Sunday, December 26, 2004

Through A Child's Eyes

Well, it's 6 AM on Sunday morning, the day after Christmas. I should be sleeping right now as I stayed up very late Christmas Eve and only had four hours sleep and have not yet been to bed tonight. Mostly because, as soon as I got home, I wanted to see the news and catch up on some of the soldiers' blogs and a few others that I read since I've been unable to do it successfully the last three days. Maybe, I was just too exhausted from all the excitement. I don't know, but I couldn't sleep.

I read some wonderful posts over at Sgt. Missick reminiscing about being at home and 2slick dropped by to return my message of Merry Christmas in my previous post. I also received a lovely message from Joe at AbleandKaneAdventures thanking me for my Christmas message. I read an email from Capt. Matteson at the banty rooster regarding a young wounded soldier meeting Donald Rumsfield.

The message that struck a chord with me most this holiday was from Mrs. Greyhawk, wife and co-blogger over at Mudville Gazette who left this very touching post to her husband, Mr. Greyhawk, who is deployed in Iraq today:

All I Want For Christmas Is A Soldier Coming Home

For those troops that are reading blogs to get closer to home, our thoughts and prayers are with you. We love and miss you.

Merry Christmas,
Keep Safe,
Come home soon.



I've spent too much on Christmas presents this year,
I think trying to compensate for you not being here,
but out of all those gifts under the tree,
the only gift these kids want is you to come home safe and free.


I hope the Greyhawks don't mind me reproducing this message here. Mrs. Greyhawk claims the message didn't start as a poem, but, by line number three, it was going there so she finished it up with a last line of rhyme. One that I thought was very stirring.

Iraq the Model had left a lovely post for all their commentors about Christmas in Iraq. Of course, my friend Ala71 at Blonde Sagacity had put up a lovely poem in the rhyme of "Twas the night before Christmas" where she remembered all her pals in the blog world.

So many to read and mention, but most are on the side bar and you should read them, too, if you get the chance.

Yesterday morning, I had gotten home around 2 AM and then stayed up for two more hours trying to burn CDs for my Step Mom since she was interested in a few of the "Country Classic" CDs that I have that my brother in Arizona had burned for me. It includes songs like "The Bismark" and "The Battle of New Orleans" and "El Paso". If you don't know these songs, you ought to because they represent some of the best story telling songs ever written. Most of the songs on the CDs are exactly that, story telling songs.

Long story short, I couldn't make the *&^%%$ CD burner work. Kept kicking my burned CDs out about three quarters of the way through and indicating it was unable to continue. I was really frustrated, but eventually gave up and went to bed. My brother Bill is going to try and burn some of them on his CD burner today before they leave to go back to the Ozarks. I was in bed about 4:37 AM. At 8:31 AM there was a definite knocking on my front door and my brother and sister in law broke into carols. Very bad caroling actually and the dog started barking insanely. Seems they'd been trying to call me since 7AM to get me over to the house.

Santa Clause had visited the night before and woke the kids up with a "ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas" at O'dark thirty in the morning and the kids were chomping at the bit to open presents. They were waiting for me, so I jumped out of bed (no, I was not wearing a kerchief), threw on some clothes (as opposed to throwing up the sash) and leaped into the car (not to the window) to hitch a ride with them to the house.

We arrived at the house at appx 9:30 AM. When I walked in the door, I got two surprises. First, the tree was so full of presents that they were almost covering the tree. It hadn't looked like that when I left the night before. My brother, even after putting together most of the things that we donated to the needy family he had selected from the Salvation Army, had put together a fine Christmas. So, along with the presents that I had delivered the night before and those from my mom, dad and step mom, we had quite a pile going even though we had constrained each other to making minimal purchases this year due to some folks financial constraints and our desire to participate more fully in giving gifts to the needy instead of receiving. Usually, we had been more apt to give to the "Harvesters" program for food (which we still did), adopt an angel, give money to the local mission and the Salvation Army or drop off toys for the Marine Corp "Toys For Tots" program on an individual basis.

Well, just because we make a rule, doesn't mean that we don't figure out how to break it in some way. We had done our project for the year and the family we chose had received all the fixings for Christmas dinner and then some, two gifts each for the two children and the parents and a family gift of a futon couch. They had very limited furniture and had placed on their list of "large items" a couch. That usually meant, of course, that that is what they would get instead of all the little personal items, but we determined that we could do it all. It just so happened that I had a brand new futon couch in my office for the last six months that no one ever sat on because, when I was working in the office, they all felt compelled to stay out in the living room (I don't know why; then again, maybe I do). After a brief discussion with my brother about the list, we put the futon in the truck along with the presents, food and a few other items including stocking stuffers and a brand new set of pots and pans, tea towels for the kitchen, all sorts of good stuff.

