Posted tagged ‘family’

“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.”

December 12, 2017

Today will be rainy and warm with a temperature in the 50’s, but tonight will be  different. Old Man Winter, who’s tired of waiting in the wings, is coming back to lay claim to December. It will be in the 30’s all week during the day and even colder at night. One night is predicted to be in the teens. On that night, I’ll be cozy and warm in the house with all the Christmas lights glowing and spreading their warmth. I’m thinking I’ll have egg nog in hand, in keeping with the season of course.

It has been really difficult of late to maintain a bit of optimism. I hold on to mine with every muscle in my body especially now, at Christmas time, when all of my memories  surface and help me believe in goodness, generosity and faith. Even though we live distances apart, my sisters and I celebrate together when we honor family traditions. We keep our mother and father close. How could I be anything but an optimist at this time of year?

My first Christmas in Ghana was my first Christmas away from my family, but my mother made sure I had a bit of home. She sent ornaments from our family tree. She also sent a small plastic tree to hang them on. I used the brick-like paper from the box to make a fireplace on the wall. From it I hung the small stocking she had sent. A few Christmas cookie cutters were also in that wonderful box. Though I had never made sugar cookies, I did that Christmas. They were delicious and shaped like a star, a tree and Santa. I found out much later that my mother and my aunt Mary had split the huge cost of sending that box airmail so I’d have it in time for Christmas.

I have many memories of that first Christmas in Ghana, but I think my favorite happened while I lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. It was cold, and I was bundled in a wool blanket I had bought and even still have. At that time of the year the harmattan is in full force. The days are hot, usually over 100˚ hot, but the nights and really early mornings are delights when the temperature drops sometimes even 30˚. On that night, I heard a boy’s voice singing. I think it came from a family compound just outside the school walls. The boy sang all the verses of We Three Kings in a sweet, clear voice. It was the only sound in the cold night air. It brought delight and joy to me, and I knew I’d be fine that first Christmas away. I always think of that boy as my Christmas miracle.

“The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy.”

November 26, 2015

I am reposting last year’s Thanksgiving musings. They can’t be bettered. There is, however, one change. We are going out to eat. I’ll have to dress for dinner. Yesterday I made my chocolate pie. My sister made her chocolate pie as well as her other pies. My other sister literally had to stuff her huge turkey into the roasting pan. It just fit.

I always think a day set aside for giving thanks has to be the best of all days.

Thanksgiving is the least adorned holiday of them all. We don’t buy each other presents or decorate the house. There are no new outfits in spring colors. The highlight of the day is dinner and being together around the table as a family related by blood or friendship. Of all the holidays, it is the one in which we all share so much in common. Traditional dishes unique to each family are served but so are turkey and mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy and all those pies. It is the time for us to remember the people we love who are no longer with us and to appreciate the ones who are. We give thanks for the good in our lives, the food on our tables and the glory of every day. We talk together and laugh together at dinner. We pass the rolls, the green bean casserole and the canned cranberry sauce with the ribbing. We eat until we can eat no more. We finish by doing some cleaning up then relaxing in the living room until we have some room for dessert.

This morning I will watch the parade, the same as I have done as long I can remember. I’ll talk to my sisters to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. I won’t dress fancy for Thanksgiving, none of us really do. I’ll sit with my friends and enjoy every part of the day. I am thankful for the life I have been lucky enough to live, for the people I love and the people who love me.

I am thankful for all of you, my Coffee family.

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

August 17, 2014

My dad used to tell me the story of my birth. The hospital was in the same town where my mother’s family lived so my father kept driving back and forth with updates. My aunt was getting married that very day and was not happy her beauty sleep was being interrupted by my dad. My grandmother told her to deal with it. After all, this would be the birth of her first grandchild. Later, back at the hospital, my dad was sitting in the waiting room, the only one there. Finally a nurse came in and asked for Mr. Ryan. My father, after a hectic, exhausting night, said, “Who in the hell do you think I am?” She had him follow her, and they were just wheeling my mother out when he saw her and me. That never usually happened. Most times the father first saw his wife when she was in bed and the new baby in a bassinet in the nursery. My mother always complained she looked awful and should have had time to clean up. “What is it? was his first question. The it was girl. The it was me. It was around 3 AM when I arrived. I still like a good entrance.

