Sunday, December 27, 2020

Christmas Memories Remembered 1954 & 1984


A Christmas with The Anderson Family

I will begin with my beginnings as a child of 5 [1954] waiting with anticipation for that morning of awe and wonder......... Christmas. The night before on the eve of Christmas we would travel to my father's family across town, Grandmother's home along with auntie Adele and youngest cousin Ronveig. The only cousin named after a relative in Trondheim Norway. Always reminding all of us of the strong heritage we came from. It included all the food and goodies my Grandma Lena would prepare days before. I was the first grand-daughter born and very interested in the food. To this day I am the only family member to know her recipes and to continue to prepare as an adult.... the Yulekaka bread and much more.. My aunt a retired Opera performer, that included Madame Butterfly in Oslo, would rehearse carols with all her nieces lined up in party dresses to sing accompanied by piano. A spark, I am sure of inspiration for my third sister who became a singer performer and choir director..

My memories also include the side of the holiday that would be at times terrifying. Scandinavian culture includes the drinking of alcohol. I would watch each year in anxious anticipation the stupor and slurring of words as my father would fall into the drunkenness. I was so afraid of the arguing that would follow with my mother, grandmother, and uncles. And most alarming to me was who would drive us home. All I wanted was to be safe. In the following Christmas eves, I would hang out with Grandma in the kitchen throughout the night and learn her recipes. A joyful time for me. 

Lena, she knew how hard it was for the children to wait for the full smorgasbord to be displayed. Yulekaka cardamon bread, gravlax salmon, red pickled cabbage, fiskeball soup, and the notorious gefillte cod fisk. A tray was made for children only. I would eventually have this as my contribution to the table. Openface sandwiches on french bread smothered in butter, a thin slice of swiss cheese, and a long thin dill pickle on top. I would put this platter on the table and then I would find my safe place and crawl under the tablecloth hanging low. Sometimes Ronveig joined me, the youngest grandchild, to play hide and seek. What may have been perceived by adults as play, for me it was a way to NOT see my father stumble across the room and remind me what was coming,. The families' other holiday tradition. of high emotions and turmoil between relatives attempting to deflate their feelings of anger and old hurts.

It was as a teenager that the eve of Christmas parties ended as my family could not continue with the upheavals and further pain resulting.. I can still remember at 71, one of my childhood dreams that would rarely come true. Living in Portland Oregon as a child I seldom saw it snow in December. Of course, snow would be a desire for a young child, to run and play with a snowman in the front yard. Mine was the wish that when dad would fall to the ground between the car and our front door, I would visualize snow falling and covering him like a warm blanket so the neighbors would not see him there. An embarrassment no child should have to endure and leave a hard to forget the memory.

Story of Mama Red

This story begins many months before Christmas.[1984] with the birth of MA MA Red's third litter of beautiful red setter pups. It was springtime in Bralorne, British Columbia. My neighbor Sherry has waited through the winter for their arrival. Ten little bundles arrived and it was quickly discovered 6 of her 8 teats were infected and could not sustain 10 bodies. WE lived in a mountain town, 5 hours from a vet. A call was made to decide on the next decision that was needed, with the vet's advice at the clinic. He could send antibiotics for her in the mail, but the pups would not survive till then. The most humane course was to drown them, all ten?

Sherry could not do it by herself and asked for my help and support. I will not forget this new mother frantically pacing as we loaded the young ones into a drawstring bag and headed to the raging river overflowing from winter snowmelt, behind the house.

I was to be the one to carry the bag to the water's edge and drop it into the frigid waters. I would finally walk back to the house after the whimpering faded away to silence. A burial spot was chosen and Sherry watched in grief as I dug the hole. I was about to fill it in when I heard a muffled cry from the bag. I was in disbelief as it grew louder. I opened the bag, it was not in my plan to see them, and there was a ball of bodies all clinging to each other. I pulled it apart to find in the very center a male pup breathing and whimpering away,.....louder and louder. I put him in my warm jacket pocket and headed back to the house. Mama Red waited anxiously at the door. knowing of my pup in my coat?  Her two healthy teats were more than enough to keep this little one alive and healthy. 

A name was needed right away and how determined he was to survive was the inspiration We found a german name of "Deter". and so it was. A week later we drove to the Vet to have both mother and pup examined. Both were thriving. A blessing for us all.

Even though this is not at Christmas time... The final story for me and Ma Ma Red happened on the following December Christmas morning. I was invited to join and meet Sherry's family for Christmas celebrations. It was a 5-hour drive out of the mountains to the high plateaus along the Al-Can highway heading north to Alaska. Deter was adopted at 6 months by a friend in town and would not be with us. After a late party Christmas eve, I was the first to awaken early and bundled myself up and headed out the back door to walk the red setter. The frigid brisk air was filled with bright sunlight. I could have used sunglasses as I squinted. I watched as she headed down the driveway instead of up the incline behind the house. Some critter caught her site hound eyes. I ran to chase her as I watched her cross the highway, very quiet on a Christmas morn. I called her to come back. she was enthralled by the burrows in the hard winter ground and animal scents.

Then I heard coming from the northern direction, a big rig heading down the road towards us. I immediately stopped calling her name. She was not obedience trained and was so unpredictable in her behavior. I stood motionless in prayer that she would stay on that side of the road till it passed us by. Just as if in slow motion I saw her raise her head, have eye contact with me, seemingly not aware of the truck barreling towards us. And in my worst nightmare, she dashed towards me and collided with the truck.. It did not stop and kept going as I looked upon her lying in the middle of the road.

I walked over and she was gone, out of pain I lifted her and it felt like a 7-year-old child as I carried her to the back porch 30 yards away. I laid her down and cried until I had the courage to awaken Sherry with the grim Christmas morning news. A bearer of very sad tidings.


My Apartment Window in Lockdown 2020

A Covid-19 2020 Christmas To Remember

My Christmas prayer is to embrace my memories with compassion for myself and to acknowledge God's mercy. I hold Christ's birth as God's greatest gift to the world and his creation. The gift to myself this season of isolation for everyone's safety is to remember how deeply I discovered, we all need each other. Even my relationship with myself has spiraled down to the depths not felt for many years. Just as his gift to us is "relationship with Him", we manifest that each day through our personal relationships with family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and the creatures we depend on.



No comments: