Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Past

In a week it will be Christmas 2010.

Sometimes it helps to put things into perspective.  Many of us have been hustling around trying to get everything completed before that day.  I remember years ago shopping til I dropped (literally) at the various malls and toy stores to ensure that beneath the tree my family put up was filled with packages.  The best time I think is when the kids are small and still believe in Santa Claus.  The part I loved the best was to shop inside a toy store bringing out the child in me that I'm sure still exists to this day.

For the past several months I have been putting together a project that is comprised of letters written by my parents throughout the years of World War II.  These are letters filled with both hope and despair, and a lot of frustration.  War pretty much not only causes so much mental and physical pain in the lives of families, it can present an everlasting effect on those families.  The more I read my parents' letters the more I now understand what they must have gone through and why their thinking was different from mine and especially from those who aren't torn from their families for weeks, months, years at a time.

Here I will share three letters written around Christmas 1943 that I think show pretty much the state of affair that our country was in in respect to those who were called to duty to serve our country.  The first two are from my mom to my dad, and the third is from my dad to my mom.   I now only wish they were still here so that I could sit down and talk to them more on what they went through during those most difficult years when our country's very existence was at stake.

Sure gifts under the tree are great but spending it with loved ones is probably the best gift that anyone can enjoy at this time of year.

Mrs. Louis Visone
453 Albany Avenue
Hartford, CT

Pvt. Louis Visone
Co A 13 Btn 4 Regt.
Fort Meade, MD  31342377
December 14, 1943
Dear Lou,
Is anything wrong?  Are you all right.  I’m half out of my mind with worry for I haven’t heard from you since you went back.  I am so worried and am in such a nervous state that I asked Mamie to go to the Red Cross for me to find out what happened to you for I am so worried and I haven’t been able to sleep or eat.  Lou, why don’t you write and why don’t you let me know where you are?  I’ve been waiting for you to write but I could stand it anymore so I am writing to the last place you were and please let me know for I won’t be able to rest until you do.  So Lou if you can write to me for I’ll be waiting to hear from you.  Until I hear from you I remain your loving wife.   Betty
453 Albany Avenue
Hartford, CT 
December 23, 1943

Pvt. Louis Visone
Co A Casual Bn
A.C.E. R.D. #1
Fort Meade, Md
Dear Lou,
Did you receive the check I sent for you to sign?  I want you to send it right away because it does not belong to me for I have borrowed all of it for the past few months and the party I borrowed it from needs it very badly now.  I thought I could pay a little at a time from my Gov. check but found it impossible and I had to cash the bonds all I had in the world and now I am left with nothing to fall back on.
So Lou sign it as soon as possible so that I can give it to the party I borrowed it from.  I certainly could use a little of it myself for the Gov. check does not last through the month. 
I feel bad because I can’t send you anything for Christmas except all my love.  And I don’t want you to feel bad either for in our position right now it is impossible.
After all I won’t want anything for I am spending a quiet day at home for as you know I can’t stand noise and excitement.  I am hoping you are well, that is all I want.  Things are the same.  I’ve been kept in with a cold.  How are you Lou?  I miss your letters for that is all I look forward to and now that I only get one a week makes me more miserable and when I do get one it doesn’t say much and I have a feeling you are keeping something from me.
How is your ear Lou?  Does it still bother you?  It’s pretty awful when you are sick and can’t have anything done for it.  I hope it doesn’t get any worse for I worry about it, for I know how you have always had trouble with it, when you were at home.
Well Lou, I haven’t much more to say except I’m wishing you a Merry Christmas and hope the New Year will be a better one for us. I’m hoping we won’t have to go through this much longer.  Well Lou, bye for now.  I can’t write much more for my eyes are kind of heavy tonight and I have one of my headaches.  So until I hear from you I remain your loving wife, Betty. 
PS  I will remind you again about the check.  I do hope you got it and it isn’t lost for if it is I don’t know how I’ll pay it back.  Lou, I had a woman visitor yesterday and I believe is from the Selective Board.  So I believe that things are going to change for me as she saw the condition I am in and how it is impossible for me to work and support myself.
I’ve also heard from Miller and am sorry to hear that he is ill with the flu.  But he has done what he promised and now all we can do is wait and I hope before long we will hear some good news instead of all the bad news I’ve been getting and all the bad luck I’ve been having.
So Lou, behave yourself and have a nice Christmas.  Did you receive the package Rose put it up for you for I have no money until I get my next month’s check.  I hope you enjoy it and I’ll say bye for now.
Pvt Louis
Co A Casual Bn
A C F Repl Depot #1
Fort George Meade, MD

Mrs. Betty
453 Albany Avenue
Hartford, CT  Zone 5
December 25, 1943
Dear Honey,
I do hope that you had enjoyed your xmas very much.  We all were given xmas presents by our company commander.  In a way I tried to enjoy myself, but I always kept thinking of you, wondering if you were enjoying yourself or not.
Just think, the same time last year I was home and very happy about it too.  But I hope that I don’t spend another one in the army or the guard house. 
I sent you the money by Western Union so that you would have it before xmas.  I had my mailman do it for me which I think it was swell of him to go to all the bother.  I had thought that it would cost about $5 which I didn’t care either but it only cost $2.39 which wasn’t bad at all.
I sent it out Friday noon and you should have gotten it that same day, so let me know how long it did take and also if you got it in the first place because sometimes Western Union does make mistakes.
I have the receipt in case it doesn’t get to you.  I still didn’t get the package, but it if does come I may not be here.
We just got mail call but I dill didn’t get any from you, why I don’t know.
Why it is that I only got one letter from you since I’ve been here I don’t know but it’s probably the mail is too slow. 
So honey, I’ll sign off now and hope to hear from you soon,
Love Lou.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who Am I?

