Christmas Eve Through The Ages

It’s been a fairly leisurely week in the lead up to Christmas. Snowfall. Shopping. Cooking. Sorting presents. Planning for traditional Christmas Eve supper and then gathering with family for Christmas Day.

Growing up, there were a number of years when we went to my Grandparents’ in Olympia. We would go down on Christmas Eve to spend the night. Their home was two stories with a basement. There were two bedrooms upstairs, each with a double bed for the adults and rugs for sleeping bags for the kids. My family had the Bird Room, so named because the bed had a quilt with birds made from many of Grandma’s sewing projects including clothes she had made for us. I loved tracing the birds, looking at the fabric patterns. The quilt came to me after my Grandma passed away. My aunt and uncle were in the other room and I have no recollection of the name we gave that room. My other aunt and uncle had a room in the basement. Years later, when I stayed with my grandparents for two months as a Page for the House of Representatives, I stayed in the Bird Room.

It was so much fun waking up with cousins in the house, running downstairs to see the stockings and presents under the pretty tree. The tree always had delicate glass bird ornaments. There’s a name for the kind of glass; I don’t remember now. Whether in our own home, or at Grandpa and Grandma’s, the stockings were simply filled – always an orange, a walnut, lifesavers, some trinket. Before Christmas dinner there would be cranberry juice with ginger ale, chex mix and some vegetables. I remember the year Grandma served jicama for the first time. I have loved it ever since.

When my husband and I were first together, we spent Christmases traveling. We were both teachers, had the time off, and had trips we wanted to take. Our first trip was to spend Christmas in Sitka with our friends who had been the couple we had our first date with and who were also the witnesses at our wedding. Though we didn’t talk about it much, it was also so much simpler, emotionally, not to be with the family at Christmas. We were living together, not married, and my parents were not very happy about that.

For some years, we traveled to California for coursing events with our dogs. We raised Salukis, three of them, and made the 1,000 mile trip down and back with another couple from Bellingham. We would have restaurant meals and stay in Motel 6’s along the way (one of the few motel chains that was easy to have dogs in our rooms). We would take presents to each other and open them in the morning. It was always fun to be with a group of friends celebrating, on the road.

When our daughter was born, we began staying home, and joining my family for Christmas, or my husband’s family. With my family, we would be in Anacortes, and we just go for the day. My in-laws lived in Leavenworth, so it was a snowy winter wonderland and we would go for a few days. Every year was a bit different. There weren’t any rituals with my husband’s family, but we continued my family’s traditions with our daughter. A stocking with an orange, a walnut, tic tacs and some candies, little things. Always a present from Santa and a present from us.

Our daughter was quite the trip to shop for. She only ever asked Santa for ONE thing. No lists. No choices. And they were very specific requests. A wind up kitty that played a lullaby. The blue and white china tea set from “Frances” stories. Fortunately we had an Auntie Pam who was always game for the hunt! I don’t think Santa ever failed to come through.

For as long as I can remember, we’ve had oyster stew on Christmas Eve. I could call my brother and sister and know that they too were having oyster stew. A variety of breads and cheese followed by cookies. Simple.

One thing we won’t be doing this year that is really rather sad for me, is that we will not go to a Christmas Eve service. I grew up in a Disciples of Christ church with a congregation of 1,000. The sanctuary was huge with a large balcony as well. I loved the service! 11pm. A the end of the service, the candles would be lit at the front of the sanctuary and the glow would grow as we turned and lit one another’s candles, singing Silent Night. Oh, how that filled me with wonder, love, spirit and knowing I was part of something much larger than I.

For a few years, there a community Christmas Eve service at the Mt. Baker Theater, put on by Tom Hunter. Those were magical nights, so many friends from town were there and Tom always wrote a new song for the service. My favorite was a song called “There Might Be Angels”. Tom was a Congregational minister and well-know musician and teacher. He created such an inclusive, inspirational service and for those of us not affiliated with a church, it was so satisfying to have that as our tradition.

A dozen years ago, we as a family, daughter 16 at the time, joined a Unitarian Church. The Christmas Eve services were such a great continuity for me of candlelight services and traditional carols. Again, something sweet about being with friends in something larger than myself. We’re currently taking a break from that congregation, so for the first time in many years, we will be home. We will also just be the two of us as our daughter will spend the evening with her family and their own traditions.

