It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

I do love Christmas time. I love the lights, the decorations, the cookies, the family time. Uh oh, family time is a no go this year. I’m going to miss it. I love my family. I have enjoyed having two of my grandchildren with me for the last few weeks while my daughter did seasonal work. She would have to report for work at 4 a.m. so it was easier for them to stay at my house. I forced them to eat Christmas cookies, ride around in my 2001 Toyota Camry looking at Christmas lights and watch Christmas movies every evening (while eating more Christmas cookies and drinking hot chocolate). It’s been great (for me, my grandkids aren’t sure if they’re in agreement with my assessment). They’ll be returning home today, and I won’t see them, or my son’s family until after the holidays.

My Mom married very young and went to college when my younger sister started elementary school. She worked hard to complete her degree in education. This was in the late sixties/early seventies, and was during a time when progressive ideas were welcomed. Mom embraced the theories of Transactional Analysis (TA) for Tots by Alvyn M. Freed. “Warm Fuzzies” made us happy and “Cold Pricklies” made us sad. Mom spent seven years completing her degree, and then seven years later had her teaching career cut short by a large benign brain tumor (an acoustic neuroma). That was one big Cold Prickly. Most of my Christmas decorations were made by Mom as she struggled to find post-tumor-removal creative outlets. Getting those decorations out and putting them up each Christmas wraps me in a cozy Mom-generated Warm Fuzzy. She passed away fourteen years ago at the age of sixty-nine but I feel her presence every Christmas.

Holiday stitchery and ornaments made by my Mom.

Warm Fuzzies abound at Christmas time (or Hanukkah, depending upon your faith tradition). There’s honey cookies and latkes for my Jewish friends and Posole and tamales for those of us here in the Southwest. Warm Fuzzies can be very tasty. There can be Cold Pricklies, too: gift disappointment (don’t go there – remember it’s the thought that counts), bad weather, illness, grief following a loss, a pandemic.

So I want to share (sharing is a big Warm Fuzzy) my tips for a happy holiday that you can apply even during a pandemic. Watch holiday movies that make you laugh. Limit the amount of news that you watch. If you are lucky enough to live with people, watch those holiday movies with them. Laughing is always better when done with others. If you are lucky enough to live with animals, pet them while watching holiday movies. Holiday movies are always better with soft animals. Drink warm beverages. They warm fuzzy you from the inside out. Call your friends and family members and reminisce about holidays past (just the good ones) and laugh. Breath in deeply the scents of holiday cooking and baking (my favorite aromatherapy). If you can’t smell them, go get a COVID-19 test. If you’re missing someone you’ve lost, say a prayer of thanksgiving for the joy they brought to your life. Love, love, love… Life is good.

Christmas Branch

When my children were young, we would sometimes have a live Christmas tree but most often we would have an artificial tree. My Mother purchased a life-like artificial tree when I was a pre-teen. It had plastic greenery that was shaped like the foliage on a real tree. It even had pinecones. We loved it. When my parents decided to forego the Christmas tree tradition they gave the tree to me to use with my young family. I patched it as it aged and began to fall apart. We used it until it could no longer stand and support its branches. It lasted until my kids were grown. I then found an artificial half Christmas tree. I could place it flush with the wall and only worry about decorating the side that faced the room. About five years ago, I went to a quarter tree. I love it almost as much as I loved the tree of my youth. It fits snuggly into a corner in my great room, goes up in a flash, and requires much fewer ornaments. It even has built-in lights! My kids joke about my continually shrinking Christmas tree, and suspect that in a Christmas in the not-too-distant-future they will arrive at my house to find that I’ve moved on to a Christmas branch, with one or two ornaments and a mini-flashlight from Harbor Freight twist-tied to the top.

Tree of Christmas Past
Tree of Christmas Present
Tree (Branch) of Christmas Yet-To-Come

This is similar to the evolution of my Christmas baking and cooking. When my kids were young, I would bake dozens of dozens of cookies. I would bake pumpkin and mincemeat bread in quantities that threatened the world supply of those Christmas staples. Phil and I would toil to make 20 plus dozen tamales. This would be done while holding down jobs and raising children in a home filled with Christmas joy and the resulting fatigue, frustration and income outpouring. My children have chosen to block most of those happy memories. My children, having long since left elementary school, no longer require classroom quantities of cookies. In retirement, I no longer have co-workers to shower with home-baked goodies. In the old-age that typically accompanies retirement, my baking demands have shrunk, much like my Christmas tree. Isn’t old age and retirement GREAT!

