Rainy Day Writing

Writing, Reading, Inspirations and Aspirations

It Starts with Remembering: A Christmas Ritual

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Christmas Rituals are everywhere right now. Lights! Trees! Shopping Sprees!

And decorating! It’s definitely at full throttle. I think I’m done though.

In the past, my Christmas decorating was very Martha Stewart-esse, with everything from homemade cedar garlands to red and green lights on the picket fence and rose arbor, to holiday themed soaps in the bathrooms and a reindeer throw on the couch.

It was lovely coming home on a dark December night, driving through the deep woods and up the steep driveway to those lights. As I climbed the stairs and unlocked the door, the front porch smelled like fresh cedar boughs. And the house was scented by clove studded oranges in a bowl on the dining room table and a live fir tree in front of the window.

Even Cody, our rescued Malamute, felt like Christmas, with his black and white mask, his thick fur coat and curly tail, and a couple of jingle bells on his red collar keeping time to his wiggling welcome home dance. Come to think of it, we did bring him home for the first time two days before Christmas.

BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER!

It was all quite wonderful.

But the older I get, the more pragmatic and less sentimental I am.

These days I prefer decorating that is pared down to simplicity: Indoors– some candles, a few baubles and greenery; Outdoors– white lights in select fir trees, and a wreath on the front door. I like the house the way it is already–light and bright and sparely decorated. Christmas clutter just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Or perhaps I’m just getting lazy.

I’ve got the Christmas spirit though. I really do. I just don’t feel I need to make a display of it anymore.

Sorry Martha, your icy stares and eye rolls won’t sway me. As a matter of fact, there are a few other traditions on the chopping block this year:

Christmas cookies–far too fattening for a couple of sexagenarians with symptoms of pre-diabetes. They’re out. Not that I won’t miss you kolachkes, but you were a bitch to make.

By the way, I love using the word sexagenarian and plan to do it a lot over the next nine years. It sounds so racy. And it’s so not!

Christmas shopping–over also, unless mailing a check to my sister to buy gifts for the grand kids and ordering a couple of small home appliances online qualifies. Who needs more stuff?

Certainly not this sexagenarian!

Christmas stockings–went the way of pantyhose, a long, long time ago. Filling stockings is such a pain. Not quite as painful as filling pantyhose, but close. They’re both dead to me. I thank God for leggings on a regular basis, because, like Him, they are so forgiving!

There are some Christmas traditions I don’t want to toss though. Like sending out cards. I love giving and receiving them. I just finished writing out my short stack of them.

There is something about a card with a hand written message that says “I’m thinking about you”, and this time of year, I want people to know that, yes, I am thinking about them.

Because I am–thinking about people. Remembering them. It’s not really considered a Christmas tradition or ritual, but it most surely is one. Why else would you send a card to someone you haven’t talked to for a year?

So I’m not some sort of sexagenarian Grinch. And I’m not a Scrooge, either, but since we are on the subject, consider this:

The spirits that moved on the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge began by showing him Christmas past. His renewal started with his remembering.

So for me, remembering is the most important Christmas tradition of all. I hope I will always have the where-with-all to practice it.

It’s the one ritual that has kept me going through the years. No matter how lonely, spare, lost or disappointing the year may have been, in December, I  look back at the wonders of Christmas past, and it does my heart good. Even while it makes me sad.

How do I practice this tradition?

Most years I pull out the family photo albums so that I, like Scrooge, can travel back in time.

Pavone

I can go all the way back to the very beginnings of my maternal family’s life here in America. Or I can visit my child mother, propped on a stool surrounded by her parents and sisters, posing for a family photo. Is it any wonder they nicknamed her Dolly?

I can travel back to my parent’s wedding, or to our little post war Cape Cod house, or to snowstorms in Connecticut, my brothers swathed in winter clothes, throwing delighted smiles at the camera.

snowboys

I can even return to my very first Christmas and sit in my dazed Mother’s arms again, surrounded by my four older brothers, wild eyed and waving their gifts, beside the tinseled white Christmas tree in our tiny living room on Cricklewood Road.

I can stop and marvel at the wall to wall relatives and friends in party hats and party dresses, drinks in hand, crowding our kitchen during some long ago New Year’s Eve party, and wonder at how happy and free and alive they all are. I can hear their laughter again. I can smell their perfume.

There is smiling Auntie Kay, looking like a movie star, sitting next to Auntie Jean. Dad and Uncle Vinnie are looking a little drunk, and Aunt Mary is reacting, laughing out loud, to something funny, and perhaps ribald, one of them has said.

And see how pretty Aunt Hattie is, sitting on Uncle Joe’s lap. Someone way in the back, next to Daddy, is holding up a bottle of booze, and Uncle Judi is throwing back a drink. And there’s Mom, tucked in the corner, wearing a party hat and a great big smile.

NewYears

 

The first time I saw this photo, I was a little taken aback at how wild and young my aunts and uncles and my parents appeared.

Until I realized–this was New Years eve, circa 1950’ish. Of course they were happy. They were alive. Most of them had lived through the lean years of the depression. They had all lived through, and survived, the Second World War.

And here they were, huddled in our warm little kitchen, safe, young and in love, looking forward to the best years of their lives.

Happy New Year indeed.

And this is the thing about this tradition–everyone in that photo is gone now. Some I haven’t seen for years and years and years.

But I can see them again, and I will, I’m sure, this Christmas Eve.

And I can celebrate with them.

And I can celebrate for them.

And I can celebrate Christmas, in my way.

I don’t need the Ghost of Christmas Past to take me back.

I’ve got this collection of photos, and this heart full of memories.

mistletoe

And I’ve got this spirit of Christmas…right here in my heart.

And I hope you’ve got yours too. It starts with remembering.

©All images and text. 2018 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It Starts with Remembering: A Christmas Ritual

Rainy Day Writing

postcard.jpg

Christmas Rituals are everywhere right now. Lights! Trees! Shopping Sprees!

And decorating! It’s definitely at full throttle. I think I’m done though.

In the past, my Christmas decorating was very Martha Stewart-esse, with everything from homemade cedar garlands to red and green lights on the picket fence and rose arbor, to holiday themed soaps in the bathrooms and a reindeer throw on the couch.

It was lovely coming home on a dark December night, driving through the deep woods and up the steep driveway to those lights. As I climbed the stairs and unlocked the door, the front porch smelled like fresh cedar boughs. And the house was scented by clove studded oranges in a bowl on the dining room table and a live fir tree in front of the window.

Even Cody, our rescued Malamute, felt like Christmas, with his black and white mask, his thick fur coat and…

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Mantras for Old Age

This mantra has a deep, dark black aura, the color of a black hole in space whose gravitational pull is all powerful, completely unavoidable, and ultimately fatal. Just like old age.

Continue reading

My Bling Fling with Body Holes

I didn’t really miss the earrings because my hair was so big you couldn’t see them anyways, and if I wore dangly earrings they were in danger of bumping into my shoulder pads

Continue reading

Toilet Paper is Hard to Write On (and other helpful advice)

This is a revelation to me. Or maybe I already knew it but forgot. That happens a lot lately.

I guess it might be because I don’t often have the need to write on toilet paper.

Maybe because unlike most every poor woman in those cheesy Made for TV movies, I’ve never been abducted by a bad man and dragged across the country in a strange car and had to talk my captor into letting me use the restroom at an out of the way gas station in the desert where I had to try to write a “HELP ME! I’m being kidnapped and the license plate number is …” note on toilet paper with an eyebrow pencil and then throw it out the window in hopes that the station attendant will find it and call the police before it gets blown into a sage brush and mistaken for a used wad of paper someone left there in the middle of the night because the restroom door was locked and all this because there was no mirror in the bathroom and I don’t carry lipstick in my purse so that wasn’t even an option.

But today I was stuck in my own bathroom for way longer than I expected, and of course I didn’t bring my phone in with me because I like to fancy myself superior to all those people who can’t leave their phone out of sight for even a quick duck into the loo. But then when the quick duck turned into a more prolonged visit I was sorry I hadn’t brought my phone with me because now I couldn’t browse real estate ads for homes I’ll never be able to afford. Or scroll through Pinterest ideas on how to make stunning bathroom organizers out of card board boxes, recycled bits of wrapping paper and washi tape. And I didn’t even have a notebook in there next to that pen on the counter top because I was being fastidious last week and put it back beside the computer. Dumb ass.

So when I decided I should be more productive and write a poem or a blog post instead of wishing I was at least browsing through that Lands End Fall 2018 catalog I found on the floor next to the toilet and then threw into the recycling bin last week…dumb ass, I decided that I could use toilet paper to write on, because it is, after all, paper.

