Christmas is more than a feeling – revisited | by Linda Brendle
Published in the Rains County Leader on December 15, 2022:
One of the most common questions I’m asked by readers of my column is where do you get your ideas. It’s a hard question to answer. Mainly it’s having a writer’s perspective on life and seeing each person and each situation as a potential subject. Beyond that, it’s hard to explain why one person sparks my interest and another doesn’t, but it has to do with whether there’s an angle or a hook that pushes the right buttons. If you haven’t already figured it out, what I’m getting at is that this was one of those weeks when no buttons were pushed, no sparks flew, and no ideas came. Fortunately, I have over eight years of “golden oldies” to choose from. Here’s one from 2017 that, even though some of the circumstances are different now, might still push a button or two. Merry Christmas!
Many wedding ceremonies include words to the effect that “love is not a feeling, it’s a commitment.” The idea, of course, is that love is not simply the dizzying excitement of a new relationship or the warm, fuzzy feeling of a long established marriage. It’s a commitment to act in a loving manner even when you don’t feel like it. People who rely simply on loving feelings are often disillusioned when the honeymoon is over. The more Christmases I experience, the more I realize that Christmas is a lot like love –those who rely simply on the magical feelings of the season are destined for disappointment.
My husband David is a nostalgia kind of guy, and he often reminisces about the good old days, especially at this time of year. He recently lamented the fact that he can’t seem to recapture the excitement and anticipation he experienced during the Christmas season when he was younger. Unfortunately, some of the magic of those mysterious packages disappears when you know the bills will be waiting for you at the end of the month. And let’s face it, there’s not as much magic in a new sweater or even the latest book by your favorite author as there was in a shiny red bicycle or a Daisy Red Rider BB Gun. There’s still lots of magic to be found, though, if you know where to look.
Published in the Rains County Leader on July 28, 2022:
Sundays have changed a lot since I was a kid, in fact, weekends in general were a lot different. Saturdays were sleep late days, but not very late. During the week Mom woke me up while it was still dark so she could fix my hair and make sure I was presentable before she left to catch the bus to work at 6:30. On Saturdays she let me sleep a little later, but I usually woke up on my own when the smells of coffee and bacon made their way into my room.
After breakfast, it was housecleaning time. My job was cleaning bathrooms and dusting while Dad did the floors and Mom did the laundry and cleaned the kitchen – and her kitchen was always spotless except when I cooked. After lunch, Dad would move to his outdoor chores and Mom and I would go shopping. There were a few interesting stores in downtown Mesquite, but after the Big Town Mall opened in 1959, that was our usual destination. After a quick tour of the bargain racks, and maybe a stop at the candy counter in Woolworth’s for a small bag of cashews or chocolate candy, we’d move on to Minyard’s, the only grocery store in town besides Anderson’s Market. We always finished our rounds well before dinner time because everything but the convenience stores closed at 6:00 pm on Saturday and didn’t reopen until Monday morning.
Saturday evening was dedicated to getting ready for Sunday. I had long, thick hair – and this was before home hair dryers – so the first task was to wash my hair and roll it up in pin curls or brush rollers. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very comfortably on Saturday nights, and I had to get up early on Sunday so I could stand in front of the heater if my hair wasn’t dry. Sunday clothes were also checked to be sure everything was clean and neatly pressed, and shoes were shined. Mom probably did some preparation for Sunday dinner, but I don’t remember that part. By then I was probably reading – first my Sunday School lesson so I could check that box on my offering envelope and then whatever library book I was reading at the time.
Published in the Rains County Leader on November 11, 2021:
David and I, along with my cousin Penny, attended the 55th reunion of Mesquite High School class of 1965 last weekend. The reunion was planned for 2020, but COVID had other ideas. Some referred to our gathering as the 55th + 1, and some just went with the 56th.
The crowd wasn’t huge, especially considering the class was 300+. The very impromptu class picture showed about 26 classmates, and 10-15 guests accompanied them. The party took place in an event room behind Ozona’s Restaurant on Greenville Avenue. It was a nice sized room for the size of the group, though, leaving plenty of room to move around and visit without tripping over each other and adding more canes and walkers. Seriously, as a whole we were amazingly well-preserved considering we’re all around three-quarters of a century old.
