Why Christmas is Special to Me
When my children were growing up we did not have much, but no matter how little we had we taught our children to share. So one Christmas when our oldest was only five, we had an idea, one that evolved into a tradition. I will explain, first of all we never hid the gifts from our kids. As soon as we bought them, they were wrapped and then put under the tree. We would pack them tightly so far under the tree that it was almost impossible for anyone to see how many there really were. Snooping was a no-no and would be a sure fired way of making all those Christmas gifts disappear. An artificial tree made it simple to hide the presents, as I could pull the branches lower to the ground to cover them. What we didn't do was put names on the ones from Santa until Christmas Eve while the children were asleep. I marked each with a symbol for identification purposes. It was not unheard of that I would get them confused. One year the kids got several of the wrong gifts. It was funny but the kids reminded me every year after.
Two days before Christmas, we would sit with our children in front of the tree and pointed out which gifts were for them. We asked them to please choose one of their already wrapped gifts to give to another child. This would be given anonymously and be for someone who had less than they did. Without hesitation, they unselfishly chose and proudly delivered their choices to one of the many places desperately needing gifts. Not once in all the years that we carried on this tradition, did our kids question what was in those presents they gave away.
Our children are now grown and married and have their own children. While visiting yesterday my seven-year-old grandson ran up to me all excited. Chattering he said," Papa, Grammies I just spent my Tooth Fairy money and my allowance on two presents for other kids who need presents too. Grammies, some kids don't have mommies and daddies like me. I need to help right Grammies, right Papa?"
I gave him the biggest hug I could without squishing him. "Right, Ronnie." I was so very proud of this sweet little boy.
He then looked at me and said," Grammies this is my tramdition."
Smiling I dare not correct him and tell him the word was tradition. I just said. "Do you know that Daddy, Uncle Terry and Aunty Chris used to have a tradition to give gifts too?"
"I know Grammies that is how daddy taught me to be for sharing."
I looked at my son and daughter -in- law who were beaming with pride. They said, "Mom, this is the third year that Ronnie has used his own money. It is usually his birthday money and allowance. We stopped paying when he started being paid to help do chores. Not only does he pay he picks the presents out himself. The first year we had to put in a bit but now he can read the prices." Giving there son a hug they continued, "We still have to watch for sales but he is good at that too."
"Ronnie, are you going to teach your kids to carry on this tradition like daddy taught you?" Papa asked.
"Oh Papa, you are so silly I don't have any kids I am only a little boy!" With that, he marched off shaking his head leaving us grown ups laughing and feeling ever so proud. This is why Christmas is so special to me.
One of my all time favourite spices is cinnamon, I prefer the stick to the powder. The smell is almost comforting to me, reminding me of pumpkin pie, egg nog and sugar cookies. I also upon occasion use it to make the house smell good. Instead of the spray can floral mist I put a pot of water with a few cinnamon sticks in it on the stove to slowly simmer. This gives the whole house a smell of fresh baked goods.
One day after giving a customer a perm, in my small home salon, I found the smell of the perm a little too strong. Knowing we were having company that evening I wanted to eliminate the odour, so I put my usual concoction on the back burner to simmer. When Ron came in from work he stood in the kitchen and taking in a deep breath said, "smells like we are having cinnaperm for supper." We both laughed over his remark, for all I did was to add to the perm smell not eliminate it.
Cinnamon is still one of my favourite spices but now it reminds me of more than pumpkin pie, egg nog and sugar cookies.
The horrid events of just a month ago bubbled to the surface and I was for the first time, going to live up to the promise I made myself after that day - to never to let anyone take advantage of me again.
I could not believe it was me talking to Jean the way I was at this moment. But I was somewhat changed that awful day. She was trying to take advantage of my good nature and I could no longer allow it. The memories were drowning out all my other thoughts right now. My changed attitude came when my Aunt Joyce - my mother's youngest sister and last of nineteen siblings - was down for a visit, when Judi stopped in to drop off my cosmetic order. Although she sold a different product, that I did, I wanted to support her as a friend and neighbour. I introduced her to my aunt and she had a coffee with us. When she left my aunt sarcastically said, “She is not your friend you know."
I was shocked at her observation and disagreed with her. "Why would you say that? We do too much together for that to be true." I had a hot ball of fire in the pit of my stomach as I talked.
