Happy Holidays, everyone! Best Day's present to you is a big haul of stories from older buds Gloria, Ann, Frances, Norman, José, Elliott, and Diane! I wasn't at Best Day this week, but Deborah ran the workshop in person, and she finally got to meet Elliott, who I'd reunited with last week! So please enjoy all these holiday stories and stories of family and charity to celebrate!
Each year the Hallmark TV stations offer Christmas movies for over a month in mid-summer encompassing July. The company does this to introduce its newer Christmas ornaments.
In mid-October the Christmas movies start again to usher in the holiday season. Christmas movies in mid-October, Wow! That’s before Halloween. But I find myself watching a few old favorites again and again. I wonder how many others do the same. I’m sure there must be many viewers, or the stations wouldn’t do this year after year.
During the last two years I’ve noticed that along with the traditional white families there are Black, Asian, and Jewish families and a few mixed marriages or dating couples in each group. Hallmark seems to be keeping up with the times.
The movies are wholesome so when I can’t sleep or when my eyes aren’t ready for the morning news shows I watch the Hallmark movies.
Ann von Dehsen
The Santa Secret
This year my 7-year-old grandson Max is having serious doubts about Santa’s existence. Back in October, he questioned me about the actual mail service to the North Pole and the likelihood of Santa ever really receiving his letter. Apparently, he’s been testing his theory out by writing to Santa 5x’s addressed simply: to Santa, North Pole, and putting them in the corner mailbox.
Last week he came downstairs after playing in his room and said to his mom, “I don’t think Santa’s real- I was looking at my toys and games and they all say, ‘made in China.’” At this writing he has not actually asked his parents if Santa is real, but I’m sure he’s still doing his own undercover detective work.
His mother, my daughter Kerry, was much more blunt about the Santa question when she was in 2nd grade. And it was asked one of the most stressful days of my life. It was moving day to a bigger house. The forecasted snow flurries turned into a major snowstorm, my then husband ended up in the hospital with kidney stones, the movers were 5 hours late and quite drunk as they slipped and slided on the icy, now dark driveway and laughed as we all watched my dryer slide down the hill into the woods.
With the help of my brother-in-law and his wife we unpacked the essentials and put the beds together. Finally, I was able to get the kids to bed and had just plopped down on my own bed when Kerry came down the hall and announced, “I don’t think there is a Santa and I want you to tell me the truth right now.” And so, I did, then I cried thinking I probably should have discussed this more. But Kerry was fine and said, “Thanks! I knew it” with a smile. Then she climbed in my bed, and we fell asleep together.
My daughter Rachel’s sons are 5 and 2. Both are all in for Christmas. However, last year, Paul, the 5-year-old had a temporary lack of faith. No in person visit with Santa were possible during COVID, but Macy’s offered a 1-1 visit with Santa and 2 elves over Zoom, so Rachel scheduled a visit. Paul was very quiet but eventually told Santa and the elves that he wanted a cement mixer truck. After the visit he turned to his mom and said, “I don’t think those guys were real.” Rachel assured him that they were, suggesting that maybe they just looked different on the computer. Paul seemed to forget about it, but on Christmas morning, the first toy he opened was the cement mixer truck and he joyfully exclaimed, “They were real, those guys were really real!”
Rachel found out about Santa courtesy of her older sister who told her the tooth fairy wasn’t real. My future statistician/math specialist daughter used her powers of deduction to realize there was no Santa or Easter Bunny either. She recovered quickly when we assured her that yes, there would still be presents.
As for me, my overly sophisticated 1st grade friend told me point blank there was no Santa and I was a baby if I still believed. But even today I still believe in the magic of Santa as witnessed by the chills and smiles I experience when Santa appears at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. I’m convinced he is the real Santa.
Missing the Season
I have written about the weather in California and Philadelphia. When I lived in California I remembered and loved the sunshine
and I did not miss the gray clouds, but what I found after awhile I really missed the changing of the seasons and the snow whenever we had it. I miss the season, the changing of the trees and and the leaves in the yard and everything was just wonderful. But when we got snow in Philadelphia, it was like magic. The earth was covered with beauty before the shoveling and before people started walking and making the ice into a solid mass and hard for shoveling. The snow reminds me of when I celebrated with my family and friends during Thanksgiving and much like I will be during Christmas. For Thanksgiving what I did I used my children's pictures as guests and set them on the table around me. And I made part of my dinner and bought the other part, but what I did was to incorporate all those things we usually had on Thanksgiving day. The Covid stayed at home.
