Flashback Friday – O Christmas Tree

This is the
“O My Gosh, I Can’t Believe It’s on Time! Edition
of Flashback Friday, brought to you by Quilldancer.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been!

When you were growing up, when did your family put up and decorate the Christmas tree? Was it real or artificial? Who usually decorated it? Were there special decorations? What was on the top? White lights or colored, blinking or steady? How much did your family decorate for the holiday other than the tree (wreaths, dishes, snowglobes, miniature villages, etc.)? Did y’all do outdoor lights? White or colored, blinking or not? Are there special memories associated with decorating for Christmas?

We always had a live tree.  My dad was a logger and two of my Uncles owned tree farms.  They would have died if Gram put a fake tree up in our living room and buying a tree would have been an even worse crime!

Usually my dad or one of my uncles would bring the tree in and put it in the stand, then they would leave and Gram and I would decorate.  I never understood why, when I was a kid, Gram always made me go to my room until the lights were on the tree.  As an adult I know … it was the cuss words.  I am sure of it.

Gram had wonderful stuff to put on the tree!  She had old porcelain bells shaped like Santa, Angels, Christmas Trees, Bells (duh), Carolers, and Snowmen.  We always hung candy canes on the tree — one for each day until Christmas, and I got to eat one every night (well, usually I took it off the tree at night and didn’t eat it until the next day).  When there was only one candy cane left, I knew the next day was Christmas!  She started that when I was 6 to keep me from asking every night, “How long?”  She would say, “Go count the candy canes!”

If my dad did stay around when we decorated the tree, it had to have tinsel.  Gram generally skipped the tinsel because (as you doubtless know) it has a way of leaving the tree and migrating all over the house.  And my dad insisted that the tinsel be put on the tree one strand at a time. I was never that patient and would lose interest pretty fast.

For years we had an angel on top pf the tree.  It was just a little white plastic cone with a doll head and feather wings.  I remember thinking it ugly and being rather pleased when it finally burnt out.  We replaced it with a lovely multi-colored star.

The only other decoration that went up was Gram’s creche.  That was special.  It had a wooden stable with a real straw roof, and Gram always put real straw on the floor.  A porcelain angel hung from the peak of the stable roof.  There were porcelain figurines for Mary, Joseph, the wisemen, their camels, and there were sheep and donkeys.  Little baby Jesus was naked in the manager laying on a white cloth over the straw.  Of course he and it was porcelain, too.

The creche pictured here is much like Gram’s, but there are a few minor differences. I remember the first time Gram let me put the creche up.  She told me it was over 50 years old, and I had to be extremely careful with it.  Even then, I wasn’t allowed to move the stable because she was afraid it would fall apart.  Every year more of the roof flaked away.  I was very careful handling that creche.  I loved it.  I have no idea where it ended up after Gram died. It doesn’t matter though, it is still beautiful and everlasting in my heart.

Flashback Friday ~ After Thanksgiving

This is the “Take Two: Turkey — Late As Usual — Edition of Flashback Friday
brought to you by Quilldancer.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been!

~*~

This week Linda wants us to flashback to yesterday and share our own celebration.  I am not going to do that.  Instead I went into my archives and am sharing with you my 2007 thanksgiving post, which was was told to me in 2005 by a young man named Isaiah.

In my 5th grade classroom after Thanksgiving one year each of us shared how we celebrated and what we ate. One of my students didn’t want to share. We all cajoled and encouraged him to speak.

Finally he said:

“We didn’t eat.  We never eat on Thanksgiving. My mom cooks a big meal with lots of food and it smells great — then we package it up and take it to someone who needs it more then we do.  Mom says that’s so we never forget to be grateful everyday.  After we deliver the food, we go home and play games and sing and enjoy our family.  We don’t turn on the TV or the radio. At bedtime dad reads us Bible stories.  It was really hard to go to sleep because I was so hungry, but in the morning mom fixed pancakes for breakfast and we told God how grateful we were to have food, and we knew how to really mean it.”

They weren’t exactly a Gucci family, either.  Seven kids, two parents and grandma in a three bedroom house.  Whenever I need a lesson in gratefulness I think of them.

