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!
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.
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?
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!