 1980s and thereabouts (thenabouts) getting to be friends with her sister all over again – they lived in the same desert-club complex (the Roadrunner) for twenty some years, from the late seventies to the nineties. They played tennis together and went to the clubhouse pool, and for ten years or so also volunteered as summer campground hosts at Mammoth Lakes, along with their husbands, of course, my uncle Lester and stepfather Herb.

Those were good years. As I sit here writing, I give thanks for such a blessing, and glad that after all it did take so very long to get to 2000 from 1950.