Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I have started posting to twitter and fb as if I were a member of Washington's troops as they head to Valley Forge. email@example.com I am 2 days behind Washington. Have only three miles from Whitemarsh. Country is picked over & hard find wood firstname.lastname@example.org We stopped at dark, huddled in field. wet, cold, can't stop teeth from chattering. Feet are numb. email@example.com We have small fire but what little wood it wet and keeps going out. Farmers friendly but have nothing to give. firstname.lastname@example.org At least British not following, so we set no guards. moving with stragglers, women & camp followers. Many sick email@example.com hope sleep will come and i can dream of a warm hearth. GN
Monday, December 19, 2011
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE:
"The Polar Express"
FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE:
"Colorado Christmas" - The Dirt Band
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE:
"The Greatest Gift" - Philip Van Doren Stern
Unable to find a publisher for "The Greatest Gift," Philip Van Doren Stern printed two hundred copies of the story and used them as Christmas cards in 1943. From this humble beginning, a classic was born. Van Doren Stern's story captivated Frank Capra, who said he "had been looking for [it] all [his] life." Capra's beloved adaptation, It's a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, was released in 1946, and while the film, which received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director, didn't take home an Oscar, it has secured its place in the American holiday tradition.
The Greatest Gift
The little town straggling up the hill was bright with colored Christmas lights. But George Pratt did not see them. He was leaning over the railing of the iron bridge, staring down moodily at the black water. The current eddied and swirled like liquid glass, and occasionally a bit of ice, detached from the shore, would go gliding downstream to be swallowed up in the shadows under the bridge.
The water looked paralyzingly cold. George wondered how long a man could stay alive in it. The glassy blackness had a strange, hypnotic effect on him. He leaned still farther over the railing...
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a quiet voice beside him said.
George turned resentfully to a little man he had never seen before. He was stout, well past middle age, and his round cheeks were pink in the winter air as though they had just been shaved.
“Wouldn’t do what?” George asked sullenly.
“What you were thinking of doing.”
“How do you know what I was thinking?”
“Oh, we make it our business to know a lot of things,” the stranger said easily.
George wondered what the man’s business was. He was a most unremarkable little person, the sort you would pass in a crowd and never notice. Unless you saw his bright blue eyes, that is. You couldn’t forget them, for they were the kindest, sharpest eyes you ever saw. Nothing else about him was noteworthy. He wore a moth-eaten old fur cap and a shabby overcoat that was stretched tightly across his paunchy belly. He was carrying a small black satchel. It wasn’t a doctor’s bag—it was too large for that and not the right shape. It was a salesman’s sample kit, George decided distastefully. The fellow was probably some sort of peddler, the kind who would go around poking his sharp little nose into other people’s affairs.
“Looks like snow, doesn’t it?” the stranger said, glancing up appraisingly at the overcast sky. “It’ll be nice to have a white Christmas. They’re getting scarce these days—but so are a lot of things.” He turned to face George squarely. “You all right now?”
“Of course I’m all right. What made you think I wasn’t? I—”
George fell silent before the stranger’s quiet gaze.
The little man shook his head. “You know you shouldn’t think of such things—and on Christmas Eve of all times! You’ve got to consider Mary—and your mother too.”
George opened his mouth to ask how this stranger could know his wife’s name, but the fellow anticipated him. “Don’t ask me how I know such things. It’s my business to know ’em. That’s why I came along this way tonight. Lucky I did too.” He glanced down at the dark water and shuddered.
“Well, if you know so much about me,” George said, “give me just one good reason why I should be alive.”
The little man made a queer chuckling sound. “Come, come, it can’t be that bad. You’ve got your job at the bank. And Mary and the kids. You’re healthy, young, and—”
“And sick of everything!” George cried. “I’m stuck here in this mudhole for life, doing the same dull work day after day. Other men are leading exciting lives, but I—well, I’m just a small-town bank clerk that even the army didn’t want. I never did anything really useful or interesting, and it looks as if I never will. I might just as well be dead. I might better be dead. Sometimes I wish I were. In fact, I wish I’d never been born!”
The little man stood looking at him in the growing darkness. “What was that you said?” he asked softly.
“I said I wish I’d never been born,” George repeated firmly. “And I mean it too.”
The stranger’s pink cheeks glowed with excitement. “Why that’s wonderful! You’ve solved everything. I was afraid you were going to give me some trouble. But now you’ve got the solution yourself. You wish you’d never been born. All right! OK! You haven’t!”
“What do you mean?” George growled.
“You haven’t been born. Just that. You haven’t been born. No one here knows you. You have no responsibilities—no job—no wife—no children. Why, you haven’t even a mother. You couldn’t have, of course. All your troubles are over. Your wish, I am happy to say, has been granted—officially.”
“Nuts!” George snorted and turned away.
The stranger ran after him and caught him by the arm.
“You’d better take this with you,” he said, holding out his satchel. “It’ll open a lot of doors that might otherwise be slammed in your face.”
“What doors in whose face?” George scoffed. “I know everybody in this town. And besides, I’d like to see anybody slam a door in my face.”
“Yes, I know,” the little man said patiently. “But take this anyway. It can’t do any harm and it may help.” He opened the satchel and displayed a number of brushes. “You’d be surprised how useful these brushes can be as introduction—especially the free ones. These, I mean.” He hauled out a plain little hairbrush. “I’ll show you how to use it.” He thrust the satchel into George’s reluctant hands and began: “When the lady of the house comes to the door you give her this and then talk fast. You say: ‘Good evening, Madam. I’m from the World Cleaning Company, and I want to present you with this handsome and useful brush absolutely free—no obligation to purchase anything at all.’ After that, of course, it’s a cinch. Now you try it.” He forced the brush into George’s hand.