Thanks to Facebook and other social media, many of us have stayed connected at least a little bit. Even so, it often took a glance at the senior picture on a nametag to connect the even more senior face with the name. But years were melted away by hugs and handshakes, and conversation was easy and lively as we shared memories and discussed children, grandchildren, retirement, and health problems. One common question was Where are you living now. I was surprised that everyone who asked me knew where Emory is. I guess our little town is better known than I thought.
Published in the Rains County Leader on September 14, 2021:
A friend recently invited me to attend a meeting of The Well-Armed Woman with her. She is a licensed gun owner and thought I might enjoy the group that describes itself as “a non-profit organization that…creates opportunities for women to be introduced to issues important to women shooters, learn safe gun handling skills and train together.” As it turned out, a trip to visit the doctor and do some shopping went long, so we didn’t get to go. But the invitation sent me on a trip down memory lane, thinking of what part guns have played in my life. It was a short trip.
I do not now and have never owned a gun except for a starter pistol I bought to make noise after I was confronted in the laundry room of my apartment by a guy in a ski mask. Thankfully, he ran off when I began to scream like a banshee, and I never had occasion to brandish the pistol. My dad had an old shotgun and a rifle which I never saw him use, and I think my brother and I shared a cap pistol. I don’t think it worked very well because I seem to remember using a rock or a hammer to fire the caps.
Guns were not a big social issue during my formative years. The best I can tell from my limited research, carrying a handgun was illegal in Texas from 1871 to 1995 when Governor George W. Bush signed the first concealed carry bill in the state. When I was in the sixth grade, a new student from New York was disappointed when he didn’t get to ride a horse and carry a six-gun on his hip. There were a number of high school boys who accessorized their first pick-ups with a gun rack and a rifle in the back window, though, and I never heard of any gun accidents or mass shootings. These kids were probably well-trained by their parents and kept those guns in case they encountered a snake or a coyote while they were feeding the livestock or baling the hay.
Published in the Rains County Leader on August 24, 2021:
Back-to-school week made me feel older than usual this year. Maybe it’s because my grandson is a senior, and my granddaughter is entering 7th grade. To emphasize their maturity, their first-day picture was taken in front of his car as he prepared to drive his younger sister to school. His own car? He just learned how to walk!
All of the returning student pictures on Facebook didn’t help matters. Many of them were of children I worked with in AWANA at church, and some of them were moving into their first college dorm room. I couldn’t help but remember those heart-rending moments when I cut those final apron strings myself – and my “student” will hit the half-century mark on his next birthday.
Aside of reminding me of my age, back to school has reminded me of how very much school has changed since I was a student. One picture showed a new fourth grader pulling a wagon full of supplies toward the school. I checked the supply list for Kindergarten in Rains ISD, and there were 29 items on the list if you include the extra items for boys and girls. The list included, among other things, 4 boxes of crayons. Not the generic 8-count box, but 4 of the 24-count boxes of the big-name crayons. Are they planning to color the entire building before the end of the year? It’s no wonder there are drives to help families who might otherwise have to choose between buying supplies or shoes.
Published by the Rains County Leader on July 27, 2021:
When was the last time you carried your lunch somewhere in a brown paper bag? I took my lunch to school most of the time, and it was usually in that simple sack. My mother was one of the few women I knew who worked outside the home, and since she had to leave earlier than Daddy, he usually packed my lunch. We didn’t eat much peanut butter at my house, but we had a lot of bologna and pickle loaf with tuna salad sprinkled in now and then. Sometimes if we were out of those, I’d get a sandwich made from leftover pot roast, meat loaf, or even scrambled eggs and bacon.
Some who grew up with more sophisticated lunches and fancy lunch boxes might think I was deprived, but if we were poor I didn’t know it. There was only once when I remember being embarrassed about my lunch. We were out of small paper bags, and this was before the era of plastic bags, so Daddy improvised. I took my lunch to school that day in an empty Kleenex box, and I thought I would die of shame!
When preparing my son Christian for Kindergarten, a lunch box was the first thing he picked out. He was a very picky eater, and if he had to eat away from home, he wanted to be sure his mom fixed his lunch. That worked until he entered fifth grade and began attending a school where he wasn’t allowed to bring a lunch. He was terrified until he learned that, in addition to a hot lunch line, they had a sandwich line which always included PB&J. He made it through six years at that school without starving, and he even expanded his tastes a little bit.
