Today is Christmas Eve. “May your days be merry and bright….”
I choose, this year, to look back, as viewed by others from their own perspective. I actually have a long list; I choose to comment, briefly, on three. The photos which begin and end this post come from a marvelous program at Orchestra Hall on December 19, featuring well known humorist Kevin Kling, and the local and wonderful Capri Big Band. Here are the program notes: Kevin Kling et al Dec 19 2021
Years ago – I think it was the spring or summer of 1998 – I was at the Village Green of Concord MA during some local festival, and happened across a small group of Dixieland musicians. I struck up a conversation with one of them, Norm, and we’ve kept in touch all these years. Each year I look forward to his envelope, always addressed using meticulous calligraphy. Last year came a change, and this year a new version via e-mail. The text is included at the end of this message in its entirety, with no editorial comment. “Tis the season….”
Two or three Sundays ago, Julie who occasionally serves we customers with coffee at Caribou came over to my table. She knows I do family history, and this time she told about one of those memoirs from a relative she knew little about. I had a chance to glance at the typewritten memoirs, 20+ pages, written as people write, less than precise English, incomplete sentences, etc. There were some clues about this person: origin Norrkoping Sweden, about 1885, some rural townships in West Central Minnesota more or less between Alexandria, Fergus Falls and Staples; thence a move with some time in Montana; thence Pasco and Bellingham WA.
Three pages were missing – why or because of who unknown, but certainly there was some significant story, as yet unknown.
My advice to Julie was to use the rough manuscript as a starting point; and for her to simply write down any scraps that she had heard from anyone about people, dates, places – no matter if they’re complete or even accurate – they are blanks that can be filled in one piece at a time.
My most important piece of advice: don’t change a single word or phrase. Let the document be exactly as it is. Probably it was someone typing from a handwritten document, with its own errors. But it is one of the starting points for reality of her own family story.
I told her I’d be writing this. I hope she reads it.
Just two days ago, literally, I noticed a yellowed newspaper clipping here in my home office, and decided to look at it. The contents are below. How did it come into my possession? I’m not sure. Almost 100% certainly it came via my parents, who lived in Grand Forks at the time (April 18, 1976). And my Dad did the first several years of country school teaching at Allendale #1 in rural Thompson ND. You will note there is a little piece of the article that is missing. I can reconstruct that, most likely, some rodent nibbled at it over the years. The Grand Forks Historical Society will hear about this, for sure. They are mentioned in the article.
Grand Forks ND Streetcar, Grand Forks Herald April 18, 1976
Piled high boxes, the chances slim
Of which one the Christmas cards are in.
It’s not to worry, the two lines above
Have started this season of scarf and glove
With some doggerel and like the year past,
No stamp, no zipping boots…the new die is cast.
And new mantra, “refuse, rethink and rejoice,”
Sit back and tap the words of YOUR choice.
Forget Mr. Hallmark, he’s doing OK;
Same old words said the same old way.
And that post office trip, and maybe fall.
Some folks, I suppose, like to crutch down the hall.
With ailments enough, (I know I’ve plenty,
And don’t recover rapideamente.)
Sit back a moment, put on the brakes,
Think of the time writing cards takes.
Sealed, not delivered, now comes the freight,
(I’m sure you’re aware, it’s now fifty eight.)
How many cards? Small fortune indeed.
You know at the Ritz you’d have quite a feed.
Just sit back, in comfort, your two fingers tapping,
Next hit the send, then back nipping and napping.
Oh these days of Covid and that protocol,
Card disinfecting (should be us) with alcohol.
Dig in firm, ignore the wail,
Sent today…received today…email.
“What!” they say, “no card…tis treason,
We care not at all your reason.”
They’ll come for me of that I’m sure…
Who’s that knocking on my door?
You know it’s that season, that season where
A slight bit of empathy infuses the air…
I guess it’s ‘bout time for summing things up,
These grumbling insides are ready to sup.
So Merry Christmas it’s now time to tell,
And though fats the chance, a peaceful New Year as well.
If you’re spinning a dreidel, by the fireside curled,
Happy Hanukkah, though passed, still: Oy To The World. Norm..”
from Jerry: Thanks for your Christmas blog, Dick. I ran out of stamps sending Christmas cards.You are right that sending cards is expensive, both for higher postage rates and because cards seem to have almost doubled in price. Greetings at Christmas and best wishes for 2022.
from Judy: A very blessed Christmas to you Dick. Thank you for all your excellent communication. Peace to you.
from Brad: Merry Christmas et Joyeux Noël Dick, thank you for reminding me that giving is needed throughout the year. Your insights, thoughts, and kindness is always appreciated – you have a very lucky family!
from Leila: This is the third year I’ve enjoyed reading your messages for they’ve inspired me to remember different highlights from my otherwise ordinary life.
Wish you and your family a merry and bright Christmas .
from SAK in England:
Many thanks for that Mr Bernard & for all your work & blogs throughout the years!
Wooden streetcar – in such a cold climate? Perhaps it brought warmth & comfort!
Another lousy year I am afraid. Let’s not complain however but hope for much better times for this miserable humanity!
Wishing you & yours a Merry Christmas & a much improved New Year.
Spare a thought for the Magi who travelled in the dead of winter with gifts for the new born Saviour!
They had no streetcar, wooden or otherwise!
“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
From T.S. Eliot (an American who moved across the pond!): Journey of the Magi
Many embark on ventures that others think are folly & yet, & yet . . .
I have always liked that poem & the rest is great as well.