I was having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit until I made a BLT while listening to Christmas music the other day. It reminded me of a long gone restaurant in the Porter Square section of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I used to have the sandwich there as a kid. The combination of the sandwich, the memory and the music took me back to another time and that place at Christmas. C’mon back (way, way back) with me.
That smell! The smell of the Christmas tree as Mommy dragged it off of our Volkswagen Beetle and into our small apartment, needles dropping everywhere. Big colored lights. Some of the bulbs didn’t work and she had to replace them to make the whole string light up. Round red, green, silver and gold ornaments that my little sister, Sheri, and I had to hold with two hands. We liked the way our faces looked funny when we held the balls up close and looked into them. Our favorite ornaments were the little copper colored bells. They didn’t ring but they were delicate and sweet. My sister and I threw tinsel at the tree branches. Some of it clumped together but it was still beautiful to us.
The white bedsheet that covered the tree’s stand was empty of presents. Sheri and I had a plan. When our mother left the room, the search was on for us to find money for gifts. If we could find enough change, we could buy Mommy the bubble bath from Fox Drug Store. Sheri and I first hit up our piggy banks. Not bad, one dollar each plus some change. Then we went through all the coat pockets in the hall closet. That grossed us another couple of dollars. Next was the best place to find money, the couch! There were always some dimes and pennies under the cushions. But the big coins dropped into the back, in the crack that ran along the whole length. It was a gold mine. Seven quarters had managed to shake loose from grownups pockets and had fallen into the crack during the year. We added them to the other bills and change we’d collected. Over seven dollars! It was more than enough for the bubble bath. We could get something at the Five and Ten for Big Sis too. We went into the kitchen and told Mommy we wanted to go Christmas shopping at Porter Square and asked if we could go. It was only three stops on the trolley down Mass Ave. I was nine and my sister was seven. We took the trolley much farther to school every day anyway. Mommy smiled and said it was ok. Sheri and I grabbed our coats, hats and mittens. We were so excited that we had to go to the bathroom first.
In those days, kids could ride public transportation alone and no one called child protective services. First, Sheri and I got off the trolley a block before the shopping center and stopped at Fox Drugs. We bought the bubble bath, happy the Lavender scented one we wanted was still there. Then we walked down to Porter Square (or Pohta Sq-way-ah” as the locals called it). The shopping center was a long row of local stores anchored at the front by Dunkin’Donuts and at the back by Star Market. Halfway down was the Five and Ten. We stopped there next and bought a pair of one-dollar Christmas earrings for Big Sis. We wondered if we should give them to her early so she could wear them to her bank job.
We still had a couple of dollars left so we decided to have lunch at the deli next door. I ordered sandwiches for both of us; Tuna for Sheri, BLT for me. At the time, kids could order sandwiches alone in a deli and no one called child protective services. The place was retro even for those days. It had red vinyl booths and table side jukeboxes continually playing customer selected tunes. That day it was Christmas music with a couple of rock tunes thrown in. I loved those BLTs. I remember the white bread was always toasted lightly, the way I like it. The mayonnaise was slathered on so as to cause the crispy bacon to slip a little. The lettuce and tomato were always fresh, never limp. Before I’d take the first bite, the smell of it would waft up into my nose.
I enjoyed my BLT, the shopping and the company of my sister. We walked all the way back home because, since we were kids, we had forgotten about bus fare when we ordered lunch. We didn’t mind. It wasn’t such a long walk. it wasn’t that cold and not too much snow was on the ground (for Massachusetts). Little kids could walk four or five blocks back then without worrying about child protective services. Along the way we laughed, sang Christmas songs and talked about what we wished would appear under the Christmas tree for us. ~
I hope you enjoy the season however you choose to celebrate/observe it. Thanks for sharing my Christmas memory and thanks as always, for reading.
I haven’t posted since the end of May? What happened? Where did the time go? Every time I thought about blogging, something would distract me and turn my attention elsewhere. Sometimes it felt as though I was chasing myself…
Right after the last post my family gathered for a birthday celebration in Miami.
It was wonderful but it was a lot; a lot of traveling, a lot of money and a lot of family. I’m always shell-shocked for a while after a lot of family.
Then it was back to Boston in June (with a stop in New York City for my birthday) for two weeks having fun keeping the middle little company again until camp started. I also got to meet the teeny little, the newest addition to my extended family. And I enjoyed can’t-beat-it New England seafood with old friends. Blessings all. Still, it was a lot.
As soon as I returned home I had back to back houseguests visit, the last one for the the 4th of July. See, since I moved to the DMV I’ve had more company than I did in Boston. I get it, Washington DC is a great place to visit. My friends and family have been especially excited to tour the three year old National Museum of African American History and Culture. And who doesn’t want to be in the nation’s capital on the the 4th?
I rounded out the summer with a mini vacay at beautiful Rehoboth Beach in Maryland with my daughter, biggest little and littlest little. Sun, sand, beach food, family and fun.
Before I knew it it was Labor Day. The whole family gathered in Boston for my son and daughter-in-law’s first anniversary. We had a big barbecue. When I say the whole family, I mean the WHOLE family; offspring, their partners, grandkids, my siblings, nieces and nephews and their kids, their Uber drivers…It was a lot. It was a lot of summer.
Here’s the thing, while I was traveling all over, accommodating family and chasing myself I didn’t notice that I wasn’t balancing the whirlwind with self-care. I was enjoying the people and activities but I was neglecting the other things that feed my soul, like writing. I wasn’t working on the revisions to my novel and I wasn’t blogging. I wasn’t going on the nature walks that allow me to access my poetry muse. I know better. A long time ago I committed to taking responsibility for my procrastination and creative blocks. Yes, my family will always come first but I still have time and energy to devote to writing. So, the question is why wasn’t I able to stop in the midst of all the hubbub and center myself so I could balance the two? I did it in Tulum. I guess just because I’ve learned some important life lessons over the years doesn’t necessarily mean I can consistently apply them. But I write because I must so here I go again. In the words of Rainer Maria Relki,
“a new beginning is always possible – who should refuse it?”
I haven’t posted a gratitude list since 2013. I can’t believe it’s been that long. I feel like I should post one every year day. A lot of the time I choose to bitch and moan instead. But today, Christmas Day, I’m sitting by the fire next to one of my favorite people, Nyla, the middle little person. The day has been filled with laughs, cuddles and love of family. I’m blessed. So here is what I’m grateful for today;
I’m still here
I’m here for another Christmas
My family doesn’t mind being with me
I have the resources to provide Christmas dinner
My grandkids are happy even without gifts
My home is warm
My home is safe
I’m at peace.
So that’s what I’m grateful for this Christmas Day. And as fellow blogger Ann Koplow reminds me in her daily posts which always end in gratitude, I’m also grateful for the folks who read this blog. Thank you. I hope your holiday season has been joyful and peaceful and happy new year to you all.
Btw, do you notice I decorated the snake lamp? The grandkids said the face isn’t very jolly. LOL!