"Next time you see her, ask her, and tell her you need the truth."
"Fine I will, because you are wrong, they all come to my dinner nights, drop in unexpectedly for coffee, and support me with all the products I sell and as a group we enjoy each other's company."
She shrugged and gave me that 'just saying ' look.
I must admit I was not sad to see her leave that evening, two days with her visiting was too much this time. The next morning, with confidence, I decided to go have coffee with Judi. She invited me in like a friend, offered me coffee like a friend and asked my opinion on a recipe, like a friend. Aunt Joyce's words echoed in my head, and although I did not believe her, I found it hard to ask Judi.
Noticing my uncomfortable behaviour and said. "Is there something bugging you?"
Trying to sound nonchalant I said. "Want to hear something crazy? Remember my aunt, the one you met yesterday? “Judi nodded "Well, she said something worrisome after you left. Care to hear?"
"Sure." She said while she poured more coffee and placed the new sales brochure for her cosmetics company in front of me on the table.
"She said you are not my friend and that you just tolerate me." The only answer I needed was the look on her face. "Oh my gawd, she was right! I don't understand."
Before I could say anymore, Judi said. "Well, Donna says you smother her, and Sheila says you go over without calling, and you make it hard for me to compete with my cosmetics business because you are always offering specials and sales."
Dumbfounded, I found myself unable to speak. I had this horrible sick feeling all through my body, almost as if I were on fire on the inside.
Finding my words, I apologetically asked, "What do you mean by I smother Donna?"
Seemingly uncomfortable, Judi quickly offered "You best ask her, I 'm not sure."
"Ok." Once again apologizing for bothering her I headed out the door to see Donna. I was in a daze, an excruciating painful daze. It was obvious Donna was expecting me as she met me at the door, coffee in hand.
I started the conversation with an apology and said. “Is it true Donna, do I smother you?"
"I wouldn't call it smothering, Judi chose the wrong word to explain the way I feel, but Sheila, Judi and I feel inadequate sometimes. You are always doing things for us, and giving us handmade gifts and we cannot do anything in return for you. One example: Is your dinner parties. You serve six course meals that make me feel like I can't even boil water." As she spoke I began to cry, big teardrops that made it almost impossible to focus. She continued, "It also bothers me when you are out sunning and that you say hi to Frank when he stops to collect the mail at night before I get to see him first. Plus, we have never had to pay full price for our hair, the cosmetics we buy or anything else you sell. Finally, when we sit around the table and chew about our husbands’ idiosyncrasies you never say anything unkind about Ron, as if you have the perfect life. Those things make us feel like nasty wives, somewhat useless, worthless and less than Susie homemaker women."
By now between my sobs, I kept apologizing as if I was the cause of their inferior feelings.
“I cook and have dinner parties because I love to cook. I invite you six because I thought you enjoyed our company, Ron's and mine. I can immerse myself in the planning, preparing and serving and it helps me forget my pain for a little while. As far as my crafts go, it fills my time. ‘I hurt whether I am making things or not, so I might as well be creative. Again I share because I thought you liked my creations." As I talked I found I was getting calmer, but my heart was getting heavier. ”I talk to Frank when I am outside and he is stopping for the mail because he is just a few feet away. I was not aware that a casual 'hi' was a threat. As far as the special prices I give you for your hair, makeup and other things I sell, it is because we are friends." My voice dropped to almost a whisper, "Or so I thought." I continued with a broken heart, "It was my way of thanking you for all your support towards my trips, bonuses and awards. I could not have accomplished any of it without my friends and family."
I looked at the face of the person I thought so highly of and saw the face of a very cruel individual. I tried to stand to leave but I felt as if I had a ton of weight on my shoulders and anvils tied to my feet. Donna reached out to touch my arm and I almost fell I jerked away so quickly. I could not control my tears or the pain that was tearing at my heart. I could not get home fast enough. I wanted to be invisible. I wanted to see no one and wanted no one to see me. Who was this horrible person Donna was talking about? I intentionally would never hurt anyone. Her words kept echoing over and over in my head.
I was sitting on the front step when Ron came home from work. I, red faced with swollen eyes blurted out what had happened that day. He took my hands and as he helped me up and walked me into the house he asked, "Okay, now what happened?"