Flashback Friday ~ The Turkey Edition

This is the “Turkey  — One Day Late  As Usual — Edition of Flashback Friday
brought to you by Quilldancer.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been! This week Linda wants me to share my memories of my super dysfunctional family’s Thanksgiving gathering.  Apparently she doesn’t realize that somethings really are better left unexplored!

What was Thanksgiving like when you were growing up? What days did you usually have off from school? Do you remember any Thanksgiving activities at school, such as a play or a meal? During the Thanksgiving weekend, did you travel to spend it with relatives or did you stay home? Or did relatives travel to you? What was your family’s day typically like? Did you watch the Macy’s Parade or something else on TV? Have you ever attended a Thanksgiving parade? Was football a big part of the day? And of course, we have to hear what your family ate! Were there any traditional foods that were part of your family’s meal? Which of your growing-up traditions do you do with your family today? And if you are married, how did it go merging your two traditions/expectations?

I absolutely don’t remember anything special Thanksgiving related that happened at school in my childhood.  If something special did happen, I think I would remember it.  Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.

The second school was out on Wednesday afternoon (full day, no early release) I would scoot home and Gram and I would drive the 35 miles to Aunt Aldy’s and Uncle Norm’s.   The house would already be full of great food cooking smells.  There would be candy dishes piled high with all kinds of great treats.  To this day I love those colorful, old-fashioned, Christmas sugar candies.

My Aunt always served the same breakfast on thanksgiving morning.  She made fresh, steamy hot chocolate from scratch,  and she served it with a big platter of toasted and buttered bread ritually cut into three strips just perfect for dipping.   Gram, Aunt Aldy, my cousin Patty and I would sit at the table and dip our toast and then eat it.   That breakfast was only served on Thanksgiving morning, Christmas morning, and Easter morning.  As an adult I have tried making it and eating it myself, but it just isn’t the same in my own kitchen.

After breakfast we would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  My cousin Patty and I would lay on our stomachs on the living room floor.  We would constantly inch closer and closer to the TV set.  My Uncle Norm would grab our feet and pull us back.   Norm, Jr. and Stephen, Patty’s brothers, usually sat in the easy chairs and my Uncle took up the whole couch.  He never sat in one place.  He always seemed to bounce around.   Gram and Aunt Aldy would sneak peeks from the kitchen.

Dinner was always served around noon.  My uncle wanted his meal eaten and all the noisy clean-up out of the way when the game started.  He also wanted Patty and I silent and/or out of sight.   I don’t know why we had to be quiet when he and the boys got to do so much screaming and yelling it didn’t seem fair.  Patty and I usually went to the family room in the basement and played with our Barbies or did jigsaw puzzles.

The dinner itself was always my favorite meal of the year.  Most of our foods were traditional.  Turkey, gibblet gravy, mashed potatoes, oyster stuffing (not dressing), candied yams, olives (green & black), cranberry sauce (with and without whole berries), shrimp salad, fresh baked dinner rolls, home canned pickles (sweet & dill),  and sparkling cider to drink.

When I was married to Michael and his kids were little, we had traditional turkey dinner that looked a lot like what I mentioned above. Michael always did the cooking and he made a sausage stuffing that was heavenly.  After I divorced I usually had friends to share Thanksgiving with — sometimes at my house, sometimes at their’s, sometimes at restaurants.

Amoeba and I spent our first Thanksgiving together at home.  I roasted a chicken and made a miniature version of  the traditional dinner.  We were supposed to go to a friend’s house, but we couldn’t get through the security gate.  By our second Thanksgiving we’d figured out how to work the security gate and joined our friends at their Makaha condo.  We ate our turkey dinner on the patio beside the beach.

Last Thanksgiving we were in Oahu.    OJM cooked the food and brought it to our house where several people gathered.  I made everybody taste Jone’s Soda’s holiday flavored beverage — Tofurkey & Gravy Soda.   We all had to take a sip while wearing a funky stuffed turkey hat.  I blogged about it, of course.