I am aware of feeling content. I talked about this with a friend earlier today as we checked in with one another. We’ve raised our kids together and are now at that point where they are adults, with families and lives outside of ours. It is an interesting time to be settling into doing only the things that mean something to us. We do not have a tree. The only Chrismasy thing in our home, really, is our Christmas dishes. They come out the week-end of Thanksgiving and stay in use until after the first. We have a few little special candles, but have not decorated. I am loving that our daughter and her family have their own traditions.

My mother was not able to adjust to our adult family lives. One year, we were traveling, and my siblings were also either with their in-laws or traveling. When I called to talk to my mom, she said it was the worst Christmas. She felt like someone who lived under the freeway with no where to go. Really. That’s what she said. She was angry that she would be having Christmas dinner at the yacht club with friends who called themselves ‘the Christmas orphans’. She laid the guilt on so heavily. Interestingly, my dad didn’t say anything negative at all. He looked forward to spending the day with their good friends. I’m sorry she couldn’t make the best of it.

I am really happy that our daughter is free to make plans with her family. They will all go with us to my sister’s for Christmas day. There will be 17 or 18 of us together. We don’t exchange gifts, just spend the day together and contribute to a charity. Last year we donated, as a family, to NAACP in Seattle. There will be lots of talking, some games, good food. I make a trifle every year and have fun coming up with new recipes.

I feel truly blessed to be alive, to have a wonderful husband, siblings and a daughter, daughter-in-love and four granddaughters. We have much to be thankful for. We all have a story. This is part of mine.

 

Fifty Happy Things

Prompted by my friend Dawn, I’m going to spend 15 minutes and list 50 things that make me happy. Then, I’ll post and include a link if you want to do this too. Directions to joining this are at the end of my post.

  1. My husband – smart, funny, silly, makes me laugh every day
  2. My daughter – oh so amazing
  3. My daughter’s family – partner and the 4 granddaughters
  4. My sister – always there!
  5. My brother – the best, solid, there!
  6. All of the nieces and nephews
  7. All of my cousins
  8. My aunt and 3 uncles
  9. A cozy home
  10. Wood heat
  11. Water
  12. A full pantry
  13. My 2 cats
  14. Coffee
  15. My musical friends
  16. Socializing with my friends
  17. My UU faith
  18. My many mentors
  19. Books!
  20. My book group
  21. Libraries
  22. Newspapers
  23. Magazines
  24. Chocolate
  25. Stents
  26. Good health care
  27. Travel
  28. Freedom of speech
  29. Gatherings of women
  30. Offers of warm housing during contruction or pwer outages
  31. A dependable car
  32. Opportunities to learn
  33. The internet
  34. Christmas cards arriving
  35. Live music always available
  36. Talented friends
  37. Mother earth
  38. Good food
  39. New recipes
  40. Winter Eliot
  41. Seabeck
  42. Mail delivery
  43. Rituals
  44. Optimism
  45. A doctor with whom to have faith and trust
  46. Traditions
  47. Family history
  48. Photographs
  49. Art work
  50. Anticipation of trips
  51. Friends who inspire
  52. Non-profits who do such good work
  53. Poetry
  54. Sunshine
  55. Snow
  56. Education
  57. Silly preschoolers
  58. Scrapbooking
  59. Crafting
  60. Candles
  61. A full freezer
  62. New bed with flexible positions
  63. Low tides
  64. Cedar trees
  65. Trails in the woods
  66. Lake padden
  67. Taylor dock
  68. My home town
  69. The church family I grew up with

You too can do this! Here are Dawn’s directions:

2016 has been a difficult year on so many levels. Regardless of how you voted, the election season was rough! So many ugly things to digest and so much drama. We lost a lot of remarkable people in 2016–– it felt like punch after punch some weeks. So let’s flood the internet with gratitude and happy thoughts. Let’s ring in 2017 on a positive note! Join us and spread positivity!

