Posts Tagged ‘Christmas in Oysterville’

Eighty-nine Years and Four Degrees

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

Freida Callo Ornament

Freida Callo (Frida Kahlo) has joined us for Christmas this year.  Charlie brought her up from L.A. — her likeness, anyway — and placed her carefully on the tree.  She looks out on us in all her “glory” which, depending upon your point of view, is gorgeous or rather weird.

I almost feel as if I knew her.  She’s one of those “I almost met her once” people — although I didn’t.  When I was married (1962-1971) to photographer Bill LaRue, we spent quite a bit of time with Ansel Adams (who had been a good friend of Edward Weston’s) and a little time (like two afternoons/evenings) with Brett Weston, Edward’s son.  Although Edward had died a few years previously (1958), he was often a subject of discussion and we almost felt that we had known him, too.  We attended every Edward Weston exhibit, poured over his Daybooks and enjoyed “knowing” the people he knew,  Freida Callo and Diego Riviera, among them.

Edward Weston

In his December 14, 1930 Daybook entry, Edward Weston wrote:  I met Diego! I stood behind a stone block, stepped out as he lumbered downstairs into Ralph [Stackpole]’s courtyard on Jessop Place, – and he took me clear off my feet in an embrace. I photographed Diego again, his new wife – Frieda – too: she is in sharp contrast to Lupe, petite, – a little doll alongside Diego, but a doll in size only, for she is strong and quite beautiful, shows very little of her father’s German blood. Dressed in native costume even to huaraches, she causes much excitement on the streets of San Francisco. People stop in their tracks to look in wonder. We ate at a little Italian restaurant [Coppa’s] where many of the artists gather, recalled old days in Mexico, with promises of meeting soon again in Carmel… 

Frida by Weston, 1930

And now Freida (her likeness, anyway) is in Oysterville — eighty-nine years and four degrees of separation as I count it!


Humbled, Delighted, Honored!

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

Each Christmas since he and Carol were married, Tucker has designed and made the Christmas cards which they then send to friends and relatives.  Often, there is a story inside the card — sometimes related to the image, sometimes not.  This is year 50 and we were delighted to see our house as the card’s subject and the story about an event which happened here during the Christmas season almost a century ago!

A Few of Tucker’s Christmas Cards (and ornaments!)

Here is what Tucker said:
Our card this year is the fiftieth handmade card that we’ve sent out for Christmas since our marriage in 1970.  The card depicts our neighbors, Nyel and Sydney Stevens’ house, built in 1869.  The house is made completely of wood and is one of the oldest houses in the state.  It has survived the stormy, wet coastal environment of southwest Washington.  A big “birthday” party was held in September with over two hundred guests enjoying house tours, musical bands, and the firing of the cannon.  Our German cousins, Manfred and Ute Marx, joined the festivities.  Ute played a special “welcome” signal on her hunting horn to start the event.  It was fantastic.

H.A. Espy House (and tree) 1939 — WPA Photo, Librarry of Congress

I noticed how the house and the Oysterville church appeared almost side by side from the yard where the party took place.  It reminded me of a visit I had with Sydney’s uncle, Willard Espy, in August of 1995.  He told me about the wonderful quality of the seaborne air and the magical light specific to Oysterville.  He told me the story of his Christmas tree in 1922 when he was about twelve years old.  They had found a nicely shaped live spruce tree, dug it up, and took it home like a guest for the holidays.  After Christmas, the tree was planted in the extreme southwest corner of the property and over the years the tree had grown four feet wide near the base of the trunk and fifty to sixty feet high.  I think the church could still be seen from the yard but with all the branches, I’m not sure.  The tree eventually became a danger to people as well as the old house and was cut down but a new little spruce tree has taken seed and  has risen forty-five inches from the top of the old stump.  The renewal of life brings hope.

Merry Christmas!  Tucker and Carol Wachsmuth

I know that Willard and Edwin and my mother — all of whom participated in the digging up and replanting of that tree — would feel as honored as we do that it was the focus of the 50th card!  Wow!