This year, Coronavirus-related restrictions have further decreased my baking demands. Mincemeat and pumpkin supplies are again safe. The Great Pumpkin that rose from the field on Halloween this year, illuminated by the full moon, but not witnessed by trick-or-treaters (which is sad, because they could have seen it more clearly with all of the light provided by that big bright moon) is safe. There are many more cookies and much more holiday breads that will not be leaving my home and will be available for me to snack on. My Christmas tree may be getting smaller, but I’m getting bigger. Merry COVID-19 Christmas.

Super Powers

During her funeral Mass, the Priest accurately identified my friend Mela’s super power as LOVE. Mela loved her family, her friends, her co-workers, patients and learning. She was a nuclear explosion of love. I’m still hearing about people she taught, helped, supported and loved unconditionally. There is a positive fallout of love in our community, thanks to Mela being in it.

I’m sad to have to identify (again) my super power as guilt. One of the songs composed and played over and over again in my mind is “Guilty.” The opening line is: “Guilty, I feel so guilty; I feel like everyone I know can see right through me.” I don’t need to have a specific deed to motivate my feelings of guilt – it’s more of a perpetual state of being. Whatever I do, I feel guilty about doing it, or about what I didn’t get done while doing what I was doing. It makes my head spin.

I cleaned the grout between my floor tile this week. It was the last item on my list of “Things to Get Done Early In Retirement.” I had initially intended to complete the list in my first year of retirement, but allowed myself an additional year, because the first year of my retirement was hijacked by my husband’s illness and death (that was not nice to him – or me). I retired November 30th, 2018. I cannot tell a lie (well, I can, but I then feel guilty and tell whomever I lied to, that I had lied), I cleaned the tile on the day after November 30th, 2020. My brother suggested that perhaps this is one of those years with 31 days in November. He’s very familiar with my overly-developed sense of guilt. I managed to feel guilty anyway, because the finished product (freshly-cleaned grout) didn’t look much better than the pre-cleaned grout (I should have scrubbed harder). I also worried that Cinnamon might walk across the floor with the freshly-cleaned grout and get grout-cleaning chemicals on her paws, and then lick her paws and become ill. After all, I only rinsed and mopped the floors four times to remove grout-cleaning chemicals. I should have gone for five. Grout cleaning is neither effort, nor guilt free.

Guilt has its attributes. The fear of being found guilty in a court of law discourages (or should discourage) law breaking. Not keeping a commitment, and the subsequent feelings of guilt, encourages me to keep my commitments. I have kept commitments when I shouldn’t have; like going to a gathering when I had a cold, and later finding out that other gathering attendees came down with colds. I sure feel guilty when that happens. On the plus side, I’ve stuck pretty close to home during the pandemic. I feel guilty when I go out.

I wish there was a super power exchange shop. I would love to exchange my super power. I would walk right past “The Greats:” great beauty, great intelligence, great charm. It would be difficult to walk past great luck, or great creativity (I’ve always wanted to be a great writer, and/or independently wealthy), but I must. I wouldn’t even slow down for great strength, because that too would probably result in too much work. I’m pretty judgmental (I feel guilty about it), so I don’t need to go for the super power level on that one or the other less-than-positive super powers. I will aspire to love everyone (I believe that God is Love, and I like the idea of having that Superhero in my life) but I’m going to pass on that one for my super power, too (loving too much can hurt). I want Lego-like super POWERS! One limb can be honesty; one limb can be empathy, one limb can be (I can’t resist) creativity and my last limb can be guilt (I would feel guilty if I abandoned it all together). My head? – I AM going with LOVE.

Come on people now, smile on your brother. Everybody get together, try to love one another right now (from “Get Together” by Chet Powers). Life is good, but it can be even better.

Love, Jennie

Guilt-free granddaughter Liadan with guilty of mischief, Cinnamon.

Isn’t That Ironic?

