Friday, December 31, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 7

Today's Holiday Tradition: Deana Mae's biscuits.

These are not strictly a holiday tradition. And they're really more rolls than biscuits... or, are most certainly rolls and not biscuits, now that I've taken the time to look up the difference. However, we always called them "Deana Mae's biscuits", and that's how I still think of them.

Of course, I don't have the recipe, so maybe they really are biscuits, but I doubt it. They are very much rolls. The recipe is not written down anywhere--or, if it is, don't tell Ruth. My sister Ruth worked for years to figure it out, and I think she has pretty much found it (or, as she says, gotten the closest she's ever been).

Apparently they're a variation on Kentucky Angel Biscuits, but in roll form. Or, at one point, Ruth said something along those lines.

Deana Mae did a lot of cooking and baking, as I recall. I remember when the old house was still there and the new house was finished, she made a lot of Christmas candy.

Deana Mae's biscuits don't make it to every holiday meal any more. Ruth will sometimes whip up a batch, but I think it might be a lot of work.

While there are many more reasons to miss Deana Mae than her rolls, it is something I think of every time we all get together to eat.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 6

Today's tradition: Christmas at Grandma's.

My older siblings (and older cousins... and Aunt Rachel) are going to have to let me know how accurate my memory is here. I really feel at least twice in my early years we had a big family Christmas at Grandma's. I don't remember the exact date (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (but in the evening), or some evening before), but I remember going there. I remember getting a Wizzzer one year while there. Anybody remember the Wizzzer?

I have many memories from Grandma's. I still remember her phone number. It was one of the first phone numbers I ever memorized. I have about one memory of Grandpa, as he passed away when I was very little... but I remember him well, and Mom used to tell stories of me eating hard candy by sucking all the sugar off, and then giving them to Grandpa to finish, and how funny he thought it was. I just remember people helping him move around once. That's the only Grandpa memory I have... beyond Mom laughing and telling me that story about the candy.

Aunt Deana Mae had a daughter, Linda. Aunt Lois had a daughter and two sons, Toni, Mike, and David. Aunt Rachel had two sons and two daughters, Alan, Roy (Bryce now), Cheryl, and Karen. And then there were the (up to) eight of us. I have to add the "up to" because I'm not sure that we had Christmas at Grandma's in Ruth or Sara's lifetimes.

Aunt Rachel's family lived (and live) in Omaha (and/or the surrounding area), so seeing them was always a big deal. Karen was just a couple of months younger than me, and they were all just as crazy funny as the rest of us... so it was usually a pretty good time to be around them. I was so young for these events, however, most of what I remember are just the feeling of how great it was to have everyone there--and maybe everyone wasn't there the times I'm remembering, but it sure seemed like it.

I don't know that all of the cousins have been in the same place since then--except maybe at Grandma's funeral in 1982. Even then, I don't know if everyone made it or not. And, obviously, it wasn't exactly a joy-fest.

I keep thinking it would be great to get everyone together some Christmas, but then I realize everyone has their own families now, and I can just imagine how much fun it would be as a kid to have to go hang out with kids you're vaguely related to (second cousins, first cousins once removed, and so on) while the older folks sat around and laughed themselves sick. Or maybe they wouldn't hate it... but one of us better get a mansion first! There are a lot of kids of cousins (and some grandkids of cousins)!

Anyway, I've gotten off track a bit, talking about family... but that's one of the first traditions I remember missing once it stopped. I don't know why it stopped... or even if it was two years in a row that I'm remembering. I just remember being sad about not getting to see my cousins from Omaha, and not getting to have a big Christmas to-do, and thinking it didn't seem right without it... but then getting over it once my presents were ready to be opened.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 5

When I was growing up, there was only one present we could give our elementary school teacher for Christmas. Everybody in my family say it with me now:


Yes, today's holiday tradition is one from the early 70s (and maybe into the 80s... Ruth and Sara would have to report about that). No matter what cool thing we wanted to get out teacher for Christmas, Mom--who worked at the Post Office--insisted on us giving stamps.

In her defense, it's a very practical gift--or was back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, before you had to start explaining to high school students what stamps are. Speaking as a teacher, most of the things I get (if I get anything--7th grade is not elementary school) are nice, but I find a use for them, rather than the need being there already (although the candy dish I got last year has become a very useful item... it keeps the candy I shouldn't be eating over by the front door, where I almost never go).

I don't know how many years I gave a teacher stamps. Probably seven or so. Maybe more. Possibly less. I don't know that Miss Tyner got stamps from me my Kindergarten year, but I remember Miss Wolfe getting them for sure. (Or maybe it's Miss Wolf... I didn't remember how to spell "Miss Ewens" correctly, so all bets are off!) I have no idea about Mrs. Denny, Miss Coulter, Miss Ewens, Mrs. Chipman, and Mr. Smith, but I'm pretty sure they all got stamps from me. It seemed like the most uncool, impersonal gift to give.

I guess I could hunt some of them down and ask them. I sent Mrs. Denny and e-mail once, but never heard back from her. She was about to retire, according to my principal at the time, who knew her from whatever school district he'd worked at before. On the one hand, I think, "Like they want to hear from you..." On the other hand, I have plenty of former students I'd love to hear from.

Whatever, it's almost like work. If they aren't on Facebook, I'm not going to try much harder than that! Plus, Miss Wolf(e) and Miss Coulter got married, I think!

Anyway, there's a Christmas tradition for you. I don't know that I'd advise going with that gift in this day... maybe a Netflix gift subscription would be better.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 4

At some point every Advent or Christmas season (usually Advent), I turn on George Winston's December and sit by the tree with all non-holiday lights in the house turned off.

