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Friday, December 29, 2017

"So This is Christmas"

"And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
        The old and the young."

                                      lyrics by Peter Hollens, 2nd verse

Sundog to the right of the sun visible--December 2014,
near Island Lake, Minnesota
No blizzards this Christmas, no snowmen, nor any snow at all.  No ice skating, sliding or dogsled races. No “White Christmas.”  No Sun dogs on a cold December morning.  No white-outs, dangerous windchill, nor school closures.  No polar fleece, thermal underwear, boots, wool hats and scarves. 
Beach at Jolly Harbour, Antigua
No parkas, snow tires, nor ice scrapers.  No red noses, runny noses or blowing noses.  No smell of freshly cut evergreens, a fire that crackles and spits out pockets of pitch. No hot apple cider. Sigh….I miss Minnesota at Christmas time.
Karen picked up dinghy driving quickly

On Christmas Day, the three of us, Carl, his daughter, Karen visiting from the Peace Corps in Colombia and I, set off in the dinghy. We zipped across the water to a beach where we set up a yellow half-moon pop-up tent against the searing sun, spread out the towels and found a bit of shade for the cold drinks. People we met on the way there smiled and said “Merry Christmas” to which we replied in kind. 
Caribbean "Snowman"

The wind was hot and the water refreshing.  I found the remains of a sand man near the surf, and gave him Carl’s shoes, stones for eyes and a stick nose to match his arms and christened him my Caribbean “Snowman.”  It would have to do. 

My family, circa 1960.  Alvin, Vivian, me, Mavis, BevAnn,
Mary Lou, Betty Jean, Vernice, Ford, Grandma Brevig

In spite of having entered my seventh decade, there is something about this season that makes me revisit vivid memories of Christmases long ago.  I have within me the “tuner” to find the Christmas Eve oyster stew with crackers—a special supper for two important reasons; the fare was an uncommon treat and it would be shared after milking cows, rather than before when supper was normally eaten; the ritual oyster stew that must be eaten before the gifts under the tree could be touched.  
Mavis, home for a visit 

From the earliest time I can remember, Christmas was associated with one or more of my five sisters and my brother coming home.  When I was four, it was my eldest sister for whom we waited to come home.  The next Christmas, it was two sisters that returned home, and so on each year until all six had grown up and left home, thereby, necessitating their triumphant return to the family farm for Christmas.  

Snowman, built by my brother,
Ford and me

And triumphant it would always seem to me.  Triumphant because I wanted them to come home, and they did!  I remember a bit of sadness for my classmates that did not have the excitement of waiting for those older brothers and sisters to return on Christmas Eve. I supposed that they had happy Christmases as well, but how could they be as wonderful as family members returning home?
The last time our blended family was all together at Christmas
time, at an Ice Bar north of Duluth, MN.

Some people said that I was a spoiled child, and I suppose I may have been. They were talking about the gifts that my brother and sisters would bring for me.  Yes, I know that they were in a bit of a contest to outdo each other for the best Christmas gifts for the baby.  I know that now.  And I remember my eyes getting bigger and bigger with each gift.  Enormous packages containing huge stuffed animals (how did they fit on the airplane?) or building sets.  But the best, the very best thing was that they all came home.  Through the snow and the ice, they came.  We (Mom, Dad and I) fretted about a blizzard that could ruin things but it never did that I can recall.  They all came back.  And that was always the best Christmas gift of all.  
Carl with his daughter, Karen 

Perhaps that is what I missed the most about Christmas this year.  The adversity to be overcome in order to be together.  There is something about knowing that the house/boat guests are going through grave challenges to get to us by Christmas.  
Karen sitting on the transom of the boat

In actuality, Karen did have to undergo a long day of flying, waiting, and then flying some more — from Cartagena, Colombia to Panama City, Panama to San Juan, Puerto Rico and then to Antigua.  The adversities included uncertain airlines and airports damaged by hurricane.  But she did make it to us, and in plenty of time for Christmas.  And that was the best part!  
Christmas 2016, Vero Beach, FL with 3 of our children,
plus Brian's fiancee

Our other three children we spoke to on the telephone.  We wished them a Merry Christmas.  We told them we miss them and that we love them.  That was the best we could do this year.  
Carl with his mom, Karen

And so we ate some Christmas lasagna, we raised a toast to Carl’s mom, who left this world earlier in December, and we shared a few fond memories of her life. Many more of those memories will be talked about and many more toasts will be made in June when we gather in Memphis for a Celebration of her Life.  She, who came through much adversity to get to the beautiful age of 96.  
Aebleskiver, Danish donuts, a tradition honoring
Karen's Danish heritage

May you keep only the best memories of all the yesterdays and of those you love and have loved.  May this season bring the best that it can bring, with or without ice and snow. 
"A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fears"

1 comment:

Deb said...

Carl so sorry to hear about your mom. Our thoughts are with you.

SV Kintala