A Stroll Down Memory Lane

A Collection of Holiday Memories of Christmas and Hanukkah

Christmas Lights by Elizabeth Delisi

Parade of Ships by Mary Taffs

A Hanukkah Miracle For Modern Times by Robin C. Westmiller

A Christmas Awakening by Jane Toombs

A Christmas Present by M.J. Rose

Christmas Lights

 by Elizabeth Delisi

It happens every year. December comes. Soon, colored lights blossom all over town. Inevitably, on a cold, frosty evening, one of us suggests, "Let's take a drive and look at the Christmas lights." Why, I don't know. Here's how it usually goes.

Dan: Who wants to take a drive to see the Christmas lights?

Heather and Mike: I do! I do!

Dan: Okay, let's get bundled up.

Coats, hats, mittens, boots, and other miscellaneous items of apparel are rooted out and donned, while Liz stuffs the baby into her bunting.

Mike: I need help! I need help!

Liz: Mike, you can zip your own coat. I'm busy dressing Helen.

Mike: No, I can't!

Liz: Yes, you can. You're a big boy.

Mike bursts into tears. With an exasperated sigh, Liz zips his coat. The tears stop instantly.

Dan: Is everybody ready? Okay, kids, go get into your carseats.

There is a mad scramble for the door. A scream goes up.

Heather: Mike pushed past me!

Mike: No, I didn't.

Heather: Yes, you did! I wanted to open the door! I was there first!

Mike: No, you weren't.

During all of this, Liz has been gently saying, "Take it easy. Not so loud. Don't get upset." Eventually she bursts out, "Be quiet! So what if you didn't get to open the door?!?"

With a growl, she shepherds the children out the door with one arm, carrying the baby in her other arm. The noise subsides. Finally, everyone is in the car and the ride commences.

Heather: Daddy, I'm cold.

Dan: The heater is on. It takes a while to warm up.

Heather: But I'm cold!

Dan: So is everyone.

Heather's complaints dwindle to mutters.

Liz: Look at those pretty lights over there.

Heather and Mike: Where? Where?

Liz: Look out Heather's window.

Heather: I see them.

Mike: I can't see! Where?

Liz: It's too late. You missed them.

Heather: *I* saw the lights, Mike.

Liz: That's not nice, Heather.

After a moment, Dan says: Look over there. I see Santa!

Heather and Mike: Where? Where?

Dan: Look out Mike's window.

The baby wails. Liz looks into the back seat: Mike, leave Helen alone.

Mike: But I can't see!

Liz: Well, if you can't look out the window without leaning on Helen,

then we'll have to go home.

Mike starts his famous "fake cry."

Dan: Be quiet, Mike.

There is a short silence.

Heather: Mommy, look at the pretty lights on my side.

Liz: Yes, they are pretty, aren't they?

Mike: Where?

Liz: We're past them now. Look at those up there.

Mike: Where? Where?

Liz: Up there...Mike, out my window. Look where I'm pointing! Right there!

She stabs the windshield with her index finger. Mike continues to stare out the opposite side of the car.

Liz: Never mind. You missed them.

More sniffles. Then they stop suddenly.

Mike: Daddy, look at the lights on my side!

Dan: Very nice, Mike.

Heather: Look at my lights!

Mike: Look at mine!

Heather: No, look at mine!

Dan and Liz: Shut up!!!

There is a moment of astonished silence.

Dan: All right. Nobody talks. Just look out the windows, and be quiet.

Heather and Mike, meekly: Okay, Daddy.

After a moment Helen starts to cry.

Liz: I guess we'd better head home.

Dan: It won't hurt her to cry.

Liz: Well gosh, Dan, *she* can't see any of the lights. It's hardly fair.

Dan: All right! All right! We'll go home!

He screeches into a U-turn in the middle of the street, mumbling: I don't know why we do this every year.

Liz turns away, folds her arms deliberately and mutters: Neither do I.

The Delisis ride home in silence.

This is the way it runs every year. You'd think by now we'd learn...What's that? Oh, sorry, I have to run. It's time to go out and look at the Christmas lights.

© 1999 Elizabeth Delisi ~ Click here to visit Elizabeth's website.

