Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas memories

There's an awful lot of noteworthy events this month. How's Friday the 13th going for you? I hope you encounter no serious problems. Have you made plans to celebrate the Winter Solstice (Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere) a little more than a week away? I can find something at the American Swedish Institute and the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis. The wiccans have a public celebration but the local druids don't seem to have any announcements on-line. Christmas is only 12 days away. That means today we could start the Twelve Days of Christmas and finish on Christmas day as the yule log turns to embers.

Christmas tree ornament in silver
 Christmas tree ornament in silver       © harrington

With days as cloudy as today has been, it becomes a challenge to experience shorter days, as distinct from a never-ending twilight. To put this weather in perspective, I've recently started reading a book titled The Quiet Season, Remembering Country Winters. Trying to imagine living in this kind of weather with the only heat in the bedroom coming from the chimney makes me appreciate central heating no matter how romantic I think fireplaces and wood stoves may be. E.B White also mentions a wood burning stove in the kitchen in several of his essays. The pleasures of old -fashioned country living have been enhanced by indoor plumbing. On the other hand, I'm regressing and finding the pleasure of bread making and the taste and texture of home made bread greatly diminish the appeal of store bought sliced bread, although the russian rye from Cecil's definitely makes the cut (pun intended). I was reminiscing the other day and suddenly recalled my mother, when I was 5 or 6ish, waiting until Christmas Eve and then haggling with the sales person about the price of a tree that would be "worthless" in about 12 hours.

Christmas tree ornament in gold
Christmas tree ornament in gold   © harrington

I think this was when my father was still in graduate school after the war and money was tight. I also can recall a job I had while in high school, as the "night watchman" for a Christmas tree lot. The fact that these memories remain more clear than any present I ever received makes me wonder about the importance we've come to attach to getting a "bargain" on Black Friday which now, for some, starts on Thanksgiving. I have my doubts that, 20 or 30 years from now, there will be too many current children saying "remember that 60" HD plasma TV mom scored on Thanksgiving eve?" Although I've been know to be wrong once or twice before, it seems to me the best Christmas presents are wonderful memories. Sandra Castillo seems to share that thought.

Christmas, 1970

By Sandra M. Castillo 

We assemble the silver tree,
our translated lives,
its luminous branches,
numbered to fit into its body.
place its metallic roots
to decorate our first Christmas.
Mother finds herself
opening, closing the Red Cross box
she will carry into 1976
like an unwanted door prize,
a timepiece, a stubborn fact,
an emblem of exile measuring our days,
marked by the moment of our departure,
our lives no longer arranged.

Somewhere,
there is a photograph,
a Polaroid Mother cannot remember was ever taken:
I am sitting under Tia Tere’s Christmas tree,
her first apartment in this, our new world:
my sisters by my side,
I wear a white dress, black boots,
an eight-year-old’s resignation;
Mae and Mitzy, age four,
wear red and white snowflake sweaters and identical smiles,
on this, our first Christmas,
away from ourselves.

The future unreal, unmade,
Mother will cry into the new year
with Lidia and Emerito,
our elderly downstairs neighbors,
who realize what we are too young to understand:
Even a map cannot show you
the way back to a place
that no longer exists.

************************* Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.