Archive for December, 2011

A Christmas Wonder Wench Writes

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Thank you for sending your thoughts and feelings about the season. The address is Dick@DickSummer.com . This is from my “Lady Wonder Wench”:

I have, for the first time in my life, a real cameo – which some of you may know is a lover’s gift.  An early Christmas present from Dick. ‘Nuff said.

 But I also have another early Christmas present … courtesy of a niece … a most lovely necklace and bracelet.  Now everyone knows artistic talent grows unexpectedly.  Or not, depending upon the family.  I have the great honor of being part of a family with all sorts of artistic talent:  sons who are musicians; a daughter who makes paint sing … and Lisa Ann, my niece.  Two separate families, actually, but both mine.

 I don’t know quite how Lisa does it … hordes of kids and a sense of humor… and the eye to take bits and pieces from around the world and create a masterpiece of beauty and sensitivity.  Damn, she is good.

 Hey, Lisa Ann, did you know my name is actually Barbara Ann?  More than just relatives, girl …

 There is a lady in Hawaii, Lisa, who listens to the podcasts and reads the blogs. And like you she creates marvelous pieces of light and glory.  Talent all around me.  Now I have pieces of art to wear for Christmas and beyond.

 And I have the Louie-Louie Lad who lights up Christmas with more than art …

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Your Christmas letters are a real gift. Thank you. If you haven’t sent yours yet, please have the nearest reindeer bring them to Dick@DickSummer.com To find out what this is all about, please go to the current podcast.

Here’s a very special Christmas note from Audrey, who calls herself, “Many Waters,” for many reasons:

Hi Dick,

I couldn’t figure out just one special memory of Christmas but they all seem to revolve around music and sharing. You can pick and choose what you want to use, if any.

The song “The Carol of the Bells” will always be the most important Christmas song to me. I remember my sister brought her 5 year old sister (me) with her to high school choir practice (Medford, MA High School) one evening in the mid 50’s. They were practicing that song. I sang alto with my sister. I felt very important. Some of the other members of the choir gave me some nice compliments and said they couldn’t believe someone as young as I could sing such a difficult piece. WOW! To this day, it’s not the Christmas season unless I hear “Carol of the Bells” at least once a day. My sister always brought me down to Boston to see all the lights, especially the ones on Boston Common. It was such a special time for me.

The next one, we were still living in Medford, MA and I was about 6 years old. When I came downstairs in the morning, there beside the tree was a cream-colored electric keyboard that looked like a miniature organ with a big red bow on it. I learned many piano pieces on that keyboard and to this day, I still think about what the songs sounded like when I played them on that instrument.

I remember the year that “The Little Drummer Boy” came out. I brought the record in to school and the teacher played it. A few of my friends and I stood in front of our class during our little presentation and sang the song, at the teacher’s request. I felt so important!

Many years later I ordered a set of record albums from Reader’s Digest….. Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Christmas concert albums. I had the first stereo record player I had bought. I put those albums on starting the day I received them, and played them every day throughout the entire month of December. I did that every year until about 12 years ago when circumstances prevented me from doing so. Last year I pulled the albums out, only to find that my “trusty” turntable had quit working. I guess it’s going to be a while before I can hear them again —– not until I get a replacement turntable. I’m glad I have a good stack of CD’s and tapes, but nothing replaces that Boston Pops set.

My daughter was born just before Christmas 1975. The hospital was all decorated, and one day a small group of nuns came through and sang carols. My daughter celebrated her first Christmas at the age of 6 days, so tiny and new. That was a feeling that only a new mother can describe. I think of holding that tiny, sweet baby every Christmas eve.

Several years ago, shortly after I moved to a new state, I met a woman named Midge. She was like another mother to me. She wanted me to learn a certain song because her son used to sing it for her. He had passed away but the song always brought good memories to her. She gave me a CD of the song so I could learn it. I got to sing it for her exactly twice before she suddenly passed away. A few years ago, the choir director of our local Choral Society asked me to sing a solo at the Christmas concert. (The concert theme was “A Mary Christmas”). There was no doubt in my mind what to sing. I enlisted the aid of a friend to play the guitar and I sang “Mary, Did you Know?” While I was singing, not another sound was heard in the church auditorium. It was such a moving experience, one I’ll never forget.

