Monday, November 25, 2019

Christmas Memories, Part 1

After a long hiatus, I've decided to try blogging again. I'm not sure how many people are doing this any more other than the ones who monetize it and make it a full-time job, but it's a good way for me to do some writing.

As we're already making plans for Advent and Christmas celebrations, I'm beginning with a few Christmas memories, which may at least interest my family (and maybe spur a few comments from them!)

The first Christmas memories I have are not my own; they are memories my mother shared with me. During her growing-up years, her family lived first on the Fisher Road and later on the Millay Road in Bowdoinham. Except for her father's sister, Aunt Maude, and her husband Charles James, most of their relatives lived far away. Grammie's sister Octavia (Aunt Ottie) and her husband and children lived in Portland, no great distance today, but in the 20s, 30s and during World War II, not a trip lightly undertaken. So gifts would arrive from Grammie's parents in Calais and perhaps other relatives as well. Mama said that these gifts would have to be kept in their postal wrappings under the tree until Christmas morning -- prolonging the anticipation as layers of wrapping were taken off. There was also a visit from Santa Claus, and at least once, Grampie went out and threw snowballs onto the roof to make the children think that Santa's reindeer had landed!

I don't remember my father ever recalling his childhood Christmases. He always went a bit overboard at Christmas, but I don't know whether that was a holdover from his own childhood or a reaction to a perceived scarcity.

Here's a photo from one of my early Christmases. I was 3 1/2 and my brother Stephen was creeping up on 10 months at Fort Hancock in Sandy Hook, NJ in 1951. I don't remember what was in those big boxes, but I'm sure it was a merry Christmas.

If later experience is any guide, we did not hang fancy Christmassy stockings, rather, my father's olive drab Army socks -- extra long calves to go under combat boots. They certainly held a lot, including the traditional orange or tangerine in the toe.
The following Christmas was quite different. Our family had grown from 2 children to 4 with the birth of my twin brother and sister, Peter and Pamela, a couple of months before. Mama, I, Stephen, Peter and Pamela were living in the little house my parents built before Daddy was called up for the Korean War, just a bit up the road from Grammie and Grampie's house and farm. Uncles Dick and Carl and aunt Kate were still at home, which was a big help to my mother as my father was in either Japan or Korea at that time. (He was first sent to Japan and we were expecting to follow him, but then his unit went to Korea -- I'm not sure of the timing.) Our house was pretty basic at that time -- I am pretty sure we may not have had running water, so my mother brought water from our neighbor's well across the road. I remember taking baths in a tin washtub -- and of course we had chamber pots and an outhouse in the shed. Here's a photo of our house in 1952, shortly before my father was deployed -- they were doing some work as you can see.
And here's a photo of Christmas 1952 with me and Stephen. 
My other memory of that Christmas was a visit from St. Nicholas -- Santa Claus -- live and in person! We were gathered with some other family members in the living room and someone knocked at the window. It was Santa!* I am sorry to say that I was frightened and hid behind a chair. Stephen, however, enjoyed the "visit" and laughed happily. 
* Later exploration has decided that it was either my uncle Ellis Moore or his half-brother Hank Nugent who dressed up as Santa. 
More memories to come -- and some will even have color photos!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Five: Recommendation Edition

revkjarla at RevGalBlogPals posts:
"So, it's the time of year I get inundated with requests for recommendations for students that are looking to be camp counselors.  So in honor of camp counselors everywhere, today's Friday Five is the Recommendation edition  (which has nothing to do with camp or summer or anything--work with me, it's late....)"

1.   Recommend a favorite worship resource or devotional book. 

I move around a bit and don't normally need worship resources since I'm a layperson. I keep coming back to Phyllis Tickle's three books on praying the hours, though.

2.   Recommend a blog that you like to read that you think others might find enjoyable.
Here's one you probably don't know: Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else. Old vinyl records, including Sunday Morning Gospel -- the blogger is an Episcopalian with a secret love for old time gospel groups.
3.   Recommend a fiction book that you think people might like.
Plainsong by Deborah Grabien. A different take on the Jesus story that you may love or hate, but which will give you a lot to ponder. She's a good writer, too, who also writes some great music-themed mysteries.
4.   Recommend a favorite recipe website.   O.k., if you aren't into cooking or food, then just recommend a random website that you find useful, hilarious, mind numbing or thought provoking. 
Boringly enough, I generally use when I need to remember how to make something or come up with a way to use ingredients on hand -- that feature is quite useful.
5.  And for the last recommendation--it's bloggers' choice!  Make a recommendation for anything!
Sisterfilms and I really enjoyed a made-for-BBCTV movie called Nativity! with Martin Freeman. An English schoolteacher must direct the school Nativity play and tells people his old girlfriend is coming back from LA to film it. Hijinks ensue, and the film is both funny and inspiring. Good one to watch when you're planning next year's Christmas pageant.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Apologies and a Christmas Carol Booklet for you!