Except that it really isn’t or at least isn’t paper that is useful for purposes of writing anything on, unless it’s an emergency “HELP ME” note. And if you are writing it with eyebrow pencil I hope it has a built in sharpener and you aren’t long winded like me and can keep it short and to the point or you’re pretty much already a rotting corpse in the desert darling I am so sorry to inform you.

So I tried to write on toilet paper. Which is a pain in the a$$ because it’s soft and flexible, which is great if you are using it for it’s intended purposes, but it sucks to write on. You have to smooth it out on a flat surface and use your thumb and forefinger to keep it taught so that the pen can glide over the surface without skipping and it buckles and tears and is pretty useless as a vehicle for recording your thoughts on.

But by all means keep a little wad in your purse at all times, ladies, because you never know when you might need it.

And carry lipstick even if you never wear it. In case there is a mirror in that desert gas station restroom.

I may have just saved your life.

My work for today is done!

You’re welcome.

Teach The Children

We should teach the children the truth. Otherwise, we risk raising up a bunch of snowflakes with an elevated view of ourselves, one that minimizes our mistakes and makes them infinitely easier to repeat.

Teach them about the Indian Schools, the real cancel culture of our history, and the Trail of Tears.

Teach them about slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, fire hoses and red lining.

Teach them about the murders of black church goers in South Carolina and the beatings on the bridge in Selma, Alabama and the Rodney King beating.

Teach them about the murders of Ahmaud Arbury, George Floyd and Brianna Taylor.

History should not be taught exclusively to make us feel good but to make us confront reality with the hopes of understanding the past and how it haunts our present.

Without it, how can we exorcise the demons that diminish us?

Teach the children truth and let them decide what they think of this country and what they want to do about it and how they want the world they are living in to change and grow and what they want it to become.

If they don’t know the struggle, how can they judge our progress and recognize our heroes?

How can they assess the challenge and approach it with integrity and resolve?

How can they even begin to understand and appreciate the value of equality and justice, if they don’t know about the weight of inequality and injustice?

Teach the children the truth, and watch them run with it.

Red Wine Fueled Musings of an Embarrassingly Average Senior Lady

I feel so grown up. You see, I’m drinking a glass of wine!

All by myself! In front of my laptop!

I feel downright Sylvia Plath-ish.

I can’t remember the last time I did this. Mainly because I’m two sips in and already feeling it in my head. What a lightweight!

Furthermore, this wine is red. 14 Hands Hot to Trot Smooth Red Blend. I like it, actually. Which is a little surprising.

You see, I am not a huge red wine fan. I prefer something light, a little fruity but dry, not sweet but not overly acidic. Like Pinot Grigio, some Chardonnays, or even a bubbly Prosecco. None of which go to my head after two sips.

Speaking of going to my head, I need a feckin haircut so bad my mirror won’t even look at me anymore.

I am relieved that winter is coming so I can hide my shame beneath a fun knitted hat.

You see, I love my hairdresser like a sister, but I also detect that she is an anti-vaxxer. Last time I was there she shared that she would not be getting the vaccine because she has an immune system issue. Then went on to tell me that she believed her husband had gotten the virus early in the pandemic so she possibly had covid anti-bodies. Then finished by telling me she thinks she has a good immune system and would likely be okay if she got sick.

It all seemed vaguely contradictory to me, but I hope to God she is right. Because I do love her a lot.

So for the time being, I am trimming my own hair while waiting, with mounting frustration and disappointment, for the virus to stop killing us.

And yes, I look like shit.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, Red Wine!

The reason I’m sipping red wine in spite of it’s curiously inebriating effects on me is that my doctor gave me the “You have six months to get it together or you will need to go on medication for your pre-diabetes, high cholesterol issues” lecture.

Ugh! So the reality of my situation is that I am not a special 63 year old highly fit and probably gonna live to 95 years old American woman, despite my past life as an aerobics instructor. I’m so ordinary and average it disgusts me.

You mean all that kicking and scratching (as the old man loved to refer to it back in the day) did not provide me with residual immunity to these diseases of lifestyle so exasperatingly common to the typical aging American? WTH?

Of course the old man and I discussed this because we basically take all our meals together. And sleep together. And tag around with one another, (and Cosmo), pretty much 24/7. Which takes a toll sometimes.

But that is a different post of a more delicate nature and we won’t get into that here.

So after a little discussion about how we need to change our diets to keep me from dying, he suggested I should start drinking a glass of red wine a day. Which was crafty, because he doesn’t drink. But he does eat a lot. So this one dietary change he suggested I should try to get my lipid levels down will have zero effect on his culinary life. See. Crafty.