Christmas has always been a special occasion to me. Besides the original meaning, it has given me the chance to buy or make gifts and cards for everyone who was special to me. As the years go by, that list has grown longer and longer. I tend to spread the gifts out during the year because birthdays are also very special to me. I now have 5 wonderful grandchildren and though they live almost 2,800 miles away, I make it a point to send them gifts – usually home-made or recycled —- at Christmas and their birthdays, and other special occasions. At this point in my life, I don’t want to receive any gifts. The things I want I can do without, and the things I need are too expensive for anyone I know to get. I share my singing with lots of different people for many diverse occasions. I always thank The Ultimate Gift-Giver for that talent that was bestowed upon me. I’m not so arrogant and self-centered any more so I can be more sincere and natural when I entertain. I enjoy other people singing and making music as well, but it’s still not Christmas unless I hear “Carol of the Bells” at least once a day.

Thank you, Dick, for sharing my love of music, for its impact on our lives.

Merry Christmas, Fröelich Weinachten, Göd Jul, Mele Kelikimaka, Kuri sumasu,
Buona Natale, Joyeux Noël, Felíz Navidad

— Many Waters –

 

Dickie Christmas Quickie

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I’ve been asking you for your feelings about the season, and your answers have been pouring in. Please send them to: Dick@dicksummer.com Here are a couple of yours, and one of mine.

Lisa, who lives in Kentucky says: “Christmas for me has always been all about the memories, the sights, the sounds, the feelings that maybe were not really real, but in my heart they still feel real. Here is hoping this Christmas is the best for you and Lady Wonder Wench, it should always be full of goodness, love and memories.” Thanks, Lisa…and back at you.

Cathi wrote: “Christmas to me is very much about childhood memories…making wonderful memories for my kids and grandkids …and my own childhood memories. You happen to be one of my childhood memories. My grandmother gave me a radio for Christmas the year I was 15…I plugged it in late that night and discovered you on the radio from Boston.” Pretty neat that you remember, Cathi.

Here’s mine. I put it in the current podcast.

My Lady and I went for our traditional Christmas flight in our little airplane the other night. We have a little four seat airplane that flies low and slow. Most of our friends think we go out looking for Santa Claus. But that’s not what we do. I guess you could say we’re looking for Christmas Gold. And we always seem to find it.

Our little airport is a few miles west of Philly. As usual on a cold, clear, pretty close to Christmas night, when my Lady and I got there, it was dark and deserted, except for the white runway lights and the blue taxi way lights, the spotlight on the wind sock, and the revolving beacon. We strapped ourselves in…fired up the engine…and climbed up into the black and white magic midnight. If you heard a small plane engine late the other night, and looked up…and saw small wingtip lights playing in the stars, that might have been us. Moonlight was shining into the cockpit…the city’s Christmas lights sliding under our wings.

Those city lights were Santa Claus bright. You could almost hear the hustling and the ho-ho-ho-ing from all the crowds, and the music and the parties going on down there. But that’s not what we were looking for.

So we turned out over the suburbs…the lights get gentler out in the neighborhoods. Instead of the city hustle and bustle…the Santa Claus jingle bell sounds…you get houses carefully decorated with Christmas lights…and there’s the feeling of carols playing softly on stereos, and fancy paper wrapping around personal presents…and cups of hot chocolate with cold whipped cream…and kids trying to pretend they’re really asleep.

Then, a little farther out…we floated over some farms…mostly Amish…no electricity…real candles in the windows…and a few horse drawn wagons. We could see a few lanterns swinging from side to side on the dark roads. It was like flying slowly backward into time. It was quiet. So quiet.

My Lady was sitting in the right seat, looking like a lovely little girl, wearing those big co-pilot headphones in the moonlit cockpit. She started to smile…and then she started to cry. And that’s when she did it. Again. She said, “Thank you for this. I love you.”

And as quietly as the sound of Ancient Angels, the black and white midnight turned into…Christmas Gold.

Merry Christmas.

Wonder Wench Writes About Christmas

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

I’ve been asking you for your memories about the season, and  My Lady Wonder Wench wrote this:

Cecelia 5-2011

Cecelia

We had real glass ornaments on our tree at home … musical instruments of all kinds … and a stuffed Santa Claus which somehow lost an arm but always held onto our tree with the other one.  I’ll tell you a story about that Santa:  my folks gave him to me, and my “Louie-Louie Lad” Dick and I hung him on our tree every Christmas, until my dad died.  When it came time to do as Walter had asked and give his ashes to the ocean, Dick took him flying one last time, along with that by then totally bedraggled Santa, and let them both sail free over the water.

 Now we have a few glass balls left from when I was very little.  I think we will save them until our Cecelia is old enough to understand and give them to her.

Please send your memories to: Dick@DickSummer.com. And give a listen to a Christmas podcast at: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=162740752

 

 …

Dickie Christmas Quickie

Friday, December 9th, 2011

I’ve been asking for your Christmas Season stories, (to Dick@DickSummer.com) and they’re pouring in.

Proud Podcast Participant “Pastor Rob” says:

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in Brooklyn , arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc, and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished.
On December 19 a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.

On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about
20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front
wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
B y this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later.

She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. “Pastor,”she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?” The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.
The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten “The Tablecloth”. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria .

When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband or her home again.
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home. That was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the
pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.

One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.
The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?
He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years between.
The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.
He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas
reunion he could ever imagine.
True Story – submitted by Pastor Rob Reid

Your Christmas Letters

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

With deep appreciaton for both his service, and his letter, here’s a note from, “Proud Podcast Participant, Don:

Here we are with another Christmas coming fast. But have we taken a moment to stop and think what this holiday really means? I know I haven’t. It’s that time of year where we can all stop and smile at stranger and they don’t wonder if you’re about to mug them.

I think we all need to take a step back from all the hype and the ads that say buy this or that. I’ve found myself wondering what Virginia would say if she were alive today? I’ve read the letter she wrote to the newspaper. Would she write it again?

 All I know is that Christmas means reaching out to someone who needs the help or might be hunger for a hug or a kind word. Have we become so jaded over time that all we can believe in is ourselves?

Josh Groban did a song for the movie Polar Express, all it said was you need to believe in the magic of the holiday. The tree in your living room with all the decorations that you collect over the years. Some because they have a special meaning or some just because they are pretty. The yule log burning in the fireplace.

I remember how my hard it was for me to sleep on the eve of Christmas, or how I thought I heard sleigh bells softly ringing in the night. Opening the little gifts in the stocking.

 We need to believe in something bigger than the commercial side of the holiday and hope for snow on Christmas Eve. As a member of the Louie Louie Generation I will always believe in the softer and gentler things of Christmas. I hope the sleigh bell never stops ringing.

 For those who have loved ones in harms way overseas, my hope for them is to come home to you soon. I say that as one who served. May we all get those gifts that we truly want.

 

 

 

Wonder Wench Writes

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

My Louie-Louie Lad and I remember a skinny kid in an old leather jacket and carrying a beat-up guitar who came to the radio studio late one almost Christmas night and sang Christmas carols … just the gentle sound of his guitar and his quiet voice … but Jose Feliciano made Christmas for us even more beautiful that year … long before he became famous … and the lights of of our Christmas shone brighter because of him.

 And there was a day when my Louie-Louie Lad caught me without a tree … and went out and got one for me because that tree was also Christmas …

 Or the day I went to the airport to pick up a present from him … and he turned out to be the package …

 But the most bestest Christmas of all is the one in this week’s podcast. That’s the one with real telephone bells ringing in my memories …

Christmas Warm, One More Time

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I was a disc jockey for a long time, so I can’t resist counting down the top five tunes of the week for you. The Eagle’s “Please come home for Christmas” is the fifth most played Christmas song on the radio again this year. Number four is Andy Williams “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano comes in at number three. Nat Cole’s “Christmas Song” is number two. And THE most played Christmas song this year is Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” from somewhere around 70 years ago. ”All those artists had lots of hits in their careers. But the most popular Christmas song of all time was a one hit wonder.

 Lots of artists were one hit wonders. Gene Chandler who legally changed his name to “The Duke of Earl” never had another hit. And how about the Singing Nun? What a disappointment she must have had. She left the convent to pursue a singing career, and she never had another hit. And don’t forget the lawyer by the name of Frank Key. He couldn’t sleep one night, so he stayed up and composed his one big hit…the Star Spangled Banner. Then there were Mildred and Patti Hill…a couple of kindergarten teachers, who wrote the third most performed song ever composed in the English language…”Happy Birthday to You.”

