Shelley Widhalm

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Where’s the “Merry Christmas”?

In Christmas meaning, Holidays, What's important, Writing group on December 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

At my last writer’s group meeting, we talked about our Christmas traditions. Most of them involve opening stockings Christmas Eve and presents Christmas Day and preparing a traditional meal of ham, turkey and, in one woman’s case, seafood pasta.

At my mom’s house, those traditions have been dropped little by little. First went the Christmas tree, because removing it and the ornaments, and then putting them away, takes a lot of energy. My mom, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a cane to get around, tires easily, so she opted for a one-foot tree instead.

Next went the decorations and the tree with miniature ornaments.

This year, we lost the stockings because my brother had plans with his girlfriend on Christmas Eve.

But these changes haven’t fazed me. They reflect my mom’s exhaustion from M.S., along with the altering of family dynamics from a divorce and my brother and I growing up and not having children of our own, at least not yet, to carry on the traditions.

No matter, I love the atmosphere surrounding Christmas. There are Christmas trees on display in stores and the red and green decor. There are Christmas songs instead of top 40. And there are houses and shopping centers glittering with lights, adding joy to the shortening days.

What I don’t like is losing the phrase “Merry Christmas” from holiday cards and interpersonal greetings. Instead, it’s “Happy holidays,” but there’s a holiday practically every month, so which holiday is the happy one?

I understand why my family has to let some traditions go, but I don’t understand why we, as a nation, have to remove the word Christmas from Christmas. We’ve taken political correctness too far, so that even though a sampling from a writer’s group has similar traditions, we can’t say the “Merry Christmas” that reflects those traditions, because we might offend someone.

It’s like words are the wrapping paper that hide so much anger and bitterness, but why so much hostility over words? Can’t words just have their intended meanings without having to be erased, removed and rewritten, so that what is real becomes whitewashed into blandness? The Christmas lights in my town are white holiday lights that don’t offend other religions from the red and green. At least the stores keep the trees up and the Christmas music, even if it’s all for profit.


A Child’s Eternity

In Coffee shops, Furry child, Lap Dog, Loneliness on December 19, 2010 at 8:30 am

I took my dog Zoey with me to a local coffee shop that allows dogs, and I got coffee and she a bone. We lasted a half hour until Zoey started squirming and didn’t want to remain a lapdog.

On our walk home, I was in my own little world until I saw my neighbor, who co-owns a downtown business that sells kitchen supplies.

“Guess what, I’m a grandfather,” he said, his eyes bright as he stood outside, taking a break.

“Is it a boy or girl?” I asked.

My neighbor gave me the details and said, “I looked into her eyes, and she looked right back at me. It was like looking into eternity.”

I wondered if he meant that this baby had some knowledge she took from the womb that we adults lose as we learn how to talk and behave. Or did he mean, as he went on to say, that having children is one thing, but having grandchildren means carrying on your genes through time?

I told him I wanted to have children but was waiting for the right man. I thought, but didn’t say, that I treat my dog like my furry child, dressing her in clothes, calling her “my girl” and worrying about her development, both mental and physical. I want her to be stimulated through play, training, long walks and challenging toys.

As I returned to my apartment, I wondered if this was it, if Zoey was my child, my love, my replacement for a man, and then I thought, forget it. I can’t wait forever for a big what if? I need the here and now. I may not get to see “eternity” in a child’s eyes, but at least I get to taste what caring for another means.

Trying Out Lap Dogs

In Coffee shops, Lap Dog, Seeking pets, What's important on December 12, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I had a bad day at work earlier this week. The hours were long, and I was tired. I came home very grumpy until I opened the door.

Zoey, who was taking a nap in her doggie bed, whipped her tail back and forth and looked at me with shiny, eager eyes. I kneeled down and petted her, kissing her head and talking nonsense to her, asking about her day and if she had been a good dog.

I felt my body relax and my bad mood no longer seemed important. This furry creature could care less about what went on in the work world. She was living in the moment, and being with her, I began to do the same.

I grabbed her harness and leash, and we went for a walk. I took her with me to get coffee at a local coffee shop that allows pets, and she sat on my lap as I read. I could feel her relax into me, even though she wanted to run around, sniff out the smells and seek out pets from the customers. I think she figured she needed to stay with me, obeying my silent command to be a lap dog.

I tried again on Thursday to take her with me to another coffee shop that allows pets. She wasn’t having any lap dog stuff and kept jumping off our chair. She wanted to greet the customers, and a few walked over to say how cute she was and to pet her. She probably knew I didn’t need her comfort, having just had a good day.

Dog Talk

In Alone, Best Friends, Talking on December 5, 2010 at 8:30 am

I’ve become the girl who talks to her dog. I no longer live with the family, so I don’t have the constant conversations going on around me. In other words, I don’t always have someone to talk to if I don’t schedule a coffee date or a lunch or dinner out.

I’ve somehow started talking to my dog. It’s not a “How’s my, girl?” and “Aren’t you a cutie?” It’s more like, “How was your day? What did you do? Were you a good girl? Oh good, you didn’t potty on the floor. What a good girl. … Be quiet, silly girl. It’s just noise. Stop barking. STOP. It’s all right, I love you. …”

I tell my dog what I’m doing, so she won’t wonder where I’m going. “I’m going to take a shower. I’m going to brush my teeth. I’m getting the mail.” The only thing I don’t tell her is that I’m going to the fridge. She knows the second my foot touches the wood floor in front of it. It must make a special sound or something.

This might be all right, but I caught myself holding a conversation with my dog when we were outside on a walk. I figured it’s time for me to start calling all of my girlfriends. Okay, okay, I’m not crazy. I just like to talk.

And so does Zoey. She has a language hidden underneath all of her barks, her whining and what I call her happy sound, the sound she makes when she is in the ecstasy of play. I’m jealous, too, of the dog that is the receiving end of all of my talk. All she has to do is listen and play and just be. My best friend seems to know what I’m saying, or at least I imagine it to be that way.