Pansies are ironic. Their name is associated with weakness, but as I look out my window and see a pretty-little pansy being lashed about by fierce winds, I think it’s tough. We Americans have settled on the name “pansy” for the little flower, but it has had many names (viola tri-color, heartsease, Johnny-jump-up just to name a few), and it is rich in folklore (including stories of selfish step-mothers; the sorrow, remembrance and idleness of love lost; and prosperity brought to homes along with Spring bouquets). That sounds like a strong floral constitution to me. Retirement provides me with the time to consider the constitution of flowers. I never once contemplated flower constitutions while working. Contemplating flowers is another reason that I love retirement.

Brave Pansies In A Storm

Being alone is filled with irony. Sometimes it’s liberating and empowering. There is no one to complain when you sing loudly and off-key while you’re alone. You can watch whatever you want on the television. You can eat whatever you want whenever you want (except for the couple of weeks prior to scheduled lab work for upcoming medical appointments). When you’re alone and retired, you can go to bed when you want (here’s some irony though, that doesn’t mean you can go to sleep when you want, or stay asleep as long as you want – darned aging bladders), and get up when you want (unless your bladder determines otherwise). Here’s where it gets ironic: say you’re watching a hilarious television show that you alone chose to watch, but there’s no one there to laugh with you. That feeling of empowerment can quickly shift to a feeling of isolation. Isn’t that ironic?

I have mentioned before that I was an extremely awkward, self-conscious, odd child. I could not bring myself to say pansy when referring to the flower, because I knew that some people used that word to disparage others. I did not want to disparage a flower or a person. I liked both people and flowers and would not want to behave in a hurtful manner towards either. I also greeted bugs with a cheerful, “hello,” except bugs that could bite or looked really gross.  I was odd, but nice and cautious.

As an adult, I proudly identify with the pansy: I’ve withstood many an emotional and economic storm; I bloom in cooler weather, and wither in the heat. I still prefer to treat people nicely. It makes me feel good. There’s nothing ironic about that.

It’s time for me to go out to my backyard and restrain and secure the outdoor furniture that is dancing wildly in the wind. While I’m out there, I’m going to say “hello” and “thank you” to the tough pansies that inspire me and make me smile. I’m not alone. I have flowers, Cinnamon, and a telephone. Life is good.

Cinnamon, supervising my blog writing.

Things To Be Thankful For

There have been times that I have used this platform to complain. Bad Jennie! I have so much to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family, the most amazing friends on the planet and I’m retired. I also have great memories!

I am so blessed that my current employment situation consists exclusively of memories of being employed. As I’ve said before, I LOVE retirement. Being retired during a pandemic provides me with time to paint my sunroom and time to remember the good times I had while working. It’s a “time” triple-hitter!

My last position consisted of coordinating a patient portal for a large Federal Organization’s patients in my state. I met many wonderful patients, and worked with some amazing care providers. I also came away from that position with some funny stories. My favorite is the “genitalia” story. Sounds frightening, doesn’t it? When I first told the story to my children (no patient-specific information disclosed), they had the same looks on their faces as they had when I told them that we were going to have the “Facts-of-Life” discussion.

Back to my story. On a day, much like every other day, I was in my office, when one of the front desk clerks came in and shut the door behind her. She started with, “Jennie, this is probably going to make you angry.” She was wrong; it made me laugh. She went on to say that there was a patient in the lobby, who had approached her desk asking, “Is there a Geni Talia here?” She responded, “WHAT?” And the patient continued, “Don’t you know where I can find a Geni Talia?” To which the clerk responded, “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re asking for.” The patient, with mounting frustration and volume replied, “You know, Geni Talia, she runs that patient portal thing.” From that day forward, I, Jennie Taylor, was referred to by some as the Geni Talia of the program I coordinated.

These are the kinds of work experiences I remember while painting my sunroom. Yep, retirement, and a pandemic, provide me with opportunities to remember the good times and the laughs the working me, a.k.a. Geni Talia, had. Life and retirement are good!

Freshly-painted sunroom looks a lot like the non-freshly-painted sunroom, minus the dirt that had been behind that cabinet.

What Now?

December 1, 2020 will be the second anniversary of my retirement. Two years retired – that’s great! They’ve been busier than I expected, but not in the way I expected. Expectations are OVERRATED! Expectations tend to set you up for disappointment. Go with the flow is probably better, except when the flow is headed down the toilet (where we’re all ready to send 2020).

