Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Live Vs Artificial

I think everyone knows by now that Mac was in the Navy for thirty years, which carried with it a lot of sea duty. Sea duty should have had the word "over" included, since the ship(s) mainly went far away...they didn't run out five or six miles and play war games then back in time for dinner. Even when they were in port, he often had "Duty" which meant he had to stay on the ship overnight at least once a week. He averaged six months at sea every year. Sometimes more. That's the thing so many people don't understand about Military families, it doesn't matter if there's a war going on or not, families are going to be separated. Well, the first Christmas that the ship was at sea at Christmastime, the boys were devastated. Not see Daddy at Christmas? You're kidding, right? Right? Well, sadly I was not kidding. No Daddy at Christmas, it was 1977 so no Internet...just snail mail that could sometimes take up to two weeks to arrive from port to home or home to port. We had always had a live tree and I was adamant that we would not have an artificial tree. Ever. My reasons were mainly that they didn't look real. I had other reasons, but that was the main one. So I've got the beautiful live cedar tree all decorated by December 15th, water in the basin of the tree holder, plop an aspirin in (don't ask me, Mama always did it, I figured she knew). Every few days, add water, add presents, feel needles...sing a carol. The ship was due in the end of December, so I figured the tree would still look pretty good by the time he got home. Christmas came and went, so did the new year, no ship, no Mac. January 12th and I add more water, more aspirin, no carol this time, but a prayer instead. "Dear God please don't let my tree die this week". As though it wasn't already as dead as the proverbial hammer. And dry. There's Mac's presents laid neatly beneath a quickly drying cedar tree and I'm imploring the boys "for heaven's sake, don't brush against the Christmas tree, the needles are getting dry." It's now February 1st, the ship has once more been delayed. The boys are standing in the living room with a couple of their friends and Craig (Wallace's friend) says "you've still got your Christmas tree up." That was all, just you've still got your Christmas tree up. Of course by this time it looked more like a Christmas stick. With lights. "We're waiting for the boys' daddy to get home" I explained. To a five year old. "Oh," was all he said. By this time of course, we no longer turned the lights on, I was afraid of fire. It was no longer even plugged in. When the word came down that the ship was now due on February 14th I was so relieved I was nearly sick. I had taken to sleeping on the sofa next to the tree to keep the cat out of it so that it might have a semblence of shape and a few needles when the big day finally arrived. Women go through an awful lot to make Christmas work for everyone. In my mind, it was still the Christmas season and no one could convince me otherwise. Wow, what a day February 14th was, what a wonderful Valentine's day it turned out to be as we drove to D&S piers (Norfolk. Va) to greet the ship and all I could think of was the pile of needles on the floor , the cat crouching in the middle of the tree, so by now I was certain what remained of the tree was now covering the packages that contained some lovely winter wear and here we were fast approaching spring...after arriving home, I quickly plugged in the tree for the brief time it would take to shove packages into Mac's hands. He opened them, oohed and ahh'ed and I jumped up, unplugged the lights and grabbed the tree and quickly dragged it out the front door and dumped it unceremoniously onto the front yard where it burst into flames before every one's amazed eyes. I swear I could smell the cedar firing up as we sat in the floor. I don't think I've ever moved quite so fast, in my life. As for my opinion of artificial trees, no longer a live cedar snob, I agree with all and sundry...don't they look natural

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Just Following the Road to Nowhere

Since we've retired to God's country (or at least our little section of it) we don't travel that much anymore, it seems. The longest trips we make are to the doctor's visits (too many) and my sons and daughters(in-law) in Florence and Columbia.  Where once we were world travelers, we are now rather sedate.
 Oddly enough, we both grew up in traveling families. I'm not sure how it went for Mac, but I can remember how it went at our house. Mama would start packing the suitcases two nights before we were to leave. The night before was reserved for preparing the driving directions and for that she needed her "navigator's bag" . In it were the pencils, sundry maps, a notepad , a pack of peanuts (?) and her sunglasses. She was always excited to get on the road. I especially remember when we lived in Cleveland and the summer trip was being planned.  Mama had the map stretched out on the table, her red pencil in hand and was trying to find the quickest route to Chesterfield, South Carolina. Now this was before there was an arterial spray of Interstate Highways crisscrossed across the paper. No MapQuest. No GPS systems to tell you when to make each and every turn .  We had Mama.
 We were all hanging onto the table watching with interest and chattering about our trip , the excitement like a bubble of water headed for the surface.  The chatter came to an abrupt end when Daddy came over to where she was studying the map Her lower lip caught between her teeth and that little scowl between her eyebrows her eyes were in serious study. Standing beside her, he suddenly allowed as to how she was making too much work out of it.  He took the red pencil from her grasp and locating Cleveland (or an approxcimity of where he thought Cleveland might be) and then finding Chesterfield (or somewhere in the vicinity of that one, too) he drew a straight line from one to the other in a broad red stroke. Mama looked at the map then looked up at him. We were all standing in a circle around her, our eyes glued to his face. "And just what is that supposed to be?" she asked him. "It's as the crow flies," Daddy said.  I have to hand it to him, he said it with a straight face. "Well, that would all be well and good if anyone had thought to build any roads there," was Mama's reply. Then she looked at us and with the utmost solemnity said, "and this," indicating her now desecrated map, "is why the Children of the Lord wandered in the desert for forty years. Moses drew the map."