Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Holidays

New England Winter Scene, 1861
Currier & Ives
(Source)
The idyllic scene above stands in sharp contrast to what was happening further south at that time. See the date of the print? My paternal great-grandfather and a maternal great granduncle both wore the blue of the North in that year, as near as I can recall from the tales heard around the table when I was young. (Also my brother and his son, The Olde Vermonter and The Young Vermonter have done a bit of research in that area as well.)

At any rate, when I was young the holidays were a magical time, even though there was a war already festering and threatening to get bigger in a far off Asian land. But we were sheltered from all that, there was no 24-hour news cycle which had to be filled, so the things that were important to the adults were reported on, I remember very little national news, perhaps a half hour in the evening, that was it.

The holidays were about family really. We would gather, eat too much, drink too much (well, the men in the family did), and talk. While the adults talked, sometimes they did so over a card game, my brothers and I would play outside, try to snatch some candy or pie when no one was looking, and generally enjoy ourselves. We were not only allowed to be children, we were expected to be children.

I know that not all families led such an idyllic existence. For many the holidays were just another day where they had little and had to struggle for that. Many had to struggle against prejudice and poverty, often those two would go hand in hand.

But the beauty of this nation, is the idea that everyone can be a success, no matter what background they come from, what their skin color is, and what religion they follow. Many have struggled to make that idea a reality, though there are those who would turn us against each other for their own evil purposes.

As we go into the holidays, erase prejudice wherever you can, be kind and loving to your fellows as you go about your daily activities. Most importantly, ignore those who claim to "know what's best" for all of us. They would divide us, to conquer us. Ignore them for they have no moral compass, no ideas of their own, and they have no souls. They would drag us down into a pit of servitude. Damn them, for all eternity.

Live. Love. Let live.

Peace to you all on this November Sunday.



36 comments:

  1. Those are good memories, Sarge. The past is a magical place where they did everything different than we do now...

    We would gather at grandma's and grandpa's house outside of Mangum. He had a WW1 barracks stove for heat in the middle room. Even had a coal pile out back. We'd sleep in that room, and the fire in the air vents ooked like eyes... That old house was something else again, and I really miss it. It smelled of dust, sour dish rags, and gun oil in my mind.... When we were there, we were free, and we felt it.

    We'd play in the barn, run down to the shelter belt and throw bodarc apples (bois d'arc). All the kin on mom's side would come over to eat, swap lies, and play 42. The click of dominoes still thrills me. Uncle Grady would tickle me till my lungs would bust... Aunt Pat would show us her removable finger...

    At the other grandmother's house, it was a silver foil tree, with the rotating light (don't even get close to that!!) White carpets, white furniture, and a bitter old lady. We'd throw grass burrs on each other from boredom over there. But I wish I could go back and visit sometimes...

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    1. I was fortunate in not having any relatives like that, we were a casual bunch as I recall. Everything was neat and clean but lived in.

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  2. Remembering those evergreens went up right after Thanksgiving and came down on New Years. Ya STxAR those newfangled alummi....alunim....metal trees were around as were those colored rotating lights, never thought they were the equal of the real thing. Good rule of thumb..... treat others like you'd want to be treated. Hey Sarge, three out of four of my grandparents were born in Europe and that fourth grandparent, her parents were born there so I'm a relative newcomer eh?

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    1. Only one grandparent born outside the US (Scotland, I won't call it Europe because technically it ain't). No Mayflower ancestors but there is rumor of an ancestor who was native to the continent.

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    2. You probably have a better claim on something than someone in the news lately. Especially if you've got some French-Canadian in ya.

      Most recent arrival in my family was my great-grandfather on my father's mother's side. Else, one way or another, tree goes back to longterm residence on this side of the world. Which matters not. As it is one's accomplishments, not one's breeding, that truly matters, or should.

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    3. Grandmother had a hard life. Her dad had about forty names (depending on where he was, shifty as all get out), and left her to a convent for schooling. As a non-catholic, she got some rough handling. The family was strange. I never could figure how folks that grew up dirt poor in the dust bowl turned into such snotty people. My superintendent uncle, would drive over to visit, then sit in his car and talk through the window, then drive away without ever getting out. I really have no idea.... They were all a bit...... pinned off kilter.

