O, Tannenbaum and Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday we took down the Christmas tree.   It has always been a tradition to take it down on New Year’s Day—a tradition that extends from my childhood.   We always felt sad when we were children to see the decorations disappear.  To dull the melancholy that came with the end of the holidays, my mother would put the tree out by the incinerator (now banned because it pollutes the air).  We would decorate the tree’s branches with cubes of dried bread strung on thread.  That did help us feel better.  My sister and I never knew what happened to the tree after our bread cube ritual because we were swept back into the school routine.  It was probably cut into pieces and burned.  The smoke from hundreds of incinerators is one of my memories from childhood that my children never experienced.

Christmas Tree Fort 1958 -- Holly Hills, Arapahoe Country, Colorado

One year when I was still in elementary school, all of us in the neighborhood gathered up our discarded trees and made a Christmas tree fort.  You can tell it was a warm day because we are all in tee shirts.  What a scraggly bunch we were!  I guess we were beyond the bread cube strings by that time.

My entire family now owns pre-lighted Christmas trees.   Oh, we modern city dwellers!  We don’t have to worry about taking our trees to a local Christmas tree dumpsite where it will be mulched into ground cover for the city or county gardens.  Instead, we take the ornaments off, pull the tree apart, fold the branches up and wrap them with the enclosed pipe-cleaner style wires.  These we stack back in the box and store them in our crawl space.  Easy-peasy!   By the time the ornaments and other traditional items are wrapped and put in boxes for storage and the house is vacuumed and dusted, we are ready for a new year.  It feels good to be cleaned up, but the house seems a little empty and dull now.  Hanging the new calendar does help a bit.

Missing the brightly lighted tree, the angels, Santa Claus, elves and nativity scenes is undoubtedly what welcoming Christmas back in December is all about.   If the holiday season lasted all year, it would soon fade into the background!

There were many debates this year about the crassness of Christmas shopping and shoppers, the mixing of the religious with the secular, keeping Christ in Christmas and so on.  Whatever the arguments, the beginning of winter, the changing of calendars and the singing of Auld Lang Syne return every year.

Kitchen calendar

Cat Calendar

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I’m Remembering A Sunny Christmas: Redux

English: A Christmas tree lit and decorated, s...

Image via Wikipedia

Today I’m reposting a blog entry from last year.  It was one of my early posts, but I think it bears repeating because I didn’t have many followers back thenThis year we had a sunny Christmas too, but it was also a white Christmas—that is, there was significant snow on the ground.  Our Christmas was different this year for other reasons as well.  Our grandson Andrew was sick with the stomach flu for several days, including Christmas Eve.  My daughter, Julianne, did not know how this was all going to turn out and didn’t want to expose us to the lingering germs.  She texted us about 9:30 p.m. on the 24th with the news that Christmas was off for the following day.

 As it turned out, we are having our feast and gift exchange today, December 27th, with everyone well  and my other daughter and her family back from Omaha and able to join in all the fun.  We will have an extended Christmas season in 2011.  That’s fine with us!

Andrew, Christmas Day 2011, with new skateboard

REPOST: I’m Remembering A Sunny Christmas (2010)

Andrew skateboarding on a snowy Xmas day 2011

 On this sunny day with no snow on the ground, we still enjoy Christmas.  Everyone thinks Colorado is perpetually covered in snow, but that isn’t true in Denver.  Some years, maybe–but I don’t have nostalgic memories of snowy Christmas days from my childhood.  Yes, I am a Denver native and I grew up here!

The persistent rumor that Denver is like the mountains isn’t true.  We are high, dry and sunny most of the time.  The Christmas days I remember when I was a child include running around outside without a coat, wondering what to do with the sled stored in the garage.

When I was a child, we spent Christmas time driving to different people’s houses to visit, admiring the gifts spread under the tree and eating tasty snacks.  When we were young we enjoyed a big dinner with all the old relatives coming over.  Eventually they didn’t travel, so we went to them on Christmas Eve day.

When I had young children at home, my parents came to our house.  My daughters and stepsons would watch out the window until they arrived, then jump up and fly out the door, crying, “Grandma, Grandpa!”

We unwrapped gifts for hours it seemed, since there were eight people sitting around the family room.  No ripping into gifts for us!  Everyone watched the person opening the gift, waiting for that pleased look of happiness and surprise.  The wrappings were neatly disposed of, the presents set in each family member’s personal pile.  Then the next person would unwrap.  The youngest person in the family always handed out the gifts.

Some years my mother brought the turkey, all cooked and cut up, while I prepared everything else.  I usually concocted a fancy dessert.  My specialty was Baked Alaska, created several days ahead of time, with the finishing touches done just before eating,

After we finished dinner, my parents and I would sit around the table and talk. The kids would drift away to play, but mother, dad and I would reminisce about the old days.  The candles would burn down to stubs, leaving wax on the tablecloth.   The short winter day dimmed to dusk.  This ritual is what I miss most at Christmas, especially since both my parents died around Christmas time, many years ago.

Christmas is nostalgic for many folks.  Maybe that hint of nostalgia makes the holidays that much richer.   A few tears for those who are gone–mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, children…

They exist in other places and times, maybe in another city or state or country.  They may be only a memory, their bones in a grave under a headstone,  or their ashes blown away by the wind.  However, for as long as we live,  they are the beloved wisps of memory around our Christmas tree.

I have worked for years on a poem about the losses time brings.  I end  my 2010 Christmas thoughts with this work, dedicated to my parents.

Mary Elizabeth Rockfield Harris                 16 Sep 1915-4 Jan 1990

Roy David Harris                                  25 Aug 1911-14 Dec 1997

THERE WILL NEVER BE AGAIN

“sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt”

“these are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart”

Virgil, The Aeneid

Little did I know of time,

when wishing for tomorrows,

these moments I was living in

would never be again.

There would never be again an

hour when growing shadows

dimmed every dear face

gathered near, the candles

weeping their demise

upon  the white linen.

There would never be again a

time when sunlight streaked the

faded carpet, while you sat beside

me, dust motes between us

swirling to the rhythm of our words.

The  hope of our tomorrows lost,

too soon today becoming yesterday;

Sunt lacrimae rerum–

these are tears for all those things

that will never be again.

©2010 M. J.

The Code of the West

My family in 1925 in the mountain community of Indian Hills, outside of Denver. They shared a cabin there when they weren't in their Denver homes.

Last week I finally got my desk sorted–again, although it isn’t cleaned yet.  Eraser shreds, dust from the open windows, crumbs, cat hair, cottonwood fluff, bits of yarn, all still linger here.  What really bothered me was the stacks of paper everywhere–print outs, receipts, folders that I kept moving from place to place.  After the garage sale bust of last weekend–never again!–there was even more stuff to be sorted, stored or given away.   All this organization took time, but it was purging!  Now I know where everything is again as well as what needs to be accomplished.
One benefit was finding a folder where I stuffed newspaper clippings that I wanted to think about.  One of them was a profile about the granddaughter of a Colorado pioneer family who had just turned 100.  She was a truly amazing woman…I say was, because just the day before I had read her obituary in the newspaper.  She died at 101.  Synchronicity!  Another article I found inspired the title of this blog posting.

The Code of the West has inspired a curriculum unit developed by the Ann Moore of Cherry Creek High School and is available from the Cherry Creek School District, a suburban district in the Denver Metro area where my children and one son-in-law attended school, my grandchildren attend now and my other son-in-law teaches.  The curriculum is titled, “Making a Difference: Cowboy Ethics in the Classroom.”  It is intended for middle school and high school students.

The key principles are good for life on the range, in business and on Wall Street.  After watching several documentaries about the recent financial collapse around the world, including the Bernie Madoff debacle, maybe the code has worldwide applications!   See what you think.  It’s very simple:

  • Live each day with courage
  • Take pride in your work
  • Always finish what you start
  • Do what has to be done
  • Be tough but fair
  • When you make a promise, keep it
  • Ride for the brand
  • Talk less and say more
  • Remember that some things aren’t for sale
  • Know where to draw the line

Happy trails to you!

I’m Remembering A Sunny Christmas

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On this sunny day with no snow on the ground, we still enjoy Christmas.  Everyone thinks Colorado is perpetually covered in snow, but that isn’t true in Denver.  Some years, maybe–but I don’t have nostalgic memories of snowy Christmas days from my childhood.  Yes, I am a Denver native and I grew up here!

The persistent rumor that Denver is like the mountains isn’t true.  We are high, dry and sunny most of the time.  The Christmas days I remember when I was a child include running around outside without a coat, wondering what to do with the sled stored in the garage.

When I was a child, we spent Christmas time driving to different people’s houses to visit, admiring the gifts spread under the tree and eating tasty snacks.  When we were young we enjoyed a big dinner with all the old relatives coming over.  Eventually they didn’t travel, so we went to them on Christmas Eve day.

When I had young children at home, my parents came to our house.  My daughters and stepsons would watch out the window until they arrived, then jump up and fly out the door, crying, “Grandma, Grandpa!”

We unwrapped gifts for hours it seemed, since there were eight people sitting around the family room.  No ripping into gifts for us!  Everyone watched the person opening the gift, waiting for that pleased look of happiness and surprise.  The wrappings were neatly disposed of, the presents set in each family member’s personal pile.  Then the next person would unwrap.  The youngest person in the family always handed out the gifts.

Some years my mother brought the turkey, all cooked and cut up, while I prepared everything else.  I usually concocted a fancy dessert.  My specialty was Baked Alaska, created several days ahead of time, with the finishing touches done just before eating,

After we finished dinner, my parents and I would sit around the table and talk. The kids would drift away to play, but mother, dad and I would reminisce about the old days.  The candles would burn down to stubs, leaving wax on the tablecloth.   The short winter day dimmed to dusk.  This ritual is what I miss most at Christmas, especially since both my parents died around Christmas time, many years ago.

Christmas is nostalgic for many folks.  Maybe that hint of nostalgia makes the holidays that much richer.   A few tears for those who are gone–mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, children…

They exist in other places and times, maybe in another city or state or country.  They may be only a memory, their bones in a grave under a headstone,  or their ashes blown away by the wind.  However, for as long as we live,  they are the beloved wisps of memory around our Christmas tree.

I have worked for years on a poem about the losses time brings.  I end  my 2010 Christmas thoughts  with this work, dedicated to my parents.

Mary Elizabeth Rockfield Harris        16 Sep 1915-4 Jan 1990

Roy David Harris                                  25 Aug 1911-14 Dec 1997

THERE WILL NEVER BE AGAIN

“sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt”

“these are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart”

Virgil, The Aeneid

Little did I know of time,

when wishing for tomorrows,

these moments I was living in

would never be again.

 

There would never be again an

hour when growing shadows

dimmed every dear face

gathered near, the candles

weeping their demise

upon  the white linen.

There would never be again a

time when sunlight streaked the

faded carpet, while you sat beside

me, dust motes between us

swirling to the rhythm of our words.

The  hope of our tomorrows lost,

too soon today becoming yesterday;

Sunt lacrimae rerum–

these are tears for all those things

that will never be again.

©2010 M. J. Oliver

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