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Please include a link to this/Dawn’s post (https://talesfromthemotherland.me/2016/12/18/50-happy-things-bloggers-unite/) 3) Click on the blue frog at the very bottom of this post. 4) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. (folks have trouble with this, but it’s not that hard. 5)vFollow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List.(If you have problems, contact me and I’ll help).

reading every single list and realizing what I also am grateful for (on other lists) and how we all differ. It’s a beautiful thing and a great way to finish out the year. Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise; I will remove it. Aside from that one caveat, there is no such thing as too much positivity. Share your happy thoughts, your gratitude; be creative; be happy and grateful, and help us flood the blogosphere with both! And let’s all use the hashtags #BloggersUnite or #50HappyThings, cause everything needs a hashtag.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise; I will remove it. Aside from that one caveat, there is no such thing as too much positivity. Share your happy thoughts, your gratitude; be creative; be happy and grateful, and help us flood the blogosphere with both! And let’s all use the hashtags #BloggersUnite or #50HappyThings, cause everything needs a hashtag.

Side note: This year, I kept a running list so this will be a lot easier, but yes, I’m a fast typist. I plan to do this every year. You too can start a list for 2017 and a side effect is that you are reminded of happy-gratitude all year, as you add to your list! All I had to do was copy items into a post, with the timer running.

Please note: the InLinkz (link-up) will expire on January 3, 2017. After that date, no blogs can be added. Scan to the bottom of this post to find the inlinkz.

May your holidays be filled with happiness and gratitude!

 

Friday Fictioneers: Patriots Diner

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PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

She hoped he was waiting inside. It had been a few months since they had begun corresponding. When he phoned, she saw the caller ID and answered on impulse. Now, she questioned that. Would he recognize her? They had never met; she was worried, but filled with anticipation. She had wanted this all her life. Now he was here and she didn’t know if she could stand being disappointed. But she was committed to donating stem cells if it would extend his life and give them a chance to get to finally know each other. What would their mother think?

Politics Then and Now

The Electoral College vote was today. I attended a rally in Olympia, the Capitol city of Washington. I am so glad I went! Some people in a group up here were leaving from Bellingham at 4:30 am! I didn’t leave until 7:30 and got there at about 10. It was amazing, from start to finish. It was definitely peaceful. There were probimg_6339ably about 200 people, with only 5 Trump supporters. As people arrived, we were greeted by organizers and gathered on the steps of the Legislative Building.

So, the side story: When I was 16, I was a Page for Audrey Mahaffey in the House of Representatives. I lived for the 2 months of the session with my Grandparents who lived a mile away. My Grandpa was a doorman for the House and we walked together to ‘work’ each morning. Today was the first time I’ve been back inside the House since then! Being a Page was a terrific experience. We did a lot of errands, stuffed envelopes and took messages. We often went to lunch at the Brown Derby Restaurant on Capitol Way which is still there! We had to be in school in a room on the same floor every morning for 2 hours. My Seattle school (Ingraham, where both Governor Jay Inslee and Trudy Inslee were in my class) didn’t require much homework for me, so I did a lot of reading writing letters back home. The group I served with were from all over the state. We had a lot of fun, learned a lot and during our last week, we had our own session. We put forth a bill to allow margarine to be used in school lunches. The debate was between the East Side of the Mountains, where agricultural interests prevailed and the West Side. It was great to remember all of this today. Oh, and there was a make out session in a car. That’s a tale for another time though…

There were a number of speakers during the hour before the vote. There are several grass roots organizations forming to take on issues such as getting rid of the Electoral College and forming a third party. It was cold, and drizzly, but there was a lot of enthusiasm and chanting.

My friend Jo Walter showed up in costume: The Emperor wears no clothes! She attracted quite a bit of attention! img_6370

At noon, we were allowed into the balcony/gallery on the 4th floor in the House. From there, we were able to watch on a big screen the proceedings of the vote. There was a specific format to be followed. Our Secretary of State introduced the session, followed by words from Governor Jay Inslee. There were several informal changes such as the Secretary forgot to ask people to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the session so it got added in after Inslee spoke. There was an election of the chair of the Electoral College, which had been done before they came in. Julie Johnson from the Lummi Nation was the chairperson. She asked another member to offer a blessing. He played a flute in the 4 directions.

Then the members cast their votes for President of the USA and signed their ballots, following the same procedure for Vice President.

