Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sidewalks and Sights of the Holidays!

I enjoy walking busy city sidewalks during the Christmas holiday season.  Lots of lights and decorations to look at, there are many decorated store fronts, people seem happier, and I enjoy the quick pace of things. 

Unlike life in the country, where the pace pretty much keeps a slow beat and when it snows even a little bit the pace can become a crawl, the busy-ness of a city seems to add excitement to shopping and sight-seeing.  Add a little music from store fronts or at outside venues and you could almost say that all you need for the holidays is a trip to the city.  For me, it can be a complete holiday experience.

I will admit that there are decorations and sites to view out here in the sub-suburban areas that you'll see as you're driving around, but you'll want to do that at night when everything is lit up.

However, be sure not to stop in front of houses too long or try to peer in to see what's going on in the house.  I hear there are"peeping" laws, and people in the country get nervous when cars slow down and creep by their house.

Unlike a store front where the proprietor is hoping that their decorations will draw you in, folks in the country will take pictures of your license plate, call neighbors to see if they have seen your car and report, to anyone, this "strange" activity. For weeks, they'll peer frantically outside their windows to see if you return!  The talk at the local diner might very well be,"Yeah, a blue car went by my house, real slow, too.  I don't know anyone with a blue car, do you?"

Once, a friend of ours turned around in a nearby driveway to head back in the direction of their house.  As they headed home, they found that a strange car following them.  It was the homeowner of the driveway they turned around in wanting to know why they pulled into their place!  You'll want to move quickly by...and know that the blur of the lights as you're speeding by can be as dazzling as a long stare.

There are people who like to decorate the outside of their houses for the holiday.  When you live far away from neighbors who may be decorating, it's not easy for you to see their designs, without getting in the car, again, to check them out.  When you decorate your own house, three acres back from the road on your seventy acre spread in the hinterlands, about the only thing you can see is the reflection on the snow of all of those money burning lights.  You have to remember you're doing it for yourselves.

One year, realizing that I was going to all of the effort to decorate so that we could go out and stand in the freezing cold to look back at the house, I decided to decorate an outbuilding on the property of place we rented just across the drive, rather than our house, so that when we looked out of our windows we saw a completely decorated edifice!  No more dragging everyone out to take in the views! My wife thought it was genius (that occurs very, very infrequently) and the kids appreciated not having to stand in snowbanks, in their pajamas, because their mother said, "You have to come out here and see the beautiful decorations!"

Another thing you won't see, as we don't have sidewalks out in our realm, is the Salvation Army bell ringer!

Those people do a great job, collecting money to help other people in all sorts of situations, and have come to be a part of the holiday scene.

Growing up,  sometimes I would drop change in the kettle if I had any, but these days I'm compelled to.  You see, now it's a family thing.

Pictured at the top of this post is my wife's Great-Aunt, Anna McNulty.  Born in the latter 1800's, she was involved with the Salvation Army and was known in Binghamton, New York as a generous person, giving  time and money to people who needed it. We're researching the family tree to try to get more information about her, but the little that we have says alot about her...including comments from a prominent person in Binghamton who, at her funeral, told everyone that "she was a living saint."

Now, I know better than to make fun of saints.  Great-Aunt Anna has had a profound effect on us.  Each time we see the Salvation Army kettle anywhere, we think of her.  We can't pass it by without throwing in whatever we can and tossing a "this is for you, Aunt Anna" to the universe.  My wife will repeat, when she sees the kettle, "You know, Aunt Anna!"   And, at times, we've noted during shopping trips that we haven't seen the familiar sight with the assigned bell ringer.  We actually miss seeing them.
When I was thinking about monetizing my blog, remember I just took a class on blogging and that's part of the process, I was doing so with the intent of producing some income (many do).  However, with the holidays approaching, I thought I'd start practicing by trying to make some money for people who need it more.

So, on the top side here, my Salvation Army kettle.  This way I can be a "bell-ringer" out in the boondocks, without a sidewalk.  Don't feel compelled to donate...many are most likely doing your own thing.  However, if you do, rest assured that Great-Aunt Anna would think you're a living saint!

Along with reading all of this, I am asking is that you leave a comment about why sharing is good.  (Just hit the comment button).  In an upcoming holiday blog, I'll put together the top ten reasons why sharing is good, based on what feedback you provide!  That way we'll all be a part of talking about good things and sharing warm holiday feelings, and that's saintly, too!