I can’t quote the Grateful Dead, because two years do not (in my mind) qualify as a long trip, but it has been a STRANGE trip. Take a little retirement, throw in illness, death and a pandemic (the pandemic seasoning has made this a recipe – literally – for disaster) and this situation is totally unpalatable. It still beats working. I feel for people who are working right now. A bad day retired during a pandemic is better than a good day working during a pandemic. I’m not sure about fishing because worms gross me out.

I have two tasks remaining on my list of things that I wanted to get done early in my retirement: paint the sunroom and clean the tile grout. I think the clock is running out for getting things done EARLY in retirement. This means that I need to get going on that painting and grout cleaning. That is not nice to me. It’s really not nice to me when the answer to my “What now?” question is paint and clean grout. So I better just smile and paint (I refuse to smile while I clean grout).

What’s next? I’m hoping for a COVID-19 vaccine. Bring on that shot (or two) in the arm. I’ve been spending too much time staring at my shower curtain, and every other inanimate object in my house. I’m ready to reconnect with friends that are not dependent upon an electrical outlet to function. Life is… I can barely wait for the what of tomorrow’s, next week’s and next year’s now. Life is ready to be good again!

Sunroom (with cat) awaiting paint (sunroom, not cat).
I covered these cushions myself and that task wasn’t even on my list.

A Year of Byes (Not All Good)

A year ago today, we had the memorial service to say good bye to Phil. It wasn’t the first time for good bye. We had said good bye over and over again in his hospice room. We had said good bye in the mortuary and we would continue to say good bye all year. Each good bye seemed to pull a thread from the fabric of my heart which has been left frayed around the edges. I dealt with this loss the way I deal with everything: get busy and get stuff done. I crocheted numerous afghans. I patched tile. I gardened. I cleaned and cleaned again.

Then the pandemic hit. I would get angry every time I would hear the pitiful slogan, “alone together.” I was alone alone. Poor Jennie. So, I made more afghans. I baked. I got a cat (I DO love my cat). I did what little I could to help my friend Mela within the COVID constraints, before a very sad and painful good bye. Sometimes a quiet voice would whisper in my ear, “Listen,” but the constant chattering in my mind and busy work muffled the message. Drat, I bet it was a good one. Sometimes the images in my mind of the present were sepia tinged, just like those accompanying my memories of the past.

My constant companion, GUILT, has hung with me. I feel guilty when I finish a task happily unencumbered by a, “Why did you do it that way?” comment from Phil, or when I start a project that Phil had previously vetoed. Where am I going? Sadly, Phil’s not here to ask or answer that question either. Sometimes when Phil was angry with me he would say, “Nothing makes you happy.” He’s probably still saying that. I’ve had a year to realize, no thing makes me happy. I have to make myself happy. I am truly blessed with family and friends who help me to do so. Memories can make me happy and sad. Life is good, but it is complicated. A year ago today, we were memorializing Phil. A year later, I’m STILL memorializing Phil. The following is from a year ago:

FAREWELL

Phillip Wayne Taylor passed away November 2, 2019 at the age of 72. So began Phil’s obituary. On October 29th, Phil decided that he had had enough of potentially successful treatment at the expense of his life (you know the ol’ story – the doctor tells the patient’s family, “the treatment was a success, but I’m afraid the patient died”) and he chose to enter hospice. He had two days of comfort, and positive interaction with friends and family, before slipping into unconsciousness, and passing away on the morning of November 2nd. I, along with our children, and his best friend were with him.

He had been ill for more than half of our 42 years of marriage. Death had hunted him and he had eluded it, time and time again. He, and we, thought that he was invincible. Of course, he wasn’t, and neither are any of us.

Family and friends gathered to say goodbye. The love of my friends and family sustains me. The love we had for Phil (faults and all), sustains his memory. And so, life is good, but death isn’t all bad. When we’ve been suffering, it provides relief. When we’re tired, it provides rest. When we’re apart, it brings us together. It provides an opportunity to remember good times and the best of people who’ve passed. It casts a shadow that softens difficult memories, while encouraging forgiveness. It reminds us to tell the people we love, that we love them, while they can hear us. The gift of death, is the same as the gift of life: love.

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

Boo!!!