The ballots are then compiled by the Secretary and sent to DC. While the tallying was being completed, each of the Electorates spoke briefly about why they ran for this position. Some of them offered charges to the voting public attending. The comments were as follows:

Levi Guerra: Continue learning about political process. Get involved!

Chris Porter: This is democracy in action. Four years ago there were only 12 people in the gallery!

Eric Herde and one other Elector expressed their hope that that this would be the last EC.

Robert Satiacum was told by an Elder that this would be his way to fulfill his responsibility to the people. He said he asked the the Elder, “Why did you do this to me?”

Elizabeth Caldwell spoke of her terminal cancer, recognizing that she most likely won’t be here in 4 years and was happy to be voting for the first woman.

Varisha Khan spoke of the influence of her Islam tradition of men and women giving to their community.

Joshua Ivey was proud to be the first transgender elector, quite possibly in the nation.

Dan Park spoke of the historical moment of voting for a woman as President and praised the change Bernie brought, also hoping this is the last EC. He shared a short story about how one drop of water is not much by itself, but many drops make a river. We the people make America great, it is not money that makes America Great.

Peter Chiafalo spoke of founding the Hamilton Electors and spoke of the rights and responsibilities of the Electors.

Esther John and her sister are both Electors. She took time to salute the Republicans for being involved in the process. Asked that we use the EC as a force for good. All Americans should be able to love and be protected.

Phillip Tyler of the NAACP in Spokane noted the great diversity in Washington’s EC.

Julie Johnson was thankful for the honor of serving as a Lummi Native American.

The Secretary of State sends a copy of the election to the archives in DC and a Judge of the Federal District Court. Each member signed a copy of the minutes to be able to report back to their committees.

Also interesting side note is that the photograph that appears in a Seattle Times article is taken by Greg Gilbert. Greg and his parents lived across the street from my Grandparents and he is recognized as one of the best photographers in the country. Seattle Times photo by Greg Gilbert

It was a long day begun with less than an optimal night’s sleep, three plus hour drive in rain, drinking 2 cups of coffee with no stops!, spending a good 20 minutes to find parking, standing in the cold, windy conditions, listening to speakers, observing the vote, having lunch at The Traditions Fair Trade Cafe with my friend Jo and a new friend Carol, arriving back home at 7:30pm. As I said at the beginning, I’m really glad I went.

Empty Pockets

In 1973, my husband and I lived in a sweet, little house near downtown. It had 420 square feet of living space! The house is still there, unchanged, including that it has not been painted, but the paint seems to be holding up – haha. It was a great location because we could walk downtown easily to shop, go out to eat, just wander around, stop for ice cream, browse in a bookstore.

One particularly nice summer evening, we headed out the door, no destination in mind. After walking around downtown, we decided it would be good to have dinner. We went to a restaurant, The Royal Inn, which then had really good food for a reasonable price. We had a great dinner and then the bill came.

Oops! Neither of us had brought our wallets! We told our waiter that we were in a predicament. He went to get the owner as we sat and joked ‘now we’ll have to go wash dishes’. The owner came over to our table and greeted us with a friendly smile. He just simply stated, “You came to dinner without money?” We laughed with embarrassment as we confessed ‘yes’.

He then took my husband’s hand and shook it. He said, “You two have been here before. I know you will pay us. You go home tonight, don’t worry about it. Come back tomorrow or the next time you come by and pay. Also, if you ever have your parents visiting, but don’t have the money to take them out, you come here, order your meals, and let me know. I know you’ll pay when you can. Enjoy the rest of the evening.”

This to me was the epitome of living in what then would easily have been called a small town. Forty thousand people, now probably close to 100,000. We returned the next day and paid our bill, with a hefty tip. And you can bet, we often returned to eat there, always with money in our wallets.

Fishing on Thanksgiving

For a number of years, my husband and I raised three purebred Salukis, an ancient breed of sighthound. Our move out into the county was motivated by wanting acreage to let the dogs run and run. The property we found met our requirements and also one that wasn’t even on the list, but a real bonus. A creek! On maps, it is listed as No Name. Our nieces and nephews named it Kelsey Creek. I’ve forgotten why. I just remember that they thought it needed a name.

