time for counting blessings

No, the deer and cat in the picture aren’t ours; that’s a photo a friend sent in an email a few years ago. But “our deer” have begun to appear from the tops of the mountains along the Wasatch to stimulate and annoy the dogs next door. Hubby saw some last week outside the fence surrounding our back yard. We expect to see the coyotes anyday now. We’ve yet to see the little weasel that likes to winter over under our deck, but every now and then a flock of birds stop by to have breakfast as they pass by on the way to someplace warmer.

Every year around this time I’m reminded how hard it’s getting to keep the holidays simple. In spite of what TV commercials imply, the holiday really isn’t about the “gimmies.” It’s my fault. I’m watching too much TV and subjecting myself to too many confounded commercials. There’s so much pressure to “give that perfect gift”. When I was one, kids waited for Christmas to come because that’s when Santa might visit–if you were good–and leave you something really special that you knew your parents could never afford. And whatever you did wake up to Christmas morning–even if it wasn’t exactly what you’d had in mind–was something you probably wouldn’t get any other time of the year. You learned to like it and use it even if you never did exactly love it. There was always hope for next year.

These days, most people have the wherewithal to buy for themselves whatever they need and lots of stuff they don’t. They don’t have to ask Santa or anyone else to get it for them. It make giving gifts a bit difficult to say the least. I decided to make my gift buying simpler by attaching either the receipts or gift receipt to the package, so the burden is on the recipient if the choice is neither needed nor the right one. Of course some families don’t have it so good…and every year the numbers seem to grow. I wish Santa could do something about that but I guess the world doesn’t work like that.

I hope no one will mind another re-run from One o’the Nine during these busy days. I originally called it “When is Enough Enough?” I admit to slight editing in order to tone down the didactic tone my uncles favored in their depression memories, but I think the essential message in this particular piece is timeless. It was written by my Uncle and published in that small Florida press in the mid-1980s. I’m struck by how much worse conditions seem this year than they did two years ago when it first appeared here. Some things never seem to change do they? I thought it especially appropriate at this time of year, since so many families are having or facing some of the hardest times of their lives, losing jobs and homes, sometimes not having enough to eat. I don’t regret being brought up without the focus on materialism that most American children–in fact most of us–fall victim to today, because I know that the best things in life don’t come with price tags.

* * * * * * * * *

Back during the depression (of the ’30s) when no one had any money, and many didn’t have enough to eat and wore patched britches–because that was all they had–we learned to make-do with what we had and appreciate anything we got. We never threw away much because we didn’t have anything to throw away except maybe a spool when Mama had used the thread from it. Back then spools were made of wood and very seldom thrown away. Spools had several uses other than holding thread.Two of those uses that come to mind are handles for doors that had no knobs, and as toys for us to play with.

A piece of string was threaded through the hole in the spool, tied together and the toddlers pulled it around the house. If we were lucky enough to get someone with a sharp knife to whittle the spool in two pieces, we would put a stick through the hole and sharpen it down, making a top (or spinner) out of it.

Other toys I remember making and enjoying as a depression child was a button with a string strung though two holes, tied together, then pulled back and forth making the button spin back and forth to make a buzzing sound.

Another was just a plain piece of twine tied to make a loop, then through manipulation of the thumb and fingers, making a “Jacob’s Ladder.” With that same piece of string and a different manipulation of the thumb and fingers we would make a see-saw–sometimes called a sawmill. I still remember how to make a Jacob’s Ladder and a see-saw. In fact I just recently made a string see-saw with the help of one of my grandsons, and I believe he enjoyed see-sawing almost as much as I did when I was his age.

I find that in this throwaway–discard– computer age, that children can still be amused by simple things. All they need is someone who will take the time to show them how to make the simple toys, and they will thoroughly enjoy them, sometimes more than some expensive technical toys.

It is too bad, I believe, that fathers and mothers can’t take the time to spend with their children teaching them how to enjoy the simple things of life. It is much too easy to buy some expensive toys, give them to the children, then leave them alone so that mother and daddy can do other stuff without being bothered by them.

* * * * * * * * * *

Postscript: Back when I was  a kid, around this time of year, I was so mindful of Santa’s elves sneaking around unseen and making notes on how I was behaving, I was a veritable angel, ‘though I’m sure my parents would tell you the opposite if they were here. Christmases were lean enough as they were–in the ’40s and ’50s when the Depression was supposed to be over–that I couldn’t afford more than one or two transgressions between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kids aren’t cowed by elves anymore, at least not my grandchildren. One day last weekend, our 7-year-old Grandson had at least two tantrums in one single afternoon–one of which resulted in his first–and hopefully last–running away from home caper. His mother, who–as a psychologist–has studied enough child psychology that she was prepared enough to wish him good luck and tell him goodbye, was confident enough to wait it out. He left–only to circle around and come back home long enough to get his shoes which he couldn’t find of course, so he left again, barefoot. This time he was gone a bit longer, and it wasn’t easy to resume the wait–this time closer to half an hour before he got too cold and came home.At least part of the reason he felt compelled to run away was that his parents were awful people who never bought him anything. Never mind all the expensive Lego toy sets or the expensive electronic gadgets and almost any kids’ DVDs you can think of including Starwars, it’s just never enough. I have no answer when his mother asks “how do you deal with a problem like this?” I wish I had a magic formula–if I did I wouldn’t sell it, I’d GIVE it away. Because I know our grandson isn’t the only child out there who has never gone without his needs being met who still expects more. His parents are looking into some way to make him understand that there are children all over the world who have real needs, who have no toys and not enough to eat. I hope Santa has some ideas.

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6 thoughts on “time for counting blessings

  1. We were not encouraged to ask for presents from Santa, but told we might find a surprise from him if we were good. I remember making a Jacobs ladder, but not how to make a see saw. I am sure your grandson will soon overcome the thoughts of running away. Dark nights and hunger soon put paid to those ideas.

  2. We made huge wish lists from Sears’ Christmas catalogue and sometimes we even got one or two of the items. When I was five we moved into our first house — a small bungalow — that my folks had built — one of the many built by returning G.I.s after the war on a G.I. loan. I got my first sled and was truly surprised as it wasn’t on my list. Each of my parents gave the other a set of keys to the house. People don’t seem to do things like that anymore.

    When my kids were growing up, I had to remind them periodically that it was a WISH list — not a shopping list. And I’m appalled at the mentality of some people feeling that they have to give their kids everything they want — and not just at Christmas. Yeah, I’m old and crabby but I think we prolly enjoyed Christmas more than they do today.

  3. I have a lot of wooden spools left over from my sewing days. Can’t bring myself to throw them away.
    Merry Christmas.
    Pat

  4. Yes, he certainly sounds like the product of a too much information age. Perhaps even at age 7, he and his parents can volunteer with the homeless….all year. They volunteer, he comes along.

    We are certainly counting our blessings this year. Thanks for reminding us always about blessings. Hugs from out here.

  5. When I was a kid, we played a game that required each player to throw a foot long iron rod onto the ground in such a way that the rod should pierce into the ground and stay upright. This was played during the monsoons when the ground was wet and soft. You pick up the rod and throw it further down and so on. The objective was to travel the longest distance before the rod toppled and fell flat. The person whose rod topples had to hop back on one leg all the way to the starting point which would often be more than a mile !

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