The Permanent Maternal Record
And: ‘Tis the season! (Ah, the Smell of It Division)
Dolly Dimples: “This is a tribute to my mom — and memories of Christmases past.
“Memories of Christmases past can be triggered by many things — by a beautiful snowfall like we had this weekend, which transformed our ordinary-looking neighborhood into a Wonderful Winter Wonderland, or seeing houses and yards decked out in festive lights, or hearing favorite Christmas carols on the radio. What transports me into the Christmas seasons of the past is the fragrance of Christmas cookies being baked.
“Mom baked lots of cookies, but Christmas cookies were baked only in season — and the variety was amazing. To name a few: cut-out cookies, sugar cookies, stollen, spritz, lebkuchen, pfeffernusse, anise, springerle, thumbprint, Christmas wreaths. Mom had all things in order when she was ready to make cookies. The bowls, utensils, ingredients were in place on the kitchen table, as well as the recipes (but I doubt she needed to refer to them). She was ready to start.
“There were no electric mixers in those days. All batter had to be stirred by hand — vigorously. I marveled at the strength it took for Mom to spend hours mixing cookie dough and not seeming to tire. (I think it was the love she mixed in that kept her going.)
“I tried to help. While Mom stirred and baked, she kept me busy with other tasks. My role was to sprinkle colored sugar on the cut-out cookies, to press the Hershey’s Kisses in the thumbprint indentations, to complete the sticky wreaths by placing the little red cinnamon candies in place. She’d put a package of Dromedary dates in front of me and instruct me to make a slit in each date, stuff in a half-walnut, and roll the date in granulated sugar. That was a treat we all enjoyed at Christmastime. Another favorite was baked apples. She would core the apples, and my job was to fill the cavity with the red cinnamon candies. When the apples emerged from the oven, they were fragrant, pink and soft inside the skin … and tasty.
“I was fascinated when Mom made the springerle cookies. She sprinkled anise seeds on the baking board, placed the rolled-out dough on top of the seeds and pressed down on the springerle form. The little pictures of people working at trades were so clear and remained so when they were baked. Nowadays I believe springerle forms are rolling pins with designs etched in them, but Mom’s was a square metal plate on which the pictures were etched, and it was fastened to a wooden block.
“With some guilt, I must admit I didn’t take after her, as baking was not one of my favorite things to do.”
Life as we know it
Al B of Hartland: “I visited a friend at a nursing home. She was like the rest of us: She knew more than she could remember. I asked her how old she was. She told me that she was 99 1/2. When you reach a certain age, you add 1/2, just as you did as a young child.
“I remarked that she was nearly 100. My math skills are that good.
“‘I am,’ she replied. ‘It’s no wonder that I’m tired.'”
Our theater of seasons
This week’s haiku from WriteWoman of Shoreview:
“still, white snowflakes hide
“last fall’s kaleidoscopic
“beauty till springtime”
Our theater of seasons (cont.)
Papa on Elm Street: “My favorite apple that is a tough bugger is still hanging on.
“December 18: still there.
“Eight inches of new snow.
“Twenty degrees below zero.
“Thirty-six degrees below zero wind chill.”
The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With A Thousand Rules: “As my youngest son approaches his 50th birthday, I remember vividly the evening before he was born.
“Walt Disney died on Thursday, December 15, in 1966, and our four kids were heartbroken. We had only recently upgraded to a color television set, so they had been watching ‘Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color’ in black-and-white for the previous five years — and now that they could really enjoy it, they thought they would never see it again. They assumed that would be the end to the Disney show — one of only two shows they were allowed to watch each week. (Like the shoemaker’s son having no shoes, their dad worked in the television industry. Enough said.)
“We were expecting another baby in the family, and they were especially upset to think that their coming sibling would never get to see that show. They watched ‘Flipper’ on the following Saturday, and when Sunday night rolled around and ‘Wonderful World of Color’ came on as usual, they were surprised and so happy. My husband was working the night shift, so I sat on the couch by myself while the four kids sat cross-legged in front of me absorbed in that magical show. I remember thinking that if my hunch was right, that baby might just arrive before morning. My 7-year-old suddenly jumped up from the floor and snuggled next to me, and he asked: ‘Mom, when you’re not the baby of the family anymore, do you still get hugs?’
“The kids went to bed happy that night and woke up even happier when their dad showed them Polaroid pictures of their baby brother, who was born that Monday morning at 5 o’clock.
“Yes, the 7-year-old still got hugs. So did the 8-year-old, the 10-year-old, and the 12-year-old.”