After the last of our three Salukis died, we had only one cat in the house for a few years. Then, we got a puppy for our daughter one birthday. A black lab named Chloe. Our friends also got one from the same litter, and named her Sasha. We convinced our friends that if they also got a dog from the litter, we could raise them using the same commands, and feeding them the same food on the same schedule. That way, when either of us wanted to travel, the other could take the vacationing family’s dog easily and neither of us would have to board our dogs. We had done this with our Salukis and a different set of friends. It was the perfect arrangement.

The first Christmas with the puppies, we were on for having Sasha. It was also what was to be my dad’s last Christmas and we had almost the entire family up for several days. (Yes, I’ll get to Thanksgiving!) We also had about 18 inches of snow that Christmas! More stories about that week another time.

Several years later, Chloe was about 3, and it was my family’s turn to host Thanksgiving with my brother’s and sister’s families. You remember I mentioned a creek? It runs along side one edge of our property and then crosses in front of our home to the other side of our property and down into Lake Samish. It is dry from mid-May until the end of October. I usually think of this as from Mother’s Day to Halloween. It is a spawning creek for Kokanee, a freshwater salmon found in Lake Samish.They don’t come up every year (there’s another story about what happened to the creek soon after we moved in, including a 50 year flood in 1989), but this particular year the creek was loaded with these big red fish swimming upstream. They provide great hunting for eagles. I watched one take off with a fish in it’s claws one morning. Fantastic, impressive, spectacular are not exaggerated adjectives! So, eagles, raccoons (they like just the eyes…) and dogs.

Yes, dogs. Chloe and Sasha didn’t even have to try hard to catch a fish. They loved to get down in the creek, grab a fish and throw it up onto the bank. Then they would play with it while it flopped around. As soon as it quit moving, it was no longer a fun activity and they’d go back for a new, live fish. Who knew? Here’s the part where weather factors into the story. It was freezing. Below freezing. And had been for several days. So what do you imagine is happening with the fish on our lawn? Yep. Freezing! It was actually pretty funny to look out our front room window, onto the lawn, and see it littered with frozen fish, mostly missing eyes only. So bizarre! We had just had Sasha visiting and the two dogs had had so much fun fishing!

As we were preparing for the arrival of our family for Thanksgiving, I was in the house cooking and my husband was outside, sweeping the porch and deck, and tidying up outdoors. I looked outside and what else was he doing? Raking up the fish! Yes! I went out to ask him about this activity. He explained that when it warmed up, we’d have a lot of stinking fish rotting across the yard and he thought he’d just get them into a pile. Yes, they’d be good fertilizer, but most likely not in this condition.

The creek crosses though our front yard through a culvert and the driveway goes across the culvert. About this time, we hear the first car arriving.  My brother pulls up to the culvert and stops the car when he sees us. The astonished look on his face is one I’ll never forget! He just shook his head. Was he seeing his brother-in-law raking fish? In the front yard? On Thanksgiving? What the heck was going on at our house?! It is truly one of the funniest Thanksgiving experiences ever! Makes me laugh just remembering this.

The Last Time… I Went to the Island for Thanksgiving

 

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Sometime in 1935 or so, my father moved from North Dakota to Anacortes, Washington. His mother had died and his father had remarried. My Grandfather had taken a job in a plywood mill ‘out west’. My father made a new best friend at school, Bob. They joined the Boy Scouts in a troop led by Vern. During the depression, Vern had purchased a small Island about a mile off shore from Anacortes, in the San Juans. It cost him about $25 at a tax auction, all the cash he had on him that day.

Vern was a single man who never married. He had a facial deformity that made him feel unattractive though to the rest of us it seemed not like something that would have prevented a woman from wishing to date him or marry him. However, he was single. He became a dedicated Scout Master. My Dad and Bob joined his troop. The Boy Scouts went over to the Island in row boats and canoes.img_1127 They built a small cabin there, hauling supplies over in small boats. Dad and Bob LOVED the Island. They graduated from high school, went in to the Navy, came home and went to University and eventually met the women who would become their wives. Bob and his wife honeymooned on the Island. Dad and Bob had an annual poker week-end at the Island every year in May. Every Year!

