Posted tagged ‘traditions’

“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.

“All tradition is merely the past.”

November 18, 2016

Today is cloudy and damp. The wind is blowing more leaves off the trees. The backyard has a layer of crusty brown leaves. Gracie makes noise when she walks around. The deck is covered again. Dismal is the best description of the weather.

I have a few errands today. Gracie is out of canned food, and I need bread. I’m also thinking I need a whoopie pie to chase away the clouds. Chocolate makes every day sunny.

My table is filled with catalogues with dog-eared pages. I am on the hunt for the last of my Christmas gifts. Now I am into the traditional. I need more ornaments as I give everyone a new ornament each year. That started when my nephews and niece were born. When they got married, they collected all their ornaments from my sister for their very first trees. Now I also buy ornaments for their kids and their husband and wives. Everyone also gets a bar of soap, not just any soap but soap with a bit of whimsy. I have bought lobsters, crabs, starfish, nutcrackers and, for the guys, soap on a rope. The kids get new books. I also hunt for fun gifts. My brother-in-law, the fisherman, is getting an antique drop line. I love to find stuff like that. It does take a bit of hunting, but the fun is in the hunt. Besides, I sometimes find a bauble for myself. Last night I tried to order gingerbread house kits. I started sending houses to be constructed when my oldest nephew was three.

Last night I tried to order gingerbread house kits, also traditional. I started sending houses to be constructed when my oldest nephew was three. I sent them every year after that. Now I send one to my nephew’s two children and my niece’s two. My two friends and I construct small ones on Christmas Eve, a newer tradition. I had trouble with the website so I called them last night. The owner happened to be there though the place was closed. He promised to call me back, and he did. This morning he found out the website stopped on the ordering page so he took my order over the phone. He was glad I had called him as they didn’t know about the problem.

I do have a great story about the finished house. One year my sister’s kids built theirs, and she warned them to keep their hands off it. Later she caught one of her kids licking the candy on the roof. His defense was he didn’t use his hands. He was right!

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas lights.”

November 25, 2014

I am getting use to these warm days, a mistake. Winter is the slyest of seasons. One warm day can be followed by frost and even snow. Today is dark. Rain is coming and tomorrow will be an ugly day.

For the last few days a box or two has been delivered. Inside is a Christmas present or some stocking stuffers. I have been computer shopping. It is not as much fun as wandering through stores, but it is less expensive. I find all sorts of sales and free shipping. One item was close to $30.00. With free shipping and a coupon I found on-line it was only $19.00. Next I’ll make a list of what I still need and with list in hand do some shopping on small business Saturday. I’ll wander on 6A and see what I can find. One stop will be for me. In Orleans is a henna shop, and I was thinking my hands could use some decorating for the holidays. They’ve been painted twice before with henna: once in Morocco and once at a fair. They looked exotic and I loved the patterns.

Traditions are important to my family especially at the holidays. Certain dishes have to be on the table to make the meal complete. We get to open one door a day on our Advent calendars. My sister gets a Life Safer book just as she did in her stocking every year. I give my niece and nephews small bags with a few gifts including a new ornament, toothbrushes and fun soaps. That started when each of them turned three and I sent a filled piñata for Christmas Eve fun. They are now filling piñatas for their nephews. I love that I started a tradition.

Some of my neighbors have already put up and lit their Christmas lights. I don’t think it’s too soon. Darkness comes early, and the lights makes us almost forget we have a long winter ahead of us.

“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.

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

September 29, 2013

Gracie has spent most of the morning in the yard. She nows the day is too lovely to waste inside the house. Every now and then she comes in to make sure I’m still here, gets petted, wags her tail and goes right back outside. I can hear her on the deck and know she’s sticking her between the railing pieces so she can see over the fence. The birds are both noisy and hungry this morning. They wait for their turns at the feeder. The thistle feeder twirls when a bird or two lands on it. It is the only one they don’t seem to mind sharing.

I didn’t go to bed until 2 this morning because I watched a movie called Gun Crazy made in 1950. It was so good I can’t understand why I haven’t heard of it before. It was based on a short story by McKinlay Kantor who with Millard Kaufman wrote the screenplay but not really. Millard Kaufman’s name was used to hide the actual screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted. I have never heard of either of the two stars: John Dall and Peggy Cummins. Both were good, but she was amazing. Her eyes were often filled with a fury and anger which the camera caught and highlighted. You never had to question her motives. The film was too good not to watch until the end so it was a really late night; consequently, it was one of those get the mirror to see if she’s breathing sort of sleep. I didn’t wake up until late this morning. My mother would have said I must have needed it. 