I can't even explain what happened, I just ran out of steam. However, as a consolation prize, my sister-in-law asked me to share her compiled booklet of favorite old Christmas carols, complete with links to some nice renditions of them to be found on the Internet. It's a PDF file so should be easily readable by anyone. Here it is:  I hope it works! We'll be singing from this carol book at my niece's birthday caroling party tonight.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime/Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 4

Today is St. Barbara’s Day, which is celebrated (according to Mimi Sheraton’s wonderful Christmas cookbook, Visions of Sugarplums) in the Levant by Christian Syrians, Lebanese, etc. and also in German-speaking countries. Look back to my post of December 4, 2008 for more information about St. Barbara and tonight’s story and song. I’m really glad I have a backlog of recorded stories to use because I have a dreadful cold and can’t go two minutes without coughing!
Tonight’s story, Schnitzle, Schnotzle, and Schnootzle, is from The Long Christmas, a book of tales collected and told by Ruth Sawyer, the master storyteller and writer.
ruth sawyer
Her book, The Way of the Storyteller, way of the storyteller
is still a great manual of instruction and inspiration for anyone who wants to be a storyteller. She was also the mother-in-law of Robert McCloskey,
of Blueberries for Sal fame. vlueverriees (I’m supposed to be writing about Holiday Foods today but I used up all my thoughts on the subject last year. We had blueberry pie at Thanksgiving, so does this count?)
The song for tonight, to go with the story from the Austrian Tyrol, is “Aba Heidschi Bumbeidschi,” a rather eerie lullaby sung in the Austrian dialect by the Konrad Plaickner Chorus and Orchestra. The words of this lovely song are so disturbing that many modern singers (Nina Simone, for one) have recorded it with changed words.
Since I did get a request from a Mac user, I’ll post links to individual files as well as the zipped files which I’ve compressed using the WinZip program. Be aware that the Mac-compatible (I hope) files will take longer to download since they are not compressed.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories/Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime: December 3

One of our Christmas trees this year will be decorated with handmade ornaments. Some have been made by us, some by friends and family members, and some were bought at church Christmas fairs or brought as gifts from foreign lands. I don’t remember having homemade ornaments on my childhood trees, although my siblings and I may well have made some in school or Sunday school. Onkel Hankie Pants’ family at least had the Danish paper hearts,Danish paper heart basket
and in later years we learned to make these and various other ornaments at West Denmark Family Camp.
Tonight’s story is more about the absence of ornaments: The Tree That Didn’t Get Trimmed by Christopher Morley. It seems to have been published first in a book of essays, later as a stand-alone book, and on GoogleBooks I found it in an issue of Boys’ Life from the mid-50s. Morley was “a man of letters” who did not confine himself to one format. His first novels, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop,became cult classics among a certain bookish crew; a later novel, Kitty Foyle, was made into a movie. Morley also was one of the first judges for the Book-of-The-Month Club and edited two editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations; he was a regular contributor to the Saturday Review of Literature, a magazine with which I whiled away many hours while I should have been studying. In Nassau County, New York, there is a park named for him where his “writing cabin,” The Knothole, is preserved.
The songs are a Norwegian song to the Christmas tree, Sang til Juletraeet, by Mike & Else Sevig, and a humorous song, Revenge of the Christmas Tree, by Erik Darling.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories/Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime: December 2

Once again, I find I have nothing further to report on the writing prompt for today in the Geneabloggers’ Advent Calendar: Holiday Foods. Since I went on and on about them last December, you should look there if you want to know about some of our food traditions. Or, you could listen to tonight’s story, Robert P. T. Coffin’s Christmas in Maine.  Robert Peter Tristram Coffin is one of four literary figures memorialized in the sidewalks of our town, and the only one who is a native of this area (the others, who all sojourned here for just a few years, being Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.)
Artwalk Coffin300
Coffin not only grew up on a farm in Harpswell, he stayed around as a professor at Bowdoin College, while also writing Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry as well as memoirs and other works. I wrote more about Coffin in the blog for December 21, 2008. 
I chose the song “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” as sung by the BBC Welsh Chorus to accompany this night’s reading because it sounded to me like something the Coffins might have sung on their sleighride. According to both William Studwell in his useful The Christmas Carol Reader and Walter Ehret and George K. Evans in The International Book of Christmas Carols, the melody dates from at least the 18th century and probably earlier; the words are probably 18th century and may have originated with the London Waits, carolsingers of the time.  This carol is even mentioned in DIckens’ A Christmas Carol when Scrooge nearly assaults a carolsinger who dares to serenade him.
The recorded introduction was for 2006 when Sisterfilms was still living in City of Lakes and was flying out to be with us for Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories/Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime: December 1

Today’s writing prompt for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories is the Christmas Tree. Now, I think I said just about everything I can recall about our Christmas trees last year, on December 2. So rather than repost, I’ll just send you there.
We have two Christmas trees at our house this year. One is the traditional balsam fir balsam and the other, as best we can determine, is a hemlock (more on this anon.) hemlock
Sisterfilms has just unformed us that what she’d really like is a Scotch or
scotch pine
Norway pine with long needles. norway pine
Perhaps next year our woods can at least provide a white pine.
white pine
For tonight’s story, I had several Christmas tree stories to choose from; I picked one of the oldest, The Peterkins’ Christmas Tree by Lucretia P. Hale. Here’s the book it comes from – one of the Junior Deluxe Editions I used to get in the mail. I’ve had this book for about 55 years!
peterkin papers
Lucretia Peabody Hale came from old Boston stock, and literary stock at that. Her father, Nathan Hale (named for his famous Revolutionary uncle) was an editor, and her mother an author. One of her many siblings was Edward Everett Hale, author of The Man without a Country, which I remember being assigned to read in junior high. And on her mother’s side, Lucretia could count as a relative the orator Edward Everett, now famous chiefly for being the “main” and lengthy speaker on the occasion when Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address.
Lucretia, who was born in 1820 and died in 1900, saw the introduction of the Christmas tree into New England. In Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia, Christmas trees were a long tradition by the 19th century, when Ernst Anschutz wrote some new words to an old tune, O Tannenbaum. I’ve selected a version by the Wiener S√§ngerknaben (The Vienna Boys’ Choir). Although Tannenbaum means “Fir Tree,” this is where we get back to our hemlock, for Maine’s own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, apparently in the throes of unrequited love, wrote a non-Christmas poem, The Hemlock Tree, which is obviously meant to be sung to the Tannenbaum melody.