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Half December - Before the SEasonal Activity

December 4-20, 2015
Written November 8+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

With the spare time retirement has brought, I have become more driven about these diaries, while at the same time our life seems to be less worthy of written record.  Over the 18 years covered by the Trotter Diaries, we have lived in Europe, East and West, rebuilt homes, moved four times, and spent months on the road, mostly while holding down one or two full-time jobs.  Now we are retired, returned to America where we no longer need to keep learning languages, and settled in a house that was, almost, done at move-in. 

I ask myself, do we need a record today?  Obviously, the answer is "yes", since this collection continues to grow. (The website has over 40,000 pages and pictures.)  Maybe part of the perceived need to keep an accurate record of an ever-quieter life lies in our own slipping recall mechanisms.  We forget more.  Not medically significant, thank God, but somehow noticeable.  So, I make records of the mundane.

In early December, buying and decorating a Christmas tree is about as normal as life gets.  This year, like last, we borrowed our neighbor's truck and went to the largest Christmas tree lot around.  We looked and looked and looked, before Marianne said something to the effect of  "I don't like any of them.  Let's go somewhere else."  She must have seen the dazed look in my eyes and quickly recanted, found an acceptable spruce, and seemed happy as we loaded up the bush.  A couple of days later, I completed my main tree task: erecting the thing in our tree stand.  From there, Christmas decoration is a Marianne thing and one she does quite well.


d151204_10_porch.jpgd151204_12_porch2.jpgIt is now early December and, in Fresno, that does not mean snow and ice, thank goodness. THAT part of Germany and Ukraine I am glad to have left behind.  Instead, the citrus trees are full and we need to avoid frost for at least a few more weeks.  Our occasional gatherings on Cambridge Avenue porches have become less frequent as cool and dark evenings descend, but we did manage an impromptu round of wine on Nancy and Gene's just the other day.  This neighborly bunch is a highlight of our Fresno life.
On Saturday, there was a memorial service for Marie Pimentel, a resident of Cambridge Avenue for over 55 years. Marianne and I had gotten to know Marie only a little, but found her to be warm, interesting, and interested in everyone, even us new kids on the block. At 86-years-old, she left too suddenly and too soon.  The St. Terese church service, celebrating a life well lived, rang very true and undoubtedly her faith in God allowed her passing to be as gentle as these things can be.

December in Fresno also brings one of the three annual Hungarian gatherings of the local Magyar immigrants: The Christmas Dinner and Program.  There were the required prayers and speeches, some in English but more in Hungarian.  The youngest generation also sang Christmas songs, again in both languages.  Four of the older generation gave a reportedly very funny Christmas skit, but it could only be understood by the Hungarian-speakers, of course.


Back at home, we had a different tree trimming, a professional one.  Our 80-year-old house attracted us, in part, because it has some nice old trees.  That was the good news.  The bad news is that trees need maintenance and big trees need maintenance by guys willing to climb fifty or sixty feed in the air with chain saws.  Not for me.

Four trees required two crews.
This big cedar dates from the mid-30s and may not make it much longer, but at least the dead wood won't fall on our heads.
This Carolina Cherry and the Hackberry both grow higgeldy piggeldy and, reportedly, will be much better after this haircut.  I hope so.  Too bad the trim came after most of the leaves had already fallen.

What else is happening?  Political debates and Christmas parties.  The first give me the shivers, but the latter are still encouraging.

Our first party was at Coach Jeanne's house nearby.  She and her black and white fluff of a dog  "Zoomer" have established an annual Christmas event where we all begin to overeat.  Again it was a success and I swear I put on a pound or two, even though I am now going daily to the gym.


The next party was our own.  I suppose, since this is the second annual Trotter open house, we too have  tradition.  The crowd was largely the same as at Jeanne and Zoomer's, Cambridge neighbors mostly, a good bunch who keep us positive about our move to Fresno.  (This is particularly important in the holidays because Christmas in Germany is so festive.  We miss our old life at this time of year.)


The next story will be Christmas.  Stay tuned!

John and Marianne

Political Postscript
Every year or two, I throw in a comment on the state of the world.  Now is the time.

The recent tragedy in San Bernardino has kicked the sleeping dog of American xenophobia thanks, in part, to the current lead Republican Donald Trump.  "The Donald" is the loudest of the "anti-them" faction of America, but far from alone.  "Them" in this context are Muslims, blacks, Mexicans, other foreigners, all media, or even all government officials. And the afraid and angry anti-thems are proudly armed.

I too have my fears.  In my neighborhood, I am afraid of gangs and theft and burglaries and computer hackers.  I am afraid of bad drivers.  Statistically, these are real risks.  Muslim terrorists are not.  Mexican immigrants, even in this majority-Hispanic town, are overwhelmingly not.  Government harassment or intervention is not what makes me afraid, at least not yet.  I am a bit afraid of Russia, armed as they are with nuclear weapons and as anti-US as their leadership's rhetoric remains.

But my biggest fear is a fear of armed and angry Americans.  Statistically, they are a significant fraction of the people we see every day, although not as prevalent as elsewhere in the country.  Lynchburg's Liberty University is calling for arming of their entire adult student body, tens of thousands of young followers of a very radical them-versus-us religious sect.  Nope.  I won't visit Lynchburg again.

Just sayin'



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