George promptly dropped the brush into the satchel and fumbled with the catch, finally closing it with an angry snap. “Here,” he said, and then stopped abruptly, for there was no one in sight.
The little stranger must have slipped away into the bushes growing along the river bank, George thought. He certainly wasn’t going to play hide-and-seek with him. It was nearly dark and getting colder every minute. He shivered and turned up his coat collar.
The street lights had been turned on, and Christmas candles in the windows glowed softly. The little town looked remarkably cheerful. After all, the place you grew up in was the one spot on earth where you could really feel at home. George felt a sudden burst of affection even for crotchety old Hank Biddle, whose house he was passing. He remembered the quarrel he had had when his car had scraped a piece of bark out of Hank’s big maple tree. George looked up at the vast spread of leafless branches towering over him in the darkness. The tree must have been growing there since Indian times. He felt a sudden twinge of guilt for the damage he had done. He had never stopped to inspect the wound, for he was ordinarily afraid to have Hank catch him even looking at the tree. Now he stepped out boldly into the roadway to examine the huge trunk.
Hank must have repaired the scar or painted it over, for there was no sign of it. George struck a match and bent down to look more closely. He straightened up with an odd, sinking feeling in his stomach. There wasn’t any scar. The bark was smooth and undamaged.
He remembered what the little man at the bridge had said. It was all nonsense, of course, but the nonexistent scar bothered him.
When he reached the bank, he saw that something was wrong. The building was dark, and he knew he had turned the vault light on. He noticed, too, that someone had left the window shades up. He ran around to the front. There was a battered old sign fastened on the door. George could just make out the words:
FOR RENT OR SALE
Apply JAMES SILVA
Perhaps it was some boys’ trick, he thought wildly. Then he saw a pile of ancient leaves and tattered newspapers in the bank’s ordinarily immaculate doorway. And the windows looked as though they hadn’t been washed in years. A light was still burning across the street in Jim Silva’s office. George dashed over and tore the door open.
Jim looked up from his ledgerbook in surprise. “What can I do for you, young man?” he said in the polite voice he reserved for potential customers.
“The bank,” George said breathlessly. “What’s the matter with it?”
“The old bank building?” Jim Silva turned around and looked out of the window. “Nothing that I can see. Wouldn’t like to rent or buy it, would you?”
“You mean—it’s out of business?”
“For a good ten years. Went bust. Stranger ’round these parts, ain’t you?”
George sagged against the wall. “I was here some time ago,” he said weakly. “The bank was all right then. I even knew some of the people who worked there.”
“Didn’t you know a feller named Marty Jenkins, did you?”
“Marty Jenkins! Why, he—” George was about to say that Marty had never worked at the bank—couldn’t have, in fact, for when they had both left school they had applied for a job there and George had gotten it. But now, of course, things were different. He would have to be careful. “No, I didn’t know him,” he said slowly. “Not really, that is. I’d heard of him.”
“Then maybe you heard how he skipped out with fifty thousand dollars. That’s why the bank went broke. Pretty near ruined everybody around here.” Silva was looking at him sharply. “I was hoping for a minute maybe you’d know where he is. I lost plenty in that crash myself. We’d like to get our hands on Marty Jenkins.”
“Didn’t he have a brother? Seems to me he had a brother named Arthur.”
“Art? Oh, sure. But he’s all right. He don’t know where his brother went. It’s had a terrible effect on him, too. Took to drink, he did. It’s too bad—and hard on his wife. He married a nice girl.”
George felt the sinking feeling in his stomach again. “Who did he marry?” he demanded hoarsely. Both he and Art had courted Mary.
“Girl named Mary Thatcher,” Silva said cheerfully. “She lives up on the hill just this side of the church— Hey! Where are you going?”
But George had bolted out of the office. He ran past the empty bank building and turned up the hill. For a moment he thought of going straight to Mary. The house next to the church had been given them by her father as a wedding present. Naturally Art Jenkins would have gotten it if he had married Mary. George wondered whether they had any children. Then he knew he couldn’t face Mary—not yet anyway. He decided to visit his parents and find out more about her.
There were candles burning in the windows of the little weather-beaten house on the side street, and a Christmas wreath was hanging on the glass panel of the front door. George raised the gate latch with a loud click. A dark shape on the porch jumped up and began to growl. Then it hurled itself down the steps, barking ferociously.
“Brownie!” George shouted. “Brownie, you old fool, stop that! Don’t you know me?” But the dog advanced menacingly and drove him back behind the gate. The porch light snapped on, and George’s father stepped outside to call the dog off. The barking subsided to a low, angry growl.
His father held the dog by the collar while George cautiously walked past. He could see that his father did not know him.
“Is the lady of the house in?” he asked.
His father waved toward the door. “Go on in,” he said cordially. “I’ll chain this dog up. She can be mean with strangers.”
His mother, who was waiting in the hallway, obviously did not recognize him. George opened his sample kit and grabbed the first brush that came to hand. “Good evening, ma’am,” he said politely. “I’m from the World Cleaning Company. We’re giving out a free sample brush. I thought you might like to have one. No obligation. No obligation at all...” His voice faltered.
His mother smiled at his awkwardness. “I suppose you’ll want to sell me something. I’m not really sure I need any brushes.”
“No’m. I’m not selling anything,” he assured her. “The regular salesman will be around in a few days. This is just—well, just a Christmas present from the company.”
“How nice,” she said. “You people never gave away such good brushes before.”
“This is a special offer,” he said. His father entered the hall and closed the door.
“Won’t you come in for a while and sit down?” his mother said. “You must be tired walking so much.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I don’t mind if I do.” He entered the little parlor and put his bag down on the floor. The room looked different somehow, although he could not figure out why.
“I used to know this town pretty well,” he said to make conversation. “Knew some of the townspeople. I remember a girl named Mary Thatcher. She married Art Jenkins, I heard. You must know them.”