The way it was supposed to work, we received a number to represent that family and put it on all of the items, drop it off and never meet the family. We were perfectly happy with that arrangement because it is about giving and not receiving. As much as getting somebody's gratitude is a nice boost to the ego, that wasn't the point of the project. It was simply to give. Last year, we hadn't been as quick on the up take for our plan to start a new, annual family tradition of adopting a family for Christmas and had been doing some last minute hopping around to get a family and select the gifts. This year, Bill was much more organized and had all the details taken care of. I only had to show up with some goodies and use the truck for delivering.

That's not exactly how it worked out. When we drove over to the drop off point the Friday before last and unloaded everything, the volunteers were surprised by the couch. They were not expecting that. They were familiar with the family and they only had a car with no way to take the couch to their home. After some discussion with the organizer, I told her that we could take the couch for them and the organizer was to tell the people that we were volunteers with the organization (which we were, techinically) so that they would not suspect we were the donors nor feel compelled to offer gratitude directly to us nor be potentially embarrassed.

They called the family up to come and pick up their gifts. We had no idea who they were, but, when they had shown up, the organizer apparently felt compelled to explain who we were and the jig was up. They were a nice young couple and when they came out, the husband seemed a little embarrassed and we were, too. But, brother Bill, gregarious as ever, quickly put them at ease by shaking hands with the man and getting down to the brass tacks of logistics for delivery. We loaded everything back into my truck and arranged to follow the couple back to their apartment.

When we got there, they were living in a small complex with very narrow stair wells leading up to the second floor apartment they occupied. Oh, boy. How were we getting this couch up to their apartment? Another discussion and I backed the pick up as close to the building and balcony as possible. Their neighbor came out and everyone lifted it up over the balcony and then proceeded to hand the other boxes up as well, standing on my tail gate. When it was all done, we were wishing them a Merry Christmas and preparing to jump down from the tailgate when the man leaned over the balcony and put out his hand, "Merry Christmas and thank you."

Well, for about two seconds I had a lump in my throat because it wasn't really all that much in the scheme of things, but it meant Christmas for them. We all shook hands and wished each other "Merry Christmas", then bro, sister in law and I jumped in the truck where their three kids had been waiting and took off to go to dinner.

You know what I said about not getting something peronsal out of it because it was just ego or something? Well, I can tell you, I don't know if it was my ego, but it was one of the most satisfying moments I've had in a long time. We were all very happy as we drove along and we burst into singing Christmas songs, completely off key and the kids tried to follow along. Even three year old Stormy, who only knew one out of every six words of only two songs, which she sang, even during the other songs.

Goofy, maybe, but I had to say, if there was anyone to be thanked, it was that nice young couple for getting us all in the spirit of Christmas. Particularly me, who had been feeling a little like the Grinch and thinking, "Please, can this holiday just get over?" I had not felt very Christmassy this year. I think that nice young couple saved me.

The second surprise, Christmas morning, wasn't a present in the physical sense. When I walked in the door and stood stunned at all the presents, three year old Stormy ran over to me like she always does, "Aunt Katty!" She can never pronounce my name right. And, like always, she wrapped her little arms around my legs so I couldn't move if I wanted to and hugged them with all her might. Before I could hug back, she jumped back, stuck out her little hand and said, "Aunt Katty, come, come." I put my hand in hers and she dragged me over to the tree and presents, "Presents! Christmas!" she said with her little three year old lisp and bent down, grabbed a present and handed it to me.

Well, it wasn't mine, that would make the story too good, but it was the sentiment that counted. All I could think about was how excited she was and how the tree must have looked to her little two foot nothing frame. "Enormous" I think would be the word. The presents were a treasure trove and it put me back on my heels for a moment, once again reminding me what the holiday meant and how once, when I was a child, a visit from Santa Claus seemed like such a magical event.

They told me I had missed Stormy jumping up out of bed and running into the living room, wide awake as if she had not been asleep, at the sound of "Santa" "ho-ho-hoing" out the door and Stormy yelling, "Santa! Santa!" at the top of her lungs and woke up the entire house. Which was why I had gotten a rude awakening yesterday morning. Stormy was not going back to sleep until she got presents.

