Christmas Past

Saks-#2The images in this post were taken at Saks Fifth Avenue, way back in December of 2007, when Bill and I were visiting the city to see some good theatre, movies, and eat mouth-watering food.  These days the city is way too crowded for me to be comfortable at this time of year, so we’re staying here at home reliving trips from the past.  Besides, Bill will be having knee replacement surgery on January 4th.  He’s in a lot of pain, so traveling, especially to the Big Apple is out. I can tell you he’s already salivating over a few shows that will be there in the spring. I have a feeling that once the surgery is over and the pain subsides a bit, he’ll have show tickets ordered and train tickets in hand.

Today I found myself remembering one of my favorite early TV shows that we watched on Sunday nights way, way back in the ’50s, called, I Remember Mama. It was a drama-comedy about an immigrant Norwegian family living in San Francisco during the 1910s. Peggy Wood, played Mama, and Judson Laire, played Papa.  I was smitten with the family and their lives as told through the eyes of their grown daughter. They were the family I longed for; loving, supportive, and extremely kind … unlike my own very dysfunctional family.

The program ran from 1949 to 1954. Since we were the last people on the block to get a TV, I missed many of the early episodes.  But my favorite episode of all time, was the Christmas show, set out in the barn around a manger.  A cow, horse, and sheep tell the story of Christ’s birth from their animal points of view, while the human family listens in on the other side of the door. So sweet. So simple. So life affirming. And for me the perfect Christmas story.

I turned seventy-three last month and find myself enjoying precious moments from the past. I thinkSaks-#4 this remembering is one of the things that makes aging such a special time of life.  As I look back at what once was, I take solace in the way things were and am grateful that I had the opportunity to live a much more simple life when I was a kid.  There were no huge displays of holiday lights, no Black Friday sales. No robots. No cell phones. No standing in line to get a bargain on Thanksgiving night. Gifts were simple and came from the heart.  A handmade doll, a stocking filled with walnuts, oranges, a pair of hand-knit socks or mittens. I went caroling with friends in the our neighborhood.  It is that spirit that I wish to surround myself with during the holidays.

Do you have precious Christmas moments from the past?


How I Met The Love Of My Life, Part I

A few weeks ago on her blog, my friend Shirley Showalter, told the story about how her parents met and fell in love. She asked me in her reply to my comment, how Bill and I met. So here it is for all the world to see.

December, 31, 1963.

William-Rough_HS4 (1)I was attending Castleton State Teachers College, now Castleton University, just outside of Rutland, Vermont. I lived at my dad’s ski lodge, The Summit Lodge, in Killington, one of Vermont’s newest and upcoming ski areas at the time. I commuted to school, and waited tables at night at the lodge. When there weren’t enough chambermaids about, I cleaned toilets, made beds, and did all the stuff that being in the hospitality business is all about. I wasn’t crazy about the work. But it was what I did to pay my way through college.

I wasn’t dating anyone seriously, but flirted with Bob, another college student who washed dishes at the lodge whenever school was on break. He wanted a serious relationship with me, but I wasn’t interest. He was one of twelve kids, and told me he wanted a huge family like his own. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t a whole bunch of kids. I loved learning, being in school, and didn’t want to limit myself to changing diapers, housekeeping, and chopping wood all winter in the mountains of Vermont.

Being New Year’s Eve, the dining room was filled with skiers of all ages, shapes and sizes, celebrating the end of another year. Outside the snow was piled high and still falling. The wind was cold, whistling down the chimneys and occasionally bringing in big puffs of smoke that were supposed to be traveling upward and out, not back into the room.

Tired of the holiday rush, waiting on tables, and connecting with the public, all I wanted was for everyone to go celebrate somewhere else, so I could relax instead of being constantly at someone else’s beck and call.

As the dining room was clearing out, my father introduced me to a couple from New Jersey, who were there skiing with their kids … and their daughter’s boyfriend. I had served their table.

That was the first time I laid eyes on Bill. He was tall, handsome, had dreamy blue eyes, and a cute chin dimple that I liked. That was it. No wedding bells rang. Cupid was off shooting his arrows somewhere else.

I didn’t see him again until May, when school was out. In the meantime, my dad had finished building us a house separate from the lodge, so that we could have some privacy as a family. We’d moved in to our new home during the early spring.