“Of course,” his mother said. “We know Mary well.”
“Any children?” he asked casually.
“Two—a boy and a girl.”
George sighed audibly.
“My, you must be tired,” his mother said. “Perhaps I can get you a cup of tea.”
“No’m, don’t bother,” he said. “I’ll be having supper soon.” He looked around the little parlor, trying to find out why it looked different. Over the mantelpiece hung a framed photograph which had been taken on his kid brother Harry’s sixteenth birthday. He remembered how they had gone to Potter’s studio to be photographed together. There was something queer about the picture. It showed only one figure—Harry’s.
“That your son?” he asked.
His mother’s face clouded. She nodded but said nothing.
“I think I met him, too,” George said hesitantly. “His name’s Harry, isn’t it?”
His mother turned away, making a strange choking noise in her throat. Her husband put his arm clumsily around her shoulder. His voice, which was always mild and gentle, suddenly became harsh. “You couldn’t have met him,” he said. “He’s been dead a long while. He was drowned the day that picture was taken.”
George’s mind flew back to the long-ago August afternoon when he and Harry had visited Potter’s studio. On their way home they had gone swimming. Harry had been seized with a cramp, he remembered. He had pulled him out of the water and had thought nothing of it. But suppose he hadn’t been there!
“I’m sorry,” he said miserably. “I guess I’d better go. I hope you like the brush. And I wish you both a very Merry Christmas.” There, he had put his foot in it again, wishing them a Merry Christmas when they were thinking about their dead son.
Brownie tugged fiercely at her chain as George went down the porch steps and accompanied his departure with a hostile, rolling growl.
He wanted desperately now to see Mary. He wasn’t sure he could stand not being recognized by her, but he had to see her.
The lights were on in the church, and the choir was making last-minute preparations for Christmas vespers. The organ had been practicing “Holy Night” evening after evening until George had become thoroughly sick of it. But now the music almost tore his heart out.
He stumbled blindly up the path to his own house. The lawn was untidy, and the flower bushes he had kept carefully trimmed were neglected and badly sprouted. Art Jenkins could hardly be expected to care for such things.
When he knocked at the door there was a long silence, followed by the shout of a child. Then Mary came to the door.
At the sight of her, George’s voice almost failed him. “Merry Christmas, ma’am,” he managed to say at last. His hand shook as he tried to open the satchel.
When George entered the living room, unhappy as he was, he could not help noticing with a secret grin that the too-high-priced blue sofa they often had quarreled over was there. Evidently Mary had gone through the same thing with Art Jenkins and had won the argument with him too.
George got his satchel open. One of the brushes had a bright blue handle and varicolored bristles. It was obviously a brush not intended to be given away, but George didn’t care. He handed it to Mary. “This would be fine for your sofa,” he said.
“My, that’s a pretty brush,” she exclaimed. “You’re giving it away free?”
He nodded solemnly. “Special introductory offer. It’s one way for the company to keep excess profits down—share them with its friends.”
She stroked the sofa gently with the brush, smoothing out the velvety nap. “It is a nice brush. Thank you. I—” There was a sudden scream from the kitchen, and two small children rushed in. A little, homely-faced girl flung herself into her mother’s arms, sobbing loudly as a boy of seven came running after her, snapping a toy pistol at her head. “Mommy, she won’t die,” he yelled. “I shot her a hunert times, but she won’t die.”
He looks just like Art Jenkins, George thought. Acts like him too.
The boy suddenly turned his attention to him. “Who’re you?” he demanded belligerently. He pointed his pistol at George and pulled the trigger. “You’re dead!” he cried. “You’re dead. Why don’t you fall down and die?”
There was a heavy step on the porch. The boy looked frightened and backed away. George saw Mary glance apprehensively at the door.
Art Jenkins came in. He stood for a moment in the doorway, clinging to the knob for support. His eyes were glazed, and his face was very red. “Who’s this?” he demanded thickly.
“He’s a brush salesman,” Mary tried to explain. “He gave me this brush.”
“Brush salesman!” Art sneered. “Well, tell him to get outa here. We don’t want no brushes.” Art hiccupped violently and lurched across the room to the sofa, where he sat down suddenly. “An’ we don’t want no brush salesmen neither.”
George looked despairingly at Mary. Her eyes were begging him to go. Art had lifted his feet up on the sofa and was sprawling out on it, muttering unkind things about brush salesmen. George went to the door, followed by Art’s son, who kept snapping the pistol at him and saying: “You’re dead—dead—dead!”
Perhaps the boy was right, George thought when he reached the porch. Maybe he was dead, or maybe this was all a bad dream from which he might eventually awake. He wanted to find the little man on the bridge again and try to persuade him to cancel the whole deal.
He hurried down the hill and broke into a run when he neared the river. George was relieved to see the little stranger standing on the bridge. “I’ve had enough,” he gasped. “Get me out of this—you got me into it.”
The stranger raised his eyebrows. “I got you into it! I like that! You were granted your wish. You got everything you asked for. You’re the freest man on earth now. You have no ties. You can go anywhere—do anything. What more can you possibly want?”
“Change me back,” George pleaded. “Change me back—please. Not just for my sake but for others too. You don’t know what a mess this town is in. You don’t understand. I’ve got to get back. They need me here.”
“I understand right enough,” the stranger said slowly. “I just wanted to make sure you did. You had the greatest gift of all conferred upon you—the gift of life, of being a part of this world and taking a part in it. Yet you denied that gift.”
As the stranger spoke, the church bell high up on the hill sounded, calling the townspeople to Christmas vespers. Then the downtown church bell started ringing.
“I’ve got to get back,” George said desperately. “You can’t cut me off like this. Why, it’s murder!”
“Suicide rather, wouldn’t you say?” the stranger murmured. “You brought it on yourself. However, since it’s Christmas Eve—well, anyway, close your eyes and keep listening to the bells.” His voice sank lower. “Keep listening to the bells...”