By the time I was finished I could hardly see for my eyes and face were so swollen, the box of Kleenex on the floor beside me was empty. After a few curse words and show of anger, he sat beside me and said, "So what you are telling me is they are complaining about you because you are 'NICE'? Well, what are you going to do?" He said sternly.
"I will just stay out of their way and keep totally to myself. Ron, how could someone be so cruel!"
"Have you ever heard of jealousy?" He was almost shouting now to make me hear. I went to where my crafts were and started throwing them in the garbage. "Stop that! What are you doing? Are you going to let them win?"
"Honey, you don't understand, I am sorry, so sorry!"
"For what? For helping others, doing what you like and sharing that? These are only three people. Do you think Lil, Leslie, Sharon, Darlene, Denise or any of your countless other friends feel like this?"
At this moment I could not think. I went outside to sit on the front step where Ron first found me crying, and as the day's events overwhelmed me again, I heard a voice at the end of the sidewalk. "Can I come talk to you?" It was Sheila. As she approached I put my hand up to gesture 'no'. "Please! “She said, "I need to talk to you." Uncontrollably, I started to cry again. "Please, don't cry, I need you to know none of what Donna said had to do with me. Right now our husbands will not talk to us, they have called us every foul name imaginable and we deserved it. I am so sorry. Judi and Donna are right now trying to find a way to apologize and make it right. We really do love you and you are a wonderful friend and I, for one, am ashamed."
I listened and then went into the house and closed the door. I could say nothing. The next day all three came to see me. I let them say their piece, but my heart was hardened to their words. I vowed that day that no one would ever put me down or find fault with me every again for the kindnesses I do.
Although I pretended and so did they, we were never fully comfortable in each other's company again. For this group of estranged friends there were no more special prices for cosmetics, haircuts, crafts and certainly no more dinner parties.
Excerpt from 'A Hairdresser's Diary'
Summer and weddings, were two of my favourite times, and when they came hand in hand wonderful things happened. One bride in particular can still bring a tear to my eye. I still remember the sadness and heart wrenching circumstances and the joy I was able to bring her on this one special day. This amazing young girl was Natalie.
She had her back to me, but I could see in her hands a white bridal veil and a picture torn from a magazine. Susan asked. "Chris, would you please help Natalie today?"
As she did not have a regular beautician she could ask for, Susan selected me. "I would be delighted," I cheerfully answered.
As she slowly turned around and looked up to face me, I felt a huge lump in my throat and a burning ache tug at my heart. Under the silk scarf wrapped around her head and face Natalie had deep, widespread, ugly reddish scars all over her face and neck. She had no eyebrows, no lashes and her hairline was receding on the left side and deeply scarred. Her lip on the right side had no lip line just a very thick reddish ugly scar. She looked at me with the most beautiful, big, hazel, sparkling eyes I had ever looked into. Their beauty was hypnotic and at the same time so extremely sad.
She said, "Two years ago when I was first engaged, to my Mike I was in a fire and had my face, neck and scalp burned." She continued, "I thought my life was over and I was convinced Mike would never look at me again. But he never changed the way he loved me and today he will prove it forever." She added, "In just a few hours we are going to be married." From what she said, I knew it was not to be a big wedding. Close family members and friends would be her only guests; even so, she wanted to wear her white dress with the veil to cover her face.
I asked her, "By chance do you have a picture of yourself from before the accident?" She went to hand me the one out of the magazine I shook my head and said. "No, one of you."
"Yes" she said "but it is just a small one." Without hesitation, she took it from her wallet and handed it to me.
"Will you put yourself in my hands and let me do what ever I want?" She looked at Susan who was smiling and nodding her head “yes”. I promised her, I would do nothing that would cause her pain or embarrassment.
She whispered, "I don't know why I trust you, but I do, yes I will." Both smiling we entered the salon to start. Natalie drawing her scarf a little tighter to her face and her head slightly lowered.
The rest of the story is in the book.
Here you will find some of my short stories ALL are true
“It is never a waste of time to do something you love, is it?”
