"" Writer's Wanderings: December 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

The KID in Christmas

Over the weekend, I gave two very different presentations about the KID in Christmas. They were sparked by an ad I saw for the Elf, a Christmas movie in DVD now. The ad said, "For the kid in all of us."

The first presentation was for Toastmasters and I spoke about letting the kid come out at Christmas to make the holiday more fun--Kicking Christmas off with the enthusiasm of a child, Indulging in childish things (candy canes and snowmen), De-Scrooging Christmas.

The second was at my church. I used the letters K-I-D to talk about Jesus being born a King, Incarnate God, and Delight of His Father. I added an exclamation point--rejoice!

It was actually a shameless way of showing off my four grandchildren. You see I made large letters and an exclamation point and put their pictures on the letters that spelled out KID! I used them to make each of my points in the talks.

While everyone chuckled over what I'd done I did make my overall point: Christmas is a time to celebrate and who celebrates better than a kid at Christmas?

So I wish you a Merry Christmas and remind you to let the kid in you come out to celebrate the KID!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ground Zero 3

We took the subway to the station we thought was near Ground Zero and found ourselves about a block away. Walking toward the area was like walking through a pass in the mountains and suddenly having a huge valley open up before you. The noisy hustle and bustle of the city was shut out by the awesome quietness I felt as I looked at the gaping empty space in the middle of a city full of skyscrapers.

We walked to the fence and peered through. Below us there were bulldozers and construction vehicles looking no bigger than my grandson's toy trucks compared to the vastness of the empty foundation they were working on. There were still spots where you could see where the iron rods had supported walled structures. It didn't look like new construction. It was obvious that the rods and walls that were exposed below ground level had been attached to something--something that was no longer there.

Across the street, was the church where so many rescuers found refuge for short spells of time as they fought to find survivors in the ruble. Remnants of the memorials left on the fence, pictures and tributes were scattered about the church in displays that showed part of the story of those days following 9/11.

Out in the old graveyard in front of the church, there is a stump from a 100 year old tree that was the only thing destroyed in the yard when a beam from one of the buildings fell across it. It is amazing that nothing on the church was harmed. I couldn't help but think that maybe God felt that among all the suffering there needed to be a place to find comfort. Even today, the church continues to offer comfort to the relatives, the rescuers, the survivors who are still sorting out the tragedy that changed so many lives.

I wonder what NYC will ultimately do to the 16 acres of emptiness in the middle of lower Manhattan. Will they rebuild and cover the scars left behind of that terrible event? Or will they place something there to remind us that even though the scars may be ugly, there is healing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ground Zero 2

All of my kids were home except for Andy who looked as though he might be stranded in Washington state. He had some trouble getting home when they grounded all the airplanes, but eventually made it safely back to his wife.

I remember the eerie silence of the skies. Noise that we had assimilated in our everyday life and didn't notice, was suddenly gone. Life was unsettled. What did the future hold? Were we still in danger? I imagined the feelings our generation was going through were similar to those of our grandparents' generation when Pearl Harbor was hit. This seemed closer to home though. This was the continental US.

Like most of the nation, I was glued to the television trying to absorb the enormity of the tragedy--praying for rescuers and those needing rescue. I watched as the remains of what had been some of the tallest buildings in the world were carefully moved and searched. But what was on my TV screen, I knew could only glimpse the full extent of the destruction. The human tragedy was almost too much to bear. The faces of those who waited word of their loved ones haunted me.

Eventually, I pulled away as I am sure millions of others did as well. The event had been life changing--world changing, but it was time to move on. Now, four years later, I was offered the opportunity to visit NYC. There was no way I would go and not visit Ground Zero--not spend a few moments thanking God for those he spared and praying for those families whose lives now had a hole in them--a hole as big as the one left in the middle of NYC.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ground Zero

I remember where I was when it happened, do you? I was sitting at my sewing machine and listening to Good Morning America (I wasn't a Today fan yet) and the phone rang. It was the secretary from our church asking about some activity I was involved with. As she talked, I watched the bulletin interrupt the programming and Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson's anxious faces as they began to relay the news--a jet had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.

"Oh, my gosh!" I exclaimed and repeated what I'd just heard to the secretary. We finished our conversation and after I hung up, I continued to watch as the news unfolded and the second jet hit the second tower. Then it became frightening. This was no accident.

I had planned to take our son, Don, shopping for furniture for his first venture into the world of independent living. This was a big deal for a young man with Don's mental handicaps. I didn't want to disappoint him. We started out and found that every store we went to was practically deserted. Employees were gathered around TVs whenever they were available or just huddled together under a speaker that was piping in the news as the morning progressed. I wanted desperately to know what was happening but I didn't want to frighten Don either.

Don and I quickly found what he needed and then headed for a pizza shop for lunch. I sat where I could see their TV and let Don ramble on in his excitement, nodding my head as if I were listening, but keeping an eye on the events unfolding on the TV screen. A shot of the first tower collapsing was shown. I gasped. It made Don turn and look. Fortunately, he didn't understand the full impact. It was just another disaster or maybe a building being imploded.

This was unreal. Suddenly, life was uncertain. I wondered if I was going to be able to let him go out on his own. For that matter, the mother in me wanted to gather all my "chicks" together and make sure they were safe.

When we went home, I began making phone calls. Where were the rest of my boys? Were they safe?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Five Seconds of Fame 2

Well, we managed to inch our way to a space behind three women dressed in "I (heart) NY" pajamas and Santa hats. Sure enough Al Roker came out and paused for a moment to look at their attire. Just as he did, the crowd squeezed in around us and any chance of our being on camera faded with three signs thrust in front of our faces.

