Memories from Christmas’ past

My sisters and I one Christmas, a very long time ago. I am the youngest and smallest one.

My sisters and I one Christmas, a very long time ago. I am the youngest and smallest one.

 

Fudge cooking on the stove, hot steaming cocoa with floating plump marshmallows, taffy pulls, popcorn balls, caroling, recitals and Christmas pageants with new taffeta dresses, candles lit in window sills and trees with bright bulbs and multi-colored lights.  Sneaking around, spying in the attic for those illusive hidden presents I found. The memories linger like the smell of my mother’s fudge and Christmas cookies.

Listening for ‘sleigh bells’, thumps or bumps of Santa’s landing on roof tops and reindeer hooves touching down are the things I imagined, but never saw. Like any child I believed in Santa too. In the town I was from (Colorado Springs) there is a favorite popular Christmas place, North Pole. It is a magical Christmas village full of little cottages, toy stores, confections and the smells of all kinds of sweet treats, a real herd of reindeer, sleigh and of course a Santa Clause and Mrs. Clause. I loved visiting Santa there, but knew eventually that he did not really fly around the world in a sleigh on Christmas Eve. There came a day when I spotted Santa walking down Main street wearing a business suit, just like a scene from one of my favorite movies, Miracle on 34th St. I was older then, and knew the truth about his ‘job’ as the Santa at North Pole, but he brought so much happiness to children with his gentle nature, warm embrace, love and generosity to children like me before his death. Yet, ‘Santa’s legend lives on.

But, there is another one I came to believe in more as I listened to the story told and retold of a baby born to a virgin Mary in the little town of Bethlehem, Israel over 2,000 years ago. He became more real to me than any imaginative friend I could have dreamed of.  I learned how He loves me, lives on, will never die or leave me, and is always there for me. He sacrificed his life for us all so we could know him in a way that surpasses any imagined, or anyone who ever lived. That baby was Jesus, a Savior and Redeemer born to all the world. He is the reason I celebrate this Christmas, then and now, as I came to know Him, personally. His story is found in Luke, chapter 2, New Testament Bible, not a legend, but a truth, real, and God’s gift to us that lives on, continues to give and be received.

I wish all my blogger friends, readers and followers out there a very blessed and Merry Christmas, and a happy, prosperous year in 2015. Thank you for reading, commenting and following my site. It has been a wonderful journey as I traveled the country and globe with you through this site and yours.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Lost at Sea – Part 3, conclusion   5 comments

This is a an old lobster trap on the porch of a visitors center in Digby, Nova Scotia where lobster and scallops fishing remains one of the biggest occupations there with people living on the coast.

 

 

The movement was slight, but unmistakable.

“There! See that?”

“Got it. Lower us down. It’s too rocky, unsteady to set down the copter.”

“It’s Ingram. He’s alive. Caught and tangled in his own traps under a downed tree. We’ll have to pull him free.”

They radioed the pilot. “Send down the hoist pulley.”

“It’s tied on. Now! Easy! Lift him out, carefully. I think he’s got broken ribs. Not sure what else.”

Good. Now, let’s get him secured in the basket.”

They radioed back. “Take him up. Gently!

“I’ll let them know we’ve found him.”

It was Christmas.

Carolers gathered around the old hall. “Joy to the world…” They sang. “and heaven and nature sing…”

Ingram pulled Henry up onto his lap. “Henry, this is for you.”

Henry ripped open his present, his blue eyes as big and bright as the lights on the tree.

The miniature clipper was just like the one he let go the day he sent it out to sea.

Wow! Look, mama! It’s my boat.”

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Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Footnotes:  All photos used for this 3 part story are ones I took while on a trip to Nova Scotia, Canada many years ago. You can find part 1 and 2 of Lost at Sea previously posted.

Lost at Sea – Part 2   2 comments

Fishermen's lobster wharf, Digby Nova Scotia

Fishermen’s wharf, Nova Scotia (Not sure why so many American flags displayed)


Days passed with no word or sign of his whereabouts.

They came with flowers and wreaths throwing them out upon the waves.

A little boy holding his mother’s hand carried his small clipper pushing it out from shore.

