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Christmas is Magic

A few weeks ago I decorated my Christmas tree with an assortment of carefully selected ornaments, those that had special significance or appeal.  This will be my last “real” Christmas tree, at least for a few years.  Most of my ornaments will be given away or sold.  My snowman collection, which I have been accumulating for years, and many other things that say “holiday tradition” to me will be forsaken for a new adventure.

I have made the decision to downsize out of my house and into a motor home.  When one goes from a house to an RV, most of your possessions must go, and that includes the majority of my holiday decorations, including my Christmas tree.  Some will be given to my adult children, others will go into an estate sale for others to enjoy.  popcorn and paper garland

When you decorate your tree each year, do you have ornaments that hold special meaning?  Are there traditions you have carried on from your childhood?  Long before Elf-On-A-Shelf became a fad, my mother always had an elf on her Christmas tree for good luck.  When I got married I had to have an elf, and when my daughter found out I was downsizing she said “are you taking your elf?”  This is the way that family traditions are handed down.

American Christmas traditions began around 1830 when an image from England of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating the holiday around a table-top tree was re-printed in American publications.   The photo was widely published and by 1900 one in five  Americans had a Christmas tree.  The first trees were decorated with things such as nuts, popcorn strings, homemade trinkets, oranges and lemons.  Newspapers and magazines encouraged Americans to purchase more elaborate decorations, and by 1870 ornaments were being imported from Germany.

German immigrants brought to America the tradition of putting lights, sweets, and toys on the branches of the tree.    My tree has some glass-blown ornaments, Hallmark dated ornaments, birds, elves, glass balls, and ornaments from my youth.   There are ornaments that were purchased as souvenirs, such as the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Washington DC, and the Calgary Stampede.  There are memorial ornaments for my father, nephew, and husband.  One year I was given an ornament that depicts two favorite things of mine…books and coffee.  There is a special, sentimental feeling each year as these are brought back out and placed on the tree.

Minolta DSCAlong with tree decorating traditions, most of us grew up with the magic of Santa Clause.  Saint Nicholas was a Christian holy person believed to have lived in the third century, who became known as a protector of children.  The bearded, jolly Santa dressed in red that first appeared in Clement Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas in 1820.   Thomas Nast was an artist who’s first major depiction of Santa Claus in Harper’s Weekly in 1886 created the image we envision today.  Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly between 1863 to 1886, and Santa is seen or referenced in all but one.   It is Nast who was instrumental in standardizing a national image of a jolly, kind and portly Santa dressed in a red, fur-trimmed suit delivering toys from his North Pole workshop.

Santa lives on today because he exemplifies dreams, hope, wishes and beliefs.  In a world filled with stress, violence, poverty, and hunger, Christmas brings out the good in everyone.  The thought that if you just believe, good things will happen.  Christmas is magic, and if you don’t believe that, watch a child’s eyes on Christmas morning.

 

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Filed under assumptions, celebration, children, Discoveries, exploration, Family, Festivals, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, winter

Bulleted Reunion

IMG_20180720_185225304I had the pleasure of attending my 40th High School Class Reunion in Eaton Rapids, Michigan this weekend.  The coordinators did a fabulous job of pulling the weekend together with a variety of activities to keep people on the move.  This was especially nice for those of us traveling in from out of town, especially those traveling from out-of-state.

This is my bulleted list of memories of the weekend.

  • Meet-and-Greet at Eaton Rapids Medical Center Conference Room.
  • Great desserts!
  • Friendly conversation with classmates.
  • Tammy (Ball) Albright’s face sign
  • Olive burgers and beer at Abies Bar
  • Woman’s bathroom is small with two toilets, no stalls.
  • Breakfast at Darb’s Patio, always yummy!
  • Glitch in planned tour of high school – Honor Society students are prepared to do tour, school is locked and they don’t have keys.
  • Classmate makes a couple calls and resolution is on the way.
  • Dave Johnson, teacher when we attended, later principal, now retired, has master key to school and comes to rescue, conducts the tour, and does an awesome job of sharing the way it was when we attended, and what changes have been done over the years.IMG_20180721_130944998_LL
  • Touring the high school after 40 years brings back memories, including these mentioned during tour:
    • The Cold Tongue
    • The smoking bathroom
    • Pep Rallies
    • After home game dances
    • Band/band camp
    • Typing class
    • 1-2-3 Roll’em Ferndock
    • World History class lectures in auditorium
    • Theater performances in auditorium
    • Mr. Phillips math classes
    • Mrs. Lohrke, English teacher
    • Mrs. Shimnoski and Mrs. Tuthill, Business/Secretarial Block teachers
    • Various athletes, coaches
    • Teachers and counselors now gone but long remembered
    • Library no longer has a comfy seating area of bean bag chairs, chairs, etc.
    • Senior Bench (now gone)
    • The former layout of the school compared to what it is now
  • Non-Reunion Activity:  Quick stop-over to visit with my sister for a couple hours
  • Walking a block to the Red Ribbon Hall for the reunion because I thought all  parking in front was taken; there were still open spots.
  • Some classmates’ appearance has hardly changed, very recognizable.
  • Some classmates have changed a lot — thank goodness for name tags!
  • Being surprised at how many people recognized me immediately.
  • Good food, good desserts.
  • Good conversation with old friends and classmates.
  • 1978 Graduate photo frame for shooting pics
    IMG_20180721_212645159
  • Fun slide show of “then and now” pictures of classmates.
  • Party Favors:  Eaton Rapids glass and notepad
  • The Red Ribbon Hall has very good acoustics = loud atmosphere.
  • A lot of us still drink, but not like we used to!
  • Many of us no longer “close down the bar” and left before the party was over.
  • Cell phones are great for event pics…I didn’t see a single “real” camera all weekend.
  • Facebook sharing of activities and photos on the ERHS Class of 1978 Page
  • Sad realization that we have lost 11 classmates, a nice memorial table was set up.
  • A quiz of things about our last year of school – presented by Mrs. Wheeler, former teacher.
  • Each classmate was to stand and give their name (maiden) now and where living…which grew as it went around the room to name, where living, married/years, occupation, children/grandchildren.
  • Amazing how many people have stayed in Eaton Rapids and/or the Greater Lansing area.
  • Surprised at how many have moved out of state, or resided in several states.

FB_IMG_1532145667519Time passes so quickly.  How is it we have already been out of school forty years?  Many thanks to classmates Julie and Jane Brenke, and their sister Jill, for organizing the reunion as well as several others who stepped in and assisted them.

 

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Up and Back in a Day

This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain.  The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go.  I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home.  I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan.  The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00.  I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive.  I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75.   A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts.  I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.  death

The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago.  A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services.  Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen.  Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.

I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen.  It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart.  Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch.  Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately.    It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally.  We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on.  I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).

During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read.  Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth.   Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth.  I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike.  Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling.   It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.

Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts.  They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents.  After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.

About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road.  We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend.   We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins.  I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly.  As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm.  Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon.  I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car.  Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt.  I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.

I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home.  This served two purposes.  It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.

It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy.  I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick.   I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos.  I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid.  Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes.  It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm.  A tiring day but I am glad I went.  It was good for Michelle to have me there.  It was good for me to be there.

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, travel