One More Christmas Memory

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It’s that time of year, again.

Christmas music is playing non-stop, the stores are jam-packed with holiday shoppers, and kids are busy making their lists to send to Santa praying they’re on the nice list – not the naughty one.

The Princess and I have been busy attending Christmas concerts and enjoying the company of good friends and good food.

The outside lights are up, the tree decorated and my Dicken’s Christmas Village painstakingly set up with careful attention given to the placement of each piece before having snow dumped all over it for that added, cozy Christmas touch.

The holiday season is here in full force. I’m laughing, listening to Christmas carols and starting plans for my Christmas dinner party.

God has been good. We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food to eat and the love of family and friends.

So, why do I feel so empty? Why does my heart ache?

The (Dicken’s) Christmas Village that I started years ago was bought with money that my Mom sent me in my early days in CA. Bought with the thought of times past and the innocent memory of childhood trips to our downtown to see lights strung on Xmas trees and store fronts.

As a child, we didn’t have a car, and my Mom hoofed it to work every day and stood on her feet for hours-on-end at a Jewish Bakery in upstate NY; schlepping rye bread and jam-filled jelly doughnuts to an endless stream of customers who waited patiently to purchase fresh baked goods and to chat with the animated Italian who had a smile as bright as a summer day.

She could wait on 2 to 3 customers at a time, give a hug and a cookie to a munchkin and make everyone feel loved and important; all without breaking a sweat.

And home she trudged through snow and ice after a hard day of standing on her feet, only to be greeted by youngsters anxious to go downtown to look at the Christmas lights twinkling in store front windows and draped on snow covered trees.

“Please, Mom,“ I’d beg. “We’ve all eaten dinner and I’ve washed and put away the dishes. Can you please take us downtown? Please, please, please?”

“I’ll help pull the little ones on the sleigh and we won’t ask for anything, Mom.”

“Honest,” I’d plead.

“We won’t ask for anything,” I continued, looking at her with my best puppy dog eyes.

And Mom being Mom, she quickly grabbed something to eat, bundled us all up and off we’d go downtown looking at lights and talking about our school day.

Over the years, I’ve added on to my Dicken’s Village and always smiled with love and fond memories of a time when we were poor with material comforts, but rich with Mom’s love and steadfast support.

This Christmas season my heart aches for a time past when the snow filled our sidewalks and the tree lights sparkled on the snow as our sled quietly slid-on through the new blanket of white stuff.

As an adult, Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, and I’ve always called my Mom to share with her the joys of the season.

I never realized until recently how my Mom mirrored that joy and how much happier I was after sharing my experiences with her.

With Mom’s passing this October, I find my mirror has a crack and my joys are not as colorful, not as merry.

She wouldn’t want me to feel sad and I’m trying hard to stay merry, but there are times a certain song, a certain smell, a certain Christmas scene takes me back to a time when my Mom was my Mom, and I was her little girl.

And my heart aches for one more moment, one more conversation, one more Christmas memory to share with my mom.

“Merry Christmas, Mom. I love you to the moon and back. Always have. Always will.”

I wish for all of you the merriest of Christmas’s and a Happy New Year, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.

Thank you for your continued love and support.

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Too Many Runs Down a Snow-Covered Hill

My mother taught me to play fair, be honest, treat people the way you want to be treated and say please and thank you. She forgot to teach me life is sometimes unfair, individuals can be dishonest, people will crap on you, and don’t expect a please and thank you from others.

As an undergraduate of a small, all-woman’s, upstate NY college called, Russell Sage College, I remember my dorm buddies telling me, “Lucie, you need to close and lock your door when you’re out of your room and tooling around. You’re gonna get ripped off some day and someone is going to steal your TV or stereo system. Lock your door, ya damn fool. This ain’t the country, Girl!”

Uh-hun.

I never did understand how someone could take something that didn’t belong to them and claim it as their own. Never made sense to me. I worked for it. I earned it with my hard-earned money. My logic said that if you wanted a portable TV or a stereo system; go out and get a job and earn it.

I was clueless.

Still am to some degree.

I was an education major in my undergraduate days. My friends were at Sage for nursing and physical therapy, so we didn’t see much of each other in our classes throughout the day. Evening meals were special because we’d gather in the cafeteria and swap sundry stories about our eventful days and express our various displeasure with the over-demanding instructors and talk about everything and anything important to young women of our time.

We studied hard, laughed often and shared our hopes and dreams of a promising future. On those rare occasions we got a snow storm and the urge to get silly in the snow, my friends would devise a plan to steal the food trays from the cafeteria to use for sleds. And off we’d go with our contraband and head for the snow-covered hills surrounding the school’s historic brownstone buildings for an evening of sledding and snow-angels.

Being the hell-raiser and prankster that I was, of course I was involved in the whole sordid scenario and was racked with guilt because we were doing something dishonest; something totally against what momma taught me.

“Relax,” Jonesy said, “and walk through the line real casual-like. I’ll put a tray down the back-side of your sweats and nobody will notice. I’ll walk real close to you. Just make sure you don’t walk funny, for Pete’s sake, or we’re all gonna end up in front of J-Board and put on probation.”

Yep.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized my special walk stayed with me well into my high-heeled, corporate days at San Francisco’s Bank of America. Nader, one of my co-workers and buddies, teasingly commented one day, “Benedetti, you need to learn to sashay like the other girls. You walk like you’ve got something stuck up your butt!”

And just in case I didn’t get what he was trying to tell me, he proceeded to imitate what I looked like when I walked; and what Sylvia, the office flirt, looked like when she walked.

Sylvia never walked around with a food tray in her pants.  I, however, was a master. Apparently, I was so proficient in the skill that it came second nature to me.

Served me right. I should have never taken that food tray. It was dishonest, and it was wrong. And I ended up with a funny walk that stayed with me well after my corporate days.

I did have a hell-u-va good time sledding that night, though. Laughed and had a blast until the tray cracked with one too many runs down the snow-covered hill.

We never did get caught stealing the trays that winter. Or at least the cafeteria lady never ratted on us. I always felt she knew what we were doing, but saw no harm in it, ‘cuz more often than not, we returned them, slightly battered and used, but still good for their original purpose.

I’m 61 years old and still can’t sashay like the other girls.  And on those occasions when I’m at a salad bar and spot a food tray, I find myself smiling with fond memories of a time when I remember how important it was to be honest and fair and treat people kindly and courteously.

As we go forward into the next four years of this country’s new administration, may we all be honest, kind, courteous and fair.

And lovingly remind those among us who aren’t, they need to be…

In the meantime, I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.