“Henry, that is your favorite boat. Are you sure you want to… do this?” his mother asked.

“Yes, mama. It is for Mr. Ingram. He needs a new boat.”

“But, Henry, it is…,” then stopped herself. He was only four. He wouldn’t understand.

Henry looked up at her, “Mama, you told me to ‘believe for the impossible.'”

She nodded. “Yes, Henry, I did.”

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Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Footnotes: This is Part two of a three part story. Part 3 (the conclusion) will be posted in a few days. You can find Part 1 of this story under short story/flash fiction posts, Lost at Sea.

 

Lost at Sea   4 comments

P43_043

An old Mariners’ hall meeting place, Nova Scotia, Canada

 

A small crowd gathers at the Mariner’s hall, # 1077

The boat drifted for days, then was found washed ashore, its broken hull taking on water.

An experienced lobster fisherman, Ingram guffawed with his meaty hand wrapped around his pint of ale, “Just give me some line and I will fill my want, whatever the sea spits out at me.”

But, it looked like the sea claimed him. The old mariner pulled up anchor and set out to fish, traps in tow. Then the Nor’easter slammed the Atlantic coast.

Now they come to wait, and pray.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Footnotes: The above photo was taken in Nova Scotia while on a trip many years ago. I will be posting Part 2 and Part 3 (the conclusion) to this story in a few days.


I still love to dig   7 comments

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge: “Digging for Roots.”

I think the person I am is greatly influenced by the family I came from. When I wrote my first posts on my blog site a couple of years ago I told about the 30+ yrs. of genealogy research and work I’ve done digging into my paternal grandfather’s past and family. They were Germans from Russia, immigrated from Odessa, Russia (now the country of Ukraine) in 1889. Much of my research and information was used to create my current novel and project entitled, The Informant’s Agenda.

I was blessed to be able to travel to Russia and Ukraine in 1989 to commemorate their immigration to the U.S. and learn all I could about them and their own journey out of persecution and anarchy. I later learned too that their family were once originally from Jewish descent, then later converted to the Lutheran faith. These are the genealogical roots of my family that define me in such a way that makes me proud of my heritage, my faith, and my insatiable drive to learn more. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have made the journey, literally to the country of their origin, and also through the years of time travel with all the resources, books and research materials used so I could learn all I could about them. I have scrapbooks and binders so full of collected documents, records, old family photos, and Ged files that they cannot hold any more. Still I continue the ‘digging’ at times into my father’s side, and also my mother’s side from Germany . It is a legacy I will pass down to my children and grandchildren. It is a ‘dig’ I would not have traded for anything.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Merging cultures and diverse backgrounds   6 comments

Mayflower II - Plymouth, Mass.

Mayflower II – Plymouth, Mass.

Pilgrim Memorial State Park, Plymouth, Mass.

Pilgrim Memorial State Park, Plymouth, Mass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Thanksgiving Day in 1967 my husband and I were invited to spend the holiday at the home of a Hispanic friend’s family. We were nineteen, newlyweds, and living in California while attending college and working, having moved there from the Midwest.

I remember the disappointment when I saw the food placed on the table; tortillas, refried beans, and other Mexican dishes. Because they were not the ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving Day dishes like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie we were used to eating every Thanksgiving I was not sure I was going to enjoy this day. We also did not speak Spanish, so could not understand everything said. We felt like ‘pilgrims’ encroaching on new territory. I brought a Pumpkin pie to share, thinking at the time, At least we will have one favorite dish.

Yet, there was no culture barrier that could dampen our spirits, but instead a mutual desire to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Their smile, graciousness and hospitality made us feel welcomed.

It had me thinking about the first wave of pilgrims in a new country imagining how it was for them as they perhaps sat down at a rustic table in the woods of Massachusetts to share a meal with a group of natives so foreign to them; American Indians. Settlers from far away England and American Indians coming together, each bringing their native foods, sharing their harvested crops, celebrating as one. A new country was born, two groups united for that one day, supping together and giving thanks to God for their many blessings.

