Thursday, December 22, 2016
Nora and Joe and I lit the first Advent candle the day after Oliver was born. We have been marking the days by hanging the tiny figures on our vintage Advent calendar. We have baked Candy Cane Cookies, joyed in the twinkle lights of the Christmas trees, and tried out a few carols. Solstice has come and gone, darkness leaning now toward the light - Advent reflections are in everything. Even in our part of the South Texas Gulf Coast we have had a share of cold weather. Winter is here, although the picture is one from years past. Our Peace sign in the front courtyard is out for Christmastime, but the blessing is for always.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Thursday, December 10, 2015
― Charles Dickens,
It is also good (wonderful!) to be a grandmother at Christmas. To share in the wonder of twinkle lights and cookie baking, to give even your tea table a Christmas dress and cover tiny trees with pretty decorations. Nora brings us the delight of her joy this season, making it all new again for everyone in our family. She runs around discovering every tiny manger scene, angel, and Santa. She loves dancing to all the sweet carols. I find myself being astonished and full of wonder in new ways and saying it just like she does: "OOOH! Wow!"
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, Advent begins tomorrow. The 2 days are not always so close together, but it seems appropriate to move from the posture of marking gratitude to these next weeks of waiting and expectancy. I love so many things about these celebrations. There is the time set aside for personal reflection and recollection. There is time for family gathering and celebrating. This Thanksgiving has brought a keen awareness of how precious our times together are and how much I appreciate the occasion because it draws people home. The coming year brings great change for all of us, some already known. Jobs and homeplaces are relocating, our grandchildren are growing up. Next year gatherings may be different in numbers and place. So I need to say one more time how grateful I am that all our thirteen of our sons, their wives and our grandchildren were together for hugs and laughter, fun in the kitchen, remembering, and circling our great feast for Joe to pray a blessing and thanksgiving for our family, our food, our being together. Not many pictures, but so many, many good memories.
Thanksgiving 2015. Blessed.
Monday, April 27, 2015
I am glad my friend ran across the photo and remembered good times.The photo was made in our home on Sekolah Duta II, Pondok Indah in Jakarta, Indonesia, in December 1991. Joe and I were dressed for the American Women's Association Christmas Ball which was an annual event. I went to the market and bought a lovely silk sari, took it to another market stall and explained that I wanted a dress and jacket cut from the sari. The seamstress thought it would be nice for Joe to have a matching bow tie and cummerbund! There was music, dancing, wonderful food, champagne, and I remember entering the ballroom through large ice sculptures.
In our cabinet along with other glassware is one champagne glass painted with a Christmas Wreath and AWA Christmas Ball 1991. This dress still hangs in my closet although it wouldn't fit me now, the earrings are in the granddaughters' dressup trunk, and the shoes long gone. But I do remember!
Friday, January 9, 2015
As we packed away our home's Christmas dress, took ornaments off the trees, and reflected on all the comings and goings of our busy family during this season, I thought about the gifts we gave our children and grandchildren. We all know our best gifts are not topped with bows and found under the Christmas tree, but I want the gifts that are there to have meaning. Almost always there are gifts of music and books and games. Every year, I like to wrap up one thing for my "boys" - all of them, including their Dad, that will be fun and bring back memories of childhood Christmases. I enjoy giving them things that encourage their own home building and hospitality. But this year, there was a gift for each of our married sons and their wives (plus ones I mailed for my nieces) that took a little explanation. They all know my fondness for estate sales and might have thought on first look that I got carried away when I found a box of old silverplate. But these gifts were nothing I shopped for, and cost me nothing other than a few minutes' time to assemble them.
They each opened a tissue-wrapped, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon. Any questions about the odd set I hope were answered with the printed message I included explaining the origin of the old flatware.
This worn, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon belonged to Mary Clyde Curley Terrell, your great grandmother. I have had these for many years, and thought for a time to make something from them - a piece of jewelry, a windchime, or kitchenart perhaps. Somehow, it never seemed right to alter them. Do with them as you wish, but I hope you will remember their story, her story. Grandma Terrell likely never had a matched set of anything, that is part of your knife, fork, and spoon story. She lived in the years that I remember her best in an old frame farmhouse on a hill not far from the cemetery in Bullard, Texas where she is buried. In the kitchen where she worked I remember a wood stove, a bucket and dipper which were for water drawn from the well by the back door, and a window at one end where food scraps were thrown out for her chickens.
She worked hard with her hands and loved fiercely with her heart. She had few material possessions, never drove a car, never had indoor plumbing util she was nearly 80. She cooked food that made my mouth water - peas and other fresh vegetables from her garden, biscuits, cornbread, and teacakes for a little girl who adored her ad watched everything she did never knowing she herself would someday have granddaughters.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
The gift of Jordann
We celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, so our lights and trees always stay up past Epihany, meaning that after most of the neighborhood has hauled trees out for trash pickup and stored both inside and outside Christmas trim, we are still in full Christmas dress at our house. This year, we managed to draw out even the family gatherings and gift sharing past New Year's day. For those of us who live in this area, gathering began Christmas Eve with a tradition that has become dear - going together to church for a meaningful time of meditation and communion, then going home (this year to our youngest son's house) to share a meal together. Christmas day's meal and gifting followed. Our out of town family joined us earlier this week and New Year's eve was another joyous gift exchange. In the photo above, Jordann discovers how much fun Rainbow tiles can be when you build them on a lighted surface. This makes me think how much light plays a part in our Christmas celebration - in the yard, on the Christmas trees, twinkling behind stained glass, on the mantle and over the grandfather clock. We have a set of little houses Ben painted when he was around 10 that look magical when lighted from within.
But the lights I love best are those that sparkle from our son's eyes when they watch their daughters, and those that twinkle in the children's eyes from all the wonder. Those are my best gifts beyond the One Gift that is the reason for all of them. I am grateful.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Sometimes, family story is as simple as looking at what has been kept and how it is used today. On Christmas Eve 2014, Nora finds joy in this stuffed Santa who wiggles his head while music tinkles "Santa Claus is Coming Town!" This Santa made her Daddy giggle when he was her age, and through the years perched on various bookshelves, stair steps, and kitchen counters in many different homes through our years of moving often. He is one of the beloved Christmas decorations we pull out of a bin when we happily begin dressing our home for Christmas every year.
An even older story comes from the wooden high chair where Nora and Santa are playing. It is also where she joined our family yesterday for her first Christmas dinner at Grandma and Papa Terrell's old oak table. The high chair, circa 1941, used by my sister in the mid 40's, all of our sons, including Nora's Daddy, and our granddaughters as they arrived and shared meals at our house. The worn spindled back, scuffed footrest, and dented tray hold stories of 4 generations (5 if you count my grandparents, who without doubt frequently joined Mother and Daddy for mealtime). That is a great deal of joy!
Friday, December 19, 2014
What traditions are important to you in all the busy preparations for Christmas? How do these change your "list?"
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Recently a group of friends gathered for a meal and story sharing. We each told a story of a Christmas remembered. How valuable it is to hear each others' stories! Most of the stories were fond memories of a childhood Christmas experience. So much of our family preparation for and pleasure in Christmas includes ways we have done it before - stockings, and where they are hung, manger scenes and where they are placed, tree decorations, taken out of the box one by one with memories of each, carols around the piano, lots of family around for help and hugs, and cookies baked from recipes so old they are spattered and yellow.
I recounted the tale of our first married Christmas, when Joe and I were far from family and were beginning our own Christmas traditions, starting from scratch for Christmas decorations. I told part of this story in a previous post. Our First Christmas
In our conversation and shared storytime that recent evening, I also told of disappointment (we would have to go back to Texas the first of the year), of grief due to the death of my beloved grandfather and the fact we could not leave in time to drive back to the funeral, of uncertainty for what the future held, and some of the ways those beginning traditions and stories have played out in our lives. Since that first Oregon Christmas, except for the Christmases we celebrated while living in Indonesia, we have always had some of the decorations for our tree that hung on it the year before. Those years from 1987 to 1991, all of our Christmas decorations including family stockings were mistakenly sent to storage when our overseas shipment was packed in California! That was one of the first boxes I looked for when we got the storage shipment back in 1992!
