What I Never got for Christmas

            When I was a child, there were things I wanted for Christmas and never received. For one thing, I was fascinated by the electronic doors at the supermarket. This was back in the sixties, and my favorite part of accompanying my mother to the grocery store was standing on the mat in front of the door and watching it swing open. Once through the door, I had to stop, turn, and watch the door close behind us. Needless to say, I wanted a magic door for Christmas. Nothing doing.
            I loved elevators, especially the one in my father’s office building because it had Braille numbers. It was cool to walk into that elevator with or without Dad and push the correct button for his floor. Although our house only had one floor except for the partial basement, I had to have an elevator for Christmas. That didn’t happen, either.
Soon after I started taking piano lessons, my mother played recordings of piano concertos by Mozart and Beethoven on the phonograph. I thought it would be neat to have a symphony orchestra that would accompany me whenever I played the piano. I wanted one for Christmas but didn’t get that, either.
One of the more realistic presents I wanted and never got was a battery operated toy telephone. A friend had one in her room and used it to call her brother in his room and talk to him. I thought it would be great to do the same thing with my brother. But the phone never appeared under our Christmas tree.
            I eventually realized that the magic door, elevator, and symphony orchestra would be impossible to deliver, even for Santa Claus. But since my husband Bill suffered two strokes that left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, I’ve occasionally dreamed of having a million dollars. I could use it to buy a house in California with a swimming pool. I could hire a staff of servants to cook, clean, and maintain the place and certified nursing assistants and therapists to care for Bill and help him maintain the strength he still has. Then, I could concentrate fully on my writing and enjoy my time with my husband without worrying about dressing him, taking him to the bathroom, or dealing with his finicky eating habits. But unless a distant relative I don’t know dies and leaves me a fortune, I don’t think I’ll get that wish, either.
It doesn’t matter that I never got the things I wanted for Christmas. I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have. Okay, our house doesn’t have an elevator or a magic door, but we don’t need an elevator, and although having a magic door would make wheeling Bill in and out of the house a lot easier, we can get by without it. As long as there’s love, we have all we need.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Black Christmas

I’ve been reading a book called I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas by playwright, comedian, and actor Lewis Black. To read more about him, visit http://www.lewisblack.com. This Web site contains information about his books and appearances. A Google search also revealed several YouTube videos including this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mCDZMWVWuc


Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Christmas Memories

As I said before, I sing in a women’s barber-shop group. One of the songs in our Christmas repertoire this year, entitled “Christmas Candles,” is about memories one has of the season: singing Christmas hymns, hearing church bells, everyone at the dinner table while Dad says grace, and of course, candles on the Christmas tree. 
What memories do you have of Christmas? Did you buy your tree in a lot or cut it down in the woods? Have you ever used an artificial tree? Were your decorations homemade or store bought? Did you have an angel on your tree? Who was the one with the honor of placing the angel on the tree? Did you ever string popcorn balls on a tree? Did your family sing Christmas songs together, or better yet, go caroling through the neighborhood? When you sang at home, did someone accompany you on the piano or another instrument? Did you open presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Please feel free to share your Christmas memories in the comment box below. If you have trouble, you can use the link below to e-mail me, and I’ll post your comments for you. I’ll leave you now with a story I wrote years ago about a special gift I received for Christmas. This was published in Christmas in the Country, an anthology of stories written by disabled authors. I would like to wish all my readers a memorable Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2011 to come.
As a kid, I was forced to try a variety of different sports in school physical education classes. Unfortunately, due in part to my visual impairment, I was not very successful at any of them. I either fell on my face, as a result of running with someone who ran faster than I could, or I was hit in the face with a ball. Also, I couldn’t aim a ball into a basket to save my soul. In college however, I discovered a sport which I could do pretty well, despite the visual impairment, and without injury.
In 1981, I was entering my second year at Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyoming. I was required to take at least two semesters of physical education, and it was time for me to quit procrastinating and just do it. I signed up for bowling because to me, that seemed to require the least athletic ability and the chance of injury was rather slim.
The first few days of class were rather humiliating. I found that no matter what I did, the ball always ended up in the gutter. Fortunately, nobody laughed at me, which they would have done if we had been in elementary school. However, in between frames, I watched other students bowl strikes and spares and heard them cheering for one another and was depressed by the realization that no one was cheering for me.

But the instructor saw that I was floundering and tossed me a lifeline. She arranged for me to have a lane all to myself so I  would have an opportunity to practice continually without having to wait for others to bowl. She also worked with me to perfect my arm movement so I could aim the ball right down the center of the lane. 
Gradually, I improved. My gutter balls became less and less frequent, and I began hitting more and more pins each time I bowled. One day, I finally bowled a strike, and the alley seemed to reverberate with the cheers of my classmates.
            By the time the holidays rolled around, my average score was seventy-six. I loved the sport and wanted to practice in order to improve my game. I even watched the professional bowling tour on TV. I was living at home at the time. The problem was that since I couldn’t drive, it was impossible for me to borrow the car and drive out to the bowling alley whenever I wanted. So I constantly begged my parents to take me bowling, which they readily agreed to do most of the time. We would often go as a family, with my younger brother Andy tagging along. At Thanksgiving, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins from out of town were visiting, I even talked them into bowling with us, and we all had a wonderful time.