I have been most fortunate. My life is filled with loving family, the best of friends and countless adventures. I have lived in Africa. Who could have predicted that? In Ecuador, I stood with one foot in each hemisphere. That is just so cool. I have the best aim when it comes to holes in the ground making me an overachiever in such an important skill. My friends make me laugh and give my life joy. My two sisters are amazing. They love making fun of me, but they’d be here in a heartbeat if I needed them. My friends and I have traditions like celebrating the first day of spring by watching the sunrise over the ocean, playing Sunday night games before The Amazing Race, Saturday night movies on the deck, Easter at the Ocean House and impromptu nights with munchies and games. My Peace Corps friends are back in my life and I am so much the better for knowing them. My former Ghanaian students too are back in my life. Two called and wished me a Happy Birthday today. KTCC has given me close friends for whom I am always thankful.

Okay, there have been ups and downs and bruises, but they never soured me on life. They made more grateful for what I have and taught me resilience and how best to land with the least amount of injury.

This morning my friend Clare left a mum on my front walkway. She does this every year, and it is one of favorite birthday traditions. Yesterday afternoon my friends took me to the Ocean House for a late lunch by the water. The food was scrumptious, the view spectacular and the drinks mighty tasty. They went down far too easily. They also gave me a Sharknado t-shirt I’ll wear with pride. When I got home, I took a nap. It was 6 o’clock. I woke up at 8. Tonight another friend is taking me to dinner. I expect it will be an early bedtime.

Every morning I am thankful for the new day and for whatever surprises it will bring.

“A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.”

July 21, 2013

A cooler day with no sun but lots of humidity is today’s weather. I turned off my air and opened all the windows and doors. The house needed the fresh air after being closed up the whole week. It. looks like it rained for a few minutes earlier this morning. I was expecting thunder showers and am disappointment by the rain’s poor showing. Gracie and I are going to the dump today.

Yesterday I bought some vegetables at a couple of farmer’s markets. I also bought some balsamic vinegar, olive oil and corn chowder base. It was in the early morning, but the heat became too much too quickly so I hurried home to the cool house where I did two loads of laundry. Last night I had dinner at my friends’ and neighbors’ house and got home around ten. It was by far my longest and most productive day in over a month. Today I’m pretty much done in. I see the dump, a shower and a nap in my future.

I remember when I was twelve I had a white visor I wore all the time. It was like a girl’s version of a baseball cap. I have a few pictures of our family vacation that year, and in every picture I’m wearing the visor. In one picture I am leaning against a tree and have a hand in my pocket and one leg bend at the knee resting on the tree trunk. The white visor is, of course, on my head. It was obviously posed, but in it I see the first glimmers of a teenage me. I think it was the pose I chose and the look on my face. I wasn’t a little girl any more, and I knew it, white visor and all.

When I’d meet relatives I hadn’t seen in a long while, usually my parents’ aunts and uncles, each identified me as George’s oldest or Chickie’s oldest (the name my mother was known as since she was a little kid). I don’t think any of them ever knew my name. They identified me by the parent to whom they were related and my birth order. Just after I got out college for the summer, the one before my senior year, a car stopped by the house. In it were Aunty Madeleine and Aunty Clara, two of my mother’s aunts, my grandmother’s sisters. They asked for my mother. I explained she and my father had gone away for the weekend. They stayed in the car, and we conversed through the window. Aunty Clara right away wanted to know who was taking care of us. I told her I was. She was shocked and couldn’t imagine my parents had left us alone. I told her I was nearly twenty-one and quite old enough to babysit for a weekend. She didn’t say anything, just frowned. Aunt Madeleine said good-bye, and they drove away. I don’t think they even knew who I was. No one asked if I were Chickie’s oldest.

“If you live in each other’s pockets long enough, you’re related.”

April 15, 2013

I have always thought of Keep the Coffee Coming as a community, a family. We get to chat with each other, share memories and have a laugh or two sometimes at our own expenses. One of my favorite Coffee experiences is learning about the world from all of you and about your childhoods and your holidays and traditions. Some family members have been with me for years, and I cherish them but I also cherish the newest members of the family. I think of Coffee as a place devoid of criticism or controversy, a place where we can all feel comfortable with each other.

My friend Hedley has decided not to return to Coffee. Though he has been with me for what seems like the best and longest time, he has decided not to visit again. I wrote him an e-mail wondering if he was okay as I hadn’t heard from him in a while. It was then he told me that there were so many anti-British comments made he felt uncomfortable at the very least and pained enough by the comments that he didn’t feel welcome here any more. He is my friend and I will miss him and his wonderful comments.

I decided that I would tell this to all of you so that maybe it won’t happen again and just maybe Hedley will return. We can’t like everything and we don’t always agree, but we should always respect one another.

I do have one story for the day and I’ll call it Gracie, the Possum and Me. Gracie was sleeping and snoring beside me on the couch around 12:30 last night when she jumped up and ran outside. Right away I heard banging and a noise I couldn’t identify so I grabbed my flashlight and went out on the deck. I flashed the light all over the backyard and finally saw Gracie near the right side of the deck. Then I noticed the dead possum at the foot of the deck stairs. It was a huge, adult possum, as ugly as they come. I went down the cellar and couldn’t find my shovel so I grabbed a hoe and a garden fork missing one tine so I could get rid of the deceased. I went out the cellar door which is right near the stairs. It was then the possum got up and started walking. Gracie ran and grabbed it and I ran and screamed so Gracie dropped it. The possum had only been playing dead and had done a great job. I was completely fooled. After Gracie dropped it, the possum looked dead again, but I didn’t go too close and instead stood guard. Gracie kept running the perimeter of the yard and up the other deck stairs to my side stairs trying to get at the possum. I thwarted her every time. Gracie did that at least seven times. I was totally frustrated as I didn’t dare leave the possum and so I couldn’t lock the gates on the deck to catch Gracie. Finally Gracie was on the stairs near me long enough for me to talk to her, and she came right to me. I grabbed her and brought her inside and gave her a treat for coming. I decided to leave the possum until morning. The whole escapade was over at 1:20.

The first thing I did this morning was check for the possum before I let Gracie out. The possum had done it again, superbly played dead, and had gotten away while we were inside the house. I let Gracie out, and she went looking. Sorry, Gracie, the possum is gone!

“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.”

March 25, 2013

This morning the alarm woke me at 4:30. That’s right, 4:30, the most ungodly of hours, which is a bit of a play on the day as I got that early so I could leave at 5 to go to the 20th anniversary mass for my father. It is nearly beyond belief to realize he has been gone that long. I think of him often, and we still miss him every day. The mass was in a church about an hour and a half from here, close to where he and my mother used to live. My sister from Colorado is here for a few days and came especially for the mass. I left at 5 and arrived at the church about 5 minutes before the mass ended. A traffic accident on the expressway kept me in bumper to bumper traffic. I celebrate birthdays, the Fourth of July and a Christmas or two before the traffic broke, but once I knew I was going to be late, I was patient sitting in the car, so unlike me, but I hadn’t any other choice. I listened to the radio and learned all about the fiscal crisis in Cyprus, the snow coming my way and traffic updates on the 3’s. I’m hoping someone opines about Cyprus so I can jump in with my opinion. The ride home was just as awful. Another accident kept me in bumper to bumper traffic before I even reached the city, but once through the mess, I whizzed my way home. I had an errand which I didn’t care to do and, instead, went straight home and back to bed. I just woke up.

We all went to breakfast after the mass. Three of my cousins took the day off so they could go to mass and breakfast then they’ll spend the rest of the day with my two sisters. I like my family. I am much older, and though they are closer to my two sisters and spend lots of time together, I always get the hug and the kiss when we see each other. We are a family of huggers and kissers, even the guys. That’s a cool thing.

Two inches of snow are coming my way. I swear my sister brought it as she left over a foot of it behind in Colorado. The snow won’t last, according to the six or eight weather forecasts I heard, as it will be warm enough to melt the snow the next two days. I think the words were seasonably warm which didn’t get my heart thumping.

Well, that’s it for today: not much happening when you spend most of the day sitting in a car moving at a snail’s pace and listening to a combination of NPR, WBZ news radio and WEEI sports. Did I mention I found out that a 15th seed has made it to the sweet 16 for the first time?

“Tradition is a fragile thing in a culture built entirely on the memories of the elders.”

December 22, 2012

The morning is lighter than it has been the last few days, but the sun is still a bit shy. It pokes out every now and then trying to decide whether or not to stay. It’s cold. When I look out my window, I see brown leaves, clouds and bare branches. Even my trees define winter.

I have two batches of cookies left to make, but I’ll only do one today as I’m going to see the new James Bond movie this afternoon. The other batch will be made tomorrow. I’m in no hurry as everything is pretty much on schedule. The only item after the cookies on my to-do list is to decide which appetizers I’ll serve on Christmas Eve. It’s our gingerbread house night.

Santa never left wrapped gifts when I was young. The only wrapped gifts under the tree were from my parents, and it didn’t any guessing to know two of those presents for each of us were new pajamas and slippers to wear on Christmas Eve. My mother would tell us we could open a couple of presents, and we’d plead to pick the Christmas Eve presents but my mother never gave in. She’d hand each of us two of the gifts from under the tree: pajamas and slippers, always pajamas and slippers.

