Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jane Lampton (The Mother of Samuel Clemens) sounds much like my Mom Sally Casey

        In my last post I wrote about receiving a copy of The Autobiography of Mark Twain for Christmas. I have read a couple of chapters each night before going to bed, and Chapter 7 of the book has Clemens recalling his relationship with his own Mother.  When my Mom died, I was told I gave a touching eulogy, but I have never found quite the words to describe my Mom, and how she related to the world around her. I found the very words I was searching for on page 33 of the Autobiography.

   "She had a slender, small body but a large heart ---a heart so large that everybody's grief and everybody's joys found welcome in it and hospitable accomodation."

    Further on Clemens writes:

     Her interest in people and other animals was warm, personal, friendly. She always found something to excuse, and as a rule to love, in the toughest of them --even if she had to put it there herself."

       Those words make me think of all the hard cases like me that Sally Casey took in as a Foster Parent and turned something good out of.  Sally Casey would have turned 94 last Wednesday, and it has been 10 years since her death in 2000.

        It took ten years, but Samuel Clemens, in describing his own Mother, Jane Lampton of Kentucky, is just as easily describing my Mom, Sally Casey, 100 years after HIS death. Thanks Mark Twain, for reaching across the century and doing it for me.

       I highly recommend The Autobiography of Mark Twain as edited by Charles Neider to all my friends out there. It is a wonderful, glimpse into an America before, during, and after the Civil War, and into the early 20th century. Clemens recounting of his childhood and an 19th century American society built on everyone knowing their proper place in social stature is a must read.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Christmas is supposed To be

      I haven't posted for over two months. I received numerous emails asking why, and if I was okay. To  paraphrase a famous writer whose name currently escapes me, "rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."
      It has been a very tough year. Work has been hard to come by, but I kept busy, and managed to make enough to get by, taking whatever gigs happened to come up, sometimes at the most opportune of times.
    So here it is, Christmas Day, and I have to say, I feel I am incredibly blessed. I have a lot of comforts that many do not, and I appreciate them.

    But it really tweaks me how self indulgent and narrowly focused much of our society has become.

    To put it in perspective, I want to tell you about a maintenance guy named Eddie. This guy has a wife and four kids in Harrisburg, but three years ago took a job in Allentown to feed his family. He works here all week, then takes the Bieber Bus home Friday night, then back here again on Sunday. He stays in a flop house with a dozen other men during the week.

     I don't want to give too much away to expose the people who helped him, because they wanted to stay anonymous. But Eddie cleans the offices where they work, and does a pretty good job. He's not the smartest guy, but he is polite and well mannered. They asked Eddie what he would like for Christmas, and he told them that he could really use a warm coat. It was cold waiting at the bus stop, and he didn't have a decent coat to wear.

    That's all the man wanted for Christmas. A Warm Coat. They didn't know his story, but they did some investigating and found out how hard this guy worked to take care of his family. So for Christmas the folks in this office got together and purchased a few things for him, including a new pair of shoes, socks, a Christmas tree, and of course, a WARM COAT. They also threw in some other gifts for his family

    When they gave it to him this past week, he burst into tears. They delivered the Tree to his home, and witnesses say he didn't seem to know what to do with it, he thought the ornaments were supposed to be toys for his kids.

     That's Christmas

    That is what it is supposed to be about, sharing something you have with someone who may have less than you, and in many cases, a lot less. The man didn't even own a cell phone.

     I am sick of people expecting certain things at Christmas time, as if they have a God given right to be showered with a bunch of stuff they really don't need, but want because the iphone or I pad or whatever is the latest status symbol. And for a few generations now, parents have been teaching their kids to expect the "must have" toy, under the tree.

   This culture of entitlement is disgusting

    A man got a coat, and cries in gratitude, while a 14 year old somewhere cries, screams and throws a tantrum because her phone isn't the pink one she wanted.

   This is the world we have made, and we have to live in it.

    When did we lose what made it so magical? Why is the Christmas I experience in my 50th year so far removed from the one I had at age 10?

     Most people no longer give out of a sense of genuine generosity, but out of a sense of obligation.

     And to me, the spirit has been lost.

     Having written all the above, our family exchanged gifts tonight. When asked what I wanted a few weeks ago, I asked for two simple things, and I got them both. One was the Autobiography of Mark Twain. I am going to put down Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants", and read this instead.

    I am grateful for my gift, from a very thoughtful niece. There is still some spirit left to Christmas after all. I hope some of it survives to next year.