As Christmas grew closer, I became somewhat depressed, as I realized that the bowling class would not continue the second semester. I had really come to enjoy it and wondered if I would ever bowl again, once the term drew to a close. Then, to my wondering eyes on Christmas morning, there appeared a bowling ball, a pair of shoes, and a bag in which to carry them. My parents even gave me an electronic bowling game. They had realized that I was serious about this sport, just as Andy had been serious about tennis a few years earlier.
Through the years, I continued to bowl, although not as frequently, due to having other interests and obligations. I still have the bowling bag with the ball and shoes stowed away in a closet, and I bowl from time to time when I get a chance. 
One year, I actually joined a team, which played on a ladies’ bowling league. Unfortunately, we only bowled a few times and the team finally broke up due to a lack of interest. I offered my services to another team captain I knew, but I was never called. Perhaps my seventy-six average didn’t make me league material after all. That doesn’t really matter, though. The important thing is that there is one sport out there in which I can participate successfully, despite my visual impairment. That realization was one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received.        

Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

More Poems Published

Two of my poems have been published in the December 2010 issue of Wordgathering, an online publication containing works by disabled authors. I’ll paste them below.
As my long white cane rolls from side to side  in front of me,
I feel the sun, the gentle breezes that caress my face.
I should hurry, but why?
The sun shines in a cloudless sky.
The air is warm, permeated with the scent of roses.
He’s been home alone for three hours.
Fifteen minutes more won’t matter, will it?
When I get home, I’ll take him outside in his wheelchair
so he can enjoy the late afternoon sun,
flop into my armchair in the living room with my feet up,
kick off my shoes, drink  Dr. Pepper
while downloading e-mail onto my Victor Stream.
Its synthetic voice will read to me,
as I fold and put away laundry, prepare dinner.
We’ll eat together, content,
as another day draws to a close.
The phone rings.
With his right hand, the only one that works,
he presses the talk button on the cordless unit,
slowly lifts it to his ear, says, “Hello.”
“Hi, honey,” I say. “How are you?
I’ll be home in fifteen minutes.”
He places the phone next to him on the bed,
presses the talk button a second time to disconnect the call.
A container filled with urine balances between his legs.
He listens to his recorded book, anticipates my return.
Finally, the kitchen door opens, closes.
He hears me moving around,
wonders why I don’t  come to him.
He picks up the phone, dials my cell.
“I’m here,” I tell him.
“I’m putting my things away.
I’ll be right there.”
When I enter the room with a cheerful greeting, we embrace. 
He tries unsuccessfully to kiss me while laughing.
Then, offering the urinal, he says,
“I’ve got something for you.”
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

A Cedar Cove Christmas

Counting today, there are only five days left until Christmas. Since I lost my mother to cancer in 1999, this time of year has been difficult for me. But this month, I’ve been reading a lot of Christmas stories, and that has been keeping me in the holiday frame of mind.
I was most taken with A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber. This is one of a series of eleven books the author has written about inhabitants of the imaginary town of Cedar Cove, Washington. Except for A Cedar Cove Christmas, the title of each of these books is an address in the town, i.e.

1022 Evergreen Place

, her latest book in this series that was released in September of this year. The residents of the house at the address in the title of each book are the focal point of the book’s story, but there are sub-plots involving others in the town as well. At the beginning of each book is a cast of characters so if you haven’t read the previous book in the series, you’re not totally lost.

A Cedar Cove Christmas is a delightful take on the Christmas story. On Christmas Eve Day, pregnant Mary Jo Wyse travels to Cedar Cove from Seattle to find the father of her unborn child who has led her to believe that he will be spending the holiday with his family living in the town. But this man turns out to be a pathological liar and a con artist. His father and stepmother have taken a Christmas cruise, and fate puts Mary  Jo in touch with librarian Grace Harding who lives on a horse ranch near Cedar Cove. Grace and her husband take Mary Jo in, and she gives birth on Christmas Eve in an apartment above their barn. In the stable, there just happen to be a camel and other creatures used in the church’s nativity scene. Mary Jo’s brothers, the three Wyse men, arrive bearing gifts just as she is about to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Grace’s grandson plays his new drum for Mary Jo and the baby, and it appears that the ox and lamb are keeping time.
Debbie Macomber has a  Web site where you can read about her and her books and join her mailing list. Please visit http://www.debbiemacomber.com/ Of course, you can always visit my Web site, the URL of which is below. I leave you now with a link to a recording of my Christmas wish for anyone reading this blog. This link will be available for at least a week.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome