Archive for the ‘Christmas in Oysterville’ Category

Hark! Let the caroling begin!

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

This afternoon! Two o’clock at the Oysterville Church!  The (sometimes) annual Oysterville Christmas Program will begin!

I’m not even sure “program” is the right word these days.  A hundred years ago when my mother was a girl, it was a Program with a capital P.  All the school children were involved – each one reciting “a piece” – and there was a Christmas tree with presents for each child and, also, for the “bachelors” and others who lived alone.  It was at the churh because the schoolhouse was too small.  The whole town attended and sang carols and shared in the joy of the season.

The only all-inclusive Christmas programs I remember, by the time of my own childhood, took place in the local schools.  In those days (and even during the sixties, seventies and eighties when I was teaching) we could still sing songs about the baby Jesus and the shepherds watching their flocks by night.  And we could still call them “Christmas Programs.”  Now… the celebrations are for “the holidays” and everyone tries to be politically (or, perhaps, commercially) correct, at least in the schools.  Church is another matter, thank God (ahem!).

In the nineties – the 1990s that is – when Leigh Wilson-Codega still lived in Oysterville, she and her sisters often invited the neighbors over to the church to sing carols with them and to hear Nyel or another of the attendees read the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke.  No one called it “a program” or anything else, for that matter.  It was just an “are you going over to the church this afternoon?” sort of thing.

It was soon after Diane and Hal Buttrell moved here (ten years ago???) that Diane picked up Leigh’s idea and suggested a Christmas Carol sing-along at the church.  Gradually, she urged the Bayside singers to become involved and now the “tradition” has segued into part ‘program’ part community carol-singing, and the participants have expanded far beyond just the Oysterville neighbors.

So… perhaps we’ll see one another there this afternoon!  Hark! and Joy! and Alleluia!

Getting Into The Spirit!

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Christmas Season 2018

There’s nothing like a gathering of friends around the fire on a blustery December evening to get everyone into the spirit of the season!  Last night, two of our newest Oysterville neighbors – Chris and Cindy – joined us, making a cozy group of eight.  Among us: a Cindy, a Cyndy, and a Sydney! which could have led to confusion but didn’t seem to.  No more than usual.

The discussion ranged from the (sometimes) harrowing trip to the Peninsula over Highway 26 – in the dark, low on gas, nothing open, the kindness of strangers – to our mutual delight in the Observer and its headline stories as well as the always intriguing Police Blotter.  We talked, too, about the Christmas Bird Count (today!) and the nice note many of us had received from Kathleen Sayce: My group will be in Oysterville in the afternoon; we start at the Port in Nahcotta, and work north. So, if you see people peering into yards with binoculars, and exclaiming over thickets of songbirds, this is what is going on.

Tucker’s Cards and Ornaments

That led to a discussion about ‘our’ (in the Oysterville sense of the word) eagles.  The young have been gathering in the Monterey Cypress treetops across from Cyndy’s and have been chattering to one another for a number of days now.  We talked about other unusual birds we’ve seen lately, including the Snow Goose that has been hanging out with the flock of Canada Geese in the meadows between the bay and the buildings of the village.

Birds, too, were part of Tucker’s “Show and Tell” at the end of the evening.  This is the 49th year that Tucker has made his Christmas cards and an ornament (sometimes matching) for each of his family members.  He brought the collection of ornaments to show and pass around – all hand-made wooden treasures.  For the forty years or so that Carol did a family dinner at Christmas, each place setting included an ornament that served as place card and could then be taken home to hang on each guest’s tree.  Now, though the family dinners are no longer occurring, Tucker continues the tradition.  They are truly wonderful!

Card and Ornaments – The Hobby Horse Year

In recent years, Tucker has gifted Nyel and me with ornaments, too – (well, Tucker and I ARE related, albeit distantly, on the Espy side!) and they are displayed each Christmas on the piano with the cards we have been receiving from him for a number of years.  One of my favorite ‘combinations’ is the card he did of his four grandchildren during their Oysterville hobby-horse phase.  The figures on the (silkscreened?) card look exactly like each of the kids and the accompanying ornaments are – of course! – tiny hobby horses, each different from the other, one with my name and one with Nyel’s.  I love them!

It was a lovely evening and truly left me “in the spirit.”  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if everyone who was here felt the same way.

Our NeverEnding Christmas Story

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Millennial Creche

As ridiculous as it seems, I was feeling a little sorry for the house the other day because of our decision to not have a Christmas tree this year.  I know there have been other holiday seasons when there hasn’t been a tree but those were usually times when, for whatever reasons, no family members were in residence. But, as the little Christmas touches began to show themselves – a few poinsettias, the Christmas bell from my mother’s childhood, the treetop angel (sans tree) from my own childhood – both the house and I seemed to feel better.

The Stable – note solar panel, sheep in Christmas sweater, organic stamp on cow

And on Sunday night, when I was talking to the “kids” (our sixty-something-year-olds-who-can’t-be-here-this year) I realized that I had missed the latest (and maybe greatest) touch of all – son Charlie’s “for the family stocking” contribution last year:  The Millennial Nativity Scene!  How could I have forgotten?

The Shepherd – or, perhaps, “Harold-the-Angel” sending out the good news

Finding it, packed away with the other Christmas decorations (that we aren’t using) was no mean feat.  It required a call to Tucker who was able to reach up to the almost-ceiling in the back forty and take down six or seven big boxes.  Then the hunt was on because, for reasons now unrecalled, I didn’t re-label the boxes last year.  But… finally, the pieces were all located, safely re-packed in their original boxes surrounded by protective Styrofoam cut-out forms and tucked safely into a big box labeled “wind-up toys” and another of “wrapping paper and ribbon.”

Joseph taking selfie with the family; Mary with Starbuck’s coffee

And now the figures have been lovingly arranged on the entry table in the living room.   Every time I look at them, I can hear Charlie and Marta laughing as we put it all together last year.  And I’m sure I can hear a little giggle or two from the house, too.  Our Christmas traditions may change a bit as the years go by but, in this house, there is plenty of room for embracing both the old and the new! Even with the storm raging outside this morning, I could hear its sigh of contentment!  Another Christmas is on its way!

Bit by Bit — Creeping Toward Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

One of Three from Martie

A week or so ago, we made a family decision:  no Christmas this year.  In our particular family-speak, that means that we won’t be together for the holidays; we’ve put togetherness on hold until the end of February.  Both Charlie and Nyel are knitting (bones, that is) and travel for them seems far too risky and difficult.  For Marta-the-Pet-Sitter, it’s one of the busiest times of the year and planning to be gone from her base of operations would be less than prudent.

Added to “no kids for Christmas” is the fact that it’s the off-year for our big Christmas Party which is just as well.  It’s a team effort and, until the strong, tall half of the team is up and running (well, at least walking) again, some of the preparations that we’ve always considered a necessary part of the holidays are simply out of the question.  No eleven-foot tree.  No holly or fir boughs decorating the mantles. And, without a working oven – no fragrance of cookies baking and no roasting turkey to look forward to.

Kuzzin Kristina Jones

But… bit by bit, Christmas is coming to our house anyway – in spite of all!  First, our friend and neighbor Martie brought us three huge, gorgeous Christmas wreaths!  So, from the outside, we definitely look festive!  Then, we made a plan with Tucker and Carol to combine forces for Christmas dinner – they’ll do the oven parts, we’ll do the stovetop parts, and we’ll have it here so Nyel won’t need EMT transport!

We learned that Kuzzin Kris (who now lives in Eugene) had no plans for Christmas – so “come on up to Oysterville!” we said.  “YIPPY SKIPPY!!! Can’t wait!!! … what could be more fun? What shall I bring??? Can we play charades? Cribbage? Sing carols? Cavorting about? Raise a little hell? OH BOY IS RIGHT!!! Smooches, K” she answered.

Furthermore, the Christmas cards have begun to arrive and yesterday Tucker came over with a gift for us all the way from Germany!  It was from Heidemarie and Manfred and we opened it on the spot!  Beeswax candles and little hand-made-nut-people decorations, a tiny treasure bag, and two gorgeous Christmas ribbons!  WOW!