Today’s helpful (?) hint (responsorial)
Sunday’s Bulletin Board opened with a note from Nellie: “I have Velcro’d my old Brett Favre, 3-inch-high bobblehead (in yellow-and-green No. 4 uniform [Bulletin Board says: It won’t kill you if you say “Packers”!) to my dashboard, in line with the top of my steering wheel.
“As I get older, and as I glance left or right at whatever might be in view, redirecting my attention to the road in front of me seems a bit delayed — not dangerously so, but noticeable. With his head bobbling just a bit and his vertical position, it is just enough to catch my eye back to the roadway in front of me without obstructing my view whatsoever.
“Might small dashboard bobbleheads be a partial solution to distracted drivers? (Drivers’ manuals will say not to put anything on your dashboard; however, if it is low enough and does not obstruct your view, it could be all right.)
“Without question, Brett Favre helps me be a more attentive driver.”
We presently heard from The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “I discovered a cure for distracted driving while tooling around in my ’56 Chevy many years ago.
“Looking at the pointy ‘grenade launcher’ steering wheel hub aimed at my heart, and not having seat belts, made me a more alert and careful driver!”
Till death them did part (responsorial)
Lawyergirl of St. Paul: “Subject: Their truth is marching on.
“The Hastings Crazy Quilter‘s post with her parents’ lovely wedding photo alluded to the bravery of military chaplains. While I can’t speak to other military chaplains, note that St. Paul’s first archbishop, John Ireland, was a military chaplain during the Civil War. To underscore the bravery of military chaplains as a whole, there are a few Americans whose causes of canonization are open; they were both brave and believed to have lived lives of heroic virtues.
“Here are some of their stories: ‘His Truth is Marching on Part 1’ and ‘His Truth is Marching on Part 2’ include exemplars of Catholic chaplains’ bravery from World War I on. Father Duffy remains the most decorated military chaplain. Father Washington’s story in World War II includes that of three military chaplains from other faiths who are memorialized in stained-glass windows at West Point and some Catholic churches: When the Dorchester was torpedoed, they organized evacuation and handed out life preservers, ultimately giving their life preservers to others and drowning with those who were unable to escape.
“More recently, Father Kapaun and Father Cappodanno served in Korea and Vietnam, respectively; both are candidates for canonization, having been named ‘Servants of God,’ a preliminary step. Father Cappodanno holds the distinction of having a Navy frigate named after him, which is the only ship in U.S. Navy history to have received a papal blessing!
“Only a few years ago the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese’s Father Vakoc became the only military chaplain to be injured in Iraq. He succumbed to his injuries several years later.
“Please pray for our military chaplains of whatever tradition. If you don’t pray, please send good vibes, warm fuzzies or your preferred method of transferring good karma.”
Our birds, ourselves
Jim Shumaker of New Richmond, Wisconsin: “The ups and downs of a red-breasted nuthatch, St. Croix County, Wisconsin. I don’t see a lot of these guys around here; hope your readers enjoy this little guy!”
Built to last (responsorial)
Bloomington Bird Lady: “Memories we thought were laid to rest come back so quickly when we read stories of ‘back in the day.’
“The old-washing-machine stories could be a category for a long time. Does anyone remember the ‘Easy Spin Dry’ washers? There was a separate tub for washing, and then one had to lift the dripping-wet laundry into a side tub, which spun out the water and then rinsed the load, and then spun again. Voila . . . ready to be hung on the line. If soft water was used, it worked well, but where we lived there were iron deposits, so when the spinner was going and water was coming in to rinse, orange streaks were left. Pull out a nice sheet . . . and what did you find? Diagonal stripes! I was happy to see a water softener get installed in our rental unit.
“At least there was no wringer to suddenly grab the diaper or whatever and wrap it around the rollers. With the old-style wringers, there could be no multi-tasking. Vigilant watching at all times; focus, don’t daydream, and avoid what could happen so fast: diapers sticking to the rollers of the wringer and wrapping around tightly, until in desperation the poor wringer would spring open! Then we could begin to unwind the mess we’d made for not being on guard. Sleepy new moms, maybe up half the night with the baby, and suddenly everything grinds to a halt. Insert your own swear words here.
“One more mishap memory: Did your automatic washer ever decide not to complete the cycle of spinning out the rinse water? Suddenly you are left with a very wet tubful. What to do? Well, you enlist your better half and begin wringing out items — one, by one, by one. Call the repair guy, set up a day and time, and in the meantime keep the dryer running seemingly forever.
“We’ve advanced to the large front loaders, but watch out — notice that rank smell coming from the lovely new appliance? Have to be vigilant about cleaning in all the crannies.
“Isn’t technology great? Mostly?”
Band Name of the Day: The Tough Apples
Website of the Day: The first full-color “Wonderful World of Disney”