Happenings: Christmas 2011

Christmas in Seattle is an overbusy haze of family comings-and-goings, each moment filled with a medley of emotions. There is the daily round of visits to domiciles of daughters, dad and sister. Add in Christmas errands and special events and there is rarely down time to contemplate, to blog or to wander off for a walk in Discovery Park.  I could offer a simple calendar of events for the last eight days, but that would give little sense of what exactly has made many of these events so special. 
Instead, I'm making a list of things that moved me, that I would not have missed experiencing. And remember, I still have four full days before I fly back home to Houston. So this list will no doubt have a supplement. In no particular order of 'specialness', here are moments to savor.

1. It's about Charlie Bean. He is so grown up. What a joy to be greeted by Charlie Bean with a hug and a big smile when I arrived at his house on my first afternoon in Seattle. Charlie is in second grade now. He's grown taller since the beginning of the school year and he stands so, so straight. And he sure can carry on a conversation. I love him.
Charlie  is currently immersed in Skylander with its magic portal. When characters are placed on the lit portal, they - and Charlie - enter a magic world. It's another of those games with ever more characters to purchase, but it was fun to hear both Charlie and his mom talk about how Skylander is 'different.' 
Here's a paragraph written especially for parents from the Skylander website:
"In Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, characters are ‘brought to life’ in a boldly innovative adventure game where children can collect real-world toys and teleport them directly into the game using a mystical Portal of Power™. 
"Propelled by a story-driven adventure, penned by Academy Award-nominated Toy Story feature film writers, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, children take on the role of a powerful Portal Master, who can control over 30 different characters, including the beloved fire-breathing dragon Spyro.
"Together with their Skylanders, players will embark on a fantastical journey into an amazing world, where they will explore mysterious, mythical lands, battle menacing outlandish creatures, collect gold and treasures, and solve interesting puzzles while on a quest to save their world from Kaos, an evil Portal Master."
This Friday, I'll take Charlie Bean, he who is my very first grandchild, on a field trip. He hasn't yet decided which zoo we will visit. Last December, we spent a day at the Tacoma Zoo. Will we return there or will we visit another?

2. My almost 95 year-old dad read every word of the memoir piece I wrote for "Coping With Transition: Men, Money, Motherhood and Magic." Between its covers, that recently published book holds work by 15 TTN (The Transition Network) Houston members, each writing about their lives, loves and losses. Dad chuckled as he read the description of the wrenching take-over of my studio, albeit a temporary take-over. When he finished, he said, "Mary Margaret, you're a good writer."
I said, "Pretty frank, isn't it, Dad?"
He looked straight at me and answered, "Why not?"
I am happy that my almost 95 year-old dad had the chance to read my first published writing and that he pronounced it 'good writing.'

3. More on books and reading. When my brother, sister and I were kids, Mom gave us each a book, or books, at Christmas. We've continued the tradition. I've always given books to each of my three daughters for Christmas. And they are now giving me books, as is my sister Kate.  I have a plethora of new books to read: from Kate, Diane Keaton's "Then, Again" and "Reading Jackie" from Jeanne. From Caroline Jeremy Rivkin's "Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis."  I've read abut this book and am glad to have it, even though it's a pretty hefty tome. Needs to be read.
I dropped in at the independent Magnolia Bookstore on the day before Christmas to buy several more book presents. Everyone near and dear to me got at least one book for Christmas. Tradition lives.

4. I love Magnolia at night because of its stillness. This 'village' on the peninsula just northwest of downtown is where my sister lives and where my parents settled when they reached their 80s. And it is filled with stillness and quiet. At night there is no white noise, no distant traffic, no compressors or air conditioners. When I return from a day of house-to-house visiting or leave my sister's house after a late evening visit, I can hear silence. Real silence, stillness. I can feel my whole body go limp as it/I take a deep breath of the silence. A rare experience in 2011.

5. This year I bought the grandchildren boxed sets of Thornton Burgess books. I own a 1914 copy of "The Adventures of Reddy Fox" that my dad received as a Chirstmas gift in 1926. Dad's Burgess books were passed down to my brother, sister and me in the 1950s and I remember reading them to my girls and the Camfield kids in the mid-1970s. Now I'm reading them to my grandchildren.  Kelan and I are in the middle of "The Adventres of Peter Rabbit". Last night his dad said, "Kelan, why don't you read Mameau a chapter."  And so he did, and so quickly I could barely keep up with the words. What a good reader. I am taking Kelan to Dad's so he read him a chapter or two. Dad will be amazed.
6. Our family still celebrates Christmas Eve with two Danish holiday dishes from the girl's dad's side of the extended family.  We begin each Christmas Eve meal with risengrød, a rice porridge sweetened with brown sugar and cream. I have made and/or eaten risengrød every Christmas Eve since 1963. The cook hides an almond in some one's serving and whomever receives the almond also receives a box of chocolate to be immediately shared with everyone at the table. The meal ends with aebleskivers, round ball pancakes covered with maple syrup or a berry jam and confectionery sugar. Caroline made really good gluten-gre aebleskivers this year.

7. Mary B and I drove Dad to Seattle First Baptist Church on Christmas morning and found the church was well filled. This church is so liberal that they were picketed by mid-western Baptists a decade ago for their stands on social issues. The Christmas morning prayer included a plea for God's blessing for those who were alienated from their families because of sexual orientation and another plea that the media would no longer distort the message of Occupy Seattle. You have to love this congregation.
Dad is so deaf, even with hearing aids, that he never hears the sermon or the prayers, but he enjoys the organ and the choir and the several folks who always greet his arrival.  Mary B and I were tearful as we three stood together in the pew, both of us listening to Dad's tenor voice as we sang the final hymn "Go Tell It On the Mountain." This song was a part of Mom's choir repertoire and we have her choirs from the 1960s on tapes. We cry when we listen to the tapes too, especially when we hear Dad's tenor voice. Mom used to say 'Dean colors the whole tenor section.'   After the benediction, the organist moved to the piano and played quite a jazzy version of "Go Tell It On the Mountain", a la Virginia Avery. We agree with Dad. Church on Christmas morning is a good thing.

There are more memorable happenings, but it's taken me two days to assemble a list of seven. I will write more when I find another chunk of quiet time. And when I am with wi-fi. No wi-fi of late at Arapahoe.
Lauren and I are now off for manicures and pedicures - her special time with Mameau this Christmas. Look at these two cousins on Bonnie Boxing Day - Lulu Bell and Lauren.