It has become abundantly clear that Christmas will be happening here No Matter What.  I’ve begun the polishing and dusting.  Nyel began cooking in earnest – experimented baking bread (delicious!) in the slow cooker, and Tucker got down one of the boxes of Christmas decorations for me.  (Just a few touches, I told myself.)  It won’t be the same without Charlie and Marta, but we’ll look forward to a continuation of the festivities a few months hence.  We aren’t skipping Christmas, after all – just elongating it!

December Mail Call!

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Our first two Christmas cards came in Saturday’s mail – the first day of December. Right on time! For some years now, December has been the most exciting month, mail-wise.  Most of our friends have pretty much stopped communicating via snail-mail but, so far, Christmas greetings still seem to arrive, filling our little mailbox with news and good cheer.  I am so glad!

And yet… for the past few years there has been no reciprocation from our end.  I feel guilty and sorry and a bit cheap, as well.  We used to send out a hundred or so cards to friends and loved ones – only to those who live afar, mind you.  Locally, we tried to give our seasonal greetings in person – at a party or a community gathering.

But, when postage rose from 39¢ to 41¢ in 2007, I began to choke a bit over those Christmas cards.  Now, at 50¢ a pop, I am resorting to email greetings and FB messages and trying to come to grips with my feelings of guilt.  We’ve long lamented that Christmas has become so commercial; now my lament – the expense – seems even more Grinchy.

I don’t even find much consolation in the fact that sending Christmas cards is a relatively recent phenomenon.  But… when I learned that the idea came from a postal worker, I do think the glow became a bit dimmer.  From what I’ve read, sending Christmas greetings wasn’t exactly a scheme to increase business for Post Offices… but close:

The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole.  He was a senior civil servant (Government worker) who had helped set up the new ‘Public Record Office’ (now called the Post Office) where he was an Assistant Keeper, and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people… Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards with his friend Jon Horsely, who was an artist.  They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each.

Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn’t afford them.  In 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from Germany but who had also worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them.  The first known ‘personalised Christmas Card was sent in 1891 by Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.  She was in Glasgow, Scotland at Christmas 1891 and sent cards back to her friends and family in the USA featuring a photo of her on it.

As much as I hate it when things come down to money, I guess 19th century sharpshooters made more than 21st century retired teachers.  Or maybe I need to find the entrepreneur of a Wild West Show to foot the bill.

December 1st Again! and Here’s Hot Idea #2

Saturday, December 1st, 2018


Yep!  Here it is December 1st – and not for the first time this month, at least not according to my Oysterville Daybook blog.  As several people pointed out to me, yesterday was NOT December 1st as I so boldly proclaimed.  I was much relieved to learn that I was a day ahead of myself.  I feel like today is an “extra” which is not at all the way my calendar usually speeds by.

And, here I am – still thinking about Christmas giving.  This time, though, I am thinking about all of the questions I get throughout the year from Facebook readers who may or may not be my ‘friends.’  The queries come to me in the comment section of my blogsite and on FB, by email and sometimes even by snail mail.  They are almost always history-related, often about Oysterville, but usually about other matters of Pacific County’s past.

“Oysterville” – An Arcadia Publication

I’m flattered to think people assume I might know the answers but, truth to tell, I usually have to do a little research, even if it’s something I’ve written about. (The instant recall portion of my brain seldom kicks in these days and so it seems that I do a lot of reviewing – even of my own books! – to answer those questions).

Mostly, the questioners have never read my books.  (Some folks don’t even know I’ve written any.)  I’m not sure why they think I can answer their questions, but I find that my Teacher Hat is never far away and I must resist the urge to put it on and direct these people to do their homework!!  Or, in this case, do a little reading and finding out for themselves.

A WSU Press Publication

So… here’s my Hot Christmas Idea #2 – Treat yourself or a friend (or both) to a book about our area.  There are many of them – beginning with James Swan’s 1855 The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory and continuing right up to my 2018 Washington’s Cranberry Coast.

