Monday, December 31, 2012

Real Resolutions

It's the final day of 2012 - seems that translation of the Mayan calendar was off a bit - and 2013 looms ahead of us, bright with promise.  I don't claim to have any clue what this new year will bring, but I can tell you what I'm hoping for and working toward.  (Side note:  lots of folks leave off that second part.  No wonder their plans fall apart quicker than a designer bag bought off a truck tailgate.)  There are a few resolutions that seem to be especially popular, so here are the "Big 5" New Year's Resolutions and my reaction to them.

1.  I want to eat better this year.  I solemnly vow that I will no longer kid myself that green apple Now 'n' Laters, despite having the word "green" in the name, count the same as kale.

2.  I want to lose weight this year.  I solemnly vow that I will only consume organic vegetables, free-range meat, fairy dust and free trade club soda.

3.  I want to exercise more this year.  I solemnly vow that I will begin cross-training in the sports of BASE jumping and tiddlywinks.

4.  I want to keep a tidy house this year.  I solemnly vow that I will stop issuing hunting permits for dust bunnies.

5.  I want to travel to the farthest reaches of the known world this year.  I solemnly vow that I will take steps to get my Cleveland County Corn Maze and Knobby Spotting excursion package put together.

Well, it doesn't seem that I'm going to do too well on the "Big 5" resolutions, so what do I expect to accomplish with the upcoming 365 days?

1.  I hope to remember that the small stuff is actually the Big Stuff.
2.  I hope to remember that I impact more people than I know, often when I don't think I'm doing anything worth noticing.
3.  I hope to remember that we all can use a kind word.  Period.
4.  I hope to remember that, when the choice is between screaming like a vengeful banshee and having a frosted cookie, it's okay to have the cookie.
5.  I hope to remember that I feel better when I eat real food, exercise in the sunshine, and take time to ponder things - and that these are not frivolous activities, but are rather sound investments in myself.

May 2013 be good to us all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yes, Virginia . . .

That's my dad, the Piedmont Santa!

Back in 1897, the New York Sun printed an editorial that should have put to rest, once and for all, the question of whether or not there is a Santa Claus.  Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon was quite concerned about some things her friends had been telling her and her father, probably panicking just a little bit, told her to write the newspaper, because "if you see it in The Sun, it's so."  (Would that we had so much faith in the media today!)  Well, she did, and Francis Pharcellus Church took the reindeer by the horns and, in reassuring Virginia that there was indeed a Santa Claus, he created what has become history's most reprinted editorial.

I wasn't around in 1897 and I'm glad Mr. Church was able to answer Virginia's sincere question.  However, I can vouch for Santa's continued and robust existence in today's increasingly suspicious and cynical world.

Pull up a toy box and listen to the tale.

Long ago and far away, my father was a Navy pilot.  After he left the service and married my mother, he grew restless with his secure, yet somewhat dull, job in the insurance business, which led him to come home one day and proclaim, "Honey, I quit my job.  I want to be an airline pilot!"  There is speculation that my mother may have considered packing up my sister [my brother was on the way and I hadn't even been thought of yet] and retreating to her home state of Virginia until he came to his senses.  Then again, fortune indeed favors the brave, and my dad went out the very next day and got a job with Piedmont Airlines, where he stayed until he retired.

Now, in those days, pilots used a seniority system to bid on the flights they wanted to pilot every month, which meant new hires got the lousiest runs as a way of paying their dues.  Of course, everyone wants the holidays off, so throughout my childhood, we got used to a sort of "moveable feast" approach and celebrated whenever Dad was home, usually somewhere between the 23rd and the 27th.

I come from optimistic, "lemonade from lemons" sort of folk, so sometime around my seventh Christmas, Dad got hold of a cheap Santa suit and beard and began wearing it for his Christmas flights.  It was an instant hit, so he added an after-Christmas shopping trip to load up on discounted toys for the next year and began handing out trinkets from a plastic bag emblazoned with the Piedmont symbol, the "Speedbird."  (You'd be shocked to discover how many kids fly alone over the holidays, usually shuttling from one parent to the other and often traveling lonely and a little scared.  Think about the kids, people - your ex might have hurt you deeply, but put it aside for the children, please!)  When Dad had a little boy run up to him in the airport, hug his leg, and say, "Thanks for the bike!" - well, at that point, we were all in.

The suit was replaced by a higher quality one, the beard and wig were upgraded (yes, my father has his hair styled for the holidays!), and we got a nicer sack for the toys.  Mom even made us elf costumes so we could authentically serve as "Santa's helpers."  By now, Dad had accumulated enough seniority that he could have stayed home on Christmas but, after a family meeting, it was agreed that we'd kind of gotten used to it and Christmas in the airports was part of our family tradition.  So Dad took it to the next level and started going up to a newbie pilot with a young family and taking his (they were all "his" back in the day) flight so he could stay home.  Dad even sent the pay for that trip to the pilot.

Captain Baldy
It didn't end when Dad retired.  Dad turns 80 this December and he still plays Santa all through December.  One of his most meaningful trips is arranged through an organization called Pilots for Kids, whose primary purpose is visiting hospitalized kids.  (That's the PFK mascot, Captain Baldy, over there on the left.)  I've accompanied Dad on this trip, which was dreadfully hard as it involved being cheerful and upbeat while visiting a pediatric oncology ward.  Dad was an absolute brick.  FryDaddy went with Dad this year (my Mom went, too) and he said it was a wonderful experience.

Yep.  Santa's real, folks.

But he doesn't use reindeer - he prefers jets.