I was about ready to give up and go get something to warm the icicles forming around my nose and eyebrows. The focus had shifted to the other end of the Plaza where the Eurythmics were performing. As soon as they were done with "Sweet Things are Made of This," the crowd began to thin. I looked at Bob. "Should we tough it out and see if they come over here again or just leave?"

"It's your call," he said bouncing up and down and clapping his hands together to get them warm. We decided to stay until the top of the hour--9 o'clock.

We watched Ann Curry come out to do a promo from a platform near us. She was much prettier in person than on TV and was warm and friendly to the crowd around her even though she was visibly shaking from the cold.

They were preparing to seque to the next song by the Eurythmics when a cameraman stopped in front of me and looked down at the sign that I was beginning to drag now. "Nice sign," he said nodding his head up and down as much as he could with a big camera on his shoulder. He climbed up to the same platform where Ann had been a few minutes before. The Eurythmics began to sing. He pointed the camera at me. I held the sign high and saw the red light come on. It seemed like it was on for an eternity and I watched as the lense zoomed in. Was he taking a close up?

Bob was behind me watching the monitor and suddenly called out, "That's our sign! Hey, you're on!" Just about the time he turned around, the red light went off and our five seconds of fame were over.

Fame is so fleeting...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Five Seconds of Fame

Bear with me...I'm still rehashing the wonderful time we had in NYC this past Thanksgiving. It included an early morning--very early and very cold--trip to Rockefeller Center Plaza for the Today Show.

We had searched the nearby drugstores for poster board and markers almost to no avail. Everyone was making signs to hold up for the big parade. We finally found some foam board and a smattering of fine point markers--not the best for filling in lettering on a sign.

Next came the question of what to put on the sign. I was torn between "Hey Robbins Family! Save some Turkey!" and a "Checkin' Our List" sign. I had seen turkey signs before, so we opted for the List sign. I drew blocks like bullet points for our list and wrote, "The Today Show, Parade, Turkey Dinner, Top of the Rock, Christmas Shopping." Each block except the shopping one was checked. We filled in the Today Show with diagonal bands of color loosely resembling the colors that NBC uses in its trademark. The rest was done in black and dark purple when the black pens began to run out of ink. It took us most of Thanksgiving afternoon, but it was a good time to rest and relax and stay warm after being out in the cold for so long at the parade.

Sign in hand--both hands--fighting the icy wind, we trekked down to Rockefeller Plaza. It was 6 a.m. The show didn't start until 7, but we were already late. The plaza was almost full to capacity with people. Security checked our sign to be sure it wasn't advertising or offensive or, I'm suspecting, political, and we oozed into the middle of the crowd that was facing the far end waiting for the live concert by the Eurythmics.

Once in a while the camera suspended on a boom above the crowd would swing over the top of us and people would go wild cheering and waving signs. Bob noted that the camera wasn't even on yet. I knew I wanted to be in the back of the crowd closer to where the Today personalities would come out to do the weather. There was a lot better chance of being seen there and I certainly didn't want to disappoint my grandkids who were watching or TiVoing.

Carefully, and slowly we inched our way closer to the barriers as people got too cold and gave up--leaving for hot chocolate or coffee. It was getting closer to 8:30, their scheduled appearance time in the Plaza. Would we be close enough by then?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Toys Toys Toys

Christmas shopping is getting to be less fun for me. My own kids and their wives are far enough removed from my everyday life that I don't see the little things they need like I used to when they lived at home. (No, I'm not asking that they move back in.) Often they provide lists but that reduces the element of surprise even though it saves on returns after Christmas.

The grandchildren, however, offer a spot of delight in the holiday excursion to the mall and toy store. I envy the grandparents who get to shop at FAO Schwarz in NYC. When we visited there, we found a wonderland of awe and excitement. The first floor was filled with every kind and size of stuffed animal imaginable. The second floor had designer toys. As we neared the top of the escalator, we discovered the giant keyboard that Tom Hanks danced on in the movie Big. There were some accomplished young musicians dancing out tunes as onlookers watched in amazement.

Moving to the dolls department, we happened upon the nursery section. Behind a plexiglass window were hospital bassinets with lifesized baby dolls wrapped in blankets waiting for "mommies" to claim them as their own. The sales clerk for the area was dressed as a nurse and would retrieve a baby now and then for a perspective mother to hold.

In the action toys area, there was a bank of computers where kids of all ages could design a custom Hot Wheels car--color, body, detailing. We passed by wishing we had Tyler with us and found ourselves staring up at a giant dinosaur whose head swayed back and forth as it opened its mouth to roar. Beyond the prehistoric creature lay a wonderland of Legos--kits, pieces and parts of all sizes and colors, and huge buildings and creatures made of thousands of Legos.

We rounded another corner to discover a lifesized Barbie dollhouse that contained every Barbie and accessory made to delight the Barbie fans. I was truly feeling like a babe in toyland.

There were numerous stations along the way where toys were being demonstrated. I didn't realize how significant the demos were until the demonstrator of one toy asked if the buyer wished him to sign it. He was the inventor of the toy!

While Toys R Us was huge and carried every toy imaginable, FAO Schwarz was unique and truly made me feel like a kid again. I was wishing I'd brought an extra suitcase--but then one wouldn't have been enough to hold all I wanted. Just like a kid I wanted more than I needed.
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