I've written about this on here before, years ago. It's like my yearly meditation time. I listen to the piano music, I watch the lights, I watch the shadows caused by the lights, I watch the play of light and shadow on the ceiling, and I just think about my life, the world, people in my life--both past and present, what was, what is, what might have been, and what might be.

Sometimes the CD goes around several times. Sometimes I go to sleep for a bit. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I talk to myself, and sometimes I'm silent the whole time.

It's my little slice of heavenly peace.

My favorite thing to do is imagine the lights on the tree as some sort of analogy, and play with different ideas of what they lights could be. I get as many different colors as possible, all individually blinking... so it could be anything. The "little light" of different people shining out and going away. The prayers being sent up. A sped-up version of lives on Earth.

Or, just pretty blinking lights.

Sometimes I will do this more than once a season, but it happens every year--or every year I put up a tree, anyway!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 3

This one happened at least twice, but I don't know that it happened many more times than that.

A couple (or a few) times after the candlelight service at Olivet Christian Church, we drove to Vandalia (I think it was Vandalia) to see this street that had a sort of "Life of Jesus" display. There were large wooden sort of "cut outs" of people, camels, other Bible-y things... all depicting different part of the life of Jesus.

We never took any pictures. I have no idea if the display still happens or not (this would be over twenty years ago, I think). I just remember going at least twice, and thinking what a nice Christmas tradition this would be.

Of course, Eddie is the only one who lives back home now (of the eight of us kids, anyway... we still have plenty of cousins back home), and that little made-up world in my head where Mom lives forever and things never change at all... well, that was a little made-up world in my head.

It would be nice to attend the candlelight service at the church, and go see that display again. I think it would also be a pretty sad thing, as Mom isn't here to look at that display with us.

As I get older, I feel torn between wanting to establish traditions and wanting to never do anything that might become a tradition. On the one hand, it would be nice to have something people do and think, "Remember when Mark was here to do that with us?" On the other hand, it would have to someday die out, and then what would be the point, right?

So, keep that in mind as I'm sharing these, I guess. Really, I think I mostly just want to have a good memory for myself and for those who make it to whatever holiday events I'm involved in. If a tradition happens, more power to it!

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 2

Yeah, that's right, I said "Day 2". Or typed it. Whatever.

What it is is this: I forgot to post one yesterday. But instead of just saying that, I'm going to say that the first day's tradition was the one I submitted for Judy on over here.

So here's today's Christmas tradition (and I should clarify that I'm defining "tradition" as anything I've done more than once for the holiday, even if I don't do it any more or didn't do it more than twice or didn't even do it in two consecutive years):

Dane and I usually take in a movie on Christmas. I'm using the word "usually" to mean "at least twice". I really think we've done this way more than two times.

As tradition origins go, it's pretty tame and mostly lost to the mists of time or whatnot. It comes from my taking him to a movie when I'd be home from college, I think. I don't know that it always happened on Christmas day, but it's happened on Christmas day several times.

The most memorable for me was in 2008, when I took him to see "Seven Pounds". We weren't planning to see it, but the movie we were going to see was at the "Fork & Spoon" or whatever the crazy expensive dinner-with-your-movie thing is called at AMC 30 in Olathe. So I turend to Dane and he had to make a snap decision.

Good movie, whatever. Not the feel-good hit of 2008, though. Little on the sad side. Okay, way on the sad side. Morbidly depressing, really.

As the credits started to roll, some wag from the back row called out, "Merry Christmas, everybody!" And we all laughed... or all the people I care to talk about here did, anyway. All the cool people. All the people you should want to hang out with.

This year we saw Narnia Part 3, which has a name, but I can't be bothered to look it up. I liked the movie and everything, but the title is too long for me to care about at this hour. There's a whole story about some jerks taking up the seats by the handicap spot, but I'll get all non-Christmasy if I go into that here, so maybe later.

Okay, so there's the second of the twelve Christmas traditions I plan to share. I hope you enjoyed it. Maybe I'll be less tired for the next one!

Monday, December 06, 2010

It's A Party!

For those of you who haven't been going back and reading every post I've ever written, a high school friend passed away back in January. I hadn't spoken to him in about 25 years (a little over a month shy of exactly 25 years, actually, but you can go back to early January and read all about that if you like), and I'm still feeling the ache of that stupid mistake.

He and his roommate had a party every year (I don't know the history of it, and know very little of the details) in St. Louis to which they would invite bunches and bunches of people, with everyone being asked to bring a toy for a gift that would be donated to a charity.

I wanted so badly to try to honor the memory of the friend that people believed I was almost joined to the hip of, and I thought a great way would be to have a similar party here in Kansas City.

Since we don't have the exact same charity group here in K.C. (that I could find, anyway), I opted for taking on a couple of kids that needed "adopting" for the holiday and figured we could also ask for donations for other gifts (even the boring clothing kind that kids who have clothes never want) to be donated to some charities here in Kansas City that could use them. (I know just the lady at church to go through for these!)

This idea has been in the works for a while, but teaching and recovering from a day of teaching seems to take up all my time these days!

Anyway, there's no way a lot of people can fit at my house, so Tricia--who was also friends with Brad in high school--was kind enough to co-host with me so we could have it at her place.

So it's this Saturday, 6:00 to 10:00. There will be food, but if people want to show off their holiday dishes, who are we to turn their food away?

If you'd like to come and you aren't fb friends with me (or Tricia), but can get in touch with me: do so! We'll put you on the list!