“I have all that I lost,
and I go carrying my childhood
like a favorite flower
that perfumes my hand.”
Mistral (1889 - 1957)
For our dear family,
A gift of memories.........
Sitting by the ocean, warm breezes through the palm trees, waves crashing, Christmas carols playing. The remote Chinese Island of Hainan has warmed us up again after fleeing the intense cold of the mainland. This Holiday Season is a time when it is fun to be snowed in, by the roaring fire, drinking hot apple cider and reminiscing about old times. This is a time for family and friends. Mother Nature has decreed, with the bad weather in the Midwest, that family get-togethers are better anytime but winter. A quick roll call puts Joseph & Mom in the middle of the China Sea, Kevin in Belize fishing and relaxing after exams in Colorado, Mariah & Shane merrymaking in far off England, and Gami & Paul keeping the Christmas traditions of a snowy, small town alive in Mellen, WI.
Everyone is busy and following the paths of their new lives. Joseph & I are very happy exploring the far corners of this fascinating planet, but recently, as is a natural occurrence at Christmas, I missed my dear ones who are so far away. There is always the tendency in life to want things as they were, a secret yearning to be able to step back in time for a brief instant, to happy moments and pick up where you left off. That isn’t what life is about. We have all learned that you can never go back. Things change. Life marches on and the only thing that is for sure in life is Change. As can be seen from this unique family, spread across the globe, we thrive on change and embrace life in a way that few people ever realize. Emails back and forth on the internet and phone calls keep us in touch with each other’s lives, but the real connection is the deep love and warm memories we share. Our love never changes or pales! And memories, chosen by each with care, are always our warm companions.
My first memories of Christmas are being part of a happy family, in a peaceful little home in a friendly little town. Life was perfect. Our needs and wants were few and the worries of the outside world were far away. Dad always worked hard and rescued a “Charlie Brown” tree from the shack through 6 ft snow drifts. We brought it to life with all the lights, tinsel and ornaments and hand made wreaths were hung on the front door. I always wanted those twinkling lights in the darkness to last all year and begged to have the tree stay up longer – maybe even until Russian Christmas. Santa……… oh, the excitement of reading the “Night Before Christmas” and anticipating what treasures would appear on Christmas morning. Mom made the celebrations happen with presents under the tree, new clothes to wear, getting the crèche comfortable for the baby Jesus, baking yummy Christmas cookies, all with carols of the season playing in the background. The traditional turkey dinner was stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, home made rolls, holiday pickles, and Dad’s favorite pumpkin pie. All served on a white linen tablecloth and the good china from the corner cabinet. My mouth is watering as I write this. A magician in the kitchen, Mom always gathered the family around the kitchen table with tempting aromas and served the plates high with not only delicious food but Love. As Gami, this love is still being dished out in big helpings.
A little tree in the corner with bubble lights, strands of glass beads and antique hand blown ornaments, was the background for a Croatian Christmas celebration at ‘Little Grandma’s’ house across the road. Grandma would prepare for weeks baking the traditional walnut Christmas bread (povatitsa) , ‘good cookies’, rolled date cookies, fruit cake and dinner buns. As we got older, traditions from the old country gathered us to 'Little Grandma’s' home after Midnight Mass for the juicy ham baked in wheat dough (our dog Duke always loved that part), rolly pollies or cabbage rolls and homemade sauerkraut from the crock in the basement, potatoes, jello salad whipped with the hand blender, and green beans fried with tomato sauce and onions. Nos Drovia! A single shot of slivovitz plum brandy (never more than one) started the festivities with this feast as the main attraction, followed by gathering in the living room to open presents, do an occasional kolo circle dance and listen to Croatian music on the fast spinning record player (78’s) and always the time tried favorite “Ya Ya Lalarusch’ reminiscing about immigrating to America. Uncle Paul, having graduated as an Engineer, was the light of Dad’s eye. He would drive up in his new car and tell us stories of life in the big city. Everyone was bursting with pride. Now carrying on the family traditions in Mellen he’s still helpful and has one of the biggest hearts around.
