Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas With Friends

I was awaken by the usual cursing and banging at 7:30, but I tried to sleep for a half-hour more. When I did finally get up and finished my journal and reading a few chapters of The Autobiography of Santa Claus, I went right into a fast breakfast of a slice of cranberry bread, a cup of organic black tea, and half of a grapefruit.

Started The Stingiest Man In Town as I finished eating and made the bed. This Rankin-Bass special from the late 70's was their adaptation of a popular musical version of A Christmas Carol from the 50's. Walter Matthau is Scrooge, Tom Bosley is the narrator B.A.H Humbug, Robert Morse is Scrooge in his younger years, and Dennis Day makes his last TV appearance as a particularly ebullient Nephew Fred. I love the music - my favorite numbers are Nephew Fred's opening song "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" and Martha Cratchit's song to her brother Tim, "Yes There Is a Santa Claus."

Stayed with Rankin-Bass as I finished the bed and got organized to head out, but moved out of Christmas and into winter. Frosty's Winter Wonderland is another unusual 70's-era tale. Frosty gets lonely when the kids are inside, so they build him a snow wife they dub Crystal. While they try to figure out how to make her "all livin'," a jealous Jack Frost vows to get rid of both snow people for good!

I hurried out at quarter after 10. I was supposed to meet Amanda at the parking lot for the former PNC Bank on the White Horse Pike. She got a late start from Vineland, about 45 minutes from Camden County, and didn't arrive until 10:50.

We drove to Collingswood and had an early lunch at Tortilla Press. It had just opened. We were their first customers. We enjoyed a view of Collings and Haddon Avenues while we scarfed down hand-made corn chips and tomato salsa. Amanda had their award-winning Peanut Pork Barbecue Sandwich and their raspberry iced tea. I had two soft chicken tacos with rice and mashed pinto beans and snitched a couple of her sweet potato fries. My tacos were tasty, with perfectly-seasoned chicken slices. The beans weren't bad, but the Spanish rice was kind of bland. Amanda must have liked her pork sandwich. For once, she ate the whole thing.

Went to GrooveGround a few blocks away next. We were too full for food, but we did get hot drinks to warm us up on a cold, clammy day. She got their Peppermint Mocha Coffee. I went with plain old hot chocolate. It was quiet there, too, except for two other women who were talking. We spent almost an hour there, admiring their records and unique holiday ornaments, sinking into the soft, thick seats, and chattering away.

I'm not the only one having financial problems. Amanda lost her third job and her health insurance when the Bob Evans she worked at in Millville shut down. She's now paying for her own health insurance on top of preparing to take online courses to become a veterinary technician in the winter. She still has a job at the Bath and Body Works in her local mall and is a substitute teacher for Vineland's school district, but neither job gives her enough hours to get by. She desperately wants to move out of her parents' house, but she doesn't have the money. I told her about my own financial problems, the cut hours at work, the trouble with the managers, and that I'm writing again.

It was past 1:30 when we finally decided it was time to get back to my place. When we did get in, Amanda re-heated her coffee, and we exchanged gifts. I gave her a stuffed Hello Kitty Beanie Baby (she's a huge Hello Kitty fan), a Snoopy doghouse ornament (she's also into the Peanuts), the Hello Kitty rubber bracelet thing I got from the Library's volunteer bag a few months ago, and two notebooks for her to use for class. She gave me body mist spray and a little bottle of hand lotion from Bath and Body Works, a cute little stuffed penguin named Waddles, three packets of seasonal hot chocolate mixes (two Starbucks, one Swiss Miss), one of those long hollow plastic canes filled with chocolate candies, and a gingerbread fortune cookie. (I have no idea where she found that one.)

I put on A Disney Channel Christmas while we delighted over our gifts. This blending of two Wonderful World of Disney holiday specials from the 50's and the late 70's ran on the Disney Channel throughout my childhood. In addition to familiar short like "Pluto's Christmas Tree," "The Art of Skiing," "Donald's Snow Fight," and a segment of Mickey's Christmas Carol, we gets parts of Disney animated movies that relate to parties, winter, or gift-giving, and a rare treat - the sweet black-and-white Mickey tale "Mickey's Good Deed" in full.

We spent the next couple of hours decorating the tree. The lights took longer than they should have. I discovered, to my embarrassment, that I couldn't plug the second string of lights in if I wanted them to plug into the first. Oh well. I'll just use the one string. I'll either put the red and green string up on a window later or donate it somewhere.

The rest of the tree went much better. We oohed and ahhed over the piles and piles of ornaments I've managed to collect from here, there, and everywhere. There's the delicate glass baubles Mom gave me from Winterwood in Cape May Courthouse and from fancy gift shops in Cape May. There's the big, often heavy character-based plastic or resin ornaments I got from friends or found at thrift shops or after-Christmas half-price sales. I put up the translucent and frosted glittery plastic icicles and the clothespin "toy soliders" Mom made years ago. Amanda hung the beaded ornaments my cousin made about five or six years ago. There were colored glass balls from Big Lots, antique-style balls from a yard sale, and beautiful hand-sewn felt ornaments made by my own mother. Amanda and I split the glass Disney character ornaments. She did Mickey, Daisy, and Pluto. I did Goofy, Minnie, and Donald.

We finished around 3:30, just in time for her to head out. She wanted to avoid the evening traffic and get home before dark. After she left, I cleaned up a bit and put the container with the tree things away, then headed to the laundromat. It was just getting dark when I arrived. They were dead as a doornail. Good thing, too. I had a huge load to do, including towels and dust cloths. I wrote notes for Babes In WENNland and listened to Action News on Channel 6.

When I got in, I had the last of the leftover chicken-tomato soup for dinner while finishing out the holiday documentaries I started while Amanda was still here. Linda Young sent me this disc of specials on various aspects of the history of Christmas, from England to television. Christmas Past discusses the holiday history and customs of merry old England. The History Channel's Christmas Unwrapped goes further into the history of Christmas, revealing how many American customs, like Santa, trees, and mistletoe, came into being. It also goes into Christmas in modern times and how people feel about it now. TV Guide Looks at Christmas details nearly 50 years of beloved boob tube holiday memories, from Howdy Doody's Christmas to constant showings of It's a Wonderful Life to Pee Wee's Christmas Special to Christmas cartoons and sitcom episodes.

Worked a bit on my story after a shower, since Lauren was going to be arriving late. Alan and Lisa continue to monitor the comings and goings of the staff in the green room. They meet Maple and British visitor Gil Martin. Maple's still trying to flirt with Gil, to his amusement. Hilary and Jeff come in to tell Maple she'll be on shortly. Alan still wants to know if they're in his favorite show, "Amazon Andy." Yes, they are, but they're the sidekick and Andy's girlfriend. Hilary preens when Lisa recognizes her from the soap operas her mother loves.

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