Christmases Past and Present…

Several nights ago I spent a few hours lost in a blog I kept between 2004-2013. My goal was to find a poem I jotted down during the hustle-bustle of a Christmas season in a year whose date I could not remember. But it was the Christmas stories of years gone by that stole my attention and distracted me.

I scrolled through posts from the days leading up to Leslie’s wedding, to Christmases celebrated at my childhood home to Christmases with my mother in assisted living through Christmases at the nursing home, and finally Christmases without my mother. So much emotion. I realized how special the recording of pictures and words are to me.

Me, unwrapping a gift. I was 52… (2005)
My father and mother opening presents. My younger sister Leslie sits on the couch. This is the home where I grew up. (2005)

A year later (after the above pictures) my sweet mother had moved into assisted living and my father into a retirement complex. The move signaled the beginning of some very beautiful and very difficult years. Photos help me remember and smile. My parents have both passed away now, Mother in 2011 and Daddy in 2016. But for the memories…

December 25, 2006. From this Christmas and for the next 10, we cooked and transported Christmas dinner from our homes to theirs.

Which brings me to Christmas 2021, a Christmas which has come and gone too quickly. Many things were left undone, but it seems not to matter, so many memories were made. I took few people pictures this year and my family did not complain. I will miss the visual reminders in future years as the visuality transports me to the recesses of my memory. Instead of family pictures, I have recorded a few other thoughts and memories from Christmas 2021 to jog my mind in 2031.

Around Thanksgiving I purchased a small container of sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. While I have never had much luck with starter, I had ambitious dreams of sourdough bread and other Christmas goodies dancing through my head. As it turns out the starter is a prolific producer. Unfortunately, I am more fascinated with the process of feed and discard and less interested in the act of baking. So, I continue to feed and discard and maybe 2022 will inspire baking.

Sourdough starter is ever demanding of one’s time. I finally put it to sleep in the refrigerator before Christmas, now feeding the starter only once every week or so. Baking is one of those tasks left undone.

Early December I stumbled across “Christmas Chronicles” by Nigel Slater. Nigel is a long time English food writer, journalist and broadcaster in the UK, someone with whom I was previously unfamiliar. It is not the recipes that caught my attention (I am not much of a cook) but the almost lyrical writing that takes readers through crisp winter days, brief histories of Christmas traditions and the smell and taste of hearty, winter fare bubbling on the stove. I completed the 450-page book before Christmas and purchased a copy to give Leslie for Christmas.

Magical! I will read passages from this book year after year.

In “Christmas Chronicles”, Nigel wrote about his love for panettone. I think I tried it years ago and was not a fan. But the description of a slice of toasted panettone slathered in butter and served with coffee had me scrambling to an area market in search of one.

At 1st bite, John and I became big fans! The bread is heady with the smell of vanilla and toasts quickly.

Christmas cards are a tradition I love and hate! The number of Christmas cards I receive each year has been steadily dwindling such that this year I seriously considered giving up the tradition. I love receiving cards, especially cards that are filled with thoughtful, personal messages. The surest way to receive no cards is to stop sending cards, so I sent cards. I was mostly rewarded for my effort.

I did not enclose my usual newsy letter and hope to get back to that favorite tradition next year. It’s a nice way to think back through the memorable moments of the year. Some folks dislike the ubiquitous Christmas letter but I am not among their ranks..

Christmas card 2021

I am happy to report that Christmas flowers bloomed on cue this year…

Amaryllis blooms brightened the Christmas laden dining room. There, in the left middle of the photo are candles hand made by my grandmother, probably dating back to the late 60’s, very early 70’s.
Paperwhite blooms to be anticipated in mid-winter.
A pink cactus that was a gift from my sister several years ago.
This red cactus, purchased from Kroger about 5 years ago, was just a little sprout. It is healthy and growing!
My oldest cactus was purchased in 2010 at a nursery near my mother’s nursing home. The plant sat in her room during that Christmas of 2010, her last. The cactus has had better years but is still blooming and bringing cheer.

One of the pleasures John and I experience each year when decorating the tree is unwrapping our ever expanding collection of Christmas decorations from travels near and far. We nostalgically talk about our favorite trips and possible trips to come.

Vernazza, Italy (Cinque Terre)
Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City
Fairbanks, Alaska
Yule Lads of Iceland, Reykjavik
Wengen, Switzerland
Salzburg, Austria from the shop “Christmas in Salzburg” or as we call it “the egg shop.”
Grand Tetons and the Snake River
Firenze, Italy (Florence)

Our Christmas tree came from a tree farm in Maggie Valley, NC. We usually drive “over the mountain” for tree hunting a day or so after Thanksgiving. The day is as much about the journey to Maggie Valley as selecting just the right tree for the corner of our living room. The years we travel in December, the tree is artificial.

Our tree at Mchaffey Tree Farm
Christmas tree 2021 with it’s delicious fragrance.

Oh and this little Christmas face, my only “people picture for 2021, our sweet granddaughter.

Laurel, 8 months old. And yes, she stuck the bow on her forehead.

I will close out Christmas 2021 with the Christmas poem I wrote and posted in an old blog on December 19, 2004, that which started my journey and this post about Christmases Past and Present:

‘Twas the week before Christmas…

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house,
Lots of dust balls were stirring cause I gave them a rouse.
The holiday goodies have been prepared with great care,
In anticipation of Christmas and fond memories to share.

And I and my father took Saturday to shop
Oh, the treasures we purchased; it was so hard to stop.
For Carol, for Leslie, I have found some good stuff,
But for Mother and Daddy, I don’t have enough.

Now the temperature on Sunday is icy and cold,
With snow flurries flying, the winds are quite bold.
But inside my home I am cozy and warm,
As I write my last card, I will ride out the storm.

So hurry up Santa, I can hardly wait,
The best Christmas of all, I am sure this will rate.
And I close with a wish to my family and friends,
To those near and those far, my best wishes I send.

This poem is over and soon out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

This entry was posted in Books, Christmas, Family, Flowers, Life, Thoughts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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