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   Vol. 17 No. 89
Monday December 24, 2018

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A Tree Grows In Hollis     

Sometime after my grandmother died, my father planted a tree. He chose a blue spruce. A coniferous evergreen known for its steely hue, the blue spruce looks like it’s bathed in moonlight, even in full sun. It radiates a soft, dusky blue aura that sets it apart from your typical evergreen tree.
     When he planted it in our front yard astride the short path leading up to our home, it was only about three feet tall. No bigger than your average toddler. When Christmas came around, as it is wont to do every year towards the end of December, he strung it with Christmas lights. What better way to beat back the dark than with a tree that is ever and always green, and flashes bright from deep inside the night? I remember when it was smaller, but my memories cast it at an unreliable scale. In my mind it feels like it has always been taller than me, but how much taller I couldn’t say. It rises and falls like a piston, expands and contracts as if its needles were fashioned of temperature sensitive metal.
     The blue spruce invariably dons lights at Christmas. I don’t think the lights ever come down, truthfully. In its time it has also housed some particularly distressing wolf spiders, and most recently its shadowy boughs cradled a perfect paper wasp’s nest, which had been dutifully masticated and regurgitated with lengths of Christmas lights embedded in the nests’ interior. Did the wasps celebrate Christmas? They had their Christmas tree, the twinkling lights, the ultimate handmade ornament that was also their home. How dazzling must it have been, amid their buzzy caroling? Did they exchange gifts, or are all benefactions customarily reserved for the queen? Now is when I pull you aside, whisper in your ear that paper wasps usually leave their nests empty by fall, and even if they don’t they inevitably die off during the first winter freeze, but I won’t hold it against you if you stuff your ears and continue imagining the paper wasps’ yuletide.
     The blue spruce grows and grows. Not like a child, whose shoes suddenly don’t fit even though they’re brand new. Not like a building accumulating bricks with each passing day, its height measured in uniform inches. Not like a flower, unfurling petals and leaves like a prima ballerina allongé. The blue spruce grows patiently, quietly—or does it? Was it ever any size other than the size it is right now? Is it growing, or is it just breathing, steadily, expanding like lungs? There might be no better living monument to someone who has passed as a thing that keeps breathing, growing, pushing deep into the earth while reaching up for the sky, stretched but never taut, flexible and alive. Try to breathe in for a whole year. Don’t hold your breath. Now try to breathe in for five years. Ten. Fifteen. That’s what the blue spruce does—has been doing. We can’t see it happening but I promise you it’s growing. It gets taller and taller, wider but never so wide as to rudely intrude on our walkway. The path to the house is open. My father continues stringing it with lights, or at this point hires a man with a cherry picker to reach the crown and drape the lights down. If you look out our second floor bathroom window, there it is, at eye level, threatening to overtake the roof. I took a cab home after Thanksgiving and when the car turned the corner onto our street, the driver asked, “Which one is your house?” I laughed. It was nighttime and the street was dark, but the blue spruce shone like a beacon at the end of the block, the biggest, brightest thing for miles. “It’s the one with the tree,” I said. I think if you can say something as vague and nondescript as “It’s the one with the tree” and be completely understood, you probably have a pretty magical thing going.
Flossie Arend and Lulu     Blue spruces can grow to be about 75 feet tall, adding an inch or two every year. Our blue spruce is now about as tall as our two-story house, so approximately 30-ish feet, give or take any number of feet as I’m not good with metrics nor do I know the height of our two-story house. They can live to anywhere between 40 and 200 years. I’m banking on forever. There’s a 9,560-year-old Norway spruce in Sweden named Old Tjikko who assures me it’s possible, but he’ll have to report back when he gets there.
     The blue spruce reminds me that things always change. To the stubborn and fearful I’m truly sorry—there is no other way. Don’t think of it as change. Change is an illusion. It’s really just growth. Same you, bigger horizon. Same you, but now you can see over the tops of the trees, straight down to the ocean, past the ocean to a distant shore dotted with skyscrapers you’re sure to rival and a sky that’s starting to feel a bit sheepish.
     May we all be like the blue spruce this holiday season, tenaciously growing and draped head to toe in radiance. Standing tall, watching over loved ones, and unafraid to light up the night.
Flossie Arend

Chuckles for December 24, 2018

Kelly's Christmas Playlist
     Our Christmas playlist for 2018 features 25 favorites created by Michael Kelly, Cargo Communications Manager from United Airlines.
     Michael includes pop vocals, big band, rhythm & blues, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, country, folk, world music, and even jazz, revealing a deep love and understanding of uplifting seasonal music that crosses all lines to spread the joy.
     Someone once asked Duke Ellington when he knew the music he was writing was complete.
     Ellington thought for a moment and mused:
     “If it sounds good, it is good.”
     I thought of those words listening to this excellent collection of Christmas songs.
     Dick Haymes, perhaps one of the most overlooked of the great big band singers of the 1940s, teams up with guitarist genius Les Paul on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
     The Ventures, an instrumental guitar rock group, put their “Walk Don’t Run” signature sound on a 1965 version of Sleigh Ride, and it works!
     Cuban Christmas “En el portal de Belen” by Trio Cubamar is hauntingly beautiful as it sways gently in the stable of Bethlehem.
     Johnny Mercer and Maggie Whiting remind us “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Mercer, the wordsmith dream weaver who sang his own tunes and was the driver of more great songs than anybody, teams up with the incomparable Miss Whiting for a stellar turn.
     There is more, but as we listened to this unexpected exceptional collection of holiday music, we kept thinking:
     Who knew that Michael was such a passionate musicologist?
     Just listen to Toots and the Maytals from down Jamaica way and get that “Christmas Feeling.”
     What a great Christmas gift we can all share.
     In Michael’s words:
     “The only ‘performance video’ is filled with one of the most exquisite, transcendent two minutes in TV history – Perry Como singing, ‘Love in a Home’ from one of his later Christmas specials.”
     Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2019.

American Tantrum

     Give the gift of laughter this holiday season with American Tantrum.
     American Tantrum is a hilarious, cutting satire that imagines the contents of the 45th President's Presidential Archives in interviews, classified documents, illustrations and more.
     Buy the book and audiobook here now.

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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Vol. 17 No. 86
First Cargo Flight Was Wright Stuff
What A Year
Chuckles for December 17, 2018
Wright Stuff For Children
Vol. 17 No. 87
Herd At The Airport
Air Cargo To The Rescue

FT121218Vol. 17 No. 88
Deck Us All With Boston Charlie
A Christmas Story
Winter Solstice

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

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