This Thanksgiving we will be joining friends.  I have no plans to torture them with Jones’s holiday flavor this year.  I really should since this is Jones Soda country!   It hails from Seattle.  This year’s holiday flavor is Bacon!

Flashback Friday ~ Family Dynamics

This is the “I Can’t Believe It’s On Time” Edition of Flashback Friday
brought to you by Quilldancer.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been! This week Linda wants me to share my memories of my super dysfunctional family.  Apparently she doesn’t realize that somethings really are better left unexplored!

How was your family structured when you were growing up? Did you grow up with both original parents in the home? If your parents divorced, did you go back and forth between them? Whether divorced or widowed, did your parent remarry? How old were you? Was yours a multi-generational household with grandparents living with you? Did your mom work outside the home, and if so, was it full-time or part-time? Was there a clearly delineated division of labor between your parents (or parent and step-parent) and how traditional was it? Did your parents believe in child labor?! That is, how structured were chores? What responsibility, if any, did you have for things like doing your own laundry, fixing your own school lunch, etc.? Were your parents do-it-yourself-ers or did they hire people for repairs, painting, etc.? Is your current marriage/family structure similar to the way you were raised? What do you do differently than you did then?

My family was probably the strangest compilation on record for the 1960s, when people were still fairly conservative.  I know there were only two kids in my entire school that didn’t live with their own parents — and I was one of them.  We did have one [gasp] divorced family, but their kids still had two loving parents caring for them.

My father was divorced and had two children when he married my mother — a widow with 4 children.  Together they had me.  My mom died when I was three. Before my mom died, while she was ill, my maternal grandparents came to live with us.

When my mother died my father remarried almost immediately.  My new step-mom already had two sons, then she and my dad added two more boys to the family.  I was with my step-mom for about 2 years.  Most of that time I spent locked in the closet — and even after she started binding and gagging me when she put me in the closet, I was still safer in there then I was when I was within arm’s reach of her.

After my dad rescued me from that nightmare, I went to live with my maternal grandparents.  Dad came by to visit from time-to-time, but I only saw him two or three times per year; usually Christmas and Easter and/or my birthday (Spring).   My maternal grandfather died when I was six.  Gram and I lived together until I was 14.  At which point my father remarried again and made me go and live with him.

Dad didn’t think Gram was a decent disciplinarian.   He may have been correct.  Gram didn’t impose a lot of rules, but I was a remarkably well-behaved straight A student.  I wasn’t interested in boys and was very active in church.  If I had been less well-behaved, I likely would have had more rules …. we’ll never know.

At any rate, my Dad’s 4th marriage added two step-brothers and a step-sister to my list of siblings.  Contrary to popular belief, step-brothers and sisters are not evil creatures.  I very much liked and even came to love my new siblings and they treated me very well.  Unfortunately, their mother did not.

My step-mom was actually quite wonderful at first.  She climbed trees with me, we went river rafting, she taught me to dance, do embroidery, wear makeup and curl my hair. We even bought motorcycles together.  Then she got sick.  It started out slowly.  She would be short of breath, irritable, and she’d forget little things.  That always made her mad and she’d take it out on me.

One day she had a massive heart attack.  She had gone for a walk alone and the neighbor found her on the river path unconscious.  He started CPR and sent his son to call for an ambulance and find dad.  Turns out my step-mom had been having mini-attacks for quite sometime.  The massive attack left her brain-damaged.  Nobody knows how long she was unconscious and oxygen deprived, but it was more than long enough to drastically change her personality.

I am not going to tell you too much about the person she became, but I can tell you that for years I blocked all of the memories but our last scene when she hit me with the hot cast iron frying pan.  I ran away from home that day.  Since I was still a minor, when the whole episode came to a head (I involved the police) I was removed from my father’s home and sent to live with my sister, Caryl, and her husband and kids.   In that household I was the eldest child.

In going to live with my sister, I was forced to leave the friends I had gone to school with from 1st to 11th grade.  I didn’t take that move very well and became the wild, nasty, lying, sneaky, brat my dad and step-mom always said I was (until that point I remained a well-behaved, straight A student, but if one is going to be punished for a crime, one might as well commit it).  I took up smoking (cigarettes) and skipping school.  I didn’t drink but that was only because I tried it and didn’t like it.   I gave my sister fits.