Even though the beginning Parker family Christmas may have seemed like starting from scratch, it was not entirely. We each brought to our marriage a faith that had been nurtured in our families of origin that was the reason for celebrating Christmas anywhere, at all. The trimmings for the tree, our handmade gifts, the clever folded angels Joe cut from paper for me - all of those were not just traditions carried on from the past, they signified the reason for those traditions: the coming of God to be with us in the form of a human baby, to show us how to live and love. Fifty one years and many many Christmas candles and carols, evergreen trees and manger scenes, stockings and presents, boy grins and grandgirl giggles later, the traditions are precious, and the Christmas Story remains the same.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Thank you, Maddie!
Friday, December 13, 2013
Christmastime is a time for reflection , remembering, and for savoring moments of love and tenderness. I love watching my sons with their daughters. I love watching my granddaughters with their Daddies. In this photo, Jordann has found a sweet safe place in Jeremy's arms. Both of our two older sons have 2 daughters, and now our youngest son and his wife are expecting their own little girl. When baby Nora arrives in the Spring, she will have a circle of girl cousins to welcome her and the adoring attention of her Mother, Grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles. But I can hardly wait to see her Daddy hold her.
Friday, December 28, 2012
At 7:00 this evening, Joe and I will be enjoying an anniversary dinner at Mia Bella, an Italian trattoria, Texas style. Forty-nine years ago at 7:00 in the evening, the organ chimed seven times, I put one hand in my muff, with the other took my father's trembling arm, and walked toward Joe at the altar of the church in Jacksonville, Texas where both our families worshiped while we were growing up. Our meal that evening was a plate of waffles where we stopped the little blue Karman Ghia on our drive back toward Oklahoma City. When I bent my head to look at the menu, rice fell all over the table.
We decided in October to get married in December during my Christmas break from my senior year in Oklahoma Baptist University. I was in the clinical portion of my studies (which took place at that time at John Wesley Methodist Hospital in Oklahoma City). In the weeks between our decision to move our wedding date and that week after Christmas, we made a couple of trips to East Texas, picked out china and silver and linens, ordered our wedding rings, I made my wedding gown, took finals, and planned the wedding long distance and low budget. With less than thirty dollars for fabric and supplies, I made the dress from creamy peau de soie, appliqued lace and pearls, and sewed on all those tiny covered buttons. My veil hung from small pillbox hat (did you know an oatmeal box is just the right size to cut down and cover for a tiny hat like that?) and my only flowers were pinned to the muff I made from the leftover fabric.
Joe was handsome and happy in his dark grey suit and butonierre. My sister and best friends wore cranberry faille coat dresses with white organza collars and carried candles. Joe's brothers and best man dressed up in their suits, too. Our only decoration was a bank of magnolia leaves, leftover from a wedding the night before! A friend of Mother's made our wedding cake which I decorated by sugaring little Christmas bells the night before. The wedding rings didn't arrive, so we borrowed rings from Arnold (Joe's brother, and his wife Judy. I honestly do not remember feeling anxious or stressed.
And it was beautiful. Beginnings are like that. The start of our fiftieth year is another new beginning. Beautiful.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Carol of the Birds
I am strangely attracted to a Christmas carol rarely sung -
treasure of music, words with sweet mystery,
quiet, wondering melody
Questioning feathered twitters.
“Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.
Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?
Hastening we seek the newborn King
And all our sweetest music bring.”
Stirring some ancient warmth within me
I play the notes and sing each verse,
decorate a small Christmas tree
with vines, berries, woodland birds.
Greenfinch, Philomel sing
Re, mi, fa, sol in accents sweet
from woodland edges, farmland hedges
Noel, Christ on earth with man to dwell
Someone singing this tune for 400 years,
before that, once an older one now lost?
Could it be I am pulled by what I cannot remember?
Song and my great grandmother both born in southern France
She died when I was a baby.
