Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Father's Loving Gift Gives us an American Christmas Classic

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Yes, it even snowed in Houston.  When I checked the weather on my cell phone on Thursday night, it said "snow."  I couldn't see out the window; I thought something was wrong with my phone, but no.  The next morning the roofs on the next-door apartments were covered in white.  In early December--what a surprise!

Anyway, here's my favorite Christmas story.  I post it every year.

A guy named Bob May, depressed and broken-hearted, stared ou his drafty apartment window into the chilly December night.  His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap, quietly sobbing.  Bob's wife Evelyn was dying of cancer.  Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home.  Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's mommy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes wetted with tears.  Her question brought waves of grief but also of anger.

It was the story of Bob's life.  Life always had to be different for Bob.  Being small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys.  He was too little at the time to compete in sports.  He was often called names he'd rather not remember.

From childhood Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.  Bob did complete college and married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.  Then he was blessed with his little girl. But his happiness was short-lived.  Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.  Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938/

Bob struggled to give hope to his child for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift.  But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one--a storybook.

Bob had created animal characters in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.  Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it with each telling.  Who was the character?  What was the story about?

The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form.  The character he created was an outcast like he was.  The name of the character?  A little reindeer named Rudolph with a big, shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas day.

But the story doesn't end there.  The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the right to print the book.  Wards went on to print the book and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.  By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  That same year a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.  In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all the rights back to Bob.

The book became a best seller.  Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created for his daughter.

But the story doesn't end there.  Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation of Rudolph.  Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene Autrey.  "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," was released in 1948 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."  The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless him again and again.  And Bob May learned the lesson, just like Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad.  In fact, being different can be a blessing.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

QuoXtes for the Week

Cat and Dogs

Dogs are high on life;
Cats need catnip.
                Mary Bly

Dogs will come when called;
Cats will take a message and get back to you.
                Missy Dizick

Dogs want only love,
But cats demand worship.
                 L.M. Montgomery

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Books of November

After I finished reading In a Different Key:  The History of Autism, I remembered reading an excerpt of this book many years ago and wondered if the son had actually been autistic.  He wasn't.  His behavior was very different from autism and he was eventually diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.  Interesting read.

These two books were listed on the sidebar of the page about This Stranger, My Son.  I read Sybil when it first came out in the 70's and was fascinated, so I read it again.  If you don't remember it, it's the story of a woman badly abused in childhood who developed 16 alternate personalities.  Was the story true? 
Sybil Exposed says no.  After reading the expose of the doctor and author who made Sybil famous, I wondered if either story was true.  You can read them and decide for yourself.

A funny "keeping up with the Jonses, Indian style,"this book is set in Delhi and is the story of a lower middle class family who makes a fortune when the husband sells his website and their adjustment to life in an upper class neighborhood  I enjoyed it until the end when it just sort of petered out.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Gabriella's Birthday

My granddaughter Gabriella is nineteen today.  

On Thanksgiving morning 1998 we woke to learn that our daughter-in-law was in labor.  We dressed and hurried to the hospital.  In the weeks before, friends had asked if I planned to watch the delivery.  I said, "No way."  But on that Thanksgiving day I found myself walking into the delivery room.  I sat on the floor, thinking if I passed out, I wouldn't have far to fall.  

Several hours passed and the labor pains grew steadily closer together, then the pushing began...and with a whoosh, out came a dark-haired baby girl.  Gabriella, my first (and only) grandchild.  I'm so glad I got to see her birth.  It was a miracle to watch a new life emerge and take her first breath.

Ralph and I left and had a Thanksgiving lunch at Luby's.  It was gross.  I've never eaten there again.  I know some people love Luby's but I am definitely not a fan.

We returned to the hospital, and like a true early childhood speech pathologist I asked what her Apgar score was.  It was nine.  

Michael and his wife and Gabriella (Michael said she would never be called Gabby, but he was wrong) came back to our house where they lived for the first year of Gabriella's life while they were building their house.  I got to see her crawl for the first time, hear her first word--cat--not a surprise in our cat-loving household.  I watched her play with toys, interact with our family and grow.  One of her favorite things to do at our house was look at herself in the three-way mirror in the dressing room.

When they moved to their new home, I still shared many memories, some with her family, some with just me and Gabby.  I saw her first Halloween, her first steps, her delight at the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science.  Some years later we adopted a butterfly cocoon and saw the butterfly emerge.  We went to the Children's Museum where Gabby had her face painted.  I remember dance recitals and birthday parties, making green eggs and ham with her (without the ham), watching together as her grandfather carved a jack o' lantern, going to the Nutcracker and the youth symphony, going for afternoon tea, taking her for her first pedicure, visiting the Museum of Natural Science to view and sniff Lois, the smelly flower, taking turns reading Junie B. Jones aloud, hearing about books she read in school, watching her become a teenager and last spring attending her high school graduation.  

I can hardly believe the years have passed and she's now a young lady of nineteen and a college freshman.  She misses her cat, who is living with me this year while she's in a dorm, but she's bought a pet--a fish she named Flounder.  The cat is hoping to meet (and maybe eat) Flounder during winter break.