I continued the tradition and always sent my sister’s three kids new pajamas for Christmas Eve. The boys had red-footed ones when they were young then red or green sweats when they were older. My nephew swears I pulled a Ralphie on him and made him wear footed pajamas until he was 12, but that isn’t true. My niece got footed pajamas as well but hers came from the Disney Store. Her Pooh pajamas were such a favorite she’d cry if she didn’t have them to wear to bed. My sister had to cut off the feet of the pajamas so my niece could keep wearing them even after she’d outgrown them. This year my nephew, he of the footed pajamas, bought new pajamas for his 6-year-old son and my niece’s 5 month old son.

We keep the memories of Christmas, the memories of family and tradition, and when the time comes, we pass those memories, those traditions, to the next generation. Every Christmas is a reminder of all the Christmases before it. Pajamas and my mother on Christmas Eve are forever linked, and this year Ryder and Declan will celebrate her tradition, now theirs, at Christmas.

“Gee, do they still make wooden Christmas trees?”

November 26, 2012

Today is a pretty day filled with sunlight and a clear blue sky. It’s even warm at 48 degrees. The leaves at the end of the branches are blowing, but the wind is gone. It’s a day to get out and do something.

My dance card for the week is fuller than usual, with usual being empty. Wednesday and Thursday are booked, and Skip will be by to put up my outside Christmas lights on Friday so I’ll have to scurry and get my wreaths. I love that errand: walking among the trees and wreaths and filling my nose with the smell of Christmas.

My father and his sister and Christmas trees are a part of my memories. My father used to go with my mother to pick out and buy the tree. He was always aghast at the prices and would try to convince my mother to go with a sparser, less expensive tree. My mother, at heart a Christmas elf, would never agree. She wanted the fullest of all trees, and my father usually gave in. The tree took up a whole corner of the room and was always beautiful. My aunt, my father’s younger sister, would drop by to visit and always admired the tree. She’d say something about how expensive it must have been which was really a subtle way to get the price. She and my dad had a yearly unacknowledged competition as to which one of them had bought the cheaper but more beautiful tree. My father always lied. We knew it and I think she did too. No matter how expensive the tree had been, my father always said $15 or $20, and my aunt was always amazed. None of us ever said a word about the real cost of the tree. We enjoyed the family ritual, the always rigged tree competition.

 

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

November 22, 2012


Thanksgiving

The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.

Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway —
Thanksgiving comes again!

~~Old Rhyme.~~

Thanksgiving morning my mother woke up very early. She’d make the stuffing, always a sage stuffing, fill the turkey and get it into the oven. Her pan was in a huge oval shape and had a cover, but I don’t remember my mother ever using that cover. The pan was blue with tiny white spots on it, and my mother cooked her turkey in that same pan every year. Now and then my mother would open the oven to baste the turkey with its own pan juices. I remember the whole house was filled with the aroma of that roasting turkey. I can still see the kitchen windows covered in steam.

We’d be in the living room watching the parade and eating the snacks my mother always put out for us. I remember the bowl of mixed nuts, the silver nutcrackers and the silver picks. There were tangerines, and there were M&M’s. They were always  special on Thanksgiving.

I wish all of you the most wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”

August 13, 2012

We have sun, that bright orb in the sky which sheds light on the world. It has brought warmth and dispelled the damp so tonight will finally be the oft postponed movie on the deck night. It is supposed to pleasant and cool.

It was a mirror under her nose to see if she’s alive type morning. The dog wanted out. I don’t know when. I heard her bells, went downstairs, opened the door and turned off the AC so I could leave the door opened and she could come in which she wanted. I went back to bed. The phone woke me at 10:30, that’s right, 10:30, but I didn’t let the late morning change my ritual: two papers and two cups of coffee later, here I am.

Now I’m stuck with nothing to day; my mind is a tabula rasa. I write six days a week (it used to be every day) and have been writing this blog for at least six years maybe even seven I’m not sure. I have discussed every aspect of my childhood, my teen years, college years, Peace Corps service and the day-to-day stuff which keeps me busy or idle depending upon my mood. I have excoriated tourists, supermarkets, slow drivers who can’t see over the steering wheel and the weather, can’t forget the weather. I have taken you with me to Morocco, Ghana and South America, though that last one wasn’t live. Soon enough you’ll be going back to Ghana with me. You have been made privy to the number of underwear I’m bringing on my journey, and I’ll be posting my flight times and numbers so you can make sure I arrived safely. I have told countless dad stories. You even know some of my failings as I’ve lamented them a few times, a tin ear being one and impatience being prime. You have essentially become family but don’t expect post cards!