Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 8: Family Time, Decorating, Classic Saint Marty

I am seriously exhausted tonight.  After church this morning, my family and I put up our outside Christmas decorations.  Now, that may not sound like a five- or six-hour job, but it was.  My daughter and I cleaned our front porch first.  We went through old winter coats and hats and boots.  Bagged up the castoffs for Goodwill.  My wife and son went through toys.  They bagged up those castoffs for Saint Vinnie's. 

Long story short, as the sun was on its way to the other side of the horizon, our decorations were up.  The lights were twinkling, and the Christmas bells were caroling.  It looked great, and we had lots of donations for the holiday season.  It was a good afternoon/evening.

The best part about the whole day was having some family time.  My daughter really threw herself into the project.  She organized and cleaned, decked the halls and hung the balls.  My son was all about the ornaments and garland.  And my wife came up with our theme this year:  "Just like the ones I used to know."  (Okay, we couldn't afford to buy any new decorations.  So, we recycled old ones--the ones we used to know.)

So, today, I'm thankful for Christmas lights and ornaments.  Time with my family.  A warm autumn day.  And white fudge-covered Oreos.

The following episode of Classic Saint Marty aired exactly one year ago on a Saturday night.  Saint Marty and his daughter were decking the halls again, and A Christmas Story was on the TV.

November 8, 2014:  Ten Below Zero, Galway Kinnell, "The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak"

After Christmas the thermometer dropped to ten below zero.  Cold settled on the world.  The pasture was bleak and frozen.  The cows stayed in the barn all the time now, except on sunny mornings when they went out and stood in the barnyard in the lee of the straw pile.  The sheep stayed near the barn, too, for protection.  When they were thirsty they ate snow.  The geese hung around the barnyard the way boys hang around a drug store, and Mr. Zuckerman fed them corn and turnips to keep them cheerful.

Yes, when the weather turns cold on the Zuckerman farm, the animals basically do what humans do:  nothing.  They stay inside, where it's warm and safe, venturing outside only when necessary.  To drink water or add to the fertilizer pile, if you know what I mean.

It's been pretty cold today.  Windy and snowy.  There's a couple of inches on the ground now, and there's a winter storm watch in effect for Monday night into Tuesday.  Six inches on the way.  I am not down with winter yet.  I'm still in autumn mode.  Give me piles of leaves, not snow.  At least until after Thanksgiving.

I spent the evening putting up Christmas decorations with my daughter.  Our tree is glowing in the corner of the living room, and our front porch is decked out with candy canes.  Tomorrow night, we will put the garland and decorations on the tree.  Soon, our neighbors will follow suit.  In a couple of weeks, there will be lights up and down our street.  But we were the first.  Not that it's a competition or anything.

I'm beginning to feel old.  I used to love the dark and cold of this time of year.  Not any more.  I prefer July with its mosquitoes and warmth.  I understand the old people who head south in November.  I hate to admit it, but I have reached middle age.  Actually, I surpassed middle age a couple of years ago.  I'm sliding toward old age.  I can barely stay awake for the ten o'clock news.

That's what today's poem from Galway Kinnell is about:  feeling your age.  Realizing you aren't as strong or healthy as you used to be.  You can't shovel snow as fast.  You can't stay up as late.  You look forward to naps.  And you worry about retirement accounts and Social Security.

Saint Marty even watched the Weather Channel for pleasure.

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak

by:  Galway Kinnell

The man splitting wood in the daybreak
looks strong, as though, if one weakened,
one could turn to him and he would help.
Gus Newland was strong. When he split wood
he struck hard, flashing the bright steel
through the air so hard the hard maple
leapt apart, as it's feared marriages will do
in countries reluctant to permit divorce,
and even willow, which, though stacked
to dry a full year, on being split
actually weeps—totem wood, therefore,
to the married-until-death—sunders
with many little lip-wetting gasp-noises.
But Gus is dead. We could turn to our fathers,
but they help us only by the unperplexed
looking-back of the numerals cut into headstones.
Or to our mothers, whose love, so devastated,
can't, even in spring, break through the hard earth.
Our spouses weaken at the same rate we do.
We have to hold our children up to lean on them.
Everyone who could help goes or hasn't arrived.
What about the man splitting wood in the daybreak,
who looked strong? That was years ago. That was me.

What I always thought Rudolph should have said to Santa...

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