Let me show you what this fourteen year old wrote:
To Christine Hannon
I want to tell you what your book means to me. I want desperately to work with animals. I cannot think of ever doing anything else when I grow up. But my mom and dad think I am not smart enough to go to school for this. I might not be but I have a chance to work part time at a shelter. I cry when I think of those puppies and kittens suffering or being alone especially at night. So I offered to stay a couple hours at night so they have company. My dad says this is a waste of time. It is never a waste of time to do something you love is it? I am sending this to you because after reading a few of the pages of your book on line, they would only let me read a few for free. You gave me the guts to make my mom and dad listen to me and I have decided I AM GOING TO WORK WITH ANIMALS. Thank you and bless you for giving me courage.
Nan age 14
Nan hasn’t actually met Christine Hannon, a 67-year-old grandmother, who knew hardship and hate as a child. When Chris was young she had to sleep in tents during a time when her mom decided buying alcohol was more important than paying the rent. She developed an eating disorder when a stepfather, who wanted Chris to feel the power of his control over her, starved her. She was robbed by her own family and expected to live her life as a wage widget so that her mother could have everything that was denied to her. Despite all that, she clung onto a dream to cut hair and when she took the first steps on that journey the beauty of a life she hoped to find came into view. Challenges continued to follow Chris. Car accidents, miscarriages, and surgeries became part of her life but not her spirit.
This year Chris wrote her story in “The Hairdresser’s Diary.” This really is a story for every Nan - no American Idol audition to save the day, only determination to better the odds.
You could connect Chris with the other kids like Nan. I know how busy you are. But take a few minutes to meet Chris, interview her, and help put this book into the hands of the people who need it: mothers who doubt they have the resources to help their own children; teachers who wish things were better for the shy kid in class; social workers who want to help kids without hurting their parents; and other grandmothers who want to give the wisdom they've gained to their own grandchildren.
Chris writes like a grandmother should write; in plain and honest prose, free from the noise of the grammarian wars, direct and to the point, clear but compassionate, like someone who cares about others. She writes to be heard.
For the love of a sister
In my fifty years of hairdressing, there have been many, many, changes and an immense development of improved products. Nevertheless, there is one thing that I think will never change. That is mans love for a woman with long flowing locks. Now it is easy for us as hairdressers to add length, almost any length to our client's hair with the use of extensions. It is amazing when you think of it. We can make ourselves taller with heels, slimmer with spandex and sexier with extensions.
I could have used them the day Missy came in for a haircut. It was your average warm summer day. Being a Tuesday, we were not overly busy and she was a walk in. In fact, she was our first customer of the day. Specializing in long hair, I was in my glory to see her sitting in my chair. Her hair in soft curls flowed a foot past the bottom on my chair. I would have to pump my chair up as high as it could go just to keep it off the floor.
There were a dozen styles happily running through my head. What would I do? What would I do?
With excitement I greeted her," Good morning, I am Chris. What may I do for you to day?"
"Cut it please," she said.
'How much?" I asked, holding up my fingers to indicate a couple inches. "Just to make it even?"
With a catch in her throat she said." No cut it short, really, really short."
My heart fell. I so wanted to do my magic on this beautiful mane. My fingers stroking the silk strands as they flowed through my fingers. "Are you sure, you hair is so long and so beautiful?"
"You sound just like my husband he was almost in tears this morning when I told him I was coming to do this." She sighed as she continued, "I feel bad for him, but he has had several years to play with and enjoy my long hair."
"May I ask why you are cutting it?
"Well you see my twin sister has always been jealous of my long hair and the fact it has been this way for most of my life. She has not had the patience to go through the different annoying stages to get it like this. I am the kind of person who could be happy watching paint dry." We both laughed I had never heard that before.
Once again, I asked, "Why are you cutting it then?"
Before she answered, she held her index finger up motioning me to wait a moment. She then reached into her oversized purse and took out a rather large plastic bag, which she laid on my station. On it was a sticker that read 'Cancer Society wig material.'
She did not have to say another word. We shared silent tears as I carefully and lovingly cut her hair placing it gently in the plastic bag that one day would bring a little dignity to her sister.
When her husband came and picked her up you could see the shock at seeing his short haired Missy but also the pride in his eyes. I hugged Missy as I crumpled her bill and placed it in the garbage. Missy showed her sister her love one strand at a time. And I learned a valuable lesson about unconditional love.
A Hairdresser's Diary
Author, Artist & Poet EntA
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