Author: Ramos, Jean

Wishbones, Wisdom and A Few Old Memories

This Thursday most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving. I think itís great to set a special day aside for this observance but even more important to try to find something each day to be thankful for. Along those lines, I am thankful for all my CBA friends and all the joyful times weíve shared this past year. Have a bountiful Thanksgiving and may you get the bigger part of the wishbone.

In a couple days I will officially be a senior citizen. I was born in a car on the way to the hospital on Thanksgiving night, 65 years ago. Being born in a car can have its lasting effects. I will admit to still having a streak of impatience and a need to be on the go. My husband says Iím on the road as much as Cal Trans and that I should have my Jeep painted orange. But thatís another story for another time.

They say that wisdom comes with age so I began thinking about what worthwhile insights Iíve gleaned from of life so far, if youíll indulge me, hereís a sampling:

Itís never too late to forgive past offenses. Life is too short to hold a grudge, and bitterness will rot your bones. You will reap many benefits from being at peace with all men.

Hesitate before you speak, itís hard to take words back once they are spoken or once you click ďsend.Ē Ask yourself if the words you are about to speak are an improvement on silence.

Make apologies when necessary. Itís humbling but healing.

Be free with encouraging words and sincere compliments.

Compliment your child or grandchild on a good character trait they possess. It builds them up and makes them want to live up to the things you are saying about them. Hey, while youíre at it, brag on your spouse too. On the flip side, donít belittle or criticize those you love to others, it can have devastating and long lasting ill effects.

Share your talents. Whether itís music, cooking, needlework, gardening, welding or computer skills, thereís someone who can benefit from your knowledge and expertise. Itís a way of building friendships too. Last summer I taught a friend how to make jam. It took an hour of my time and she has learned a skill for life.

Keep learning. Learn a new song, a new instrument, a new hobby. Take a class if youíre able and time permits. I know itís a trite saying, but your mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Random acts of kindness are fun, especially if you can remain anonymous. Be creative with this one. I remember an old movie where this guy would sneak out and put gas in his neighborís car during the night and his neighbor was bragging to him on how his car got 60 miles per gallon. Wouldnít it be nice if your neighbor did this?

Write thank you notes, the real kind on paper if possible. I save many of the ones I receive because itís a reminder to me thatís itís more blessed to give than receive.

Along that same theme, be a giver. Iím not talking about extravagant gifts, but things like a wildflower, a photograph you took, a poem. Some of my most treasured possessions include a little seashell from a friend and a pretty little rock given by a grand child. One of my CBA friends, Mona, gives necklaces made of wrapped candies and curly ribbon, she says itís so weíll always remain sweet. The most meaningful tokens sometimes cost little or nothing. Gifts say, ďIím thinking of you,Ē ďI love you,Ē ďI care.Ē Once in a while you get a truly unexpected blessing, this was the case recently when JD Rhynes gave me a fiddle. Iím still marveling at his generosity.

By this Friday, all the merchants will begin the big push for all the ďholidayĒ gift giving. I have already recycled about 50 pounds of paper; catalogs, flyers and other mail that has arrived since the first of the month. I refuse to be manipulated by all the advertising and hullabaloo. It makes me long for the way things were when I was a child growing up on the Hoopa Indian Reservation. This is a small town in the mountains of Humboldt County in Northern California, known for itís logging and lumber industry. Back in the late 1940ís and early 1950ís we werenít wrapped in the trappings nor trapped in the wrappings that characterizes the Christmas holiday today. You know what Iím talking aboutÖwhere the aftermath on Christmas morning looks like Santa crash landed in the living room.

I came from a family with eight kids. We lived in a very humble home, meaning there were no modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing, electricity, or running water. Our house was heated by a wood stove, my mother cooked on a wood stove and we carried our water in buckets from a spring. The house was illuminated with kerosene lamps, the glass kind that had a fuel reservoir, a wick, and glass chimney. Donít misunderstand, Iím not saying we were poor; we had a house, plenty of good food and adequate clothing. All the families in the area had the same standard of living, having the necessities of life but few luxuries.

The Christmas season would start with a hike up into the hills in search of the perfect tree. In those days you could just go into the woods and cut your own. This was a task that our parents left up to the kids. We would take turns carrying the tree down the hill, one child on each end. By the time we reached home, our hands were all sticky with pitch which our mom would remove with kerosene. Kerosene was almost as versatile a commodity as WD40, in addition to burning it in the lamps; you could use it for starting a fire in the wood stove, or for removing bubble gum from your hair, a common occurrence when you shared a bed with your sisters.

Most years we would cut a Douglas fir tree, but sometimes we chose a silver tip. I donít remember any store bought decorations, but we made paper chains and other hand made ornaments. There certainly were no lights, since we didnít have electricity. There were no stockings hung by the chimney with care, first of all we didnít have a fireplace and secondly you learned to keep all flammables away from the stove pipe of the pot bellied stove. We had no expectations of receiving toys for Christmas.

Our Christmas holiday was centered on church activities. There was a yearly play in which all of the kids in church played a part in reenacting the Biblical Christmas story. I can still remember the first play I was in, I was an angel and my line was, ďGlory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.Ē Itís interesting that after all these years I can still remember those lines, I guess itís a timeless message.

After the Christmas play the highlight of our evening was the arrival of Santa! On the reservation, his favorite mode of transportation was a logging truck, and as a child, I never questioned the dark skin, black hair and dark eyes, or the similarity between his voice and that of one of the church deacons. He gave each child a red mesh stocking containing an orange, some walnuts, and peppermint candy. Sometimes our stocking would have a jump rope or set of jacks and a ball. For the boys there would be a bag of marbles or a yoyo. I remember one year in particular when I actually received a little china tea set. It was white with a blue pattern, packed in excelsior in a little wooden box. To this day, I donít know the identity of my benefactor but it was one of the most memorable gifts I ever received. In 1955, the Trinity River and all the creeks that flowed into it overflowed their banks. Our house was not spared and alas, my little china tea set was taken downstream or was buried somewhere under all the silt.

When I got married, back in 1965, I picked out a lovely set of china, and you guessed it, itís white with a blue pattern, this is the china I will use for the Thanksgiving table. Oh yes, hereís another word of wisdom, donít save your good china and crystal for ďcompany,Ē thereís no one more special than your family. Happy Thanksgiving.
Posted:  11/22/2009

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