Hurrying and Scurrying Toward Christmas

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Nyel often says that Patience is not my middle name, the clear implication being that I’m a very impatient person.  I can’t argue with that.  No matter the goal, once it’s in mind I’m all for getting on with it.  Right now.  So it is that Christmastime holds many challenges.

Take wrapping presents, for instance.  Although I love intricate and beautiful gift presentations, my inclination is to find a Christmas bag and tissue paper, plop  the gift inside, and affix a tag — easy peasy.  I force myself to do otherwise, but it’s difficult.

Yesterday, I was trying to carefully use said tissue paper to line a box.  Getting it just right took the patience of Job and gave my mind ample time to wander.  Which is probably part of my problem.  If I could stay focused on the the chore of the moment, I’m sure my success rate would improve.  In any case, my long-time friend Nancy Stone came to mind.

When we were teens in San Rafael, California, Nancy got a job at Albert’s, the local department store on the main drag.  I can’t remember if she worked there only during the holidays or throughout the year, as well.  But I do have a clear memory of buying something — maybe a scarf — for my mom at Albert’s and taking it to Nancy to wrap.  She was slammed and I told her not to worry, I’d come back later…  I remember standing there and watching her for a few minutes while she creased and folded holiday papers and tied gorgeous ribbons effortlessly — or so it seemed!

I shared that almost-70-year-0ld memory with Nan by email and this was her reply this morning:
Dear Old Friend: Thank you for taking me on a walk down Memory Lane! I do remember being in the wrapping booth AND, running the elevator! Can you imagine what OSHA would have done with that? I was trying to remember how much I earned per hour, but alas, memory does not always surface. It might have been $1.35 an hour. I was able to get the job because my mother worked in the advertising department and knew the owners of the store. I felt grateful to have had a job and money to spend (on cashmere sweaters?) and felt that the only thing I missed was attending the Friday night football games. I can still crease and fold tissue paper and tie gorgeous ribbons into bows!

Nan and Nyel, 2012

In this case, anyway, I’m glad Patience is not my middle name.  If I were choosing, I’d rather have “Friendship” tucked in there somewhere!  Merry Christmas, Nan… and all of you with whom I share special memories of this Hurry Scurry Season!

Come Caroling in Oysterville on Sunday!

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Oysterville Church, Christmas 2013

For the fourth consecutive season, community members are invited to an informal Christmas Carol Sing-a-long at the Oysterville Church on Sunday, December 22nd at 2:00 o’clock.  As in the past, Dobbie Wiegardt will read the  Christmas story from the Book of Luke,  and members of the Bayside singers will participate.    The “stars” of the program will be the audience members who will be singing to piano accompaniment by Diane Buttrell.

My mother and her siblings often reminisced fondly of the “Christmas Programs” held each year in the church during the 19-teens and ’20s when they were growing up here. The one-room schoolhouse was too small to accommodate all the parents and community members so, the festivities took place in the church — in the Methodist Church until it blew down in 1922 and in the Baptist (now Ecumenical) Church  after that. (No separation of church and state in those days!)   They remembered that the program was elaborate — each child “recited” a poem or special “piece” appropriate to the occasion and each was costumed by enthusiastic mothers.  Mom remembered that when she was in first grade, she said a short poem about “a robin redbreast” and that her mother had made her an outfit with “beautiful bird wings.”

Oysterville Church, December 2008

Under the large Christmas tree in the Sunday School Room was a present for each child and, also, mom said, “one for each of the bachelors.”  I believe those were single men — widowed or unmarried, who lived in the old Stevens Hotel just north of our house during those years.  It was no longer run as a hotel — more as a boarding house in those days.

The program, of course, included Christmas carols which were sung by the audience as well as by the school children.  We’ll be carrying on an old tradition on Sunday — minus the school children, to be sure — but full of the season’s spirit and Oysterville’s historic charm .  I look forward to sharing that time with you!


Christmas Visits with Friends Old and New

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Christmas Dove

Despite a lot of help from our friends, it took me the better part of two days to decorate our tree, and truth to tell, I’m not sure it’s finished yet.  It’s not that I’m moving slower (although I am) or that the tree is larger than usual (it’s really not.)  No, it’s the visiting with so many old friends along the way!