I also got an invitation from my nephew to join them for dinner, but I was not comfortable and I said I would stay home and I also had another invitation and it worked out fine. I got calls from friends and family and because I had been staying in so much I really didn't
miss it that much. I dressed and then I plated my meal and I ate and then I enjoyed most of the things that we had during the holidays. And so I will be doing the same during Christmas making part of the food, I bought a turkey breast and I'll do stuffing and some sides and I'll add my kids' pictures back on the table as my guests.
Love Anguish- Holiday Season Story Revisited
Several weeks ago at Center in the Park I wrote a story about the hardships and the joy that people go through during the holiday period. Well during this particular holiday period, I kind of thought that perhaps I was too hard and I would take a different stance. So, I had at least 10 or 12 activities during the holiday period that I had to attend.
And the first activity took place in this very room with the W.E.B. Dubois group that meets every other Friday, and we have a flyer on the board about that. It was a great affair because we had 13 people attend. Table clothes, cocktail glasses for the non-alcoholic beverages and the food, it was like gourmet. That’s what started it.
And then, being a line-dancer, I attended two -line dancing affairs, one on City Line Avenue and one at the Carousel House at 41st and Parkside Avenue. The line-dance class that I have on Monday nights in Southwest Philly, we had a big party and a lot of gifts were given out. Then there was the annual Senior Holiday Gala at the Marriott Hotel in Center City. We had up to 600 people attend. The live band, dancing and you got a chance to see people that you hadn’t seen for a while.
Right here at this center, 509, I attended the Christmas and New Year’s affair. And then I also attended an affair at the Martin Luther King Center at 22nd and Cecil B. Moore. And then I went to a Kwanzaa affair on a Saturday at West Philadelphia High School. Sometimes these affairs overlap so I had to miss an affair at my Best Day class at Center in the Park.
My holiday started with, like I said, a Dubois activity at the room we are in now and it ended last night, Sunday, in West Philadelphia, at a family gathering on each New Year’s Day that started before I was born and I’m 77 years old. I remember when I was a kid going and now, I’m the eldest person there, and we get a chance to go back and talk about our experiences down south and here in Philadelphia. Initially I said that I would have a brand-new outlook about the holiday season. That it wouldn’t just be a love anguish holiday season revisited, but it was. I enjoyed it but I am tired.
My Last Christmas in Mexico
My last Christmas time that I spent in Juarez was in 2011. That particular December my wife and I knew that it was our last season, our last opportunity to sell the remaining souvenir inventory before leaving for America. On December the 25th, after taking my lunch in home returned to our store to help Maria. The streets were deserted but the mall, where our little business was located, was an attraction for many who wanted to have a good time with a certain level of security because crime and violence were a real factor in our lives. Driving my old and ragged Oldsmobile Cutlass I felt not endangered by any kidnapper or robber since the appearance of my car published an obvious low level of income, in case that some delinquent tried to do business at my expense. I had to drive by Avenue Tecnologico that happened to be the main road, the same that I have crossed for thousands of times. After passing in front of the Instituto Tecnologico de Ciudad Juarez where I used to work for 19 years I noticed something out of routine. A police officer on a motorcycle was following me and in a certain moment flashing light indicated his cruel intention to give me a ticket for sure. Immediately I figured that I was in a serious problem. In that moment I did not have my driving license and no money in case that I wanted to make a contribution for the officer’s personal welfare. Alas! The officer’s usual choice would be to take my car as a collateral for the payment of a large fine, I knew it clearly. Yes sure the fine will include: driving with an old sticker, not having driving license, car hosting and I don’t what any other bureaucratic nonsense and all because of this misfortunate encounter. Nevertheless, I acted as natural as I was able. “Good afternoon, officer. How come that you are working in holidays?
“My family eats all days of the year!” he answered.
Faking innocence and perplexity I asked, “What is the problem? What is my fault?”
He calmly asked: “Where is your new sticker? You are driving with a old sticker.”
“Yes indeed,” I answered, “But on this day I have to work too. My family eats also 365 days a year as you mentioned, I have to take advantage of the season to obtain a little more income, I’m so sorry.”
He responded, “Every one has to comply with the proper legal documentation, independently if it’s holiday or not.” I did not want to contradict his argumentation and go on saying: ”You are right, and I recognize my fault, and I know you are not in a position to put yourself in my shoes because you are compelled to apply the law, but I have to tell you….. my situation is more desperate. Additionally to my old sticker I have not my driver license; I left in my house my wallet with my documents, identifications, money… everything…and now I depend on your humanitarian decision.”