But what the hell. I’m game. Far be it from me to change the status quo around here just because I might die at any moment from embarrassingly run of the mill causes if I don’t get my shit together soon.

So here I am, drinking my glass of wine, wobbly in the head, losing my train of thought, battling a red wine headache.

And this is just day one.

Something tells me it’s going to be a long six months.

I hope you are faring well peeps.

An Antidote for Environmental Despair — Hakai Magazine

Reposted from Hakai Magazine.

As the environmental problems facing our world compound, despair may feel like a rational response. In her new book, Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis, environmental scholar Elin Kelsey makes an evidence-based argument for choosing hope over despair. Kelsey holds up examples of how ecosystems—including along…

An Antidote for Environmental Despair — Hakai Magazine

Ponderous Questions to Ponder

I didn’t write much in 2020. I never felt like I had enough wisdom to write insightfully about anything important and I lacked the proper frame of mind to write light and witty.

I wish I had the gift of someone like Dave Chappelle who can cut to the quick and make you laugh simultaneously. I don’t.

I’m not sure I feel any wiser or funnier at the moment, but it’s a new year so it can’t hurt to make a new effort.

Last year was hard. Devastating, actually.

This year felt more hopeful, but the hope was fragile, at best, and was swiftly and seriously damaged by the events that took place in D.C. on Wednesday.

As always, I find myself responding to tragic events by questioning everything in hopes of gaining some understanding. This is the bane of my psyche. The need to understand things.

Looking for answers starts with questions, so I want to share some that have been on my mind, not in an attempt to explain them or provide answers, but just to get them out of my head and onto the page. Give them some light.

These are some of the questions that the events of the past year have brought to mind:

  • When did condemning violence become a political exercise instead of a moral obligation?
  • At what point did we choose to not just edit truth but to abandon it to fit our purposes? Or has it always been so?
  • Why do we fear paying higher taxes for universal healthcare more than we fear losing everything in the event of a debilitating accident or serious illness?
  • What do we gain by perpetuating national myths about American exceptionalism in the face of massive fails that threaten to rend the fabric of our society and threaten our democracy?
  • Why did the folks who thought they were going to save American democracy this week dress and act like characters from:
  • A. The Beverly Hillbillies
  • B. Call of Duty
  • C. A Midsomer Night’s Dream
  • When was Dumb and Dumber elevated from adolescent dumbass comedy into inspirational historical fiction?
  • Is South Park inspired by Satan or is it legitimate social commentary?
  • Can you serve God and Money or is it God or Money? Ditto the NRA.
  • What is more authoritarian, condemnation and punishment of the press, political opponents and dissenters, or collecting taxes to fund a more fair and equitable system of government for everyone?
  • What isn’t Fascist about politicians, voters and media personalities requiring police protection due to threats of violence and even death at the hands of militant militia members?
  • Can we even discuss or debate politics anymore without devolving into demonizing one another, or is it just too much fun the way it is?
  • Are you tired of all the drama and chaos yet?
  • Are you ready for a change?

Yeah, me too.

Happy New year. Here’s to new efforts to serve, protect and humor each other.

Copyright: 2021 by Ilona Elliott

Enfold Yourself in Small Comforts — Live & Learn

A NY Times editorial by Margaret Renkyl.

Reblogged from the always inspiring Live & Learn blog by David Kanigan.

The scent of sun-dried sheets fresh off the clothesline can completely change my state of mind. Like the sense of well-being that comes over me when a song from my youth is playing on the radio, the smell of line-dried sheets takes me home to Alabama, back to a time when all my beloved elders […]

Enfold Yourself in Small Comforts — Live & Learn

A World Without Men, Amen

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Photo: Ilona Elliott

The trees and the clouds are just as beautiful as ever.

The mountains just as substantial.

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Tatoosh view by Ilona Elliott

The oceans as steady.

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Photo by Ilona Elliott

The stars are as bright

low angle photograph of stars

Photo by Jeff Nissen on Pexels.com

…as ever.

 

The birds, bunnies and bees carry on in the garden with blissful disregard for upheavals in the world of men.

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Photo by Ilona Elliott

 

This sense of self that man seems to possess with such abundance feels like it will be our undoing.

I love God’s world with unwavering passion but the moral constructs of the world of men are a frustration and a misery.

©2020 by Ilona Elliott

 

 

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