Archive for the ‘Christmas in Oysterville’ Category

Golden Garters and Finger Cymbals

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Santa might have been a few days late in getting to our house, but he sure knew what to stuff our stockings with!  For Kris-the-Musician there was a slide whistle and a Jew’s harp (if you feel the need to be politically correct and aren’t bothered by historical accuracy you could call it a ‘mouth harp’).  For Nyel-the-head cook, a chef’s toque, a sheriff’s badge, and a Santa hat and, for me, golden garters and finger cymbals and a book about Uppity Women Speak Their Minds. 

There were also wind-up toys – a monkey, a frog, and a tiger – and chocolate and a very practical (but strange) lemon or orange juicer from Jack’s housewares department as well as a set of pick-up sticks and a book of Sherlock Holmes puzzles.  Oh!  And did I mention the fancy plastic red and green light up rings suitable for all occasions?  We all thought Santa had hit the mark for each of us and immediately formed an orchestra complete with an exotic dancer (that would be me.)

The first page I flipped to in my Uppity book was about Florence Nightingale who (apparently famously) said, Not even a doctor…gives any other definition of what a nurse should be other than…’devoted and obedient’…This definition might even do for a horse.  Definitely words to live by, doncha think?

All in all, the wait for Santa Claus was well worth it!  And the day went happily downhill from there.

Christmas some more! With Kris!

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

And the beat goes on!  Kuzzin Kris arrived early yesterday afternoon.  She came laden with food – “I stopped at Safeway and those chickens smelled so good, I just couldn’t resist” – and mysterious packages wrapped and beribboned and, most importantly, her Christmas stocking.  We hung it by the chimney with care almost before we hugged our hellos.

That was the deal, after all.  Kris would be here for Christmas and we would confine our gift-giving to the Christmas stockings which Santa would take care of on the morning of the 25th.  But as in the most organized of best laid plans, things went awry before we could say “Merry Merry!”  Kris got some dreaded cold/flu/bronchial thing that laid her low and so our plans for Christmas were postponed.

The little gathering planned in her honor – all her special peeps from the year and a half she lived here at the beach – was postponed from the 23rd to the 26th.  That, of course, was yesterday so within an hour of her arrival from far off Eugene (via a stopover in Portland) we were in our mostest hostest get-ups and ready to party.  The food was great, the beverages plentiful, and the company hugely enjoyable.  Kris, of course, was inimitable as usual!

In my foray out to the kitchen this morning for coffee, I noted that Santa had arrived in the night.  Those stockings are looking pretty bulgy.  And I have it on good authority from the man, himself, that there are a few more additions to be made if only someone will give him some wrapping paper and ribbon.  And tape.

It will all be leisurely because that’s how we older folks like it.  And after all the excitement is over – but probably before we clean up the debris – we have a movie marathon planned for this afternoon.  “You Can’t Take It With You” and “Love Actually” will be the double feature matinee.  Tonight… probably a toss-up between “Jeopardy” and “The Big Bang Theory” on TV or another movie or maybe even a card game with friends depending on who all comes to dinner.  The choices are endless – until about nine o’clock.  That’s usually lights out around here… even on Kris’s Christmas visit!

A Quiet Christmas in Oysterville

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

There were four of us here for Christmas dinner yesterday – neighbors and family, too, if you count that Tucker and I are fourth or fifth (or maybe sixth) cousins, probably several times removed, on the Espy side.  Ralph figured it out once, but I’ve forgotten.

We divided the labor – Tucker and Carol had oven duty; us, stovetop.  And each of us had an assignment – Carol the turkey plus dressing and gravy; Nyel the cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and the rolls which turned out to be bread, instead; Sydney, the spinach casserole and the platter of crudités and other condiments; Tucker the Marion berry pies (four individual ones!) and ice cream (from our freezer.)