“What do you want to tell me?” he questioned.
I responded: “If I had my wallet with pleasure I will show you my documents…and with no purpose of offense… now I’m not able to offer you an economical compensation for you community work…but since I live with a limited income had to take the risk to appeal to your humanitarian feelings. Today is Christmas day and we have to bring peace to everybody, to our family, neighbors, citizens, etc. So I’m asking you to give me a chance and allow me to continue my way…if you don’t …you will have to give me a huge ticket and take my car as collateral, I know…that’s why I’m asking for your compassion, as if it were a Christmas present given from you to a stranger, a simple fellow citizen.”
“Ok, that’s my Christmas present to you. Go away and don’t forget the regulations,” he left with his motorcycle and I felt happy to found a compassionate soul.
Experience Is the Best Teacher
I really wasn’t trying to write today because I knew I only had a half hour to write. I guess most people who live in these high-rise projects are making the best of a bad situation. They have a shelter and a place to sleep but that’s it. I’ve seen parents have kids in the projects and those kids grow up in the projects and so on and so forth. The job market is no conducive to helping these people get out and if the kid’s lucky enough to live in a two-person household then both parents are working. It feels even worse than when I was growing up
My education started even before I was even in school. In house there was the golden rule, “Do not lie, do not steal, do not kill.” But on the street, it was “Do it to them before they do it to you. They hit you, you hit back harder.” If we broke one of these rules, corporal punishment was induced. We were taught to respect our elders, it was always “yes ma’am” and “no sir”. And that’ what we were judged by when it came to our elders. But among ourselves as young people anything goes.
My mother and father both worked, I hardly ever had a conversation with my dad. I remember him coming home from work tired out from a hard day. By the time he got himself washed and ready for dinner he had a few minutes with my mother, he ate and went straight to bed because he was tired from his day. So he never had time to really discipline me. That was mostly done by my older brother who I always thought hated me. I really did because he was a harsh taskmaster. My brother used to whoop my butt if I did something wrong or disrespected the elderly. And I couldn’t lie because everybody knows everybody. I thought that it was so hard growing up when I was young. My brother was always like a shadow. He always told me where I could go, how late I could stay out, when to come home for bed. He always knew when I was about to do something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. He’s always go, “What you doing? Get your ass out of there.”
And only now do I realize that he was trying to keep me from making the mistakes he made. I realize now that the things he taught me and the values that I learned from my mother are the ones that I hold most dear today.
P.A.L.M. Ardmore Senior Center
A few years ago I used to live in Ardmore and went to the Senior Center there named P.A.L.M. Positive Aging Lower Merion. They have nice activities there as we do here. One of my favorites I enjoyed was the weekly shopping trip. There would be a van that tool the members who wanted to go. We would go to ShopRite where I could get all my shopping done. There was an older member named Ms. Mary that was blind and she would do her shopping with her guide dog. She would encounter difficulties, and no one seemed to want to help her.
I introduced myself the first time I saw her. I helped her go through each aisle explaining to her whatever was on the shelves, and we got what she wanted. Every week we would shop together, and she told me since meeting me this was the first time she was able to get everything she needed and wanted. It was funny when we went through the aisle that had the dog food. She had to tug her dog away from the food. He seemed to like the smell of one particular brand, so that’s the brand she started buying him. She said he wouldn’t eat the old brand anymore and had to throw it out what was left of it.
After we all did our shopping Mike (the driver) would take us all home with our groceries instead of back to the enter. So that was great, especially for Ms. Mary. I was always concerned that the dog would have to relieve himself. But he was always ok. Mike gave us one hour once a week so we could get all we needed a little at a time as opposed to a big once a month trip where it would be difficult to carry so many packages. But as I helped Ms. Mary shop, I had no time to do my shopping. After a while the driver noticed this and increased our shopping time to two hours. So after we did Ms. Mary’s shopping I’d put her dog and her groceries on the van and went back in and did mine. She was so appreciative and happy for the help and I was glad to do it.
I’ve always done volunteer work; it is very rewarding. I remember she told me her watch was broken and she asked me if I could take it to be repaired. I did and she was so happy I helped her. I helped her until she died. I moved to Center City and joined this center. But before I left, I gave them a nice a donation. The Executive Director sent me a nice thank you letter. Here’s the letter she sent.
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And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri