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Entries in Cheryl (2)


A Christmas Story

Mid December, a light snow is falling, the walk ways in the Salem Common are covered with a light dusting of snow..In the 50's it seemed like there was always snow on the ground.  More than we see now.  A young woman was coming through the Common pulling a child's sled...sometimes she would have a few children with her, other times she would be alone...but each December she made the trip to Downtown Salem several times. On her way, pulling that sled, she would pass the brightly lit and wonderfully decorated Hawthorne Hotel. It was always dressed in the finest greens, red and gold bows and bright twinkling lights in every window. A uniformed doorman standing out front. A true testament to the holiday season...but this young lady walked passed, with only the slightest glance, as she knew she would never be part of that world...

It was a time when cars were not abundant so most people walked without thought or worry..safely through the streets, even at night.  Thoughts of any kind of trouble were not on her mind.  What was on her mind, were her 4 young children, at home, waiting in anticipation for Santa Clause to come.  She knew that it would fall on her shoulders to make Christmas special for them.  She was a military wife who did not travel with her husband  and her husband was station somewhere other than home.  Some years he would make an appearance, other years he would miss the holidays altogether. So the burden was placed  on her to make sure Santa came to her children. 

Life was not easy in those days.  There was stress around every corner. Working at a going no where job, as a drug store clerk, just to put food on the table did not leave time for dreaming of a better life.  Acceptance was the mind set for this young lady.  So, through-out the year, day after day, the goal was to survive for a better tomorrow for her kids.  Work, and household task, keeping track of four kids and being in a two family home with your parents on the bottom floor brought it's  struggles.  There was never enough food, no heat in her upstairs apartment but for a gas bottled stove in the kitchen.  She was a strong woman in more ways than one. She could carry and lift those gas bottles like a man.  She could also shovel coal into the cellar furnace to heat the downstairs apartment for her parents...She boiled pots and pots of hot water on the stove for Saturday night baths for the children...two at a time in the tub...and yes, she could even lift a block of ice for the refrigerator...she was fortunate to have a Dad that was the ice man, so she was never out of ice. She shopped at the corner grocery store because they delivered...she could have saved a few more pennies if she went to one of the bigger stores but how would she get those groceries home..and also at the smaller corner store they knew her, they knew everyone in the neighborhood and so, in those days, you could charge your groceries if you ran over, and often people ran over so that before the next weeks groceries were bought they were paying off last weeks was an endless bill.   But she coped, but not always well.

That kind of life brings many challenges and often it does not make for a happy household..the pressure of holding it all together, knowing that you are the glue that binds so many lives can sometimes break a person. They withdraw and then have to find new coping skills.  Life in the 50's was tough for lots of woman, especially those military wives...but amongst all the unique problems of that generation there was a genuine lifting of the spirit at Christmas was a month were they were able to let go of their struggles and find the spirit of the season.  It was like a light was shinning just for them...and so it was for the woman with the sled..

So she began...grabbing two of her boys, she walked to the closet Christmas tree stand and they would pick a tree..not exactly a Charlie Brown but close...homemade stand of crossed wood and a tin bucket.   Lovely colored balls collected over the years and lastly the most important piece...the tinsel..shinny and bright. It turned that old tree into a thing of beauty...Not another person in the neighborhood had a tree as wonderful as that tree. Wait, there was more...Orange candles in the  All the kids loved them.  It was tricky business though to think of the number of extension cords needed to send that light out into the world..Two outlets to a room was not very much.  Finally, the little skaters under the tree on a piece of a round mirror..with yards of cotton for could lay on their bellies for hours and imagine what the world of those skaters were like...they became real in the mind of the little girl that loved them.  So, she was ready...but where did she keep those presents that she brought home on the sled...never a hint and never found by those that chose to look. 

Then she moved into the kitchen to tease the children with the smells of Christmas...Banana bread, date and nut bread that she would later smear with cream cheese, peanut butter squares chock full of chocolate chunks and coconut...for weeks they would beg for just a tiny taste...but if you were not careful that wooden spoon would get your knuckles and the threat of no Santa would send you in a new direction..and she was so her kitchen with no counters, only a wooden kitchen table, her trusty full apron, and her little radio belting out Christmas carols, one would think it was a giant stereo the way she sang out in joy along with the songs.  This woman, didn't know much about world events or stock markets or even TV...but she knew how to make Christmas...

The day would finally arrived...and as the house woke up...all the kids would run..for the "den"..and you would find your spot.  The spot where Santa left your unwrapped gifts and your stocking..The boys shared space on the couch and the young girl got a chair.  Santa was good.  He knew, every year, just what it was that was wanted and needed by all 4 of those children...always a toy or two and always new pj's and underwear.  If she had extra, maybe some would get a pair of shoes...but not often.  It did not matter...they were so happy with what they got and they never felt that it wasn't was the exact was always more than enough and so magical. The stockings were orange in the toe and a gift from the Avon book.  The perfume in the baby blue bottle shaped, like a little boy in jammies, ...savored as the year passed, was a favorite of the little girls...and none of the children thought to ask where the Mom's presents from Santa were...but perhaps it was that smile on her face that wasn't there often, perhaps that was her gift and maybe it was all she needed back then.