      Most of the kin on that side were in education (3 uncles and an aunt) and all were a tad snooty... Dad was a Texas Peace Officer, another Uncle was OK Highway Patrol, and another Uncle was a wannabe musician/alcohol sponge. Oh, and an uncle that made helicopters in Fort Worth. We (just my dad and his family) were treated like a step-kid's family. (I never figured out what caused it) It was uncomfortable to say the least, and down right awful most of the time.

      Mom's side was polar opposite. Everyone was a rancher. We kids were on our own recognizance. We ran all over that part of the world and never got in trouble. Just a pile of fun and freedom south of the county seat... It was heaven.... At times, as I wake up, I'm back there for a second before I open my eyes.... That is the definition of bittersweet....

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    4. STxAR - Some families just have an odd streak, non-Catholic sent to school in a convent? That had to have been rough.

      Your mom's side sound like salt of the Earth types.

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  3. I don't remember visiting family at Christmas. We may have, but being Air Force Brats, and 4 of us kids, it just may not have been logistically and fiscally feasible. I do remember Grandparents and an Aunt, (She was/is still my favorite) coming to visit. However, I do remember the lengths Mom went to make Christmas memorable. They were considerable. I also remember helping her prepare and cook the meals. Which may be why I'm the cook in the house now. Mrs J does a fine job, but I just enjoy it, so do most of it. I too wish I could go back....

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    1. My kids had much the same experience as you. All three were naval officers but began life as Air Force Brats.

      Christmas was a big deal for our little unit, The Missus Herself did it on a grand scale when the kids were young.

      For a while I did the Thanksgiving cooking, nothing big or fancy, until the year I burned the mashed potatoes. Hung up my spatula after that.

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    2. I inherited the gift of breadmaking from helping my mother make Christmas breads.

      As to actual cooking, it took Mrs. Andrew to teach me how to cook. She trained me so well I can do the 'just this amount' and 'looks about right' method of cooking and everything turns out good, much to my waistline's chagrin.

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    3. TLAR is a scientific term. I use it all the time in wood, metal fab, etc....

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    4. I used to make a mean pumpkin bread. My problem is that I want the entire kitchen when other things need to be prepared as well.

      Don't do it any more as nuts don't like me, not an allergy thing, a diverticulitis thing.

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    5. As my woodworking experience continuously shows me...TLAR is always 1/4" too short. "Measure twice, cut once" is being changed to "Measure 5 times, cut twice". But....Hey! I've got a lot of scrap wood around, just in case I need it!

      So...I've got that going for me...which is nice. Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga Y'all!

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    6. My paternal grandmother used that system well, her baking (all of it using TLAR) was unbelievably good!

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    7. Juvat - Measure 85 times, put off cutting until I've reworked the numbers and...

      "What's that honey, you hired a guy to do that? Sounds good."

      Takes me forever to do carpentry, probably why we "have a guy."

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    8. You can always make pumpkin bread without nuts. After all, you're nuts enough already...

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    9. Juvat, I just got a 24" throat scroll saw, and I bought some spiral blades for it, which will cut in any direction. That means I can ignore even the most basic safety rules!

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    10. Beans - I could but it ain't the same.

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    11. Badgers and power tools, the mind reels...

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  4. Spent the late 1950's in Steamboat Springs, CO. The Lions Club organized a roaming Christmas Tree and went from house to house passing out candy and popcorn balls (population then was 2,000) dressed in Santa costumes. Many households offered the Santas "antifreeze". By the end of the evening, some of the Lions could no longer roar.
    https://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/roving-tree-to-make-70th-trip-in-routt-county/

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    1. What an awesome tradition. I love thing like that, the best of small town America.

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  5. Holidays were interesting in the Bean's Family Cabin, wherever we were. Thanksgiving on base was usually the family, the two living grands, and a flock of unattached personnel from dad's connections. Kwajalein was the same, without the grands, but with family-hungry detached and unattached personnel. Once we hit the Beach (Satellite Beach, that is) after dad's retirement, it evolved into a few friends of the parents and the last freedom before mom's mom came for a month.

