Posts Tagged ‘Christmas in Oysterville’

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.

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 “best laid schemes… gang aft a-gley”

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

New and Shiny Bright

Finally!  The new stove we had ordered on October 3rd arrived.  Day before yesterday.  The delivery men unhooked our old-and-ailing dual-fuel Jenn-Air and hauled it away.  The new, all gas, Samsung was left in the middle of our fairly small kitchen awaiting hookup.  We can sidle around it to the microwave sitting on the north counter and to the electric burner (resurrected from the back forty for temporary use) on the south counter.  There is even space to open and load the dishwasher.  Barely.

Not to worry, we thought.  We called the propane people to have them hook up the beautiful new stove.  “We are fully booked until after the holidays.  Sorry.”  Begin to worry said the small voice in my head.  Nyel called the only repair people “in our area” (Longview) who will handle Samsung. According to their Installation Department, we need to send $300 and, once they get it, they will be able to tell us their schedule.  Ramp up the worry said the voice, and add a dollop of anger – as in, is that even ethical?  Or legal?

Mysterious Stove Parts

Nyel called our handy dandy plumber who was full of sympathy and said that even though he is maxed – “It’s our busiest time of the year…” he’ll try to come by and take a look.  That was day before yesterday and, though we still hope to see the whites of his eyes, the task seems more daunting than any sane person would tackle.  Meanwhile, preparing meals is tricky-but-totally do-able.  On the other hand, yesterday Jack’s called and said that our 23-pound fresh turkey had arrived…  Worry has ramped into looking at options.

There are many.  Who’d a thunk it?  First and foremost, one of our nearby-on-Sandridge-Road-neighbors had already offered her kitchen so Marta could do some baking.  I haven’t asked yet (as in Hope Springs Eternal) but I imagine we could use her oven to roast the turkey.  We can handle everything else here – the garlic mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the vegetables etc. – thanks to our new-found sidling expertise.

Gas and Electricity and Pipes and Wires — Oh My!

Or – we have a fine Weber barbecue and there are many online instructions of how to use it for roasting a turkey.  Once, when the power was out and we had a House Concert (which involved a potluck) scheduled, we cooked a lasagna in that Weber and it turned out perfectly.  The Weber Option is definitely under consideration.  (And whatever happened to that old electric roaster of Mom’s?  Maybe it’s still somewhere nearby and operable…)

Of course, the optimists among us feel that it’s early days yet.  After all, it’s only the 22nd and our Christmas dinner is three full days away.  All sorts of miracles can happen in the meantime.  Right?  On the other hand, I feel fully within my rights to worry some more.  Just a tad.  Ho!  Ho!  Ho!

Our Very Own 12 Days and Heavenly Host!

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

The ‘Days of Christmas’ here in Oysterville – whether or not they be twelve – always seem to gallop by at an alarming rate.  Usually we have only four or five days together before someone has to return to life in one of the California fast lanes. This year, however, Marta will be here for a full two-and-a-half weeks and Charlie for the traditional dozen.  Wow!!  I can hear my own personal angels singing in exultation!!

It’s hard to believe that three of those precious days have already gone by in jam-packed fashion!  We’ve been decorating, trimming, wrapping, and readying… all the while talking and laughing and even shedding a sentimental tear or two.  Nyel, feeling better than he has in more than a year, is back to being Chief Chef –  though Marta has declared that today the kitchen is hers.  “Baking Day!” she says.  I think a pumpkin pie, some loaves of pumpkin bread and, maybe, oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies are in her plans.

Tomorrow, all things being equal, our new stove (back-ordered since October) arrives – a Christmas present for the house!  Since it is a gas stove and needs converting and hooking up by the propane folks, we aren’t quite sure when it will be operable.  Marta decided to count on our cranky old Jenn-Air for her baked delights.   Fingers crossed that it will be up to this last hurrah!

Meanwhile, today is “Lesson #2 Day” in this household.  Yesterday, my planned hour of instruction on “all things house” turned into three hours! Time rushed by with about a gazillion ‘birdwalks’ as Charlie’s and Marta’s questions came spewing forth!  Such great ‘students’ – Marta even took notes!!!  Mostly they wanted to know about all the most recent forebears – my grandparents who lived in this house and their parents, the pioneers.  Even with the many photos and written material and reminders of familiar stories, they wanted clarification – “Was Helen Harry’s mother?  Or his wife?”

Bottom line: we all felt “very much accomplished” when we called it a day, instruction-wise.  I hope the next four ‘lessons’ go as well, each one quicker than the last as familiarity with the ancestors increases.  After all, those old and absent forebears are the ones who are hovering around, just out of sight, singing the Hallelujah chorus — our very own Heavenly Host here to celebrate the season with us!

Getting Over Ourselves… Again!