After University my life path, young love, and marriage led me to Vancouver Island, B. C. Talk about changes and growing up fast, I spent our first Christmas and New Years in Victoria General Hospital. After the life threatening birth of Mariah I was tired, sore and lonely but when the nurses brought in my tiny daughter Christmas morning, with the little pink Santa’s hat trimmed with surgical cotton, all was soon forgotten in the ecstasy of a Mother’s love. What a Christmas gift! With this major change a new phase in our life had begun. Except for this first Christmas, we made the effort to return to Wisconsin for our traditional family Christmases but after Little Grandma flew up to cook and bake in Heaven we switched to having family visit us in the warmer climate of B.C. We also enjoyed several Christmases in Los Angeles, Vermont and Vancouver with the Walmsleys.
Ron and I had re-created a happy little family in our log home in the forests of Errington, Vancouver Island. Life in the country is a great place to raise children. Kevin soon made a noisy entrance into the world and added more joy and excitement to our life . Walmsleys, Jelichs, Pierre & Elizabeth, friends and neighbors gathered around the blazing large stone fireplace in our log home. The tall beautiful tree always reached high into the log rafters and the simple, never costly or elaborate gifts, bulged underneath. Kevin would dance around in his ‘bunders’ listening to Jingle Bells, crazy with anticipation of what treasures lay behind those colorful wrappings. With Mariah’s birthday on Christmas Eve we always had a minimum of 20 people gathered for the traditional Croatian feast (which took 2 days of cooking and baking). With a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday, the ecstatic, bubbly birthday girl, sporting a new hairdo and outfit, blew out the candles on her cake. Christmas dinner was always enhanced with English trifle while Nana was with us. ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ not only included a partridge in a pear tree but 4 black bears, 3 killer whales, 2 cougars, and an eagle high atop a tall fir tree. New customs emerged like dark chocolate advent calendars, making gingerbread houses, Quaker good will projects of stockings for homeless children, and school & church musicals and parties. All of these traditions were carried with us wherever we went.
Mele Kalikimaka! Hawaii for Christmas is the dream of many and we were living our dream. Needless to say it wasn’t difficult to have family or friends visit us for the holidays, we even invited an occasional person picked up on the beach. Gami & Obbie spent at least 2 months each year enjoying the warm weather and an even warmer welcome into our new homes on Oahu and the Big Island. Now the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ were full of 4 hula dancers, 3 coconuts, 2 ukuleles and one myna bird in one papaya tree. It took awhile to adjust our thinking to going to the beach on Christmas instead of walking in the snow. The biggest problem in the beginning was the lack of chimneys in the Hawaiian homes. We even had to make a cardboard chimney to ensure that Santa had a route to deliver Kevin’s gifts. We joined the Friend’s Meeting House for Christmas caroling , plays and tasty potluck dinners. We were invited to a real Hawaiian Christmas with the big, lively gathering of the Lee-Yee family and later joined them for camping up on the beach at Malaekahana.
Most holiday customs and traditions survived our flight over the Pacific Ocean and were adapted into our new island lifestyle. Many musical Christmas programs were enjoyed at Ho’okena School, expensive imported trees were decorated and stockings were hung amid carols, tea and cookies. We usually took in Christmas services or events with the Quakers on the beach or down in the little yellow, Aloha filled church in Milolii. Holidays were complete with musicals in the large churches downtown or at the Aloha Theatre, making Christmas cookies with 30 plus Marshallese students and their families and we always made long distance calls to connect with those far away. Even dolphins and Mariah’s horses wore Santa hats and Aloha, the cockatiel, and Simba, our little Benji dog, got in on the festivities. We busily filled our home with friends, family and true Christmas spirit. There were further changes as life paraded by and the addition of Joseph and Shane into our family has enriched our lives, while some of those we loved so dearly have moved on. Obbie and Pierre & Elizabeth will always be celebrating with us in spirit. Christmas overseas has seen us exploring Tasmania and penguins with Mariah & Shane in 2003 and celebrating with a welcoming family of new friends in New Zealand in 2004. As each year unfolds new memories are made.
Our true Joy and Christmas Love have been brought, in our hearts, to all corners of the world. Remember warm memories are always there for us to enjoy, as we rejoice and give thanks for our many blessings of the present.
Merry Christmas from our corner to yours.
We Love You and Always Will !!!!
Nancy, your Mom, daughter and wife
Christmas 2011 on.............. now a festive event as we return to visit family each Christmas in Hawaii. With Mariah's birthday Dec 24th, Kayla's birthday Christmas Day and 'Gami' now living nearby we celebrate non stop! What fun. More memories in the sunshine.