Today I get to watch the Sox play their last regular season game. The playoffs for them begin on Friday so no baseball until then though I’ll check in on the wild card games once the teams are finalized. I can’t believe that a season of 162 games will end today. I reconciled myself to the end of summer, but I can’t seem to grasp that baseball too will soon end.

The Amazing Race begins tonight as does our tradition. My friends and I get together early, eat appetizers and play a few games until the start of the race. Dessert comes during the race as do our discussions about the teams. Tradition also calls for each of us to pick a favorite team. Sometimes we even pick the right one.

Sort of an interesting day with the end of one thing and the start of another.

“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.

“At Christmas, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ makes me cry in exactly the same places every time, even though I know it’s coming.”

December 4, 2012

Today is warm and beautiful with sun and a lightly clouded sky as its backdrop. The dog and I are going out though we have no destination, but a day like today should never be wasted so we’ll wander until something catches our eyes.

Gifts are on the bed upstairs in the guest room and in the cellar. I’ll start bringing them here to the den so I can spend evenings wrapping. I’m still waiting for one order of cards to come in the mail then I can write out my cards and send them. The tree and the inside decorations are next and then comes the baking. I have a list of what I want to make, and my sisters have put in their requests so I just need to grocery shop. Christmas is on its way.

My family has many Christmas traditions, most from my mother, but some from me. My sister Moe’s kids each got a piñata from me every Christmas starting the year they had turned three. My sister would attach their piñatas to the stair railing, and they’d hang down into the family room. On Christmas Eve, after dinner, it was piñata time. The kids loved opening all of the little presents and by bedtime they were exhausted and would sleep all night into the morning. A few times my sister had to wake them up to let them know Santa had come. My nephew Ryan has a six-year-old. On Christmas Eve his son Ryder will whack at and open a piñata for the third time. His aunt, my niece, carries on the tradition.

My mother used to send us each an Advent calendar, and every morning I’d hunt for the date so I could open the little window. I’d find candles, elves, decorated trees or toys, but I knew on Christmas Eve morning I’d find a manger scene no matter what the Advent calendar looked like. One year I sent my sister’s kids a calendar with chocolate behind each window. My nephew figured out how to open the bottom so all the chocolate would fall out, and he ate every one of them, all 24 pieces. The next year they got the traditional calendar, no more chocolate. After my mother passed away, I started sending one to my sisters every year to keep the tradition going. Last year for the first time I send one from on-line and did the same this year. The calendar is animated with beautiful scenes and lovely music. My friend sent me one, and every morning it is the first thing I do on the computer. I have decorated a tree, made and dressed a snowman and today I watched alpine skiing.  I’m thinking the 24th might just have a manger scene.

“I saw old Autumn in the misty morn Stand shadow less like silence, listening To silence.”

November 4, 2012

As fall days go, this one is just about perfect. The sun is sharply bright, the air is clear and it’s chilly, around 45˚ chilly, not quite coat weather yet. When I went to get the papers early this morning, I could smell fall. I could smell the fallen leaves and the crispness of the air. Someone had a fire going. I noticed the yellow maple leaves had fallen on the grass in a pattern drawn from a painter’s palette. I stood and took in my little bit more of my world then grabbed the papers and went inside to a house filled with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. My senses were in overdrive.

Gracie got loose this morning. We had just gotten back from breakfast and were on our way into the house when she pulled her head out of her collar and took off down the street. She did me the courtesy of looking back at me as she ran. I called her and was totally ignored. I took out my phone and called my friends, but no one was home. Then I saw my neighbor moving his car and asked him to call Gracie. She, of course, went right to him, gave him a hug and a bunch of kisses. He held on to a wiggly, happy Gracie until I could put her collar back on. Right now she is sleeping, resting from her exploits.

Sunday has a different feel about it than any other day of the week. Saturday was the day for errands so Sunday is a slow day, a day for taking time. On Sunday mornings, breakfast with my friend is a ritual for us. It is when we catch up with one another. Our breakfast is slow by intent and always has plenty of time for an extra cup of coffee. When I come home, I finish reading the papers. The crossword puzzle is saved for last, and I keep going back to it during the day until I finally give up. A nap is inevitable. Tonight my friends and I will play a few games, eat some appetizers as we play then we’ll watch The Amazing Race together.

I love traditions and rituals. They are connections over time, and they are to be cherished even in such simplicity as a morning breakfast or a game of cards.