Everyone sat down on the couches and chairs with the kids in a semi-circle on the floor, just like when we were kids, Bill set up the video camera on the tripod and began handing out presents. Stormy was ripping through the paper like no tomorrow and pulling out her gifts as fast as her little fingers could move, taking only a moment to look them over, toss them aside and go for the next one. She is only three after all and opening presents is still as exciting as the actual gifts. My nephews were much more deliberate in their gift opening and took time to look at each present and admire it.

The gifts the boys liked best were the Spiderman t-shirts my dad and step mom gave them and mine, of course, because "Aunt Katty" knows best what little boys want. Namely, things that will drive their parents crazy the same day they get them. I bought Alex a student guitar. Yep, a noise maker. He'd been wanting to play mine every time I came over with it so I determined that he could have his own and learn to play. Music has so many advantages including coordination, mathematics and socializing. I wish I could say that I got it for those reasons, but I would be lying if I did. Noise and a desire to keep my own guitar intact were the primary drivers.

For Karl, who always wants to be like his older brother, but not quite, I bought a small drum set with a basic snare, tamborine, morrocos and a harmonica. Why the harmonica was in a percussion set, I don't know, but it actually turned out to be his favorite piece. The rest of the day, in between dire threats from bro and sis in law for such a dastardly deed, I attempted to teach the boys how to play "Jingle Bells". Not particularly successful, but we had fun and they sang along with their own version of the music anyway.

Later, Alex took his guitar downstairs and I could hear him strumming on it for all he was worth, singing some song that he had made up. Of course, it was the most awful, beautiful sound you'd want to hear. Completely off key and not a chord change anywhere, but brilliant none the less. Karl was down there, too, playing the harmonica along with him and actually coming pretty close to making some music. I think they've both got an ear for it. Bro was rolling his eyes and yelling down the stairs for Alex to lighten up a little on the strumming before he broke a string. I told him to "chill", if he broke a string, I'd buy him some more. What? They didn't think I ever broke a string?

Bro went on to say that I should not expect that the guitar would be in one piece forever, the boys had little respect for their toys. I just smiled and said "we'll see". Alex came up and said, "What? I was pretending to be a rock star". Ahhh, the dreams of little boys.

Bro had a pained look on his face, "All I've heard for an hour and a half is "pling, pling, pling - pling, pling, pling". You need to take it easy on it if you want to have it for awhile."

Sis-in-law, looking at the guitar, "It's already got marks in the body where he was strumming it so hard."

Me, I was trying not to laugh at their agony. Sis-in-law threatened to bring the boys over to my house for an early serenade and said that, if I liked it so much, they could just come over and play in my little office/studio. See how I'd like it when Alex was singing in my microphone and belting out "pling, pling, pling" through my amp. I was laughing by then and told them I'd be happy to have them come over and make a tape of their music so they could play it over and over and hear that they made music. Not to mention torture their parents some more.

I told Alex to go on down and play. Sunday, I'd come back and show him how to play songs with the three chords I taught him. I told Bill not to worry, if it broke we'd get a new one.

I thought about my old yamaha guitar in the case in the hall, dinged up, slightly scratched on the front of the body from my own picks and strumming and on the back from my belt buckle. How many nights in a field outside the rodeo I had played, or at friendly get togethers, family get togethers or just sitting strumming for my own pleasure, companionship, and, sometimes, my solace. It's been a friend of mine for years, through thick and thin, across the country and back again, from California to Philadelphia.

If I gave the boys that one little thing, that friendship and understanding, then I would have given them the best gift of all.

Stormy, for her part, actually picked up the morrocos while we were playing our version of "jingle bells" and tried to play along. Maybe we got our own band brewing? Mostly, she was excited about the little princess gift set my dad and step mom got her. She brought the packet over to me before we were even done with the presents and made me open it. Man, that kid is strong. She had my arm twisted up behind my back in no time and I was compelled to open it, put the tiara on her head, the princess necklace around her neck, clip on the big, gaudy heartshaped earings and help her put on her princess slippers. Stormy still doesn't know if she's going to be a "tom boy", a little princess fufu or something in between. I'll be keeping my eyes out and making sure she at least knows how to throw a ball.

The boys got me a blown glass eagle with out stretched wings and an American flag clutched in it's talons. The only color was the gold at the tips of the wings and beak and the red, white and blue in the flag.

Do they know their aunt Kat or what?

It was, all in all, a lovely Christmas. When you can see it through the eyes of children, it reminds you what it's all about.

