Tag Archives: Holiday

Of memories lost, remembered and why to be grateful for them

Christmas is all about memories…remembering those from the past and making new memories. Can you imagine not remembering the Christmases of your past?

Jeff Ingram doesn’t have those memories, or at least he can’t easily conjure them up in his mind. Holding an old Christmas ornament in his hand doesn’t quickly transport him to a childhood night of decorating a tree with his family. Ingram suffers from a type of amnesia called dissociative fugue. When he has an attack, his memory is wiped clean. That’s when his wife, Penny steps in. She is his memory. In a recent episode of NPR’s Story Corps, Jeff and Penny explained how she fills in the blanks.

It’s an amazing story. After listening to the podcast, memories just flooded back…from early childhood to my teenage years to college, then marriage and my own children from their early years to present.

Of course, the fact that it is a holiday season, my memories focused on Christmases past. I’ll bet my memories from our childhood years differ from those of my brothers. Thinking about these memories made me sad that Jeff Ingram cannot simply pull out these random thoughts, but his situation also made me grateful that I do have such happy memories as these…

Breakfast on Christmas morning always featured semmel, a simple German roll best slathered with homemade strawberry jam.

My doll, Ruthie, who got a new head every Christmas — over the years, she had brown, black, and blonde hair.

Getting to spend Christmas at my grandparents’ home in Indiana, with cousins we rarely saw because their parents were missionaries in Japan.

The green and white gingham two piece swim suit my mom made for me the year we went to visit our grandparents in Florida over Christmas.xmas girls

Red barrettes from my brother, Tom, who spent most of December in bed because of Scarlet Fever. It amazed me that he somehow managed to get me a present.

Christmas 1972 — we were living in St. Pete, Florida. What I remember is a warm, sun-dappled screened in porch with the ubiquitous Christmas tree.

The first Christmas with our oldest daughter, who was just a month shy of her first birthday. Her grandfather had made her a rocking horse. She spent most of her waking hours on Doodah.IMG_0333[1]

The first Christmas with our youngest daughter, just four months old. She was too young to appreciate the holiday and clearly displeased with Santa. By her second Christmas, she too was entranced with her very own rocking horse.

Over the years, there were the annual elementary school Christmas concerts (third grade recorders were a standout year for each daughter), followed by band and orchestra concerts, and in their senior year, each took a turn lighting the candles during the Christmas Eve service.

Memories. So many memories. Last year’s Christmas was a first for us as we celebrated away from home. One year ago tonight, the four of us attended midnight mass at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, featuring a small orchestra of professional musicians.

We’ll be making more memories in a few hours. I hope Jeff and Penny Ingram are making some of their own.

Hand-painted eggs recall long-gone grandmother

Coloring eggs at Easter probably ranks up there in popularity with icing sugar cookies around Christmas time. When you color eggs with young children, it can get a little messy. I wonder how many dozen eggs my mom must have prepared when all five of her kids were determined to color an equal number of eggs.

Last year, I pilfered onion skins from the grocery store so I could dye my eggs in them. The woman checking us out looked at me kind of strangely when I she picked up a plastic bag with one onion surrounded by loose skins. I just smiled. She shrugged. Those turned out beautifully, especially when I did brown eggs — they looked like chocolate.

Here it is Saturday, the day before Easter, and we haven’t given much thought to Easter prep. No little girls around to sew new dresses for, no adult children home to color eggs with, no relatives to cook for. So feeling a little sad, I began rooting around for something I knew would brighten up the house.

The painted eggs. These are not just any old painted eggs. These eggs were painted by my husband’s grandmother, Bertha Hahn.

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I should explain that I never knew her well; in fact my only personal conversation with her occurred when I was about eight years old and somehow my older brothers had bribed me to do their newspaper “collecting”. All I remember is that my mom sat in the car while I went to the door to collect Mrs. Hahn’s weekly payment. She came to the door with her dress unbuttoned, revealing a laced-up garment. I grabbed her money and ran to the car, completely perplexed. My mom explained the intricacies of the old-fashioned corset.

So, later in life, when I married my husband, I heard stories about his grandmother — most of which explained the corset. But I also learned that she was an artist. On our first Easter together, he pulled out the most beautifully painted tiny eggs I’d ever seen. These were nothing like the dyed eggs of my childhood.

Apparently, each year, she painted eggs for her grandchildren. She raised Bantams, so some of the eggs are very tiny. How she managed to do this without breaking them is beyond me. It had to have taken much patience. (I know this isn’t easy because one year my husband and daughters attempted this.)

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According to my husband, she first inserted a needle in the egg, broke the yolk and then blew out the egg. She then painted each in a solid color. When they were dry, she used a tiny brush to paint flowers, bunnies, and crosses. Each egg includes the child’s name, the year, and often a Bible verse.

Maybe painting eggs like this was a local Swiss tradition. Whatever….while we may not be coloring eggs this year, we’ve got a bowlful of beautiful eggs that easily rival any Ukrainian pysanky.

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