George did as he was told. He felt a cold, wet snowdrop touch his cheek—and then another and another. When he opened his eyes, the snow was falling fast, so fast that it obscured everything around him. The little stranger could not be seen, but then neither could anything else. The snow was so thick that George had to grope for the bridge railing.
As he started toward the village, he thought he heard someone saying “Merry Christmas,” but the bells were drowning out all rival sounds, so he could not be sure.
When he reached Hank Biddle’s house he stopped and walked out into the roadway, peering down anxiously at the base of the big maple tree. The scar was there, thank heaven! He touched the tree affectionately. He’d have to do something about the wound—get a tree surgeon or something. Anyway, he’d evidently been changed back. He was himself again. Maybe it was all a dream, or perhaps he had been hypnotized by the smooth-flowing black water. He had heard of such things.
At the corner of Main and Bridge Streets he almost collided with a hurrying figure. It was Jim Silva, the real estate agent. “Hello, George,” Jim said cheerfully. “Late tonight, ain’t you? I should think you’d want to be home early on Christmas Eve.”
George drew a long breath. “I just wanted to see if the bank is all right. I’ve got to make sure the vault light is on.”
“Sure it’s on. I saw it as I went past.”
“Let’s look, huh?” George said, pulling at Silva’s sleeve. He wanted the assurance of a witness. He dragged the surprised real estate dealer around to the front of the bank where the light was gleaming through the falling snow. “I told you it was on,” Silva said with some irritation.
“I had to make sure,” George mumbled. “Thanks—and Merry Christmas!” Then he was off like a streak, running up the hill.
He was in a hurry to get home, but not in such a hurry that he couldn’t stop for a moment at his parents’ house, where he wrestled with Brownie until the friendly old bulldog waggled all over with delight. He grasped his startled brother’s hand and wrung it frantically, wishing him an almost hysterical Merry Christmas. Then he dashed across the parlor to examine a certain photograph. He kissed his mother, joked with his father, and was out of the house a few seconds later, stumbling and slipping on the newly fallen snow as he ran on up the hill.
The church was bright with light, and the choir and the organ were going full tilt. George flung the door to his home open and called out at the top of his voice: “Mary! Where are you? Mary! Kids!”
His wife came toward him, dressed for going to church, and making gestures to silence him. “I’ve just put the children to bed,” she protested. “Now they’ll—” But not another word could she get out of her mouth, for he smothered it with kisses, and then dragged her up to the children’s room, where he violated every tenet of parental behavior by madly embracing his son and his daughter and waking them up thoroughly.
It was not until Mary got him downstairs that he began to be coherent. “I thought I’d lost you. Oh, Mary, I thought I’d lost you!”
“What’s the matter, darling?” she asked in bewilderment.
He pulled her down on the sofa and kissed her again. And then, just as he was about to tell her about his queer dream, his fingers came in contact with something lying on the seat of the sofa. His voice froze.
He did not even have to pick the thing up, for he knew what it was. And he knew that it would have a blue handle and varicolored bristles.
QUOTE FOR THE DAY:
"Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves." - Eric Sevareid
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE:
Joyeux Noël (English: Merry Christmas) is a 2005 film about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. It was written and directed by Christian Carion. It was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards. The film was one of Ian Richardson's last appearances before his death on February 9, 2007. This film is based on the true stories of the World War I Christmas truce along the Western Front. The story centres mainly upon six characters: Gordon (a Lieutenant of the Royal Scots Fusiliers); Audebert (a French Lieutenant in the 26th Infantry and reluctant son of a general); Horstmayer (a Jewish German Lieutenant of the 93rd Infantry); Palmer (a Scottish priest working as a stretcher-bearer); and German tenor Nikolaus Sprink and his Danish lover, soprano, Anna Sørensen (two famous opera stars).
FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE:
"Driving Home For Christmas" - Chris Rea
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE:
"Stories Behind The Best-Loved songs Of Christmas" - Ace Collins
Behind the Christmas songs we love to sing lie fascinating stories that will enrich your holiday celebration. Taking you inside the nativity of over thirty favorite songs and carols, Ace Collins introduces you to people you've never met, stories you've never heard, and meanings you'd never have imagined. The next time you and your family sing 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,' you'll have a new understanding of its message and popular roots. You'll discover how 'Angels from the Realms of Glory,' with its sublime lyrics and profound theology, helped usher in a quiet revolution in worship. You'll learn the strange history of the haunting and powerful 'O Holy Night,' including the song's surprising place in the history of modern communications. And you'll step inside the life of Mark Lowry and find out how he came to pen the words to the contemporary classic 'Mary, Did You Know?' Still other songs such as 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel' trace back to mysterious origins--to ninth-century monks, nameless clergy, and unknown commoners of ages past. Joining hands with such modern favorites as 'White Christmas' and 'The Christmas Song,' they are part of the legacy of inspiration, faith, tears, love, and spiritual joy that is Christmas. From the rollicking appeal of 'Jingle Bells' to the tranquil beauty of 'Silent Night,' the great songs of Christmas contain messages of peace, hope, and truth. Each in its own way expresses a facet of God's heart and celebrates the birth of his greatest gift to the world--Jesus, the most wonderful Christmas Song of all.
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE:
"Old Folks Christmas" - Ring Lardner
Tom and Grace Carter sat in their living-room on Christmas Eve, sometimes talking, sometimes pretending to read and all the time thinking things they didn’t want to think. Their two children, Junior, aged nineteen, and Grace, two years younger, had come home that day from their schools for the Christmas vacation. Junior was in his first year at the university and Grace attending a boarding-school that would fit her for college. I won’t call them Grace and Junior any more, though that is the way they had been christened. Junior had changed his name to Ted and Grace was now Caroline, and thus they insisted on being addressed, even by their parents. This was one of the things Tom and Grace the elder were thinking of as they sat in their living-room Christmas Eve.