    Christmas, on the other hand, was... different. Until Kwajalein, tree upping was very traditional, go to a live lot 2-3 days before Christmas, cut a tree, drag it home, hang it upside down and shake all the dead things out of it, then decorate Christmas Eve, tree comes down on the Epiphany. At Kwaj family acquired first artificial tree, so put-up date started sliding further and further closer to the beginning of December. I think that tree finally died sometime in the 2000's. Always a big dinner with a turkey stuffed with dirty rice and roasted, and all the fixings.

    Now? Since we can't really travel, Beans and Mrs. Andrew fix all the fixings for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and eat off the leftovers for a week or so each time, and pack away turkey and boiled down turkey carcass juice (strained) for pot-pies later in the year, and hambone from New Years gets cut up and frozen for pots of beans (battery-powered sawsall is great for chopping bones...)

    I've come to the conclusion that tradition should be that soft, comfy blanket of good feelings that one and ones' can snuggle in and rely on to keep everyone safe for at least that holiday time. Which means if a tradition stops working, then find another.

    Though I do miss seeing the extended family. But they are in my head wherever I go, so I can see them all the time.

    Well, ain't that starting to sound a tad morose. Something that the Holidays are supposed to help dispel.

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    1. Some good traditions there, and good memories.

      Sometimes remembering the past can be overwhelming as you can't go back there, as much as you want to. I so get that.

      Seeing the faces of those family members no longer with us who made Christmas past so memorable is sometimes soul-crushing. But I try to remember the good times, the good memories. Like you say though, they are still in my head and heart and like you I cam, and do, see them all the time.

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  6. Some of the most often repeated family holiday stories are when cooking went wrong.
    I know that pumpkin pies taste much better with sugar than without. (Mom)
    I know that removing the beaters from the mixer while the mixer is plugged in is a bad thing. (Cousin)
    I know that if you (me) have been tasked to remove the turkey from the oven because my Dad was having tendonitis problems, and you feel your grip slipping a bit, it is better to put the turkey and pan back into the oven because dropping the turkey on the kitchen floor will result in a mess, and the family will tell the story forever. And it also resulted in the dog's look of wide eyed astonishment when a cooked turkey fell from the ski directly in front of him. I swear at that instant I could read the dog's mind, and I believe he said, "Yes, there is a heavenly power that grants wishes!" (of course we ate the turkey, you don't through food away)
    It would not surprise me one iota that when I am the star of my funeral, the question, "Does anyone have anything to say?" is answered with, "Well, yes, there was this one time at Christmas Dinner where he dropped the turkey on the kitchen floor!"

    Good post that sparked some wonderful memories. Thanks.

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    1. "sky" not "ski" it was getting a touch misty.

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    2. Great story John. I can picture the dog's face!

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    3. Old cherished memories do that.

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  7. Great post and great comments. Too many great holiday memories to count. When I was six, or maybe seven, my Dad put up the tree and Mom and us kids decorated it (which means Mom decorated it and we turned a one-hour job into a marathon). The tree was a bit lopsided and nearly went over a time or two. In the middle of the night it went down, and Mom and dad lost a lot of sleep righting it and making it right. It went down again during breakfast the next morning. Dad pulled out a hammer and nails and nailed it to the floor. He stood back and evaluated his work, then suddenly his hand shot deep into the green boughs and emerged with the squalling family cat, which he soundly flang against the wall. Mystery solved. That cat wouldn't even think about entering the living room for the rest of its days. I'm quite certain that morning before school was the first time I heard the expression "firetrucking cat." My Mom's reaction to the phrase told me that one of those words was a "special" word, and I was pretty sure it wasn't C-A-T. So my early present that year was momentary fame at school as the bearer of a new and powerful word.

    The healing of our shared national problems begins with the individual. Be kind and caring indeed. Especially, especially, when you don't wanna be. That's when you can do your best work and touch hearts with love.

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    1. I'm reminded of the scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with the squirrel in the tree.

      Cats and trees, always interesting.

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  8. We always wired the tree to the wall, as we had katzes. usually, one round trip was enough for that year's tree, but Lazarus would make a daily round trip. He was also the cat that liked to sleep on my bed, curled up by my head. Man, he smelled good in December!

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    1. Cats and trees, sometimes dangerous, often amusing.

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  9. Good post! Maybe I need to institute a moratorium on cell phones during Thanksgiving this year (we're hosting the clan). It won't take us back to earlier and simpler times, but it can allow us to focus on what's truly important. Or, I could just buy a cell phone jammer!

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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