Here's hoping your Christmas was just as beautful and the new year brings you lots of joy.


riceburner147 said...

kat: thanks for the fascinatng account of your christmas. glad it was fun for you and yours. WOW (in reference to your "Single" post ! what a story. i think that club might be the same one ALa and I used to go to (under a different name), she was with her friends and i was doing the photography for the bands CD (which never happened) I dont know how old you are (and i am NOT asking :) but i have known female friends who are really intelligent (one was a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins) having trouble cause many men were intimidated. Have no idea if you have experienced that. At any rate, I think the men must be really dopey in Missouri, you seem great.

My christmas was a little low cause (for the 1st time) my 2 daughters were not with me (17 & 19) They went to Florida with their mother (my ex). But i was glad for them cause they got to see her father before he dies (he has lung cancer).

Have you recently updated the drivers for your burner ? if you are not familiar with the procedure its probably best to just use somebody else's, i hate it when the &$#@ computer fails to do my bidding.

I remember The Bismark, barely, am going now to listen to it..........Have a great New Years, GO IGGLES

Kat said...

There were two several clubs down that way on Hwy 70. but the American Cowboy had definitely been something else before that and was something else after that. Then there was some club down there called the Iguana. both very near the race track.

I think the problem last year was that I was flying around too much and didn't have time to meet anyone, too tired and all that on the weekends. Trying to do the family thing and then taking of bills and house things. time seemed to fly by.

This year also had it's issues. I need to do something else, I think. Have a personal life of some sort. Take up a hobby. Join some organization. I am contemplating that for my new years resolution.

As for my age, I am old enough to be wondering how I am still single after all this time. Too old to do more than think about clubs as a fond and sometimes crazy memory. Old enough that I am wondering how my nephews have gotten near as tall as me when they were very much only reaching to my waist a few years ago. Old enough to worry about the white streak that is becoming a bit prominent in the front (and a few other places). Old enough to remember and sympathise with Marisa Tormei's charachter in "My Cousin Vinny" when she was stomping her foot in time and bemoaning the ticking of her biological clock.

Or, in simpler terms, a couple of years older than Ala if I have her age correct.

I'm sorry to hear that you were a little alone this year with your daughters gone. I hope that you spent some time with friends and other family. The season can make people a little more lonely. I think it was one of the reasons I was a little down myself. Lonely that is, but the little project and the bro's kids helped to make it better.

MichaelH121 said...

Merry Christmas. Being single, no ex no kids, might seem like a bad time at Christmas. But I have 2 nieces. And with the snow here in Ohio it was a white one.

I built a dollhouse for them. It was a kit. It has 800+ actual cedar shingles that had to be glued on individually. My nieces are 8 and 10 and their birthdays are in December as well.

They call me Santa. The 10 year old Julia makes Pumpkin pies, so of course I had to have some. I always show up early in the morning. It is about a 30 minute drive.

It is about the kids not the adults. But then again I am not gonna completely grow up either. It was 10 degrees with a - wind chill and VERY wite out. WE had about 12 inches 20 in some spots.

Having been in the Army I know what its like to be away from home in some other country. Being out of touch for 6 months at a time. Taking leave to go to a family funeral, My Grandmother, who raised me from 14 on, even though my Dad was there his job kept him traveling and I needed a stable place. She taught me how to cook. She taught me a few things about character.

Kat as for the Blog thing, I have started posting poems. I have also been gathering up all the scraps of paper, napkins, cardboard that I wrote on and began compiling them in on book. For better or worse. And I will post some more of the book.

Merry Christmas. Happy New year. And GOD Bless those who wear the uniform of America.

riceburner147 said...

kat: i think it was the iguana (it rings a bell, i was talking to ALa about it today).
I am (approx) 13 years older and i have been w/o a significant other for about 6 years. it is good to be alone for a period of time, esp for me, even tho i have always been basically fairly independent (i do my own wash and put the lid down!) As we go thru life i imagine it gets harder to meet the "right" person, for me, i am probably at the point where i will (try) to meet someone in the near future. A rich prostitute that owns a liquor store....KIDDING !

I think it was really cool of you to give your
(nephew ?) the guitar, music is a gift for life. i recently got Sirius satellite radio and i love to sit in the park and jam on my harmonica to the blues. I am careful not to subject others to this heinous torture. But its fun (and therapeutic) for me.

As for my daughters gone, i burned up the cellular air waves and my daughter has a blog which i somtimes read (i'm kinda not supposed to), thanks for your kind words.

I would like to do the same kind of thing next Christmas that you did with that family, i have gotten out of the habit of charity since i have not been attending any kind of church lately (years !)

Anyway, i will stop blabbing now and say Have a Great New Years.