Marta’s Bear

The dove, for instance.  She reminds me that she first graced trees in this house during my mother’s childhood more than a century ago.  She remembers all my aunts and uncles when they were just wee tots.  She remembers when the trees were in the parlor and real candles balanced precariously on each branch.

Heidemarie’s Angel

Or how about the tiny red calico bear made by Marta for an Oysterville Christmas forty years ago?  Or the families of accordion-pleated paper angels made so precisely by Heidemarie and carefully brought  from Germany all the way to Oysterville this fall by Tucker’s cousin Manfred?  Or the cardboard bell with colored buttons pasted on it ever-so-carefully by a first grade student — a gift to me, his teacher, more than forty years ago?

The Button Bell

When Charlie’s hand-blown glass horn showed up, I wondered why it was still here in Oysterville.  It had been one of a half dozen or so ornaments from Charlie’s father’s childhood.  When Charlie got a house of his own a number of years ago and began hosting Christmas there every other year, I had given them to him.  I wonder how I missed this one.

And so it goes.  As I remove the protective tissue paper from each treasured memory, there’s a pause while I retell the story — to Nyel if he’s in the room, or to the other ornaments on the tree or, perhaps, to Joan Baez as she sings carols from the CD player.  I hang each one in just the right place, and I can all but hear their sighs of satisfaction.  “Oh!  It’s good to be back!” they seem to say.  And I wonder how I could have contemplated “no tree this year.”  Oh my!

The Sweet Fragrance of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Lina and Eva

This morning I could almost smell those Christmas cookies baking and hear the laughter of cousins Eva and Lina — all the way from Austria!  Eva’s email about their holiday preparations included pictures of  the sisters baking and  their finished products, as well!  Yum!

Unexpectedly, I flashed back on Christmas Cookies Past – not cookies of my childhood, however.  Baking Christmas cookies wasn’t really a tradition in our family, though my grandmother’s “rocks” were usually part of the festivities.  I remember them as full of nuts and raisins and maybe covered with powdered sugar.  Or am I confusing the rocks with the shortbread cookies in perfect round powdered balls?  But those weren’t the cookies that came to mind when those photos came into focus.

Carol Nordquist – Christmas Dinner 2014

No, it was  Carol Nordquist and her cookies that come to mind.  Beginning in the late 1990s, just after we moved into this family house full time, Carol would bring a festive plate of cookies to us (and to each of the neighbors, I think) a few days before the holiday.  When her daughter Betsy was able to join her,  the two of them often did the baking and Betsy was the delivery elf.  We SO appreciated those lovely treats.  There really is nothing like a selection of brightly decorated Christmas cookies — especially cookies that just “show up” once a year — to get you in the spirit!

Lina and Eva’s Cookies

Actually, Nyel did a big batch of chocolate chip cookies the other day.  They aren’t quite what I would consider “Christmas cookies” but their appearance around here is pretty rare so I think they count, maybe even double!  And the other night John brought a citrus almond cake, “Torta de Santiago” which literally means “cake of St James and the recipe originated in the Middle Ages!   Last night Maggie brought individual cheese cakes, festively decorated with different kinds of jam.

Oh my!  It was almost a relief to enjoy those Austrian cookies via cyberspace.  Especially, a relief to my waistline!  But… Christmas only comes once a year, as they say.  I’m determined to enjoy every morsel, virtual and otherwise.


Christmas Elves

Monday, December 9th, 2019

Steve the Other Christmas Elf

Many hands make light work — or make the lights work, perhaps.  Two tall men, their four hands on high  – sometimes with benefit of ladder and sometimes just a long stretch on tiptoes — and, voila!  The upper third of that ten foot tree was lit, decorated, and icicled before you could say Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer.

My part was simple — evaluate, criticize, find the hooks, hand the baubles, suggest the bare spots, and clap and cheer.  Nyel left his kitchen duties periodically to come and admire.  And John and Steve probably would have continued on for the duration except that I declared it the cocktail hour!

John the Other Christmas Elf

We left the tree all aglow with lights and halfway trimmed with the promise that I would finish it up today.  Or tomorrow.  Or soon.  After dinner, Tucker came over to collect his ladder and he ooohed and aaaahed and visited a while.  It was a lovely afternoon and evening.  The tree is looking quite satisfied with progress “so far” but I can here her calling to me so… onward and downward!  The upward part is done!