If you are particularly interested in the things I often blog about, I can tell you that I believe I have 18 books in print right now.  And don’t be fooled by my ABC series – they are not children’s books, as a quick glance will tell you.  They are simply books of basic information about subjects most Peninsula residents and visitors might be curious about.

My books are available at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum Bookstore, at Adelaide’s in Ocean Park, and at Oysterville Sea Farms in Oysterville, at Time Enough Books in Ilwaco and at the Cranberry Museum in Long Beach.  Or, many of them can be purchased directly from me and I’ll even personalize and sign them for you!  For a complete list of my books, check out my website at and then call or email if you’d like to arrange a purchase.

Introducing Mrs. Crouch

Giving a book about the history of this area for Christmas is not only “giving a gift that can be opened again and again” but it’s a way of connecting someone you care about with yet another of our area’s many dimensions.  What could be better?

Christmas Quandary? Here’s Hot Idea #1!

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Community Historians 2013

And here it is! December 1st already!  It’s the day I allow myself to begin thinking about Christmas – the cleaning and polishing and fluffing; the decorating; the gift-making or purchasing; the wrapping.  I know that most people are way ahead of me, but I’m a bit old-fashioned that way.  I don’t like to get ready so early that it’s all a let-down by the Big Day.

Even if you are more modern in your approach to the season and have all your gifts purchased and wrapped, there might still be that special someone on your list that you’d like to do something for, but you’re really not sure what.  Here’s my suggestion:  give them a gift certificate to the 2019 Community Historian Project.  It will entitle them to fifteen weeks of classes presented by experts in various (and amazing) aspects of local history, as well as to materials and information that they can explore on their own, and even the possibility of a field trip or two.  They will meet other community members with similar interests but, most likely, with very diverse backgrounds.  And they may even come away with a new interest or passion.

Aaron Webster, Flintknapper Extraordinaire

All that for $100!  How I wish that the Community Historians had been up and running when my dad was still alive.  He would have loved it!  And he was the quintessential “man who has everything” and was the one I wracked my brain over year after year.  But he’s been gone for 27 years now (OMG!  Has it been that long?) and the Community Historian Project is just entering its seventh season – just entering its prime!

Of course, there are a few “prerequisites” for participants besides filling out the application (which you can do for someone else if it’s a gift – they can fine-tune it later).  The participant has to be available to attend “classes” at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum every Wednesday morning for fifteen weeks beginning January 16th.  It helps if participants are interested in Pacific County history or, at least, have a healthy sense of curiosity and eagerness to learn.

Coast Guard Station at Cape D

And if participants might have a special connection or bit of knowledge related to our community, so much the better.  The greatest serendipities of the Community Historian experience are the unexpected alliances that occur when people discover that their interests intersect with an aspect that someone else is pursuing.  It is definitely one of those “infinite-ripples-in-a-pool” kind of things!

So, if my Hot Idea #1 tickles your fancy at all, I suggest you go to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museam Community Historian website at and go to the bottom of the page and “Click Here.”  And while you’re filling out an application for that special recipient on your Christmas list, consider filling out one for yourself!  If you love learning about our past, you’ll love being part of the Community Historian Project!

Dear Santa,

Monday, December 25th, 2017

As I crept through the house toward that first cup of coffee on this early morning, I spied the lumps and tell-tale ribbons peeking out of our Christmas stockings.  And, the tears did come…  Not that I ever doubted you, you dear old elf.  But there were moments this year when I wondered if our little family would ever again spend a Christmas together in my beloved Oysterville.  In this old house with all its echoes from holidays of long ago.

Santa, in all your many guises this year – as family members or neighbors or friends or even people we’ve never met – thanks for being there and for never giving up on us.  All year long! Those are the thoughts that came surging forth and manifested themselves, unbidden, in streaming eyes and that shaky, need-to-sit-down feeling that sometimes overtakes us.  Or, at least it does me.  It’s probably an old lady reaction, Santa, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It’s the equivalent of the little-girl ‘tummy-wiggles’ I remember from Christmas mornings long ago!

So, dear Santa, Happy Christmas from our little corner!  As long as you are with us, there is hope.  And, truth to tell, the whole world needs a lot of that right now!