Finally I ran away from her house and in so doing obtained permission to return to Gram’s and finish high school.  Once at Gram’s I was back on the honor roll and a well-behaved kid again.  I took up with my church friends, resumed attending youth group and even got a job as the baby-sister for the Assembly of God’s Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night services.  I graduated from high school with my classmates.

When I became a step-parent at the age of 23, I did things very differently.  First off, my step-children already had a wonderful mother.  I consulted her before I made any decisions in regard to her children.  When the kids were with me, I treated them the way I would have liked my step-parents to treat me.  I loved those kids and I was an authority figure in regard to the rules in my home, but never did I presume to act like I was their parent.  My step-children liked and respected me — most likely because I genuinely liked and respected them.  I also genuinely liked and respected their mother, which I am sure helped.

As for chores — at Gram’s house I had none, which was a bad thing, but since my first step-mother had me cooking meals, doing dishes (even pots and pans) and mopping floors when I was 5, Gram may have over-compensated.  After my second step-mom became ill, I ran the house.  I did the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the meal planning, etc …..

Flashback Friday, The Late Edition ~ Puzzles & Games

This is the Friday Late Night Edition of Flashback Friday
brought to you by Quilldancer.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been! This week Linda wants us to share our memories of our favorite puzzles and games.

My cousin Patty had every board game under the sun. This was our favorite at her house. We played it two or three times per day, but only during bad weather. If the weather was at all tolerable, we weren’t allowed in the house. Patty and I also enjoyed playing Trouble and Parcheesi.

With my Weniger cousins the games usually involved more thinking or Math.  They were all super-fast at putting puzzles together and doing math in their heads.  I hated putting puzzles together with them. They’d place 8-9 pieces to my one — and despite the fact that we were all kids, the puzzles were generally no smaller than 250 pieces.  However, of all the the entertainment choices we had, we almost always played Kismet — Kismet was like Yahtzee, but the dice were colored and one had to get color and number combinations in order to meet one’s quotas.

At my house we had two favorite games.  One –BINGO! — took hours to play because we’d each have 6 cards and we always played to blackout.  The other game, however, was really our favorite — Cooties! This photo (found on the internet) could actually be my game.  This is the original 1949 edition my family and friends were still playing in 1969 and for all I know is still in a cupboard in Grandma’s house (my cousin lives there now).

However, my favorite games of all were the outdoor games.  Of course we played tag of various different kinds and incarnations.  We even played bicycle tag that was a lot like flag football.  We’d clothespin bandannas to our shirt sleeves.  If the person who was “It” snatched your bandanna away, then you became, “It.”  The game often involved bike crashes, but I don’t remember anybody ever getting hurt.

Another outside favorite was baseball.  There was a huge field about 3 blocks from our house.  We were allowed to play baseball there because none of us could possibly hit a window.  Previous to playing in that field, we played on the school grounds, but I somehow managed (at 10 years old) to hit the baseball with enough force to drive it 100 yards to the fence, over the fence, across the street, and through the window on Tapley’s Cabinet Shop.  It was a pure fluke, but even so it got us banned from the immediate neighborhood.

A couple of my girlfriends and I liked to play hopscotch, jump rope, and Chinese jump rope, but the boys didn’t care for them and since there was about an even mix of boys and girls that played together, we didn’t frequently indulge in those “girly” games.

In my teen years when I lived with my father and step-mother, we almost always played a game or two of cards after dinner.  We played Acey-Duecy, Canasta, and Michigan Rummy.  Sometimes we’d play Cribbage, too.  On Friday nights my dad, step-mom and I always went to the Baker’s house and played a progressive rummy game that my sister now calls 3-13.  I can’t recall what name we gave it then, but I do know it was different.

My very most cherished game playing memories of all come from the hours I spent playing Rummy with my friend, Mary.  I rarely ever beat her.  I’m lucky if I can remember a card 20 seconds after I play it.  She knew where every card in the deck was at all times.  It wasn’t so much the card playing that made my time with Mary special.  It was the friendship and the laughter.