While vacationing on the east coast in 1998 we visited the famous Plymouth Rock landmark and the Mayflower II (an exact replica of the original ship the first settlers took on their journey to America) at Plymouth, MA. As we took a self-guided tour of the Mayflower, I was in awe of the sacrifices, ingenuity, and creativity the new Americans had, and the hardships they endured, how they could make their home inviting and hospitable.

The newcomers from England had lost so many settlers to death, disease and hunger. Yet, maybe there was expectation, excitement and celebration in the autumn air for the first of such feasts, gathering, coming together. Neither group could understand the language or culture of the other. The Indians could not have known what it was like for those new settlers to survive the storms at sea, suffer through disease and hunger on their crossing. Neither could the new Americans understand the difficulties and challenges the Indians faced living in a wild, untamed land. Yet, each shared their food and bounty to celebrate perseverance under the cloak of life’s burdens; American Indians, an existing group came, by right to belong, and the other, foreigners wanting to belong, determined to stay and build a new life.

On that day as my husband and I celebrated that Thanksgiving away from home, I realized how much we did have in common with the Hispanic family, and we began to relax and enjoy ourselves with them, and their own “traditional” holiday fare. The aroma of those homemade tortillas and Mexican dishes was tantalizing. It compelled my senses to welcome the experience.

They were not there to act as substitutes for our immediate families, but instead to be an extension to the family we already had of friends made while living in California. They shared the heritage of a people whose ancestors were original settlers of this state with its rich history. They were our hosts. We were their guests; but on that day we came together as friends, and we went away full, blessed and thankful.

Those four years we lived away from’ home’ taught us how to appreciate other cultures, and ethnic people of other nations. There were many other ethnic groups and people from other countries we came to know while living there. Our eyes opened to the ways that are different, but no less important than our own, and our hearts became tender towards those whose lives touched us with a diverse style of celebrating what is special to us all; giving thanks to our forefathers for their sacrifices made to birth a rich heritage in America.

Hebrews 13:16 (NIV) says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

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   Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Desperately seeking

 

While on a vacation trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada many years ago we had reservations at a Bed and Breakfast place, but when we finally got into Halifax after driving all day with stops along all day we were unprepared for this huge metropolitan city during rush hour traffic using only a (print) travel atlas to guide us.  Our check in time was for 6:00 p.m., and it was nearing that time. We got lost several times while looking for the B&B. By the time we found it and drove up into the drive right at 6:00 sharp it appeared to be just an average looking residence with children’s toys visibly scattered around its back yard. We knocked on the door several times, but no one answered, so gave up and figured it had either gone out of business, or was a bogus site on the internet.

Frustrated and desperate to find a hotel room we drove around while praying for one to open up. It seemed every place was booked up. We learned later it was the eve of their Canadian Thanksgiving Day holiday, and places booked up.  As we came off an exit of the interstate we spotted this inn. We saw their ‘No vacancy’ neon sign lit up, as was the case with so many hotels that night. But, something told me we should stop and inquire. My husband didn’t think it would do any good, but I persisted.  

While he went in to ask, I waited in the car and prayed. Soon, he came out, smiling, holding a room key. They told him there was a cancellation at the last moment, and a room had just opened up. With the key, and our luggage we walked up a stairway and down a lit hallway to a warm, clean, spacious room with two queen beds and beautiful antique furnishings. It was perfect, so inviting, even luxurious with its atmosphere. I could hardly believe our good fortune that night. And yet, why not? After all, I prayed there would be ‘room at the inn’. 

We were also hungry and wished for a good hot meal. Again, to our unexpected, happy surprise we found a wonderful dine-in restaurant on the first floor, open late and serving their full menu items with the day’s special; roast turkey dinner with all the traditional sides. We enjoyed that meal like none other, had a delicious chocolate mousse dessert to top off the night, and slept like contented, happy kids with filled bellies. Our bodies were at rest, our soul was blessed, and our minds put at ease. 

I took this picture of the inn the following morning when we checked out before heading back on the road. Now, I look back fondly on that time when we drove desperately seeking a room that night and this special blessing that opened up for us so that we could enjoy a Canadian Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend. 

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Joyce E. Johnson (2014)           

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