Other university freshmen who had lived here had returned on the twenty-first, the day when the vacation was supposed to begin. Ted had telegraphed that he would be three days late owing to a special examination which, if he passed it, would lighten the terrific burden of the next term. He had arrived at home looking so pale, heavy-eyed and shaky that his mother doubted the wisdom of the concentrated mental effort, while his father secretly hoped the stuff had been non-poisonous and would not have lasting effects. Caroline, too, had been behind schedule, explaining that her laundry had gone astray and she had not dared trust others to trace it for her.
Grace and Tom had attempted, with fair success, to conceal their disappointment over this delayed home-coming and had continued with their preparations for a Christmas that would thrill their children and consequently themselves. They had bought an imposing lot of presents, costing twice or three times as much as had been Tom’s father’s annual income when Tom was Ted’s age, or Tom’s own income a year ago, before General Motors’ acceptance of his new weather-proof paint had enabled him to buy this suburban home and luxuries such as his own parents and Grace’s had never dreamed of, and to give Ted and Caroline advantages that he and Grace had perforce gone without.
Behind the closed door of the music-room was the elaborately decked tree. The piano and piano bench and the floor around the tree were covered with beribboned packages of all sizes, shapes and weights, one of them addressed to Tom, another to Grace, a few to the servants and the rest to Ted and Caroline. A huge box contained a sealskin coat for Caroline, a coat that had cost as much as the Carters had formerly paid a year for rent. Even more expensive was a “set” of jewelry consisting of an opal brooch, a bracelet of opals and gold filigree, and an opal ring surrounded by diamonds.
Grace always had preferred opals to any other stone, but now that she could afford them, some inhibition prevented her from buying them for herself; she could enjoy them much more adorning her pretty daughter. There were boxes of silk stockings, lingerie, gloves and handkerchiefs. And for Ted, a three-hundred-dollar watch, a de-luxe edition of Balzac, an expensive bag of shiny, new steel-shafted golf clubs and the last word in portable phonographs.
But the big surprise for the boy was locked in the garage, a black Gorham sedan, a model more up to date and better-looking than Tom’s own year-old car that stood beside it. Ted could use it during the vacation if the mild weather continued and could look forward to driving it around home next spring and summer, there being a rule at the university forbidding undergraduates the possession or use of private automobiles.
Every year for sixteen years, since Ted was three and Caroline one, it had been the Christmas Eve custom of the Carters’ to hang up their children’s stockings and fill them with inexpensive toys. Tom and Grace had thought it would be fun to continue the custom this year; the contents of the stockings—a mechanical negro dancing doll, music-boxes, a kitten that meowed when you pressed a spot on her back, et cetera—would make the “kids” laugh. And one of Grace’s first pronouncements to her returned offspring was that they must go to bed early so Santa Claus would not be frightened away.
But it seemed they couldn’t promise to make it so terribly early. They both had long-standing dates in town. Caroline was going to dinner and a play with Beatrice Murdock and Beatrice’s nineteen-year-old brother Paul. The latter would call for her in his car at half past six. Ted had accepted an invitation to see the hockey match with two classmates, Herb Castle and Bernard King. He wanted to take his father’s Gorham, but Tom told him untruthfully that the foot-brake was not working; Ted must be kept out of the garage till tomorrow morning.
Ted and Caroline had taken naps in the afternoon and gone off together in Paul Murdock’s stylish roadster, giving their word that they would be back by midnight or a little later and that tomorrow night they would stay home.
And now their mother and father were sitting up for them, because the stockings could not be filled and hung till they were safely in bed, and also because trying to go to sleep is a painful and hopeless business when you are kind of jumpy.
“What time is it?” asked Grace, looking up from the third page of a book that she had begun to “read” soon after dinner.
“Half past two,” said her husband. (He had answered the same question every fifteen or twenty minutes since midnight.)
“You don’t suppose anything could have happened?” said Grace.
“We’d have heard if there had,” said Tom.
“It isn’t likely, of course,” said Grace, “but they might have had an accident some place where nobody was there to report it or telephone or anything. We don’t know what kind of a driver the Murdock boy is.”
“He’s Ted’s age. Boys that age may be inclined to drive too fast, but they drive pretty well.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, I’ve watched some of them drive.”
“Yes, but not all of them.”
“I doubt whether anybody in the world has seen every nineteen-year-old boy drive.”
“Boys these days seem so kind of irresponsible.”
“Oh, don’t worry! They probably met some of their young friends and stopped for a bite to eat or something.” Tom got up and walked to the window with studied carelessness. “It’s a pretty night,” he said. “You can see every star in the sky.”
But he wasn’t looking at the stars. He was looking down the road for headlights.
There were none in sight and after a few moments he returned to his chair.
“What time is it?” asked Grace.
“Twenty-two of,” he said.
“Your watch must have stopped. Nearly an hour ago you told me it was half past two.”
“My watch is all right. You probably dozed off.”
“I haven’t closed my eyes.”
“Well, it’s time you did. Why don’t you go to bed?”
“Why don’t you?”
“I’m not sleepy.”
“Neither am I. But honestly, Tom, it’s silly for you to stay up. I’m just doing it so I can fix the stockings, and because I feel so wakeful. But there’s no use of your losing your sleep.”
“I couldn’t sleep a wink till they’re home.”
“That’s foolishness! There’s nothing to worry about. They’re just having a good time. You were young once yourself.”
“That’s just it! When I was young, I was young.” He picked up his paper and tried to get interested in the shipping news.
“What time is it?” asked Grace.
“Five minutes of three.”
“Maybe they’re staying at the Murdocks’ all night.”
“They’d have let us know.”