Parade of Ships

By Mary Taffs

Portland is on two rivers - the Columbia and the Willamette (pronounced to rhyme with damn-it). It also doesn't tend to snow very often, just rain, so we often have flowers blooming on Christmas. (This is MAJOR to someone who grew up in Western New York State! <g>)

The neatest holiday event that we have here is the Christmas Parade of Ships. Nearly every night for a couple of weeks, ending just before Christmas, whole fleets of boats gather and sail on both rivers - all decorated with Christmas lights and often playing Christmas carols. Most nights, one fleet sails on the Columbia and another on the Willamette, and their routes vary somewhat from night to night. There are often 40 or more boats participating on any one night.

We usually go to the same place each year - a small boat launch where the fleet turns around. Even though it's not snowing, it's usually cold enough that we need to wait in the car until the last possible minute - and if we're lucky, we've gotten there early enough to nab a parking place that lets us stay in the car the whole time.

The boats themselves are nearly impossible to tell much about. Some are obviously sailboats because their masts have been incorporated into the decoration scheme - there are usually a couple of Christmas trees, for example. Other familiar boats are Santa's sleigh with reindeer and a fire engine carrying Santa.

I've learned since moving to Oregon that other places have similar events, but to me, the Parade of Ships perfectly matches Oregon's slightly-unconventional style.

© 1999 Mary Taffs Visit Mary's website by clicking here.

A Hanukkah Miracle For Modern Times

by Robin C. Westmiller

With our busy lives, finding time to sit down together as a family is an almost impossible task. With three teenage daughters, each on a different schedule, plus running our own business, the phones are constantly ringing. Radio, CD players and televisions are blaring and someone is almost always on the computer. Dinners usually consist of microwave prepared meals or pizza delivery. That's why the holidays are special for our family. They're the only times when I actually cook using real kitchen appliances.

The first night of Hanukkah was on a Sunday last year, so I had the entire day to get ready. Around noon I began gathering all the necessary cooking utensils I would need to prepare our holiday dinner. I dusted off my "Daisy Stripper" electric potato peeler, wiped the cobwebs off my food processor, and scavenged the storage area for my electric frying pan.

After making all the difficult preparations, I had plenty of free time to work on an article I was writing about the Jewish Brownie Girl Scout Lehavah Award. I read a section of discussion questions in the Leader's guide that ended with "What would a house be like without television or electricity? Are these gifts from God?"

Then, the lights went out.

I guessed the high winds probably knocked down an electrical line. It was two thirty in the afternoon so I still had plenty of time before sundown, but by four o'clock it was starting to get dark and we still didn't have power. My kids were getting restless and bored. No electricity meant no computer, no television, no video games, no stereo and the cordless telephones and answering machines weren't working either. They started to complain. I called the electric company on a working phone expecting them to tell me the power would be restored in an hour or so.

Major cable explosion. No electricity for eight to twelve hours. They're working on it.

I told the girls to gather up all the flashlights and candles they could find and bring them into the kitchen. I put away the electric potato peeler, electric food processor, and electric frying pan. I dug through a stack of pots and under the oven and found a large skillet. Rummaging through my junk drawer, I found two very dusty, but still sharp potato peelers and one hand-held grater. For the next half hour, my children and I peeled and grated five pounds of potatoes and onions by hand, by candlelight.

We mixed the eggs and other ingredients and got everything ready to cook. But when I went to the cupboard to get the oil, I discovered there was only about three tablespoons left in the bottle. My daughter had forgotten to tell me she'd taken the oil to her Hebrew School class that morning and had used almost all of it for their party. No electricity and no oil. I was beginning to feel like the Jews of ancient times. With my thirteen year old holding a flashlight over the frying pan, I somehow managed to cook almost all of the latkes on our gas (thank God) range using the small amount of oil we had.

We took the Hanukkah menorahs off the fireplace mantle and put them on the dinning room table. After reciting the blessing, we lit the candles. Their tiny flames lit up the dinning room and the hall and even illuminated a small section of the front lawn. The glow was made more intense by the fact that it was totally dark outside as well as inside. Not a single bulb on a single house on our entire street was lit.

Our home was full of the aroma of potato latkes and candle wax. We read the story of Hanukkah, exchanged gifts and played Dreidle by candlelight. My husband joined us as we sang the holiday songs without the tape recorded accompaniment and laughed at the irony of singing "Don't Let The Light Go Out" in the darkness of the power outage. Later, the girls played cards together and talked about school, and boys and I finished my article using a pencil.

