T’was the season!

What a great holiday season we had this year! I typically find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit here in Florida as there is no prompting from the white stuff that would normally cover the Michigan ground this time of year to remind me daily of the season ahead. And all the neighborhood houses lit up with colorful Christmas lights and their lawns with inflatable snowmen are a little amusing without the icicles hanging from the roof tops. But this year was different.

This year my Meg decided to spend Christmas here, the first time in 6 years any of the kids have been with us for any holiday. She arrived a week before, which I was so excited about, because I had a special gift in mind for her. (Read more about that here.) She has a way of making any event more fun with her contagious energy, and this Christmas was no exception. We shopped the flea market, enjoyed the holiday lights in St. Augustine, played Christmas music non-stop, and even opened the required night-before-Christmas presents (matching jammies!) Christmas day found us 05busy preparing a traditional Christmas dinner complete with turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, rolls, green bean casserole, and PIE! And then my sister Molly and her entire family joined us for a wonderful Christmas afternoon and evening, where we ate, laughed, got to the beach for a beautiful sunset, then went back to the house for a crazy game around the table. I was so pleased they stayed as late as they did, as they had a long drive back to their hotel in Kissimmee. It made me realize how much I missed these gatherings, and I was grateful for all the photos from all the phones that were shared with everyone.

Now the tree and decorations are down, slowly the neighborhood is getting back to normal. The sun is shining and temperatures are hovering in the high 60’s to 70’s. My mother is here out of the cold of the north for a couple months. I’m back to work, and life continues. But I do love looking back on that day, that visit from family and the laughter that reassured me that some things just never change. Thank God.

Expect the expected

My Meg has been complaining for years that she’s never been to Disney. All her friends have been to Disney, but not her. Perhaps while watching a Disney movie or seeing a Disney sign, she’ll still say, “I can’t believe I’ve never been to Disney!” Never mind that she was raised in Michigan, over a thousand miles away, and never mind that we only took ONE real family vacation in all their growing up. Never mind that at 31 she’s well aware that a trip to Disney costs an arm, a leg, and several gold bars. That’s not the point.  She’s 31 years old, and she’s never been to Disney.

 And so for her Christmas present this year, since she was going to be spending the holiday with us, I decided to take her to Disney. I’d heard about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which is a party inside the party that is already Magic Kingdom, and there’s limited tickets that cost slightly less than a regular park admission. But the park stays open until midnight, including rides, food, and all the extra fun.

 I was ridiculously excited while planning and anticipating the surprise. She would arrive in Florida the night of December the 17th, and the last day for the MVMCP (as it’s referred to online) was the 19th. Thankfully there were tickets still available, so I bought two (Thom declined the invite) and then started planning HOW to tell her. My thoughts were filled with those TV commercials where the kids are presented with their surprise and the little girl breaks down in a puddle of happy tears. I couldn’t WAIT!

 She finally arrived and the intervening day was filled with plans to go to the flea market, the beach, St. Augustine and more. I convincingly agreed to whatever she wanted to do, knowing in my mind that THE SURPRISE awaited! And then I started to question my plan to tell her.

 I’m very much like my mother when it comes to surprises or any kind of good news. She and I are the ones who jump around screaming when we learn of a new baby, a surprise visit, or any other joyful occasion. We get JOYFUL!  And I know she, like me, can’t seem to help it, and to try and stifle it is like trying to stifle a sneeze.  Similarly, at scary movies with ‘jump’ scenes, I’m in the fetal position and have, on occasion, strained muscles when startled. I guess I feel things a bit more intensely than the average Moe, much to the enjoyment of my boys.

 Meg isn’t like that. And I know that. And if I forget that, I have people to remind me, because invariably I will be disappointed in her very calm reaction to what I think is a great surprise. And so instead of waiting for her to get up the morning of the 19th and say to her, “Get dressed! We’re going to Disney!” and expecting that puddle…instead of that, I decided to use social media to surprise her.  And so I enlisted the help of SnapChat, a cute little app I’m not all that familiar with but that I figured would get her attention. I worked on it in the wee hours of the morning while laying in bed too excited to sleep. You only get a 10-second video, so there were several trials and mostly errors.  Finally on the morning of the 19th I went into her room, woke her up by climbing into bed with her and said, “Hey, I sent you my first SnapChat video. Check it out.”  The video went something like this,

                 “Meg!  Wake up! We’re going to DISNEY!!!  ♫ Merrrrry Christmaaas! ♫”

 Her slightly sluggish response was, “Why are we going to Disney?”  




It’s Chrisssss-mas! All Ooooo-ver! Again!

It’s easy for me to get a little ‘hum-buggie” this time of year, especially when the holiday seems to be force-fed down our throats by greedy consumerism that would LOVE to have us start Christmas shopping right after Halloween. (Don’t get me started!) But I do love Christmas music. And while it’s sometimes a little difficult to get into the spirit of the season here in sunny Florida, the traditional Christmas tunes help a lot. My favorite traditional Christmas song is “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” currently the Rascal Flatts a cappella version.

But I have another favorite Christmas song that brings back the most wonderful, happy memory for me, and, it turns out, my son Drew. When Andrew was a youngster in northern Michigan, he played ice hockey along with several of his neighborhood buddies. sns-holiday-christmas-caroling-tipsWeekends were often spent in the car driving to practices and games. On one of those weekends in December, I was driving him and two of his buddies, Nick and Joe, about an hour and a half east to the town of Alpena for a game. I had a cassette of Christmas music that I’d made up, and we were all enjoying the ride over in the snow, singing along to the songs we knew. But when Tom Petty started in with Christmas All Over Againthings really started hopping. This is a catchy tune, and the chorus is pretty easy to learn, so as it played, the boys got louder and louder, and in my mind I can see them, each with their windows open, their heads out and faces to the sky, singing the title of the song at the top of their voices! And when it was over, I’d have to rewind so we could play it – and sing it –  again.

What a wonderful memory! And now every year around this time, when the radio starts playing Christmas tunes, one of us will hear that song and remember. Sometimes I’ll call Drew and just play him the song, hoping it’s his first exposure of the season. He’s done the same to me. He’s taught his kids that song, and they love it as much as he does.

Is it a silly ‘tradition’ or just a happy memory? Who cares? It makes me smile and brings me ‘tidings of great joy!’ And it’s Chrisssss-mas! All Ooooo-ver! Again!

He was a Yankee Doodle Dandy!

2713Fourth of July is so bittersweet nowadays. At 61 years of age, I have lots of them to look back on, but by far the strongest memory for me, and I’m sure for all my 10 siblings and various cousins, is 4th of July at my grandparents’ cottage. As far back as I can remember, my dad has led a parade of children across the lawn and around the house, marching to the music of George M. Cohen pounded out on the piano by my Aunt Binnie. What started in the 1950’s as a cute idea for a handful of children — “Hey, how about a little parade with the kids?!” — has grown over the years to a tradition that spans generations.

“You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There.”  We learned these songs as youngsters and sang them heartily, marching in a line kept straight by a string of gas station flags. Oldest to youngest, growing in number every year, we would imitate dad as he sang and zig-zagged around the huge lawn, kicking up his leg here and there, yelling, “Tighten up that line!”  Down the stone steps (“Slow down!”) and along the shore of Lake Huron, the neighbors would pile out of their homes to watch us, singing and clapping along.2546

Of course, as we grew older, we were embarrassed by the show. “What would people think? We’re too old for this now. I’ll just watch.”  No way. There was no sitting out, and if you brought a friend along, they were in, too. And so year after year, the tradition continued. With the oldest directly behind dad and the youngest often on an adult’s shoulders, the parade went on, sometimes nearly 30 of us in tow, singing, laughing, kicking up our legs,and just being silly, following the silliest of them all.

Our last 4th of July parade was held at my little cottage in Gaylord, but this time, dad was sitting it out. He had suffered a stroke the year before that left him unable to walk. But that didn’t stop him from singing the old songs, watching as his grown kids, his grandkids and even some great-grandkids marched alongside the deck for his review. “Tighten up that line!” we heard, as everyone lined up to pledge allegiance to the flag. I think many of us knew it would be our last parade with dad. I keep that picture in my heart and in my mind, but the melancholy it causes fades as I recall the wonderful memories of my youth, number 8 in line behind my sister and in front of my cousin, holding tight to the rope and waving our flags, singing and laughing as our parade leader set the tone and marched on.