When ‘Sometimes’ Becomes ‘Now’

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

Jim Henson and I were contemporaries so it stands to reason that it was my children’s generation who grew up with his Muppets – though, truth to tell, we didn’t have television during most of their early years. Kermit and Miss Piggy and the Cookie Monster were probably not as influential to them as book characters such as Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things or Tomi Ungerer’s Three Robbers.

Nevertheless, Henson’s characters have crept into our lives one way or another, and this Christmas it seems to be the Cookie Monster who has come to visit.  We haven’t seen him, mind you.  But then, neither have we ever seen Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost, and she’s been here since 1893.  She hangs around, according to family lore, because she was happiest here in Oysterville when her husband was preacher for the church across the street and she lived in this house that was then the parsonage.  Or so the story goes…

Why the Cookie Monster has taken up residence is far easier to determine.  Cookies!  Dozens of them!  Our house, which year in and year out seldom sees sweets of any kind, has become some sort of giant magnet for cookies.  Boxes of cookies!  Tins of cookies!  Fancy Christmas Bags of cookies!  There has been a parade of friends dropping off the most amazing (and delicious!) assortment of Christmas cookies imaginable.

I think the most unusual came from our neighbor, Celtic Harp player/teacher extraordinaire, Kathleen – shortbread cookies with the Celtic Harp or the Celtic Knot ’embossed’ on each!  Stephanie dropped off a small hatbox full of brownies with just a hint of mint and Fred delivered a variety of yummies from Vicki, some with cream cheese icing, even!  A labor of love, for sure!  And there was a special box of Jayne’s Christmas Cookies, arranged for by Martie and Steve who couldn’t be here for the holidays.  And our own Marta’s oatmeal cookies with nuts and raisins.  (I’m not counting Kitt’s banana bread or Marta’s pumpkin bread or even her pumpkin pies.  Though I do suspect that the Cookie Monster doesn’t stand on ceremony when it comes to which sorts of sweets to sample!)

About ten years ago, the Cookie Monster became sensitized to the problem of obesity in children here in the United States, so his tune changed a little.  In an appearance in a 2007 Martha Stewart TV program, Cookie Monster explained his new philosophy that “Cookies are a sometimes food.”  Thank goodness for that!  Otherwise, we could have a problem on our hands. We are assuming that once the holiday is over and the cookies magically disappear, the monster among us will disappear, too.  Meanwhile… we sure are glad that ‘sometimes’ is now!

With Fingers Crossed and Breath Held

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

A year ago on this day, Nyel was taken to Portland by ambulance.  That proved to be the beginning of a roller-coaster year involving five hospitals, countless doctors, fifteen (or was it sixteen?) hospital stays and more than 100 nights away from the comforts of home.  Whether we’ve wanted to or not, we’ve learned a lot about congestive heart failure and, more importantly, about the particular complicated physiognomy of Nyel’s big heart.

Even more importantly, all the things we thought we ‘knew’ about the value of friendship have been reinforced many-fold.  From long-time friends and forever relatives, to new-found acquaintances and even strangers, people have reached out to help in many unexpected ways!  They’ve brought meals and reading material.  They’ve sung us songs and played live music for us.  They have tended our chickens and hosted pre-scheduled gatherings here at the house.  Most of all, they have not given up on us, even though we’ve been unable to hold up our end on so many, many occasions.

Last night, some of our local friends came over for our ‘usual’ Friday Night Gathering.  It was fabulous.  Fred brought his guitar and, after we had caught up (sort of) on recent happenings, we all sang familiar old Christmas songs and carols.  And for me, hearing Charlie’s and Marta’s voices among the others was the most precious gift of the season – something that hasn’t happened in many, many years!   This year — twice!  At Sunday’s Christmas Vesper service and last night right here in our own library!

Today marks the twentieth day in a row that Nyel has been home from his latest hospitalization.  If it’s not a record, it must be close to one. I wish I could say that everything is going perfectly – but as we all know, it’s not a perfect world.  Not even in Oysterville.  We are holding our collective breaths and have fingers and toes crossed that there will be no ambulances called to our doorstep in the next few days!  That would, indeed, make this the merriest of Christmases.  Ever!