“They were afraid to wake us up, telephoning.”
At three-twenty a car stopped at the front gate.
“There they are!”
“I told you there was nothing to worry about.”
Tom went to the window. He could just discern the outlines of the Murdock boy’s roadster, whose lighting system seemed to have broken down.
“He hasn’t any lights,” said Tom. “Maybe I’d better go out and see if I can fix them.”
“No, don’t!” said Grace sharply. “He can fix them himself. He’s just saving them while he stands still.”
“Why don’t they come in?”
“They’re probably making plans.”
“They can make them in here. I’ll go out and tell them we’re still up.”
“No, don’t!” said Grace as before, and Tom obediently remained at the window.
It was nearly four when the car lights flashed on and the car drove away.
Caroline walked into the house and stared dazedly at her parents.
“Heavens! What are you doing up?”
Tom was about to say something, but Grace forestalled him.
“We were talking over old Christmases,” she said. “Is it very late?”
“I haven’t any idea,” said Caroline.
“Where is Ted?”
“Isn’t he home? I haven’t seen him since we dropped him at the hockey place.”
“Well, you go right to bed,” said her mother. “You must be worn out.”
“I am, kind of. We danced after the play. What time is breakfast?”
“Oh, Mother, can’t you make it nine?”
“I guess so. You used to want to get up early on Christmas.”
“I know, but—”
“Who brought you home?” asked Tom.
“Why, Paul Murdock—and Beatrice.”
“You look rumpled.”
“They made me sit in the ‘rumple’ seat.”
She laughed at her joke, said good night and went upstairs. She had not come even within hand-shaking distance of her father and mother.
“The Murdocks,” said Tom, “must have great manners, making their guest ride in that uncomfortable seat.”
Grace was silent.
“You go to bed, too,” said Tom. “I’ll wait for Ted.”
“You couldn’t fix the stockings.”
“I won’t try. We’ll have time for that in the morning; I mean, later in the morning.”
“I’m not going to bed till you do,” said Grace.
“All right, we’ll both go. Ted ought not to be long now. I suppose his friends will bring him home. We’ll hear him when he comes in.”
There was no chance not to hear him when, at ten minutes before six, he came in. He had done his Christmas shopping late and brought home a package.
Grace was downstairs again at half past seven, telling the servants breakfast would be postponed till nine. She nailed the stockings beside the fireplace, went into the music-room to see that nothing had been disturbed and removed Ted’s hat and overcoat from where he had carefully hung them on the hall floor.
Tom appeared a little before nine and suggested that the children ought to be awakened.
“I’ll wake them,” said Grace, and went upstairs. She opened Ted’s door, looked, and softly closed it again. She entered her daughter’s room and found Caroline semiconscious.
“Do I have to get up now? Honestly I can’t eat anything. If you could just have Molla bring me some coffee. Ted and I are both invited to the Murdocks’ for breakfast at half past twelve, and I could sleep for another hour or two.”
“But dearie, don’t you know we have Christmas dinner at one?”
“It’s a shame, Mother, but I thought of course our dinner would be at night.”
“Don’t you want to see your presents?”
“Certainly I do, but can’t they wait?”
Grace was about to go to the kitchen to tell the cook that dinner would be at seven instead of one, but she remembered having promised Signe the afternoon and evening off, as a cold, light supper would be all anyone wanted after the heavy midday meal.
Tom and Grace breakfasted alone and once more sat in the living-room, talking, thinking and pretending to read.
“You ought to speak to Caroline,” said Tom.
“I will, but not today. It’s Christmas.”
“And I intend to say a few words to Ted.”
“Yes, dear, you must. But not today.”
“I suppose they’ll be out again tonight.”
“No, they promised to stay home. We’ll have a nice cozy evening.”
“Don’t bet too much on that,” said Tom.
At noon the “children” made their entrance and responded to their parents’ salutations with almost the proper warmth. Ted declined a cup of coffee and he and Caroline apologized for making a “breakfast” date at the Murdocks’.
“Sis and I both thought you’d be having dinner at seven, as usual.”
“We’ve always had it at one o’clock on Christmas,” said Tom.
“I’d forgotten it was Christmas,” said Ted.
“Well, those stockings ought to remind you.”
Ted and Caroline looked at the bulging stockings.
“Isn’t there a tree?” asked Caroline.
“Of course,” said her mother. “But the stockings come first.”
“We’ve only a little time,” said Caroline. “We’ll be terribly late as it is. So can’t we see the tree now?”
“I guess so,” said Grace, and led the way into the music-room.
The servants were summoned and the tree stared at and admired.
“You must open your presents,” said Grace to her daughter.
“I can’t open them all now,” said Caroline. “Tell me which is special.”
The cover was removed from the huge box and Grace held up the coat.
“Oh, Mother!” said Caroline. “A sealskin coat!”
“Put it on,” said her father.
“Not now. We haven’t time.”
“Then look at this!” said Grace, and opened the case of jewels.
“Oh, Mother! Opals!” said Caroline.
“They’re my favorite stone,” said Grace quietly.
“If nobody minds,” said Ted, “I’ll postpone my personal investigation till we get back. I know I’ll like everything you’ve given me. But if we have no car in working order, I’ve got to call a taxi and catch a train.”
“You can drive in,” said his father.
“Did you fix the brake?”
“I think it’s all right. Come up to the garage and we’ll see.”
Ted got his hat and coat and kissed his mother good-by.
“Mother,” he said, “I know you’ll forgive me for not having any presents for you and Dad. I was so rushed the last three days at school. And I thought I’d have time to shop a little when we got in yesterday, but I was in too much of a hurry to be home. Last night, everything was closed.”
“Don’t worry,” said Grace. “Christmas is for young people. Dad and I have everything we want.”
The servants had found their gifts and disappeared, expressing effusive Scandinavian thanks.