Should you want to know more of what the Salvation Army is up to, here's their link:

My brush with sainthood?  I once thought that someone saw me as a saint.  Back in my hometown there was a family nearby whose mother was of Russian descent.  She had then what we know now to be Alzheimer's and she only spoke Russian.  In those days, I had a beard and each time I'd visit the house, and got to walk on a sidewalk to get there (why did I move out of town?), the woman would do a "sign of the cross" in front of her and say a few words in Russian.  I asked her daughter why she'd do that each time I showed up. She said, "She thinks you're a monk from the monastery...the beard, you know...and she's saying a prayer because you're here!"  And I thought she saw my halo...oh well...almost saintly in someone's eyes, at one time.

Now that you've read this, also let me know about your "of the season" sidewalk experiences this December.  Yes, hit the comment button!  And best wishes for all of the "bells" and whistles of the season for you and yours...Happy Holidays!!!


  1. It's been a long time since we shared that office on office row counting the day-hiker passer-bys and my youthful wanderlust was only encouraged by your words, "Go west young man!" Eleven years or so later, I am now fully adapted to the concrete jungle. I have been west, south, north and south again. I have been an urban sidewalk explorer. One would think that population centers are a much more sharing environment. Indeed, there is much sharing. It often comes in the form of gum or cigarettes left on the sidewalk for others to enjoy. People ARE forced to communicate more. I believe there are more deaf citizens than I once knew. Much of the communication is in the form of sign language. There must be a lot of people willing to share, because there are so many able-bodied citizens asking for spare change. I do wonder, though, if the S.A. changed their uniform to include sneakers and North Face jackets. Maybe they are not affiliated, they never seem to have a bell? Even though my retirement dream (only 35 years to go)is a renewed desire for no sidewalks and fewer people, I do look forward to hearing about your visit to the city. I am sure it will be an enlightening story full of holiday wonderment!

  2. From Martha, regarding her Great Aunt Ann, pictured in this post:

    I have some memories of Aunt Ann I'd like to share. I'm 60 now, so I guess along with my sisters, I'm in the "older relative" category of our family. Well, Aunt Ann was very religious and she kept a post card book of her father, William McNulty, who was an Evangelist. It contains clippings of his ministry and I copied them for the Mill Street Memory book I worked on. There was no other information in this notebook. She
    never married and joined the Salvation Army at a young age. My mother used to say that she (Aunt Ann) was in love with a man who was the Captain or leader of the Binghamton Salvation Army. I'm sure she was very religious, as well, and it became her whole purpose in life to help others through the SA. because she belonged to the SA for the rest of her life.

    She used to call "yoo-hoo" when she came up the stairs in our basement to visit us. She always wore long, old fashioned dresses. She sat in our kitchen and chatted with Mom. My mom said that when she died and Mom was ordering flowers from Generelli florist he said that Aunt Ann was a "living saint" because she helped so many poor people in
    Binghamton. At that time I was an acting-out, misbehaving tom-boy. My hobbies were catching snakes for pets, rolling down the hill in our back yard, and playing horse. These were my more acceptable activities. Aunt Ann decided that she was going to teach me a proper girl hobby of knitting. I was a bit intimidated by her and this probably made me sit still long enough to learn the basic stitches. Every Christmas, we could count on Aunt Ann to give us hand-knit mittens scarves and hats. for the long hours of playing in snow banks and sled-riding. Now I have taken up knitting again (just throws and scarves) and every time I knit I think of Aunt Ann.

    One incident I'll never forget was when Mary and I went down in the Fenwick basement while Aunt Ann was visiting upstairs with Ann (my Godmother). I guess things were too quiet because I decided it would be fun to make-up our faces to look like clowns and surprise everybody. I was 2 yrs. older than Mary and always getting her in trouble along with me. So, I applied red lipstick all over Mary's lips and cheeks. and then my own with Mary's help. Then we went upstairs to surprise everyone. Well, Aunt Ann was horrified and began saying how wicked and sinful I was. To her, makeup was something only harlots would wear. To see her 7 and 9 yr. old great-nieces with painted faces. was very shocking to her. So Ann cleaned our faces and I was sent home. If only Aunt Ann knew, she would be proud of me, because I was the only girl in high school who never wore makeup.

    When I was about 12, Aunt Ann had advanced Cancer of some type. Mom wanted her to stay with us rather than go in the county nursing home, so we actually had her live up in a bedroom. Mom gave her a bell to ring when she needed something. Her condition got much worse and after a while Mom couldn't care for her anymore( my Mom had some
    health problems then as well). So though she felt bad about it, Mom had to let her go up to the Hospital Rd. nursing home. My mom and Ann visited her up there ,so at least she was close to family. She only lived a few months more.

    Well, Aunt Ann was a wonderful person, and made a big difference in others' lives. We have many in our family who did.