I was aware that Bill had been staying at the lodge occasionally and had become friends with my father who helped him purchase a piece of land, where Bill wanted to build his own private ski house. But I hadn’t seen him or talked to him.

Working as a cashier at one of the grocery stores in Rutland for the summer, I was bored out of my mind and trying to save up more money. One day after work, as I walked through the front door of my house, Bill stepped out of the bathroom off the hallway, freshly showered.

Everyone wants this part of the story to be different, but trust me, he was DRESSED in jeans, a tee shirt, and hiking boots.

The Round House as it stands today under it's newest owners.

The Round House as it stands today under it’s newest owners.

It turned out he was in the area for the summer. He and one of his college roommates at Princeton, an architect, were beginning to build the ski house they’d both been dreaming about. It was to be round and made out of stone. They were camped out at the house sight in a huge tent furnished with cots, a refrigerator, a telephone, and a tiny television set. But there was no shower and since the creek at the bottom of the property was icy cold, my dad had kindly invited them to shower at our house anytime.

Bill hired both of my brothers as gophers to dig holes, move rocks, and do whatever needed doing as the building process began. Reid couldn’t have been more than ten years old, which would have made Zed fourteen. He paid them a dollar an hour and as a bonus, took them and three or four other kids he’d also hired to the movies in Rutland every Friday night.

Bill and Russ, his roommate, were frequent shower users at my house and often stayed for dinner. My mother, a fabulous cook, loved their oohs and aahs over the food she prepared, which guaranteed them seats at our dinner table whenever they were around … which was a lot of the time.

They were both really nice guys, but I wasn’t shopping at the time. It was a period of my life when I spent my time as one of the walking dead. I worked by day and went home to my parents home, bored and wishing I was anywhere else. School was out for the summer so I wasn’t seeing anyone I knew. But having left school after my freshman year to go back to Long Island to work and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, all I wanted now was to get my degree, go off on my own, and find a teaching job somewhere far away and hopefully interesting. I didn’t want to live at home with my parents and never dreamed I would find love in the mountains of Vermont.

Oh, Darn. There isn’t enough room here to tell you what happened next, because the love hadn’t started yet. So you’ll just have to wait until next week to find out how our first date worked out and how a VW bus full of kids helped me find the love of my life.

In the meantime, you can talk amongst yourselves, share how you met the loves of your lives, and begin writing your own story. It’s important to do that … everyone wants to know about it, especially your kids and grandkids! 🙂

Oh, and forgive my use of current photos.  After searching through many boxes I discovered that Bill and I weren’t using cameras very much at that time.  

Traveling, Stories, and Change

Double rainbow over Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont. By, Z. Thomas Zabski

Double rainbow over Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont. Photo by my brother,  Z. Thomas Zabski

I’ve been off traveling in Vermont for the past six days.  I visited with my brother, my nephew and neices,  friends, old and new, and soaked in the essence that only Vermont offers at this time of year.

I tried and tried again to capture the colors of the leaves with my camera, but finally gave up.  Like the Grand Canyon that I gave up photographing years ago, there are some things it is best to experience rather than capture.  We may think we can capture it all on film, but we can only really capture it in our hearts through the thrill of being there.

Right now I need to catch up on bill paying, the laundry, and the everyday details of survival in the twenty-first century.

Next week I ‘ll be back with a story about seeing my college room mate after some twenty-five years and how we became known as the “Ski Twins,” in the old days.

***Please notice on my website, that I have changed the first chapter of my book.  This “new” chapter was what I considered my first chapter at the time I began writing. After lots of editing and advice, I’ve decided to put it back in the number one spot.***


 Facebook friend, Janet Givens on the left and the love of my life, Bill, on the right.  I forget which one of us took it!

Facebook friend, Janet Givens on the left and the love of my life, Bill, on the right. I forget which one of us took it!


***My revisions are coming along splendidly and hopefully I’ll have my final draft finished by the first of December.  I’ll keep you posted along the way.***

On Trauma, Triggers, And Thanksgiving

IMG_0934You’d think that by age seventy-one things would be different.  But, no, there are triggers that still get me wound up so tight I could burst.  Take Friday evening for example. I was on the phone talking to my friend, Sharon.  We started having weekly conversations back in 2010. She lives in Florida and I live in Virginia, so we can’t talk over the fence the same way I can chat with my neighbor, Harmon, who is also a dear friend.  Sharon has been traveling of late and we haven’t talked in almost a month.

I was sitting in my new chair (an early Christmas gift), enjoying Sharon’s musings about her travels. Both of us agree that life is tempestuous and both have a growing number of people we know who have been diagnosed with cancer.  It just doesn’t seem fair to either one of us, but then no one ever said that life would be fair, or a bed of roses, or without pain and unhappiness.

I’m at the age where I know better and have decided that I can’t worry about what is going to get me …an asteroid falling out of the sky or being hit by a dump truck full boulders, rendering me paralyzed from the neck down.  Life is what it is.  It has cancer, asteroids, boulders, dump trucks, along with a gazillion other things that could kill us or make life totally miserable.

Mind you, I always have and will probably continue to cry, carry on, and complain with all my might if and when something awful does happens to me.  But I’m working hard at being grateful for everything that I have, including the best family and friends in the universe.

So it took me by surprise that as I sitting in that cozy chair, talking my heart out, that I was being triggered by Bill’s sudden dash through the living room and out to his car. He looked befuddled and mad. He tore out of the driveway as if there were an emergency.  I started feeling my old companion, anxiety, arriving on the scene. My gut started feeling jittery and filled with rocks. Though I was still listening and talking to Sharon, another part of me was trying to figure out what I had done wrong to make Bill so mad.

Then I realized that Bill’s behavior had brought on a reaction in me that became ingrown years ago. My father was a tyrant.  To him, talking on the phone for more than two minutes was wasting time.  Staring into space was a mortal sin and taking naps was not acceptable.  When my dad was around, my brothers and I always had to be doing something “constructive.” If he caught us doing nothing, his face would become hard and frightening.  He would  yell at us and quickly gave us jobs to do. We were never relaxed when he was at home and it got to the point that one of us was always on the look-out, warning, “Here comes Dad.  Look busy.”

Had I been ten or twelve as I chatted with my friend, I would have quickly hung up the phone, charged into my bedroom, and pretended to be doing homework.  We all got pretty good at pretending and I’ve always been amazed that none of us ended up acting on the stage.  But it sure developed into a pattern in our lives. I’m beyond thankful for being able to recognize when I’m being triggered. Most of the time now, I may feel some anxiety or fear at first, but can quickly acknowledge that I’m safe and that no one is going to hurt me or tell me that I’m doing something terribly wrong.

Bill popped back in the house waving a bag of fresh Italian parsley in his hand. He was wearing a wide grin on his face as if he’d been out fishing and caught the biggest fish in the pond. I was still talking to Sharon and by then had calmed down.  I hadn’t hung up and hidden in my room. Bill had been preparing our dinner and when he discovered we had no parsley he went out without interrupting me to get some.  And yes, he had been a bit mad when he realized we didn’t have what he needed. But it wasn’t about me. It was about the inconvenience of having to rush out during traffic hour.

Life is all about things like that. I don’t enjoy being slammed back into my childhood by someone else’s behavior, but I’m accepting and grateful for being able to recognize when my cells and nervous system are simply reacting to something they remember from long ago. If you’d asked me five or six years ago if I thought I’d ever recover from the trauma in my life, I would have bitterly said no. But working with a therapist brought me back to my senses and I’ve learned to be mindful of my own behavior.

So yes, I have changed. Life is all about typhoons, tornados, friends dying, and not getting what I want. But it’s also about red roses that fill the air with their sweet essence, dear friends, and a husband who shares the cooking of meals and holds me tight when I’m scared.

 This Thanksgiving I’m especially thankful for you, dear readers, for the sun that rises daily, and my wonderful family.  May the holiday find you all filled with peace, love, and happiness.

And if you’re driving watch out for the weather along the East Coast.

Books And Words As Containers

DSCF0414“If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then the next day you probably do much the same again—if to do that is human, if that’s what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time….

“[T]he proper fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

Today not only marks the first day of spring, but also the opening of the 19th annual Virginia Festival Of The Book, where writers, books and words of all genres are shared and honored as containers of life.