I ask this question because yesterday while driving through the next town over for an appointment I found myself on familiar streets.  I hadn't been over in the area for some months.   In fact I really haven't been driving too much anywhere because of the cold winter.  I tend to hibernate.

Yesterday before getting to my appointment I had a little time and decided to stop in at a health food store - Supernatural -- for a quick snack.  One of the streets I took was close to a house my late husband and I used to own, a rental property actually.

It amazes me how somewhere in our subconscious minds we react to things in such a way that it is beyond out control.  That is what happened to me yesterday.

I felt myself pushed back in time, well over ten years ago when my late husband and I and a partner of ours were involved in rental properties.  I actually became a little disoriented because the person I am now is different than who I was back then.  Emotions flooded over me and that started a panic attack that I quickly brought under control by simply bringing myself back into the present.  Yet it was enough to let me know that memories from our past affect us in ways that we might need to be careful, especially when they hit us like a huge snowball, which is how I felt had occurred as I pulled into the parking lot.

Quite a few people have disappeared from my life over the last eight years since entering widowhood and the fact that I live alone with a small dog only brings that fact more to light.  At one point I was employed, had many friends, kept in touch with relatives, my parents and my  in-laws still around then but all have passed since.

This time of year was always a busy and fun time for me as I prepared for the holiday season.  There was never enough time to do it all but we managed, wrapping presents for the kids way past midnight so that beneath the tree the next morning they would find a slew of bright colored packages.

One of those fiber optic trees sits in my bay window.  That's about the extent of my decorations.  Better than last year as I didn't bother to even put that up.

Today I wrapped a dozen packages for family and friends.  That's about the extent of it.

I do miss those hectic busy times; the parties, the gaiety, the wonderful anticipation of seeing the look on family and friends' faces when they opened presents.

Some of those memories also came to me yesterday while driving through the streets past the house we once owned.  It was like stepping over a threshold from present into past and back again, which is probably what caused my disorientation.  Then again at my age vertigo is more common than not.  

I am grateful I have good memories of past Christmases, and hope to make more of them for the future so that eventually when I'm sitting alone without even a pet by my side I can step over another threshold and realize that at one point in time my life was all there in place for me to enjoy.

I think my more simpler life serves to remind me why I am celebrating this holiday.  Each night I read a chapter of Leith Anderson's book Jesus, which chronicles His life in a way that helps me understand more of not only the man but His purpose here on earth.  Each night when I slip into bed ensuring my dog is snuggly warm on her own blanket, I reach for this book and pull myself into another world, one that occurred so many years ago yet continues to affect the lives of many here on earth.

We celebrate His birth, and rejoice, and know that no matter what happens in our own lives we are never alone for He is always with us to help us through whatever difficult times we may have.

I look forward to the end of each day when I can transport myself back to those simpler times where life I believe made a bit more sense in terms of knowing who we are and where we are going.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Boots Are Out

Yep, my I took my snowboots out this morning and put them on.  I'm ready to venture out today after a light snow fell here last night. 

I'm lucky though, I have a very dependable young man who plows my driveway and shovels my walks.  Of course I pay him to do this, but knowing that he's out there to do this alleviates worry on my part.

Winter isn't easy especially for those of us who live in houses where we need to do our own thing.  I almost moved into a condo last year but decided against it for several reasons.  I think because I am comfortable where I am, know my neighbors, and frankly it's quiet here and offers the kind of retreat that is not found in most places.

One year I stayed at my sons who lives in a very nice area, but the Interstate is not far from them and at night I could hear the trucks driving through the Connecticut roads, even with windows closed.

Here I don't have those kind of noises and in fact at night there is very little traffic that goes by again offering a retreat from the hustle and bustle common in most communites where traffic noises are steady and constant.

My backyard also offers some nice scenary in all seasons.  The first snow is always special and reminds me that indeed we do move from season to season and nothing ever stays the same.

In our youth we may be fooled to think that it's always going to be the way it is but as we grow older we soon discover that it all changes, and the changes are probably the one thing that we can count on.

Nothing stays the same.  Each new season brings forth its own special "thing."   This season is my eighth season without my late husband and so I am quite used to celebrating a Christmas without the traditions that we had established throughout the years I was married.

In fact I don't really do much anymore.  I did my thing...decorating a "real" tree, putting out all the other decorations around the house, baking cookies, and getting ready for the various parties that take place during this time of year.

Of course I've cut back a lot now.  It's easier for me.  I think it actually helps me to accept more and more that as life changes, traditions are changed as well.

The one thing that doesn't change is getting out those snow boots, putting them on, and feeling quite empowered to get out there and make my way over an icy driveway or  a partially snow covered walk way, or through a parking lot that hasn't yet been plowed.

Yep, I really like my snow boots.  They are one of the things that tell me yes, Marie, you will get through another winter just fine as long as you wear snow boots.