On this last birthday of her teens I wish her joy.  She's brought me joy, too.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Books of October

I only read two books in October.  My excuse:  they were both very long.

Cora Seaborne is a recent widow who is delighted to be free of her abusive husband.  She is persuaded by friends to visit a village by the sea (This story takes place in England.)  There she finds a small town frightened by the idea that a huge sea serpent is coming to terrorize them.  We meet a huge cast of characters:  Frankie, Cora's son, who probably has Asperger's;
Martha, his nanny and Cora's companion; a doctor who is referred to as the Imp; the man he saves, the village pastor and his dying wife and their three children, and many other characters.  All of them are intertwined in some way and all have some sort of connection to the serpent.  Is there really a serpent?  You won't find out until the last pages.  Meanwhile, the book focuses on other themes:  housing for poverty-stricken Londoners, medical advances, fossils and other things.  I gave it a B.

I found this book fascinating.  I've worked with autistic children and I'm aware of some of the history covered in this book, but I loved the readable style, the clarity of the explanations, and although it's over 500 pages, I finished it in about 10 days.  It covers the era of institutionalizing children who were "different" and "difficult," the early identification of  children with autism, the struggles of parents to raise their children and to find appropriate education for them, the idea prevalent in the mid-20th century that autism was caused by "refrigerator mothers" who rejected their children, the activism by parent organizations, the different methods of working with autistic children, the changing of diagnostic criteria, the vaccine scare, the views of autistic adults, and more.  This is great reading for a lay person or a professional.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Houston Strong...and Joyful

Last year the Chicago Cubs broke a decades-old curse and won the World Series.  This year the Houston Astros won.  It couldn't have come at a better time.

Houston is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey, the worst flood in our history, that happened just over two months ago.  People are traumatized from losing homes, losing possessions, finding shelter, dealing with FEMA, worrying about the future.  The Astros brought a ray of sunshine into our rain-soaked lives.
They brought us together, gave us something everyone could talk about.  Orange and blue t-shirts and Astros caps were the fashion of the week.

When they beat the Red Sox, then the Yankees, then finished off the Dodgers in the seventh game of the World Series, it seemed like Destiny.  The 'Stros were comfortably ahead in that game, 5-0, but the tension in our Event Center where several dozen people sat glued to the television was overwhelming.  We muttered, "9 more outs," then "6 more outs," then "3 more outs" as the final three innings started.  The lady in the front row wiggled her fingers in a voodoo sign each time the Dodgers came to bat. When Jose Altuve snagged the final grounder and tossed it to Yuri Gurriel, the room erupted in cheers.  

In Houston at a watch party in Minute Maid Park, the crowd went crazy.

We watched the players, who seemed to relish every moment of every game, storm the field, World Champions at last.  Houston waited 56 years for that moment and finally it was here.  

On the field, they hoisted the championship trophy, Carlos Correa proposed to his girl friend, and George Springer, who set a record for home runs during a World Series, was named MVP.

On Friday the Houston Independent School District canceled 
classes so kids could attend the victory parade.  Nearly a million people crowded downtown Houston to cheer our heroes.  

We're back to everyday life now, but we won't forget those moments of triumph and joy, not ever.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Doing Without

Y'know that thing that sits on your shelf or maybe is attached to the wall?  You can turn it on with a little thingy in your hand and when you do, you see people playing sports or reading the news or saying things to make you laugh. Everything is in color. It's a modern technological wonder called a television.

I, of course, grew up without one.  Nobody had one.  We got our first television the spring of my senior year in high school.  We spent summer evenings watching wrestling from San Antonio with Gorry Guerrero--he was the good guy.  A lot of the time we just saw "snow."  Like other people, I got addicted to television and since then it's been part of my life.  I turn it on when I come home for lunch to see what's going on in the world.  I won't mention what channel I watch because I don't want to offend anyone.

During Hurricane Harvey our power went out here at Brazos Towers but only for a day.  The lights came on and so did the A/C but the phones, internet and television didn't.  Gradually the phone came back, then the internet, then email...but no TV.  Apparently the equipment was in the basement in one of our buildings and it was thoroughly flooded and had to be rebuilt from scratch somewhere in Ohio (a non-flooded state) and shipped here and then installed and programmed, etc.  

Meanwhile, I got used to checking the news on my cell phone, asking Siri for sports score (She said the Astros are predicted to win the World Series by 1.5 runs.  Not sure what .5 runs are, but she gave me hope.)  I spent a lot of time reading, which I do anyway.  Some people were able to get TV by hooking up rabbit ears, but I live on the wrong side of the building, out of the line of sight of the TV tower, so I went without.

Then last Friday our TV came back on, but each set had to be programmed because the channel numbers were 100 lower.  Last Saturday I got upstairs after the baseball game which most people were able to watch in our Event Center, and I decided to watch Saturday Night Live, but I couldn't find it.  NBC had not been included in our service.  So we had to wait some more days and get that programmed in and now we have regular TV.  I will be able to watch my favorite show, Flea Market Flip on Great American Country!

But guess what?  I've gotten so used to not having TV and it's so blissfully quiet here that I usually forget to turn it on.  It's just like being in high school again.

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