The festivities began with a tradition that Carole Nordquist had started in the village when she hosted Christmas dinners at her lovely home two properties south of us – Christmas crackers!  This year they were shaped like Santas and came apart with a big pop.  Well, not mine.  I don’t have the knack.  Inside, each of us found a paper crown, a toy, and a paper of riddles and trivia information.  And then the eating began!

Afterwards, we ‘retired’ to the library and spent the better part of the evening doing what we do best – talking and laughing.  We talked about most memorable Christmases and about the best present we ever got as kids.  That segued into whatever happened to our toys – Tucker still has his; Carol said she mostly got socks and underwear; Nyel and I each still have ‘issues’ with our parents who got rid of our toys before a move.   And what about those pets who “were now on a farm with plenty of room to play…”

This morning Tucker sent a bunch of photos!  I don’t know whether they capture how much fun it was or if they don’t really do it justice.  We’ll take on that topic of conversation another time.

Hooray for the Shortest Day!

Friday, December 21st, 2018

And, tomorrow night, a full moon!

It’s the Winter Solstice!  The older I get, the more I look forward to this turning point each year.  Granted, it takes a long time to really get the benefits of the longer days.  At about two more minutes of daylight per day, it usually takes until well into March before the chickens and I really notice the difference.  But it’s actually all about attitude, not necessarily reality.

Just thinking about those longer days goes a long way to improving my outlook.  I can cheerfully lug those loads of firewood into the house with double anticipation – a cozy fire tonight in the here and now plus the thought that it won’t be very long (in the great scheme of things) until we can be enjoying the out-of-doors until well after winter bedtime!  It’s always good to have something to look forward to.

Winter Solstice

I was reminded of that when Kuzzin Kris called last night.  She sounded dreadful.  “I have a cold and fever and am not fit to see man nor beast,” she said.  “Much less travel.”  Oh no!  There go our Christmas plans.  Without our ‘kids’ coming for the holidays, all our hopes were pinned on Kris.  We planned a little party in her honor, made sure that Santa knew she’d be here Christmas Eve to hang her stocking with care, stocked up on favorite old Christmas movies…  Damn!  Damn!  Damn!

What Pooh says…

But, the good news is, she is still coming after a three-day delay in her plans.  She’ll arrive December 26th instead of the 23rd and we’ll adjust accordingly.  She’ll miss out on Christmas dinner with Tucker and Carol and for that we are sorry.  But we have high hopes that our extended anticipation of her arrival will lead to an even more wonderful visit!  Today may be the shortest one of the year but our Christmas festivities will be the longest on record.  Get well, Kris!  We are full of anticipation!

More Than Meets Eye and Ear

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Yesterday’s carol singing at the church sounded fabulous as it always does!  And I don’t think it was just the acoustics, although almost every musician who comes to Oysterville to play or sing in that little historic building comments on the wonderful quality of the sound.  But, truly, there is something about the community getting together – neighbors, friends, strangers – and singing those old, familiar songs that makes me misty-eyed.  And I know I wasn’t the only one!

If we are lucky, we’ll get to see ourselves – maybe on YouTube or someplace similar. (Is YouTube a place???) The photographer had set up his video equipment right in front of the pew where Gretchen Goodson and I were sitting.  What he saw, we saw.  (Later, I learned that he is Robert Leamy and has a shop called Impressing Ideas at the Surfside Mall – )

He had the advantage, though, of being an itinerant filmmaker – itinerant in the wandering-through-the-church-during-the-program sense.  He walked to the front and looked back at us.  He moved over to the Sunday school room where the Bayside Singers sat and filmed them head on.  He zoomed in. And out.  And panned.  And undoubtedly made other technical maneuvers beyond my ken.

And, several times, I just stopped singing altogether so I could immerse myself in the ambience of it all.  I can’t help but wonder how I’ll feel about the video if ever I do get to see it.  There are some things that are simply more than the sum of their parts and, sometimes, you just had to be there.  I’m glad I was!

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.