Caroline and her mother were left alone.
“Mother, where did the coat come from?”
“Lloyd and Henry’s.”
“They keep all kinds of furs, don’t they?”
“Would you mind horribly if I exchanged this?”
“Certainly not, dear. You pick out anything you like, and if it’s a little more expensive, it won’t make any difference. We can go in town tomorrow or next day. But don’t you want to wear your opals to the Murdocks’?”
“I don’t believe so. They might get lost or something. And I’m not—well, I’m not so crazy about—”
“I think they can be exchanged, too,” said Grace. “You run along now and get ready to start.”
Caroline obeyed with alacrity, and Grace spent a welcome moment by herself.
Tom opened the garage door.
“Why, you’ve got two cars!” said Ted.
“The new one isn’t mine,” said Tom.
“Whose is it?”
“Yours. It’s the new model.”
“Dad, that’s wonderful! But it looks just like the old one.”
“Well, the old one’s pretty good. Just the same, yours is better. You’ll find that out when you drive it. Hop in and get started. I had her filled with gas.”
“I think I’d rather drive the old one.”
“Well, what I really wanted, Dad, was a Barnes sport roadster, something like Paul Murdock’s, only a different color scheme. And if I don’t drive this Gorham at all, maybe you could get them to take it back or make some kind of a deal with the Barnes people.”
Tom didn’t speak till he was sure of his voice. Then: “All right, son. Take my car and I’ll see what can be done about yours.”
Caroline, waiting for Ted, remembered something and called to her mother. “Here’s what I got for you and Dad,” she said. “It’s two tickets to ‘Jolly Jane,’ the play I saw last night. You’ll love it!”
“When are they for?” asked Grace.
“Tonight,” said Caroline.
“But dearie,” said her mother, “we don’t want to go out tonight, when you promised to stay home.”
“We’ll keep our promise,” said Caroline, “but the Murdocks may drop in and bring some friends and we’ll dance and there’ll be music. And Ted and I both thought you’d rather be away somewhere so our noise wouldn’t disturb you.”
“It was sweet of you to do this,” said her mother, “but your father and I don’t mind noise as long as you’re enjoying yourselves.”
“It’s time anyway that you and Dad had a treat.”
“The real treat,” said Grace, “would be to spend a quiet evening here with just you two.”
“The Murdocks practically invited themselves and I couldn’t say no after they’d been so nice to me. And honestly, Mother, you’ll love this play!”
“Will you be home for supper?”
“I’m pretty sure we will, but if we’re a little late, don’t you and Dad wait for us. Take the seven-twenty so you won’t miss anything. The first act is really the best. We probably won’t be hungry, but have Signe leave something out for us in case we are.”
Tom and Grace sat down to the elaborate Christmas dinner and didn’t make much impression on it. Even if they had had any appetite, the sixteen-pound turkey would have looked almost like new when they had eaten their fill. Conversation was intermittent and related chiefly to Signe’s excellence as a cook and the mildness of the weather. Children and Christmas were barely touched on.
Tom merely suggested that on account of its being a holiday and their having theatre tickets, they ought to take the six-ten and eat supper at the Metropole. His wife said no; Ted and Caroline might come home and be disappointed at not finding them. Tom seemed about to make some remark, but changed his mind.
The afternoon was the longest Grace had ever known. The children were still absent at seven and she and Tom taxied to the train. Neither talked much on the way to town. As for the play, which Grace was sure to love, it turned out to be a rehash of “Cradle Snatchers” and “Sex,” retaining the worst features of each.
When it was over, Tom said: “Now I’m inviting you to the Cove Club. You didn’t eat any breakfast or dinner or supper and I can’t have you starving to death on a feast-day. Besides, I’m thirsty as well as hungry.”
They ordered the special table d’hôte and struggled hard to get away withit. Tom drank six high-balls, but they failed to produce the usual effect of making him jovial. Grace had one high-ball and some kind of cordial that gave her a warm, contented feeling for a moment. But the warmth and contentment left her before the train was half way home.
The living-room looked as if Von Kluck’s army had just passed through. Ted and Caroline had kept their promise up to a certain point. They had spent part of the evening at home, and the Murdocks must have brought all their own friends and everybody else’s, judging from the results. The tables and floors were strewn with empty glasses, ashes and cigaret stubs. The stockings had been torn off their nails and the wrecked contents were all over the place. Two sizable holes had been burnt in Grace’s favorite rug.
Tom took his wife by the arm and led her into the music-room.
“You never took the trouble to open your own present,” he said.
“And I think there’s one for you, too,” said Grace. “They didn’t come in here,” she added, “so I guess there wasn’t much dancing or music.”
Tom found his gift from Grace, a set of diamond studs and cuff buttons for festive wear. Grace’s present from him was an opal ring.
“Oh, Tom!” she said.
“We’ll have to go out somewhere tomorrow night, so I can break these in,” said Tom.
“Well, if we do that, we’d better get a good night’s rest.”
“I’ll beat you upstairs,” said Tom.
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE:
MERRY MADAGASCAR & THE PENGUINS CHRISTMAS CAPER
FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE:
"It's A Wonderful Life"(RADIO VERSION 3-10-47)
Sunday, December 18, 2011
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE:
"What Would Jesus Buy"
What Would Jesus Buy? is 2007 a documentary film produced by Morgan Spurlock and directed by Rob VanAlkemade. The title is a play on the phrase "What would Jesus do?" The film debuted on the festival circuit on March 11, 2007, at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. It went into general US release on November 16, 2007.
The film focuses on the issues of the commercialization of Christmas, materialism, the over-consumption in American culture, globalization, and the business practices of large corporations, as well as their economic and cultural effects on American society, as seen through the prism of activist/performance artist Bill Talen, who goes by the alias of "Reverend Billy", and his troupe of activists, whose street theater performances take the form of a church choir called "The Church of Stop Shopping," that sings anti-shopping and anti-corporate songs. The film follows Billy and his choir as they take a cross-country trip in the month prior to Christmas 2005, and spread their message against what they perceive as the evils of patronizing the retail outlets of several different large corporate chains.
FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE:
"Christmas Is Drawing Near" - Steve Winwood
This is an old English folk song that is at least a couple hundred years old. Amazing how the lyrics still apply to modern society & culture. R2
Christmas is now drawing near at hand
Come serve the Lord and be at his command
And God a portion for you will provide
And give a blessing to your soul beside
Down in the garden where flowers grow in ranks
Down on your bended knees and give the Lord thanks
Down on your knees and pray both night and day
Leave off your sins and live upright, I pray
So proud and lofty is some sort of sin
Which many take delight and pleasure in
Whose conversation God doth much dislike
And yet He shakes His sword before He strikes
So proud and lofty do some people go
Dressing themselves like players in the show
They patch and paint and dress with idle stuff
As if God had not made them fine enough
Even little children learn to curse and swear
And can't recite one word of godly prayer
Who'll teach them better or teach them to rely
On Christ the sinner's friend who reigns on high
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE:
"Letters From Father Christmas" - J. R. R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien was best known for his epic fantasy "Lord of the Rings" and his studies in myth and language. But Tolkien was also the proud dad of four kids - and he didn't just read "Hobbit" to them at bedtime. Over the course of many years, he wrote and illustrated detailed, whimsical letters from Father Christmas, populated with a clumsy polar bear, elves and goblins.
In these letters, Father Christmas kept the Tolkien children updated with stories about the hijinks at the North Pole - the slapsticky North Polar Bear and all the things he broke, firework explosions, the discovery of ancient caves full of old cave drawings, and battles with the goblins. (When Father Christmas couldn't write, his Elvish secretary filled in)
Tolkien's old-school style of writing is a bit formal and very correct, but he tosses in comments of exasperation, amusement, and in the last letter, a sort of sad resignation that children will grow up. Maybe it is because they were given to real children, not intended for publication, that the letters are only a little cutesy, and never cloying.
And of course, Tolkien's detailed, colorful, fantastical, intricate pictures are what make the letters come alive; you can imagine the Tolkien kids eagerly examining the pictures as well as the written words. They aren't terribly realistic - Father Christmas never looks quite real - but their detailed fantastical charm makes up for it, such as the murals on Father Christmas's walls, with suns, moons, stars and trees.
Tolkien also sprinkles the stories with things that his kids were probably intrigued by, like prehistoric cave paintings, fireworks, and a comic bear who causes all kinds of mayhem. And fans of Tolkien's fantasy works will probably enjoy checking out things like the invented Elf language (as written by the secretary Ilbereth) and goblin language. Tolkien includes a letter from the North Polar Bear in the latter language.
"Letters From Father Christmas" won't exactly make you believe in Santa Claus again, but it is one of the prettiest and most charming Christmas picture books out there. Definitely recommended - and not just for Tolkien fans too.
As for the illustrations, JRRT had a wonderful sense of color and line. He was very good at drawing stylized landscapes and interiors. Who wouldn't want someplace like Cliff House? He was less successful at drawing people and animals, probably because he knew very little about anatomy. Still, the portrait of Father Christmas wrapping a package is very fine; his features look somewhat Asiatic. I don't know if it is because JRRT had trouble drawing European round eyes, or if the Tolkein children were old enough to have seen pictures of Lapps and Eskimos and would have felt that such features would be appropriate to a man who lived at the North Pole. Also, the picture of the Polar Bear battling the Goblins to save the Good Children's presents was full of movement and spirit enough that one didn't mind the questionable anatomy; the same could be said of the illustration of the accidental flooding of the English Deliveries room.
If you have children in your life, get a copy. Younger children will love to have these read to them, while older ones will love reading them themselves.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I hope that your life allows you to help others this Christmas and Holiday season. If you are looking for that perfect match between your budget and your values, please consider the Colorado Springs Independent and their program for giving. I will have them on my show to explain how easy it is to donate. There are non-profits to match your interests, but I VERY MUCH hope you consider helping the military and Fort Carson and their troops who protect this great country.
Give! is the Colorado Springs Independent's year-end multimedia and guerilla marketing campaign designed to generate funds, volunteers and applause for the important work local nonprofits perform.
This year their broad-based community steering committee has selected 49 incredible non-profits to be part of the 2011 Give! campaign.
Community members can select one, two or multiple non-profits and make a donation online in a single, easy transaction. And if, in this admittedly difficult economy, you cannot give much, or at all, no worries. There are plenty of valuable opportunities to volunteer as well.
Giving can be made via their secure web site, and all funds are held by the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, until mid-January 2012, when non-profit organizations will be paid 100% of funds citizens donate at an event sponsored by the El Pomar Foundation and Heuberger Subaru.
The Goals of the 2011 Give Campaign are:
to encourage people who do not regularly give to donate time and money, with a particular emphasis on getting those in their 20s and 30s to become philanthropists.
to educate our community about the important work performed by local non-profits
to provide a Pikes Peak philanthropic platform which will make giving back to our community easy, enjoyable and effective.
How can I give to Give!?
Online is the best way. Just click on the Give! button featured at csindy.com and 60 other local Web sites. Then select one, two or multiple nonprofits and make a donation online in a single, easy, secure transaction.
Your donations will be held by the Pikes Peak Community Foundation until mid-January 2012, when nonprofits will be paid 100 percent of donated funds at an event sponsored by the El Pomar Foundation and Heuberger Subaru.
At this ceremony, nonprofits will also receive additional money from our "Friendly Competitions" and "Individual Matching Grants" programs.
All costs, including credit card processing fees, are paid by the Independent.