Monday, October 26th, Halloween arrived early in Albuquerque in the form of cold, wet white apparitions swirling around my house, possessing the thermometer and forcing temperatures down to record lows in the 20s. This is a case of boo meets brrr, and is very unusual in Albuquerque where I typically wait until November 1st to switch from air conditioner to heater. We had been experiencing record highs the week before and my Zinnias, Purslane, and Impatiens were all in full bloom on Sunday the 25th. I awoke the 27th to plants that had died from exposure to the frightening weather ordeal. Some were stiff and drained of all color while others were mushy, limp and lifeless. They were all buried under the approximately eight inches of snow that covered my yard.

I hoped the hose to my swamp cooler (New Mexico air conditioner) would not freeze. There was no way I would ask someone to climb onto my metal roof to winterize my unit until the snow was gone and the roof was dry. Happily (happy, happy, happy), I have a small gas fireplace in my sunroom that I know how to activate. I put on two pairs of socks, a couple of sweaters, and when she would let me a cat on my lap. Cinnamon and I camped out in the living room next to the sunroom and all was well and moderately warm.

When I went out to sweep the snow off of the porch and patio I did not fear, as I had when mowing the lawn the week before, being drained of blood by vampire mosquitoes and left in a lifeless heap on the ground ready for the formaldehyde station of the embalming suite (a little Halloween imagery thrown in there). Yes, even in a record-shattering snow storm, life is good (except for mosquitoes).

This year Fall was cut short and Winter arrived in a FLINCH (once while traveling with my kids, my son Zach asked, “When will we get there?” to which daughter Jessica cheerfully replied, “We’ll be there in a flinch.”). The snow is off of the roof and the hose to the A/C is disconnected. The heater is hooked up and blaring. I don’t expect Trick-or-Treaters tomorrow. I hope they will be home, warm, safe and sound, eating homemade cookies and caramel apples (things they shouldn’t eat when obtained from strangers). I’ve had my share of unexpected scary encounters this October.

Rosemary Bush a la-October-Snow

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”

I love movies. I love movies almost as much as I love music. Just like daily happenings remind me of songs, things that happen during the day remind me of movies. Last Sunday, I awoke and was inspired to write a story. At least I thought I was inspired. It might have been avoidance behavior; not wanting to attend to chores or do anything requiring physical exertion. I wrote my story, posted it in my blog, and like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” I awaited the accolades and recognition of its truth-promoting potential to pour in (A++++++++ on the virtual blackboard of blog comments). Like Ralphie believed his essay on the attributes of the Red Rider BB gun would shine the light of truth on the merit of his request for one for Christmas; I believed my short story would illuminate the value of truth over rhetoric and acceptance over intolerance. I thought my words would finally make clear that it is better to love than to hate.

I awaited the worldwide accolades that would surely come my way. I imagined the nightly news would feature a picture of Pope Francis (he really is a great guy who gets that it is better to love than to hate) as they read his statement, “Even an average middle-aged retiree in Albuquerque, New Mexico gets that love is better than hate. The truth is, hate tears down and love builds up. Come on people. Read the story. Different isn’t bad. It’s what allows us to see all sides of an issue and solve real problems. We just have to truthfully examine all sides of the problem.” My imagination, like Ralphie’s, tends to overemphasize my influence (and my writing talent).

Another one of my favorite movies is “The Invention of Lying.” One of the gifts of retirement is more movie-watching time. This gift is increased by the stay-at-home-and-watch-movies mandate resulting from the pandemic (the gift that keeps on giving). In “The Invention of Lying,” the main character inadvertently tells a lie and avoids the consequences and accountability (at least at that moment) of the truth. He’s the first to tell a lie, and he immediately sees the potential. He can avoid hurting others, by replying to requests for his opinion with small lies when the truth would be hurtful. He can do things that are hurtful, and then lie when asked if he did so. The possibilities would be endless. Ricky Gervais, one of the writers, is pretty clever. After inventing lying, the character played by Gervais chooses not to lie, when a lie would harm a loved one. Even after inventing lies, he wasn’t going to use lies to hurt people. Wouldn’t it be great if that were the truth of lying now. Not using lies to hurt people has been written out of the screenplay of “Now.”