To answer the question in the Lehavah Award booklet, I believe it's not the electricity that was a gift of God, but the lack of electricity that was the gift that night. It was a modern miracle. This very special first night of Hanukkah we spent together like Jewish families of long ago before the invention of modern conveniences took some of the brightness out of the candle lights.

Of course the next night things were back to "normal". We barely had time to light the candles before the phone rang or someone had a meeting to go to. But for one very extraordinary Hanukkah night, our family created a holiday memory we will long treasure. It's truly amazing what you can see when the lights go out.

© 1999 Robin C. Westmiller. Visit Robin's site by clicking here.

A Christmas Awakening

by Jane Toombs

I grew up in a tiny village on Lake Superior where Christmases were always white. During World War II, a contingent of ski troopers was stationed at an old conservation camp nearby.. My town offered to take one ski trooper per family for Christmas dinner and my folks drew a six foot four Navajo from New Mexico. I was a tad too young to become romantically involved with this handsome, engaging--and to me, exotic--young man, but I never forgot him.

To this day "Dock" Riddle shows up in many of my romances as the hero. I credit him with awakening my now life-long interest in Native American mythology and culture and making me see that the Chippewa who lived close by my village were, in a different way, just as interesting as BJ Riddle and very much more than stereotypes.

It was a Christmas gift I'm sure he never realized he gave me, one that touched my spirit with the magic of seeing with the heart.

© 1999 Jane Toombs Visit Jane's website by clicking here.

A Christmas Present

A true story by MJ Rose

Once upon a time, at midnight on Christmas Eve two years ago, the phone rang. It was for my significant other, Doug. It was a collect phone call from his brother David.

Now David, for those of you who don't know him, is the black sheep of the family. The one who got messed up with drugs as a teenager. The one who dropped out of college. The one who had a drinking problem. The one who everyone in the family had tried to save at least twice.

So the night before Christmas when not a creature was supposed to stirring the phone rang and scared the living nightlights out of us. This call came from a jail in Florida. It seems David had gotten messed up with a woman even more messed up than he was. They'd been living together, had fought and she'd thrown him out. After a few weeks of trying to get his earthly possessions back from her, he'd finally broken into the apartment they had shared and while he was in the process of repossessing his books, clothes and papers she called the police.

David didn't have money to post bail so he had accepted the court-appointed attorney who had done an abysmal job. It was the night before Christmas and David was facing a four-year prison sentence.

Doug got off the phone. He was shaken and angry. Just one more chapter in a story he had read too many times. But this was his brother. But he had already rescued him more times than he could count. But this was his brother.

"Will you be able to live with yourself if you don't help him and he spends the next four years in jail?" I asked.

By morning, Christmas morning, we knew what we had to do.

Within a week we had found and hired a top-notch attorney. It cost us quite a bit of money. A shocking amount of money, in fact. But this big shot lawyer did what she said she'd be able to do. Not only did she post bail and get David out of jail, but also she got the entire case dropped. David does not even have a record.

Once out of jail, David called and promised he would clean up his act and pay us back. He said he'd send us two hundred dollars a month. At that rate it would take years but that was okay. He did pay us for the first two months and then he gave us excuses.

A year went by.

Last November Doug got sick. He was only 39, but suddenly he had a kidney disorder. He went into the hospital for a biopsy, but something went wrong.

I was waiting in the room for what was supposed to be an out-patient procedure when the doctor came in and told me they only had twenty minutes to stop the bleeding or he might not make it.

Doug was in intensive care for five days. He survived but his kidneys continued to fail. By Christmas of last year he was back in the hospital starting dialysis.

And now? Now, it is one year later.

A year of dialysis, which for Doug has been like being in prison.

David, his brother, has spent the last six months going through the process of being tested to be a kidney donor. On Nov 1st we got a phone call from the transplant unit.

This year for Christmas, David and Doug will be in the hospital.

On Dec 21st one of David's kidneys will be removed and given to Doug.

Two Christmas's ago, Doug got David out of an iron and stone jail.

This Christmas, David will get Doug out of dialysis jail.

If I were O'Henry I couldn't have made up a Christmas story better than this one.

PS. We have told David he no longer owes us that money we spent on the lawyer.

Courtesy of MJ Rose, the author of the novel "Lip Service" and co- author (with Angela Adair-Hoy) of the ebook - "The Secrets of Our Success." Visit MJ's website by clicking here.

©1999 MJ Rose This article cannot be reprinted without the author's express written authorization.

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