Other relatives would come visit for the day...We would see cousins, aunts and uncles...The next day, the joy would still surround us as we played with our new toys and with each other...Left overs were enjoyed in a more quiet enviroment...and perhaps, that night, we would crawl into bed with Mom and have a story.  At the end of the week, the tree would come down, the orange lights would be packed away in their box with the tiny skaters and life would go back to normal.  My Mom would go back to work, do the groceries and once again the worries would come.  We knew that along with all those worries, with a the hardship she and we sometimes endored...we knew, that the snow would come , the walk ways would be sprinkled with light fluff and once again the sled would be pull across the Salem Common...and the light would return.

Today, I remember her as I bake my own date and nut bread, I'll remember to get the cream cheese.  I'll share cookies and memories with my brothers. We'll talk abouth here asking nothing for herself but only that she have enough for her kids.  The smiles on their faces...the laughter and sometimes the tears of receiving a toy that was beyond their imagination,  that was enough. In a world gone wild, I look back on those days and I remember the joy. She instilled it in me.  It's why, at this time, I keep Christmas, in her honor, just the way she would have expected.   I can hear her saying,"take care of your family," and so I do.  She is always with me though, as I wander around my lovely kitchen and think of her in her's...those kitchen treats were her gifts also..and we all knew that.  Maybe we didn't know about Santa Clause or later, where those presents were hidden but we did know about the gifts of her time and baking talents...So now "I pull the sled."..and hope that someday my gifts will be the smile and joy on my face as I watch one of my own receive a gift...that my kids and grandbabies will understand that there is more to Christmas than the gifts (they get to many today).  That the reason for joy in this season comes from giving and sharing of your time and talents. We are so fortunate today, that we should take the giving out into the world all year long...maybe, just maybe, if we could do that, we would help another person lift the burden that they carry all year. That would be the real gift...the real spirit of Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all who visit here...can you smell the date and nut bread.  Now where did I put that cream cheese...and oh, let me get the tea pot on. Know that you are always welcome at my table...


"Terrible things happen. And those are the things that we learn from... The amazing thing is that despite all... the human spirit still manages to survive, to stay strong."  Madeleine L 'Engle

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” 
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” 
― Bob Hope




Going Back...and Moving Forward

It was March 2, 1962..Paramount Theater in Salem, Massachusetts.   Back in the day when you had a ticket booth out front, live organ music on the stage, at least 3 cartoons and finally, the two main events...That's right, in 1962 you got two movies and you spent the day there...for .25 cents.  My first date.  I was barely 15 years old..We sat in the balcony.  That's where you sat and most often it's where you first held hands and finally kissed...I don't know what the movies were that day, but I do know I was very excited with a lot of fear mixed in there..and no, on that date we did not kiss.  

We walked home that night, not old enough to drive yet and I remember him walking about 4 paces in front of me...I was balancing myself walking on the curb stone.  That night was the beginning of a 51 year journey with My we celebrate 45 Years of Marriage.  Now when we go to the movies, you only get one show..but that's o.k. for us.  We are usually at the 4:30 showing anyways...

Life takes so many twists and turns and in 45 years we had our share of both good times and some not so good...great joy and huge sadness....we've been through "in sickness and in health"...and we spoken loving to each other more often than with anger but yes, that has been spoken also..We have built a wonderful life and family...sharing two kids, a boy and a girl, both offering us pride and joy and friendship.   Jenna has given us two beautiful and loving Grandchildren which we see as God's gift for a humble and loving life.   Most days I can't wait to get up and see what life will bring my way.   Sometimes it's sunshine and light, some days it's clouds and rain..we get through all our days together.

I wish there was some magic fairy dust that I could bottle and pass around so every couple could have a long and loving relationship...but it's really not about magic.   It's about commitment and hard work, maybe the hardest work we do as a couple is to every so often re-evaluate where we are at any given moment and what we want for our future...For Jim and I it has always been about family first and that continues to be our priorty to this day...there is nothing that we are more committed to than our family.  Not always easy but always, always worth it.   

When I look back over our years together and our life both as partners and as individuals, I now at my age, can claim a lot of wonderful treasures...not material treasure but life experience treasures...the kind you learn about along the way.  The kind you can only recognize as you grow...up.  As I look at these treasures I have learned there is one common thread that runs through each one of the "biggies" in our life.   Every gift of great importance has come through hard work...Nothing of value comes for free or without some pain or struggle..knowing that when we got to the other side of the struggle, we were stronger for it and we appreciated it...Life in not a's a need the right person next to you to grow in love and faith and loyalty...Then you get the gifts...We are truly blessed in each's been quite a journey.

I want to share a few of my favorite times with my Favorite Guy...I am amazed that from that tiny theater so many years ago, at not only how fast the time has gone by, but by how much we have to look forward to. Who knows where the road will lead...but I know who will be by my side...

My beautiful family...I love them so much...

At our Lake House in Maine...we have so much fun here and it is truly a piece of  Heaven for relaxation

And sometimes we end up in the strangest places and that is where we really have the most fun...this is not your average taxi...Cusco Peru.

Then off to Macchu Pichu

On Top of the Yosemite..

Riding off into the Sunset...Me and Him...not quite many more adventures on our bucket list..but on each adventure we tried to go horseback really is one of our greatest pleasures..


“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  John Muir

“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” 
― John Muir

 My Guy