This is the time of year when most people’s thoughts go to Santa and gaily decorated trees with twinkling lights and Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas” and frantic visits to the mall and rolls of gift wrap and, if you’re Jewish, saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Sad to say, that’s not how this holiday season, and winter in general, is working out for me. My thoughts are elsewhere, and it’s the fault of some of the members of my high school class. You see, we celebrated our 60th reunion this past summer. If you’re quick with numbers, you know that means we are the “Class of 1953,” at University City High. In those days our athletic teams were known as The Indians. Today they’re The Lions. (Times and sensitivities do change, don’t they?)
Following the reunion I created a list of emails from as many of our classmates as possible. That’s 70 as of the last tally. It proved to be a great way for all of us to stay in touch with each other. At least those who wanted to. I found out who lived where, who was retired, how many children/grandchildren/even great grandchildren were strewn about the countryside. I thought, “This is really cool. After 60 years we still talk.” In some cases, more than we did in high school.
That was good. At least for awhile.
Recently, however, I’m beginning to regret ever starting the damned thing. Tell you why. I am sitting here in St. Louis, watching the snow melt and the cold rain come down, getting ready for the next Arctic blast, wearing a long sleeved tee-shirt under my sweater, reluctantly walking my two golden retrievers at 10:30 at night, urging them to poop quickly and get the hell back in the house. My bike riding and softball games and hikes are on hold until April. I feel like a prisoner of the gods of weather, and wonder where is global warming when I need it.
Here’s what gets to me. The email from classmates who don’t live in St. Louis. The ones who live someplace that’s green year round, or within a short drive of a beach, or doesn’t stock snow shovels at Home Depot.
Here are some excerpts from these messages. I’ll use only the first names, to protect them from NSA, scammers, telemarketers, and appeals from princes in Nigeria.
In no particular order:
1. Barbara wrote: I live in the San Fernando Valley in southern Calif. Maybe if there are enough of us that live here we could start a reunion of our own.
2. Jackie says: Happy New Year from Woodland Hills , California.
3. Jerry tells me: I still work part-time for them in their Palo Alto Office---- and likely will continue as long as I can ride my bike there (5 miles round trip mostly on a bike path).
4. Earle told me about his two houses in California. At least I think they were both there. Maybe the second one is in Cabo or Hawaii.
5. Speaking of Hawaii, John has lived there for decades, has probably changed his name to something Polynesian with lots of vowels.
6. Stan, who lives where it drops below zero, wrote: Will think of you when we are in AZ. for several months beginning the first of the year.
7. Sally had the guts to lay it all out: Hello from California where the weather is NICE AND WARM!!! Highs in the 70s tomorrow and the 80s on Sunday.
8.Lenny wrote from Sun City, Arizona. I love that word, sun.
9. Lew actually OWNS the sun, keeps it on in Southern California.
10. Jan had two knee replacements but had to brag that he bikes 20 or 30 miles in Clearwater, Florida.
There are more.... from California and Florida, also New Mexico and Arizona. Warm places. But I stay in St. Louis. In some ways it makes no sense. Our daughter lives in New York; our son, in Chicago, so there’s no family to keep us here.
Maybe it’s because I really like living here. My good friends are here, a variety of things to do, a comfortable familiarity, theater and movies and parks and activities, a very cool and liveable house. I’m probably just too lazy to learn a new routine in a strange town,
So you’ll just have to excuse me for whining a little. It’s childish, I know. And since I started writing this, I have received two Christmas letters. But these were different. They both contained news of friends who have been through a very bad year. That got my attention, brought me back to reality.
Which brings me to some wisdom I read recently on a friend’s posting. It says, “A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot, and realize how blessed you are.” Words to remember, and to read every morning.
Mark Twain had words for me too. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
The boating analogy doesn’t work for me. I get seasick easily. But maybe it’s time for a Harley or a hut in Tahiti or backpacking through the Australian outback, or even a couple of months at a seaside villa in the south of Italy.
In the meantime, I’ll wait for the kids to get home for Christmas while I sit by the fire and read "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."