Published in the Rains County Leader on February 2, 2021:
Those were some of the first words Robert Worley said to me after I walked into his office and introduced myself. Worley is the new Director of the Emory Development Corp., and I was there to interview him for the article you can read on the front page of this edition of the Leader. He went on to explain that, during his four years of high school, he worked as a printer’s devil for the Paducah Post in Paducah, Texas. This was during the days of hot metal typesetting before computers performed the task digitally, and one of his tasks was to feed pigs or ingots of lead into a vat of molten metal to keep the presses moving. Among his mementos of those years is one of the heavy metal bars along with memories of the feel of a drop of hot lead splashing onto his neck and the sound of a drop as it sizzled through the top of his shoe. Although he left the printing business after he graduated from high school, Worley has continued to find a friendly relationship with local newspapers to be invaluable in the economic development business.
Since that conversation, I’ve thought a lot about my own relationship with newspapers. My first memory of this print media is of spending Sunday mornings – after I was ready for church – lying on the floor of the living room in front of the radio with the “funny papers” spread out in front of me. I don’t know if it was a local D.J. or someone with a wider audience, but there was a man who read the comics every week.
Published in the Rains County Leader on December 15, 2020:
One of my many favorite parts of Christmas is the outdoor displays of lights, but apparently not everyone
feels the same way. Last week a resident of a small town in Minnesota received an anonymous letter claiming that her very understated decorations were “a reminder of systemic biases against our neighbors who don’t celebrate Christmas or who can’t afford to put up lights of their own.” Not that I have a strong opinion about this new issue that has suddenly gone viral, but that is just wrong.
I grew up in what would have been considered an upper lower class or lower middle class neighborhood. There were a few families that hung a string or two of lights along the front eaves or around the porch columns, but ours wasn’t one of them. Dad worked two jobs year round, and since one of them was at the Post Office, he worked lots of overtime during the holidays. He was too tired to climb on the roof for anything short of a major leak, and any money left over at the end of the month was earmarked for clothes, music lessons, or a summer vacation.
Published in the July, 2020 edition of The Community Chronicle:
I’ve heard people say, “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.” I’m not sure if you’d call us poor, but we lived in a five-room house with a single-car carport, pine and linoleum floors, one bathroom, no built-ins, and no air conditioning. Dad worked two jobs, and Mom went to work when the mothers of most of my friends stayed home. But I never missed a meal, I wore the latest fashions the Sears catalog offered and we had a black and white TV that we watched in the kitchen because Mom didn’t want us sitting on the “good” furniture. I had all I needed, a few things I wanted, and all the love a child could hope for – and I was content.
Summers were a little bit difficult, though. My brother and I weren’t allowed to go outside or to have visitors when Mom and Dad were at work. Vacation Bible School and Church Camp filled a few days, and an occasional sleep-over or trip to the local swimming pool with a friend was allowed. But mostly the long, hot days of summer were spent reading, watching TV or doing chores, and I wasn’t quite as content then.
On rare occasion Mom took pity on me, especially after my older brother took a summer job, and broke the monotony by taking me to work with her. We had to get up at the crack of dawn, but riding the Continental Trailways bus from Mesquite to downtown Dallas was an adventure worth losing a little sleep. The hours while she was actually working were pretty boring, but on her coffee break I was allowed to choose a treat out of the vending machine, and we ate lunch in a restaurant. (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on July 6, 2020:
I loved the Fourth of July when I was a kid. We lived inside the city limits where the authorities frowned on the fun stuff like roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a bon fire and shooting off fireworks. So we usually celebrated Independence Day at Aunt Fay’s. In addition to the fire-roasted treats, the menu also included potato salad, chips, watermelon, iced tea, Kool-Aid, and home churned ice cream. In later years when Uncle Dean bought the first charcoal grill I had ever seen, hamburgers were added.
While the adults prepared the food, the seven kids (me, my brother, and our five cousins) ran around Fay and Dean’s unfenced acreage, making noise and getting dirty. Sometimes we visited the food site to grab a chip or take turns sitting on the ice cream churn. By the time dinner was ready, we needed no prompting to come and eat. Everything was always delicious – food always tastes better when eaten outside on paper plates and sprinkled with a little bit of dirt. (more…)
The story of a lonely, innocent girl who gets tangled up in the sex trafficking trade in a small Texas town. It’s about her relationship with Eric, a slick suburban pimp; Jesse, a Christian tattoo artist and motorcycle rider; and Mrs. G, a compassionate but tough attorney and foster parent.