While working, I would often use many words to tell a co-worker to stop a behavior that I believed was negative or destructive. Apparently, I have brought this practice with me into retirement. I wrote a story intended to remind people that lies and hate are harmful. The truth is, people already know this. I like writing, so I write. What I write is not always great. The truth is, I don’t work hard enough at it for it to be great. I let words flow and hope for the best. I hope that we will not allow ourselves to be manipulated by lies and intolerance. I hope (my friend Shari is big into hope – she’s wonderful) that we can embrace differences and reject hate. Can’t we all just get along? Oh, by the way, do these pants make me look fat?

It’s Not Friday

It’s not Friday, but I had an idea (this does not mean it is a good idea) pop in to my head for a story. I thought, what the heck, I’ll go ahead and write it. Here it is.

The Great Unmasking

There was a vaccine. After months of widespread illness, isolation, fear and mask wearing, the universal availability of an effective vaccine had led to, initially an idea, and ultimately the plan for “A Great Unmasking.” There were supporters of the idea in every country on the planet. They came together, virtually of course, to finalize the plan. A date and time was chosen, when masks would be publically removed, exposing the facial expressions (and supposedly the personal character) beneath. As with most widespread, highly publicized events, there was great anticipation and many misconceptions.

The time was set. It did not vary by location. Some would be unmasked to the rising sun, while others’ unmasked faces would reflect the colors of the sunset. Those unmasked where it was night would have the advantage darkness provides, limiting the risks involved with immediate exposure. Some strategically travelled to the places where it would be night.

I was in a place where the event took place at mid-day. My location was afforded neither the softening beauty of sunrise or sunset, nor the cover of darkness. The sun was directly overhead as we emerged from our homes, masks still in place.

Throughout the pandemic, I had marveled at the variety of masks. The variety included style and material. Some were makeshift consisting of scarfs pulled up over the nose and mouth while others were made of paper and looked clinical and plain. Others were beautifully crafted and ornate. Some were cunningly clever.

I had always suspected that the style of the face covering reflected the character of the wearer. We had been masked for a very long time. I was anxious to see the faces behind the masks. I had long ago forgotten where there was beauty and where there was not.

It was an election year. I strongly disagreed with those supporting the “other side.” I suspected that once unmasked the faces of those with signs in their yards supporting the “other side” would reveal an ugliness of spirit that I was sure drove their political bus to the polls. I anticipated a ray of sunshine would highlight the righteousness of my beliefs revealed on my face as I removed my mask.

The morning of “The Great Unmasking” seemed to drag on as long as the pandemic. The time from ten a.m. to eleven a.m. seemed three times as long as the time from six a.m. to seven a.m. had. I had put on my very best mask before preparing to run outside and rip it off. Now the final countdown had arrived: 11:50…, 11:51…., 11:52….., 11:53…….., 11:54………, 11:55…….., 11:56……….., 11:57………….(my hand on the doorknob), 11:58……………(my hand turning the doorknob), 11:59……………(my hand pushing the door open), NOON! I ran from my house and tore off my mask. Why had I taken the time to carefully choose what was to be so enthusiastically discarded?

I scanned my neighborhood, examining the newly exposed faces of neighbors. I anxiously looked for the monstrous and/or righteous truths I expected to be revealed. Their faces were just faces. Some smiled at me, even though signs in their yards proclaimed support for ideologies very different from my own. Some scowled, even though signs in their yards mirrored those in my own.

There were good and not so good people underneath those masks, regardless of the signs in their yards. My expectation of what truth would be revealed by unmasking was not validated. Not all who subscribed to beliefs different from mine, or wore different styles of masks than my own, were monstrous or even bad. Even more surprisingly, not all who agreed with me, or wore masks similar to mine were good. Some who unmasked in the dark bravely moved to the light where there was no hiding what had been covered by a mask. Some who unmasked in the light quickly moved to the shadows. Hope grew. Maybe removing masks of political ideology would reveal our intentions and motivations, rather than rhetoric, allowing us to come together to discuss and truthfully examine the merits of our individual beliefs?

There were those who chose to remain in the dark to continue to hide what their masks had previously hidden. The truth of their beliefs were immediately suspect due to their unwillingness to expose them to the light of examination.

I had expected “The Great Unmasking” to reveal angels and monsters, and there were a few. What surprised me was that while the unmasking did reveal our individuality the greatest majority of us were beautiful and blemished. For most the unmasking revealed neither halos nor horns, but differences that required examination to reveal their merit, not their condemnation. That was the gift and the truth of “The Great Unmasking.”