“Let It Snow”

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In addition to our angel, we have this wonderful polar bear and baby. The bear actually looks rather like a rat when looked at from the front. I am guessing the Chinese artist who designed it may have never seen a polar bear from the front. But I quibble. It looks cheery and bright in the front yard, and we have her displayed sideways so it is not obvious that she is more rodent than bear. I am hoping for a little snow to make our bear feel more at home.

The mountain laurel is festooned with several hundred blue lights. They cast a wonderful glow down the street and contrast well with the white lights of the bear and angel. The two azalea bushes in the front have various colored lights. These strings are new, replacing very old light strings that finally were beyond repair. Apparently these new lights also use much less electricity than the old ones. Also one light can go out without losing the whole string.

May you all find yourselves surrounded with ones you love during the coming days.

“Light Overcomes Darkness”

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This fall we went to Home Depot with our grandchildren to pick a new lighted lawn ornament for Christmas. Our previous angel had finally succumbed to too many winters in New England. They chose this lovely angel which now lights up our front lawn. People all up and down our street string simple colored lights around their windows. It makes the chilly dark days seem warmer and more hopeful.

Our snowfall has been minimal so far this year. You can see the last remnants of it around the angel. I am sure that we will get our share in January and February. By then she will be safely stored. Where? In our basement bath tub. No one wants to take a bath in the basement, and it proves an ideal place for angel safe keeping!

May you find some light in your own darkness tonight.(Northern Hemisphere readers.) May you enjoy your hours of light.(Southern Hemisphere readers.)

“The Basics”

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I have a collection of small nativity scenes that I have collected or friends have given me. The one pictured here I prize for its simplicity. The story of Jesus’ birth is very basic, a baby born to a family with no place to stay. We sometimes get caught up in decorations and elaborate depictions of His birth. This small sculpture speaks to a simpler truth.

We were in rural far Eastern Quebec two years ago where French was the common language. In Quebec City and Montreal it had been easy to get along in English. Here we were reliant on my school French and the kindness of anyone near by who spoke English.

We had stopped at a small outdoor farmers’ market that my rudimentary French had allowed us to find. I saw this small nativity set immediately. Made from driftwood, pieces of slate and beach stones, it was unlike any I had seen. The artist, a man about 75, spoke no English and his French accent was Quebecois, so I was hopeless at understanding him. Fortunately another vendor was able to learn a price for the piece and helped me navigate the sale.

No matter the language barrier, the artist and I met with our eyes. He knew that I knew the love that had been expressed in his creation. We shared a faith that was deeper than language. Thanks be to God!

“There Are No Small Things”

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Yesterday afternoon I answered a knock on the front door and opened it to a friendly woman holding a brightly wrapped package. She introduced herself as a member of our church and said she was there to recognize that I had lost my sister in August. The women’s ministry meets once a year to package egg bread and personalize a letter to each parishioner who has lost someone dear to them. Then women volunteer to drive around the state delivering the loaves with a condolence note and a warm compassionate smile.

My little sister loved Christmas. In the above photo she is two and examining a toy phone, probably wondering why she can’t hear anyone on it. She wears her favorite one piece pajamas which she demanded each year until they no longer made them big enough. Eventually she was rewarded when they started manufacturing adult size one piece fleece pajamas.

I hadn’t realized that I was resisting decorating the house until I was handed that loaf of bread. My grief had been latent, preventing me from really enjoying the season, but I was unaware that it was affecting me. I took the bread and had a good cry, remembering how much she delighted in Christmas.

Then we loaded our grandchildren in the minivan, drove down our country road, went to our favorite farm stand, and bought doughnuts and a lovely noble fir. It is actually beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Thinking of you with love, Patsy.

“I Get No Kix”

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Long before drive-through restaurants began promoting “Happy Meals” with a toy in every box, cereal manufacturers came up with a similar lure. In this case, Kix cereal ran an irresistible promotion with a miniature state license plate in every box. You could attach these little license plates to your bike and you could try to get all 48 states.(Yup. Only 48. Alaska and Hawaii were territories. Maybe that was Trump’s problem with Obama. He thought territories were foreign countries!)

So after endless begging, my mother capitulated to our request, buying Kix cereal. Of course, we needed her to buy a lot of Kix cereal boxes in order to collect all the plates. I don’t remember if there was only one plate to a box or if several came at once. All I remember is promising my mother that we would eat all the Kix cereal that she bought. So she stocked up on what must have been six months worth of Kix cereal.

Sixty years later I still feel queasy when I pass a box of Kix at the grocery store. We only ever ate cold cereal for breakfast, and true to her word, my mother bought no other cereal until the Kix was gone. Each morning my brother and I ate a big bowl of Kix, grimacing as we chewed, ruing our decision. We wondered why we had insisted on getting the whole series, and we fought over who got to attach the Wyoming plate to their bicycle.

We never bugged our mother again for any cereal box premium!

“Saving Green Stamps”

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During most of my childhood in the 1950’s, businesses rewarded shoppers with “green stamps.” Pictured above, they came in long strips depending on the amount of your purchase.  They had a glue backing and were licked and pasted into books. My mother couldn’t stand pasting them in the books, so they piled up. When we complained about boredom (a perilous complaint in our house!) we would be offered the task of licking the green stamps and putting them in their books.

With four kids we did a lot of business with the local pharmacy which was the source of many stamps. The grocery store gave them out as did the gas station. Most businesses proudly displayed the “we give green stamps” sign hoping it would draw you in. What exactly was the appeal that would convince anyone to save and then lick hundreds of these little stamps?

The reward came in what you could “buy” with filled books of stamps. As usual, my brother and I aimed big when we looked at the catalog. For a billion(or so it seemed) stamps, we could each get new bicycles. Or maybe some extravagant toy set. Unfortunately, as soon as we had filled the books, my mother took a keen interest in what she could get in exchange. So we ended up with picnic jugs, a coffee pot and a toaster. Oh well. At least they were free (if you ignored the child labor!)

 

 

“Stamps On Approval”

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Once we had exhausted our supply of free stamps, my brother and I began sending away for stamps on approval from a couple of stamp companies. I remember Harris Stamp Company in particular, though there were others. The company would send several little glassine envelopes of stamps with such various assortments as “birds,” “Kings,” “Bulgaria.” and “sports.” Usually the packets had five or so stamps each and cost between 10 and 15 cents. We would pour over our possibilities, count our money and mail back those we didn’t want along with coins to cover the ones we were keeping.

It is amazing to think of the workers at those stamp companies opening countless envelopes from kids, returning the unsold packets to their slots and counting the money. I assume, however, that this was a lucrative business, no matter how labor intensive, since it lasted throughout our childhoods.

Needless to say, this produced my rather haphazard collection of stamps which I am looking over today. Clearly I favored colorful stamps and those from British colonies. But today my stamp album is intriguing for the global history it reveals. I find King George on the Australia postage. Eva Peron shows up on my Argentina stamp. Queen Elizabeth reigns over Basutoland. Hitler adorns German stamps. A haughty Franco faces us from Spain. Countless colonies have now become countries since I collected their stamps, and no longer does Queen Elizabeth show up all over the globe as she does in my album.

While my grandchildren will probably never collect stamps, I can give them a fascinating history lesson when we look at my album. And I can remember having to memorize the world map full of countries long since made independent and renamed. So much for the lasting value of that 7th grade African geography test!