When I was about 10, Dad and Bob were offered the opportunity to purchase the Island. Dad and Bob had stayed in touch with Vern all these years. They had taken our families up there for day trips. As Vern approached retirement, he realized he would not be able to keep up with trip over there. He had promised my Dad and Bob that he would give them first choice to purchase the Island if he ever sold it. Of course they took him up on it!

Thus began many trips to the Island. My Dad and Bob purchased a boat to share. The moms outfitted our families for trips to the Island. My mom covered cardboard boxes with contact paper and labelled them with our names. Going to the Island meant a lot of work for the parents. They had to get us there on a little boat. There was no water or power on the Island, so they had to provide cooking equipment, lanterns and jugs of water. Over the years, some of the equipment was stored there – items like a grill for the beach and other things that we didn’t worry about being stolen. But, for the most part, we didn’t leave anything up there. We stored the boat in a shed at the marina and kept a wood locker bin there for our shared equipment.

When Vern passed away, my parents were given the option to purchase his home. They didn’t move there immediately, but had renters for a few years until my father retired. They remodeled the home, adding a second story bedroom which had a view of the Island. My father’s dream! Either be on the Island, or be able to wake up, see it first thing. Boy did he love that! Interestingly enough, it was not my mother’s dream, nor was it her favorite thing to do. It was work for her, to plan meals over there, do without running water or flush toilets… And yet, all things considered, the work required to go over there was certainly equal – prep and maintenance of the boat, chopping wood, maintaining the cabin. Dad loved it. Mom tolerated it.

There were other vacations for us growing up. In addition to going to the Island, we hiked portions of the Pacific Crest Trail, camped in state and national parks and spent time from places as far north as Penticton, BC, to Mexico. But, most of our vacation time was at the Island.

My husband and I got together in 1972. Soon after, we purchased our own boat. Dad and Bob didn’t let “the kids” use their boat. We went through the same process as my parents, outfitting ourselves for trips to the Island. We stored the boat in the same shed at the marina, bought our own haul out permits and established our own routines. We could have the car loaded on a Friday afternoon, leave our house soon after my husband got home from work, just after 4, and be on the Island, cooking dinner by 6. The two of us loved going over there!

At some point, we began sharing the boat with my brother and his wife. As more of us were going over more often, we began adding structures. My sister and her family also began going over. We built a bunk house with two sides so that several families could easily share the space. We built a new outhouse. We build a new deck on the cabin. We had a storage locker in the bunk house so we could leave much of the equipment. My parents began using a generator. My husband and I still preferred ‘roughing’ it.

We spent a famous Thanksgiving there and invited my parents to come over with us. This was before we had a kiddo. At that point, we had two dogs to add to the gear. img_1122We cooked in a barrel wood stove as well as on a two burner gas stove. For Thanksgiving, we cooked game hens in the wood stove. It was a really wonderful, special day. My husband took my parents back to the Marina at the end of the day and came back over to the Island. During the evening, a storm blew in. A major storm. Our boat was tied up on a line between two sides of a cove. The wind was howling, the tide was extremely high and we worried. We went to look at the boat to see how it was faring. The wind was howling so loudly that we couldn’t even talk to each other. The water was so high it was over the cleat that held the line to the boat. Even if we had wanted to pull the boat closer, we couldn’t reach it. We finally went to bed, saying if the boat was there in the morning, well, we’d be able to leave…

Lo and behold, the boat was still tied between the two sides of the cove! img_1095The storm continued to rage and the waves were huge! But! It was daylight, and things look better in the day. We loaded up our gear and the dogs and made our way to and onto the boat. We left the Island, heading for the marina, which though far away, was visible to us. What normally would take 15 minutes or so, took well over an hour. The swells were 10 feet high. Our motor barely made headway. We hung toward the shore of another island and finally made it to the marina. My father was down on the dock, waiting for us! He had followed our movements with a telescope at home, then binoculars from the dock. I don’t think we were ever so glad to have him watching over us! You know, this was before cell phones, sometime in the late 70’s. We had certainly loved our simple, rustic Thanksgiving dinner, but vowed never to go over again that late in the fall. That was to be not only the first, but the last time we had Thanksgiving on the Island.