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

If we had grandchildren (which we don’t) they might be part of Generation Y, more commonly referred to as Millennials.  Our ‘kids,’ born in the mid-fifties, qualify as Baby Boomers, and it is conceivable (ahem) that they could have had children in the early ’80s which are considered the beginning birth years for the Millennials.

As things stand, however, we need to depend on Charlie’s and Marta’s perennial agelessness to help keep us abreast of life in the jet stream.  So far, they have never failed to instruct, cajole, guffaw, and all those other appropriate reactions when we get stuck in our advancing old age.  Last night’s announcement by Charlie was no exception:  “I have an early Stocking Stuffer for the family.” And he lugged in a huge, unmarked cardboard box from his car.

Inside were two shiny black boxes with white lettering which said, “Millennial Nativity Stable” and “Modern Nativity.”  Marta, immediately went into gales of giggles, apparently having seen this whatever-it-was on FaceBook.  Nyel and I were perplexed and… well, silent.  After all, according to some methods of reckoning, we belong to the “Silent Generation.”

One by one, the parts and pieces (Joseph’s arm required some super-glue repair) were unpacked – Charlie and Marta became ever more amused while Nyel and I tried to get into the spirit, as they say.  In the hand (on his good arm), Joseph held a cell phone, extended to take a selfie with Mary (flashing peace sign and bra and holding a cuppa Starbucks coffee) and Baby Jesus (the only relatively ‘normal’ figure besides the U.S. Prime stamped cow and the sheep and the manger.)  The stable, of course, featured solar panels on the roof

We cleared off the entry table in the living room to make way.  “It just needs a bit of greenery,” says Marta.  I’m not sure if that will do the trick or not.  It’s a long way from my childhood memories of acting out the nativity scene.  In those days, the wise men were neighborhood kids in their dad’s bathrobes.  Joseph (always the tallest boy) and Mary (always the prettiest girl) and the Baby Jesus (usually a life-sized doll) were  the stars.  The rest of us were shepherds, or maybe sheep, and I remember thinking the entire thing was a little forced and hokey.

On reflection… it would be a whole lot more fun to re-enact this version, even though it does seem just a tad sacrilegious (she said silently).

Convergence and Compromise

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Charlie and Marta, Christmas 2016

The ‘kids’ are here!  Let the holiday fun begin!  Never mind that the kids are in their sixties and (ahem) a bit set in their ways.  It’s a little late in the game to expect the house rules to apply automatically when they cross the threshold.  Yet, I’m always a bit unprepared for the difference in our lifestyles – particularly when it comes to sleeping.

The crux of the matter is that Marta and Charlie are night people; Nyel and I are day people.  We are all a bit long-in-the-tooth to be changing.  Take yesterday, for instance.  Marta had flown in to PDX and we fetched her in time for our Friday Night Gathering.  Charlie was ‘expected’ in time for a late supper.  He arrived sometime close to 2:00 a.m.! YIKES! (We ate without him.)

“Tongue in Cheek” – Cover Band, 1980s

Nyel crashed first – about nine.  Me next at tennish.  Marta, who seldom goes to bed before 1:00 waited up, cribbage board and dice for Farkle at the ready.  It’s a ‘family’ tradition for the two of them to play games and ‘catch up’ well into Night One.  I did wake up about midnight-thirty and waited until Charlie rolled in before going back to bed.  The ‘kids’ were still going strong at four and, needless to say, I don’t expect them to surface today until noon.

“How did this disconnect with ‘normal’ sleep patterns occur?” I ask myself each time we converge.  I don’t think Marta became a night owl until she was a young adult.  She had her own band for a number of years (no need to say more, really) and during the lean times supported herself as a waitress and bartender.  In recent years, she’s had daytime jobs, though music is always just under the surface.  I think she manages with less sleep than I find necessary.  Most people do…

Charlie, on the other hand has always been a nighttime kinda guy.  I had THE worst time getting him up in time for school, even when he was in Kindergarten.  Fortunately, his career as a free-lance (mostly) writer allows him to follow an upside-down time schedule.  And, now that he’s acting in live theater… ditto.  His lifestyle and sleep patterns are a good fit — usually.  He and I have talked about our different sleeping styles and circadian rhythms and the whys and wherefores and have never reached any satisfactory conclusion as to what causes us to be so different.  Why am I getting up each day about the time he goes to sleep?

Charlie at Hanna Barbera, 1979

And then… voila!  This morning as I began reading Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey, I found the answer.  Maybe.  Bed was a charming place at any time, but if one was so sleepy that neither riotous bell-ringing nor the wails of a colleague made any impression, then getting up must be torture.  Welsh, too, probably…. Celts hated getting up…

Charlie’s full name is Charles Morgan Howell, IV.  ‘Morgan’ is as Welsh as Welsh can be.  There you have it!  Thanks, Elizabeth MacKintosh (who wrote as Josephine Tey.)  You’ve answered a very basic question.  It’s his father’s fault.