Did she sing it, rocking me
in the old wooden rocker in which I rock my own grandchild?
Friday, December 14, 2012
My granddaughters are a delight all year 'round, but Christmas brings more fun than ever. We enjoy making this tea tray with a tiny tree, teacups and teapots. We add a mix of pretty tea bags and Joe's mother's small spoon collection plus the book A Cup of Christmas Tea.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Cutting paper snowflakes can make young children into magicians and grandmas into little girls again. There is mystery involved in the folding, choosing just the right place to cut, and carefully trimming little triangles and curves and slashes. But there is wonder in the unfolding! Much like the real ones, no two snowflakes turn out exactly the same. I have never lost that sense of expectation and trying to imagine how this one is going to turn out.
Forty-nine years ago Joe and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple. That December found us far from our Texas family and friends, in Corvallis, Oregon. The original plan for Joe to enter graduate school there had been delayed. In the meantime, he did any odd job available, including painting houses. I worked as a nurse in a busy pediatric practice within walking distance of our apartment. One of our doctors had a farm outside of town where we were invited to come cut a Christmas tree. We tramped around the hillside brushing away blackberry vines to find a perfect small Grant pine. Its symmetrical, graceful branches had wide spaces that were perfect for decorating. But we were beginning our home and our traditions. We had no old familiar ornaments to unbox and remember. We also had no extra money in the budget for buying same. So we hung a few candy canes, made some string balls from twine and starch and balloons, and carefully cut lacy snowflakes. That year I knitted my new husband a green sweater with sleeves twice as long as his arms. He painted a tiny recipe box for me and pasted "Good Things You Can Fix" on top.
The photograph is the few snowflakes that remain after all these years. I framed them last year for a gift for Joe. This year we will remember our 1964 snowflakes when we make paper snowflakes with our grandchildren. If you have never cut a snowflake, try this project. You will agree with Charles Dickens - "It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself."
For some wonderfully fancy paper snowflakes, visit www.bontempsbeignet.blogspot.ca/2011/11/faux-sneaux-flakes.html
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Howard Teal and his first grandson, Sean Parker, Christmas 1968
This picture speaks to me of Christmas past and Christmas present, even Christmas yet to come. My Daddy is holding our first son. How proud he was! Sean loved his Papa, and already loved books. They are delighting each other with the reading of The Night Before Christmas. Can't you hear "...up the chimney he rose?" With this book, as in most, arriving at the last page meant "again, read it again!"
So, as I bring in the boxes of decorations and begin pulling out all the old familiar ornaments and set up the manger scenes, I am brimming with both tears and smiles, thinking how good it is to do it again. I set up our advent wreath and candles and fill the big basket with all the children's Christmas books read and reread so many times. I stack my Christmas piano music and practice the arrangements of White Christmas and Silent Night that I have played for so many years now. I am thankful that I did most purchases for gifts before Thanksgiving, so that shopping is not on my to do list, and I can spend more time re-calibrating during Advent. I listen to my favorite Christmas CD, James Galway's Christmas Carol. On the way to Bethlehem, again.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
At this time of year for a number of years, Joe and I became innkeepers. No, we didn't open a Bed and Breakfast, but we did set up a cozy inn with a fireplace and welcome guests so that we could share our stories. Our church, First Baptist Church in Richmond, Texas, has a custom of offering a gift to our community each year at Christmastime, called Experiencing Christmas. This is not the expected scenes from a live nativity, as special as those can be - but a group of people who put on the characters from the Christmas story like they put on the robes and headwraps. We became Jacob and Rachel, innkeepers who find a place for the holy family that is clean and quiet and away from the public, their stable. As small groups of guests came in to sit by our fire and talk to us, we talked about our fears, our amazement, our wonder, our belief.
Every year, the drama changes to tell different parts of the story, and this year, the inn changes too. It will come after groups have finished their walk through the story scenes. But Jacob and Rachel will still offer their hospitality in a reception area. No cookies and punch though - there will be flatbreads and cheese, olives, and dates, and pomegranates. Looks like I just can't get out of the kitchen. But then I don't really want to. Welcome to our inn!