The Elusiveness of Christmas

In Astoria, Queens, the bathtub was just that, a bathtub ~ neither shower nor shower curtain.

As I write this I am myself in disbelief. Though I've always loved bath time, and still do, I finish off with a shower rinse and use it to wash my hair.

But then in my little girl years, no shower. There was an apparatus for hair washday. A Y- shaped tube that attached to the hot and the cold separate taps, bringing the two temperatures together flowing down the Y- shaped tube and out of the shower nozzle at the bottom. I think it was a pink color and made of rubber.

Hadn't seen one of those again for a very long time until I went to Paris, France. I had a single climbing the charts, “BoBo's Party.”  It was 1968.  Gilbert Bécaud took great interest in promoting the American anti-war singer Melanie - although I told him I am not anti-war I am pro-peace, there's a difference.

"I want to present to you to zeFrench publique!"

At the Olympia theater, Bruno Coquatrix, the great presenter of Paris!  Who had presented Edith Piaf and Gilbert himself when he opened for her.

Peter and I flew to Paris on the eve of our wedding. I only agreed to get married because that's the only way we could live together in the flat in Paris, which would be provided, complements of Eddie Barclay, Barclay Records. These were times when you had to show proof of marriage when you checked into a hotel with a man, or lived in a flat in Paris, France. I arrived in France in my wedding dress, which was a black tight-wasted Victorian two-piece suit. Yes I was in mourning for my life. 

I had become an American girl quite used to showers sticking out of the wall from above the head and hot & cold coming from the same faucet. So when I walked through the door and into the bathroom, for the first time, much to my amazement, no shower !!  And voilà the little rubber Y -shaped apparatus not supplied !  Of course I had to go to the French hardware store trying to find one, as the hot and the cold water came out of two separate faucets. Never to become one comfy temperature till it hit the tub or went through the Y- shaped device. This is where I became obsessed with hardware stores in foreign countries. And going to one for me would be the equivalent of going to la tour Eiffel.

I couldn't fathom, as an American girl how Parisians could live without the shower.  That was the first time I had ever seen ... What's that!? "What was that second toilet for?"  No flusher but there is a stopper.  I eventually figured out the bidet! Oh how clever - why didn't we have these at home? And at that same time other American girls and boys who ventured to Paris, wondered as well ~ and one or more of them brought the idea home to Kohler. Perhaps one of them would become the president of that well-established bathroom fixture company because he brought this innovative idea to America. They are available in many fine hotels and homes.  Some of those homes do away with tub altogether which is upsetting to me as I took taking a bath with me throughout all the stages of plumbing advancement.

Let me tell you about the toilet I encountered in a Korean hotel, or I might save that for another day because I was going to talk about Christmas. And I began with the digression.

I was going to start out with a little girl’s memory of Christmas in Astoria, Queens in the family apartment and then I digressed before I could say, "but I digress" because the bathroom is where I could be alone and give much thought to God and Santa Claus who are always watching me and interchangeable, where there first gleaned a recognition of my spiritual self. Because bathroom time was the only time a watchful adult Eye wasn't on me. Perhaps I connect my childhood bathroom experiences with Christmas because that could've been the year that uncle George dressed up as Santa , and though my outer-self believed, or half pretended ,my childhood knowingness knew it was uncle George.  Are you still with me?

I was and still am, a believer and most likely always will be.

And I'd look for Santa in a Christmas Eve sky and for the angel… do I see her? So many cultures together in New York.  I have a vague memory of a Ukrainian or Polish belief that the angels open the sky at midnight and you would leave food for them, or was that New Year's Eve? There was lots of looking up at the sky on Christmas Eve because something wonderful was going to happen and it did.

Sometimes the tree wouldn't appear until Christmas morning.  Life in the pine right in my living room all decorated with lights, bubble lights with colored liquid in the candle shape for the bulb base. How I loved looking at those lights and the spectacle of, the so many toys!

That was when those who grew up in the depression era had experienced the worst of it. My mother, grandmother and uncle being among them, now had enough to shower their children with abundance!  It may have been a kind of sickness ~ conspicuous consumption, but man it was great, it was effing great!

My mother would become a set designer or window dresser. It was a display to rival a Saks Fifth Avenue window!

Christmas morning and they would all appear ~Winky Dink, the Mary Hartline doll, a bicycle.  Some wrapped some not, depending on aesthetics.  It was a massive sculpture and all for me!!!

I was, up till the age of seven, an only child. The grownups would open their presents the night before Christmas.  I think, I can't remember don't know, with all the excitement, anticipation and surprise. They staged all sorts of things for my benefit. We lived on the top floor and someone would go up with jingle bells or make prancing noises on the roof and I would think it was the reindeer. I was told to go to bed or Santa wouldn't come. But first we'll leave a snack for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. And cookies and milk.

Absolutely insane, I still do this - Even though I have to eat the sandwich myself (Peter always did that part). Or chomp on a carrot, with the leavings visible to only Beau Jarred who is in his 30s (and still believes). It’s a symbol like the communion wafer.

And I leave a note from Santa for no one in particular because it's impossible that magic doesn't exist ~ and my ritualistic silliness is a reminder as I look up at the sky on Christmas Eve for the angel.  Do I see her with the king of kings and the ghost of Christmas past ~ a true believer.