 Some Christmas songs need some edits in order to become politically correct. For example, Have yourself a merry little day of winter. Frosty the snowperson. Chestnuts roasting on a safely contained continuously monitored, eco-friendly non toxic outdoor fire. Higher Power rest ye merry gentlepersons. Hark! The herald mythical winged creatures sing. I saw mommy greeting Santa Claus with a purely platonic expression of inoffensive mutual affection. And of course, I’ll be home for a short period of time in December.

 But the most popular Christmas song of all time doesn’t need changing. And it is so beautiful, that for a long time lots of experts thought it must have been written by Beethoven. But they were wrong. Other experts said, “No it was Brahms.” Some said “Mozart…of course it was Mozart.” Wrong again Fruitcake Breath.

 The biggest Christmas hit of all time was written on Christmas Eve 1816, in Oberndorf, Austria. Father Joseph Mohr wrote a poem that he wanted set to music for midnight mass. The church organist, Franz Gruber, said, “Ok.” He did a very simple arrangement, because the church organ wasn’t working, and the song would have only a single guitar for accompaniment. Franz and Josef sang the song together that night. Can you imagine…you write only one song in your life…and it’s “Silent Night.”

 My Dad was a church organist in Brooklyn, New York. So I know what a big deal midnight mass is for guys like Herr Gruber. Dad had a huge choir…around 40 men, 50 women, and God knows how many kids. It was a big church…it’s a Basilica now. And right after Thanksgiving every year, Dad would double choir practices. And most of all, he would go to the dark church at night, and practice on the big five keyboard organ with the 32 foot tall pipes. Some nights he’d take me with him. I was just a little kid. We had to use flashlights to find the stairs because the church was dark, except for the candle that’s always kept burning by the altar. And there was always a hint of the scent of incense.

 It was cold too. Mom knit him a big black wool sweater to keep him warm when he practiced. He always finished his practice by playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. You probably know it. It features one of the lowest notes on the organ pedals, played at church rattling volume. Dad would look over at me just before he hit that note, and his little mustache would twitch. I think I enjoyed that more than a visit from St. Nick.

 Proud Podcast Participant Pastor Mike, as usual puts it as well as anything can be put. He says, ”I think the problem religious people and secular folks have over Christmas is that they don’t realize there are really 2 different celebrations going on at the same time. There is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the joys and miracles of that wondrous night. But over the years, the story became ritualized, and made solemn; and it became a believe it or else scenario. The wonder, the joy, the significance of the gift we’d been given were lost. And people missed that. So they found other ways of expressing the joy the ritual had taken away in Christmas trees, and Santa, and Rudolph, and Frosty… and most of all in the giving of gifts, to honor the Greatest Gift. Religious people of course hated this. ‘They’re not real’ they said. No, they’re not. But the truths they represent are. The generosity of Santa. The loyalty and courage of Rudolph. The magic and happiness of Frosty…those things are real. And we should bless them.”

 Pastor Mike is my kind of Pastor.

 Some people don’t believe in Santa Claus. They’ll tell you Christ was born in the spring, not on December 25. And they’re right. But the truth is, I really don’t care when Christ was born. I don’t even care if He was the “Son of God.” He gave us lots of good ideas, and lots of love. And I figure that even if you don’t believe in Christ at all, you have to admit that his birthday celebration is a blast. So is Hanukkah, Qwanza, Solstice, and any other holiday that involves candles, music, getting people close together, some laughs that your really need, and a few tears you can’t help, good stuff to eat, and most important…some great loving.

I especially like that last part.

 What do you like best about the season ? Got a story for me? Please send it. It doesn’t need to be spectacular, or even well written. It just needs to be real. Like Christmas. I’d love to hear from you. My address is Dick at dick summer dot com.

 Some of you asked for a recording of a true Christmas story I told you last year. And a couple of you said you sent copies to friends as an audio Christmas card. I’ll tell you that story again next week on the podcast. It’s called “The Flight Before Christmas.”

 There’s another personal story about a…very long time ago Christmas in my own life, in the current podcast. It’s from the lovin touch personal audio cd. It’s called “Christmas Warm.”

 It’s about something that happened so long ago that telephones still had bells, and there were outdoor telephone booths. And the bells and the booths are a part of the story. Telephones have ring tones now. The bells and the outdoor phone booths are gone. But the Christmas lights are on again this year. And they still make sparkling reflections in the shining blue eyes of the lady in both stories. My Lady Wonder Wench. She started lighting my life, and keeping my Christmas…warm  a long time ago. And she’s doing it again this year…one more time.