Posts tagged: religion

Christmas at Our House

Charlie brown Xmas treeChristmas at Our House

When I was very young, my two sisters and I would cut our own tree.  Now this was a long, long time ago when we lived  in the foothills of the Cascade in Oregon. No tree farms.  We would traipse around ours (or our neighbors’) back forty looking for the perfect tree.  What we usually ended up doing was climbing a tree and sawing off the top (crooked, of course) drag it home, get out the two by four stand with a hole drilled in it and try to stand it up…not an easy task.  It usually ended up looking a bit like this.  No matter.  Our ornaments generally consisted of crayoned chains cut from construction paper, strings   of  popcorn (some burnt kernels included) and maybe a very bedraggled star that would not stay upright on the top branch.  We’d step back to admire our handiwork–beautiful.

Our presents were wrapped, no scotch tape in those days, and tied with yarn if we were lucky enough to find some.  When presents arrived from distant grandparents, we would open them without parental knowledge, and try to re wrap them so we wouldn’t get caught…ruined our surprise, of course, as skullduggery often does.  It was the anticipation, the wonder of possible gifts, the inevitable disappointment in the practical gifts received.  Next year…there was always next year.

Christmas Eve was our big celebrations.  Our three children, so close in age, were always as thrilled with the holiday as my sisters and I were.  Cutting our own tree was a continued tradition but now it was on tree farms.    The five of us would brave rain, snow.  Their father,  saw in hand, would wait patiently for us to find the perfect tree which could never be the first one (although we often returned to it after a thorough hunt).  Why is it that the tree looks so small in the field and is so big we can’t get it through the door?  We’d move furniture to accommodate our trophy.

christmas-tree-pics-0111Tradition: colored lights, garlands. tree ornaments with pictures of growing children glued to bright, shiny balls.  Christmas Eve was family exchange but Santa always left his gifts Christmas morning.

Ghosts of Christmas Past:  Granny, Ron’s mother was the best mother-in-law a person could ask for.  I hear you, Granny, playing the old, familiar carols on your organ.  Although we were incompatible in the kitchen, you measured everything and never had a failure, I’d say… a bit of this and maybe some of that…some success and lots of failures.  Remember you bought my first bikini?  My complaint?  It covered everything I had!  You gave me my first car, a tan Chrysler with velvet seats, a piano when you heard me say I would like to learn, ( it was washed away in the flood along with everything else,)  and my first “original” oil  painting, an ocean scene far too expensive for our budget.  Thank you for accepting me and thinking I was good enough for your only son.

LJ, my only daughter who loved me beyond words.  Remember that time when you and I were left to pick out the Christmas tree, LJ?  You always had grand ideas.  It was so big that it covered the entire car with just enough sight through the branches to see our way.   There we were,  a Christmas tree driving down the road!  We barely got it in the house and had to put the star on the top from the second floor.

Your Christmas would start months in advance as you created your lovely wood sculptures, your ceramic,  loving figurines, special gifts to each of us. Where did you get that beautiful voice?  Certainly not from your father or me who can barely carry a tune.    I listen to the music you left me, voice echoing and you are here, celebrating, cajoling, your “get-tough, Ma!” call echoing as I compete in that marathon paddle tournament.

Our loved ones are never gone, they live in the depth of our hearts, in the folds of our memories, a part who we are, with us for all eternity.

Our two sons married incorporating their spouses’ Christmas traditions into their own. Although we did not raise our children within any religious framework, each seemed to find their own “religion” with their spouses.  One has become Catholic, the other  a more “fundamental” approach.  We celebrate with nine grandchildren from age six to twenty-five. The  Christmas Eve celebration remains at our home, packages piled, grandchildren performing their songs, and poems, always reading the Christmas story from Luke. And when we gather around the table there is an Agnostic (me) an Atheist (Ron, who has softened that to a ? being a scientist he needs proof!)  a Catholic family of seven, a Fundamentalist family of six.  We begin our repast with Hail Marys, and end our prayers singing five Amens (the five great religions of the world.)  SO BE IT.

Do You Believe? Life after Death

image001Do You Believe?

Death.  The final exit?  A gateway to a different existence?   Heaven/hell?  Choices.  How do we come to our beliefs?


A tragic accident.  A couple in their prime of life caught in a traffic jam, waiting.  A large truck slams into their car driving them into a truck ahead which rebounds backwards. Their car crushed from front and rear.  Instant death.  A young son recently married, future grandchildren unborn.  Fate?  We mourn.

Our relationship was not perfect.  Disagreements, times of avoidance yet there was this energy between us.  She was young enough to be my daughter, was a dynamo of energy raising funds for needy children, veterans, planning parties, cooking dinners, learning Bridge.  A world traveler from the jungles of Guatemala, France on a bike, cross country skiing in the Alps.  Made friends around the world.

He was a man of the world, An advertising giant.  A sportsman in golf, tennis…you name it.  Handsome, of course, joined her in matrimony and helped her raise a young boy from a previous union.  He retired early, became a child’s advocate and joined her on the Board of the Children’s’ Academy.  Dead?  Can’t be.

Here, and then gone.  Their friends gather.  We all look around expecting to see them in their varied activities.

“I need a sign!”  Her close friend cries, “To know you are OK.  Feathers!” We both collected feathers she explained. “It’s gotta be big for me to believe!”  The days went by.  A trip on their boat away from the happening.

“You won’t believe.”  Her awe still a whisper in disbelief.   “We docked, climbed down from the deck walking through a park area.  I stopped, caught my breath, disbelieving.  There in a large circle were feathers…lots and lots of feathers all stuck into the ground.  My husband couldn’t believe it either.”

Pink SpoonbillAnother friend.  “I’ve been looking for a pink feather from our native Spoonbills.  After two years, no luck.  Today, I found two beautiful pink feathers.”

My particular sharing with this friend was heart-shaped stones.  I would find them along the river bed or digging in the garden and would put them aside awaiting my return to our southern community to give them to her.


It was the day of her community memorial service.  A busy day, no time to take my usual stroll along the boardwalk into the community salt flats.  I hurried along the boulevard and the next thing I knew I had turned onto the boardwalk.  It was early morning, the sun filtering through the pines.  My heart slowed taking in the leaves glistening with due, the mangrove roots poking their way through the mud and then I stopped, breath paused in disbelief.  There, caught in a spider web were several long needles from the pines above…their design? A perfect heart lit by a slanting sun ray, the web heart swaying gently in the breeze.  I believe.














Life Interrupted

Were they laughing and talking?
Planning or arguing
When death snatched them from this world?

Denial echoes within me.
No! No! It cannot be.  A mistake.  We
Can not accept this deed of fate.                                                                                                                                                                This young couple gone?  Wrong!  Wrong?

Too young.  Too young, so much to do.
Children from the Academy, her shadow fading.
His brother breathing deep.  Disbelief…Life?

Don’t go!  Don’t go! I cry.
We have fences to mend, words to deny,
Hugs to be given, but…why?  Why?

Pickled beets on my shelf
Cards  unshuffled on the table.
I’ve heard Death is our shadow
The moment we’re born.

Fate is a hunter, we pause, we mourn
But give thanks for our very brief
Moment in time
When our love entwined.



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