Pride Goeth Before A Fall

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

My friend Maggie says, “Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help.  People like to help.  It makes them feel good.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I always think to myself.  And then I wonder why that reasoning is so hard for me to believe.  Could it be that I don’t really like to help when I’m asked?  Or is it something about being an only child and being imbued with the thought that if I didn’t do it myself, no one was going to be there to do it for me.”  Not that those words were ever stated.  It just seemed to be the way it was.

It was probably that way for Nyel, too.  He’s another only child and, if anything, he’s more intent upon doing for himself than I am.  In fact, more than anyone I know.  So now that we have reached the old (me) and infirm (Nyel) stage of life, we (mostly I) are trying to come to grips with that whole independence/swallow-your-pride-thing.

What I have realized is that #1, if I want to continue doing some of the fun things in life, I’ll need help.  And #2, most people aren’t good at mind-reading so I have to ask.  Oh yes, and #3, Nyel would probably skip #1 instead of doing #2 which sometimes leads to #4 — one of those heart-to-hearts.  We’re getting good at those!

So, when it came to getting ready for Christmas, there was quite a bit of necessary pride swallowing around here.  First and  foremost — the whole tree thing.  If you read my column in the Observer last week, you probably figured out that the words Christmas and tree cannot easily be separated in this household.  So… I asked Tucker if he’d help me fetch, carry, and put the tree in the stand.

It all went surprisingly smoothly.  Getting the tree centered in the stand was a bit tricky, but Tucker persevered and by lunchtime yesterday the ten-foot (no eleven-footers available this year) noble fir was standing proud in our bay windows looking out to the east.  And thanks to Tucker’s good humor and a few “Christmas tree” stories of his own, our own pride is still intact, as well.

This afternoon, our friends John and Steve (who are tall!) are coming to put up the lights, the angel, and the ornaments on the high branches.  Again, I didn’t have to do more than ask and suggest a time.  I’m actually looking forward to it.  Tucker brought over his sturdy ladder for them to use — ours IS pretty rickety — and I feel that we are definitely being mindful of that old “pride goeth before a fall” expression — especially the “fall” part.  Ladders are at the top of my Not Any More list.

Another First For These Old Ducks!

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

November 30, 2019

Yesterday (and right on time as it turned out) we received a small package in the mail from Austria.  The return address said “Richardson” — my cousins Eva and Lina (and friend Dietmar) who were here in September at the time of Our Grand Affair!  How fun!

We opened it to find a cheerful-looking Christmas card — a special one according to the greeting inside.  In neat “European handwriting” (so different from our public school printing or cursive) it said:  This is an “Adventkalendar.” Beginning with Dec. 1st you open a little window each day until Christmas Eve.  It is an old Austrian tradition and we thought the two of you would like it.  So Merry Chirstmas from over here.  Many many hugs and love, Lina, Eva, & Dietmar,”

Though neither Nyel nor I have ever participated in the Advent tradition with regard to lighting candles or celebrating each day of advent with a small gift — not as children nor as adults — we both associate it with friends and relatives who do.  When I was a child, my good friend Trudy (whose mother was Jewish and father, Catholic) celebrated both Hanukkah (which I also knew  little about) and Christmas.  In my little girl mind the menorah and a small gift for each day leading to Christmas were totally confused and were definitely things I thought our family should be doing as well.

Advent Card, December 1, 2019

So, here at last came a small version of those advent calendars I’d wondered about.  No presents attached to this one.  But, I did a little research to learn that, this year, advent begins on December 1st, so the package from the cousins (and Dietmar) arrived at the perfect time!

This morning, over coffee, Nyel and I opened the tiny window marked “1.”  It revealed a picture of a little girl in a pretty hat.  We didn’t know if had significance or not.  Perhaps we’ll understand a bit more as the next nineteen windows are opened.  At this point, however, the greatest meaning of this lovely little card is that it came from my beloved cousins in Austria and I will be thinking of them each morning as I anticipate the arrival of Christmas!

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.