Christmas family memory

6 12 2015

WAHIAWA — Momma used to save butcher paper, the heavy pink paper with dark fibers that the butcher wrapped meat in. I wonder who remembers butcher paper. In those days she recycled everything. She traded the morning Advertiser with Uncle Harry and Aunty Edna next door for the afternoon Star-Bulletin to read. She saved the plastic bags from the poi to reuse, long before today’s ubiquitous plastic came across the Pacific from Hong Kong. Paper grocery bags lined the trash cans. The animals got our food scraps. Those were the days we had a party line and had to dial “0” for the operator to make a long-distance phone call.

The butcher paper. She sponge-washed and dried the sheets all year. Then around Christmas she would finger paint on them. Sometimes she cut out designs from half a raw potato to make pretty stamps, like a Christmas tree or a sprig of holly. And sometimes she let me finger paint, too. I don’t recall ever playing with mud, but the feeling of finger paint oozing around my hands is probably like that. It was fun to decorate.

To dry our creations, she crawled under the grand piano, a Howard, in the living room and spread the painted papers flat on the maroon wool rug. (Dad’s choice of color in the Fifties.) Our house was a small two-bedroom plantation cottage rented from Uncle and Aunty, and the painted papers shared the floor with Dad’s record collection. He had a huge Scott radio/record player.

Funny. I wonder where the piano and record collection went.

So, if you can imagine in our small parlor—it was called a parlor, not a living room—there was the Scott, a blue overstuffed couch, matching overstuffed chair, the grand piano, and Momma’s sheet music cabinet. She was a piano teacher.

And she made her own Christmas wrapping paper! With hardly any more room in the parlor, especially after the first TV of the neighborhood moved in, she would set up the card table in the bedroom between the double bed and her green metal dressing table, the kind with a big tri-fold mirror, drawers both left and right, a bench in front, and a place for a comb-brush-hand mirror set on top. Where I used to play dress-up in her fancy gowns. There is where we both spent delightful times wrapping presents.

Colorful monochromatic papers of deep shades of blue, green, red, violet—so vibrant. Momma showed me how to crease the paper around the corners of a box and Scotch-tape them closed. The packages came to life with ribbons and bows of gold and silver. Even today, two and a half generations later, my cousins tell me they remember the beautiful sight of those packages under the tree.

Copyright 2015 Rebekah Luke





Memories of Christmases past

15 12 2014
Walter made the reindeer caroler.

Caroling reindeer by Walter

A couple of early marriage Christmas memories come to mind as I catch up with the holiday spirit this year—the time when DH and I waited until Christmas Eve to shop and the time I flew from Honolulu to Philadelphia on Christmas Day.

They were fun times.

The first time, we had a list of loved ones we wanted to give presents to, but we hadn’t planned ahead or gotten anyone’s Santa list. We’d procrastinated, and soon it was Christmas Eve. We headed out to Ala Moana Center, at that time still the largest shopping center in the world, before they were called malls, and when most of the merchants were local.

It’s fun to shop with Pete. He will tell you that he can leave me at a certain spot in a store, go away to pick up what he needs, and then come back a half hour later and I will have moved less than ten feet. He always knows he can find me.

His style of shopping is like fishing, he says. You poke around, see what you like, hook it, then move on, to the next hole. No dilly dallying. Especially on Christmas Eve!

The second memory is about the time when I ran a Hawaiian cooperative from its brick-and-mortar store in rural Hau‘ula on O‘ahu. It was a cute shop that carried Native Hawaiian made products, and the only good gift store for miles.

We stayed open on Christmas Eve until 6 p.m.  I let the other workers go home, and I took the closing shift. DH and I spent every Christmas in Springfield, Pennsylvania, while his parents were alive, and this time he was already there. I flew out alone on Christmas Day and was among just a handful of passengers on the plane, so cabin service was great.

What I remember is arriving at the Philadelphia airport the next morning and being scooped up by Pete, his brother Paul, and their dad—my father-in-law Walter. It was boxing day and we were going straight to Mitchell’s in Delaware.

The family was celebrating Christmas “late” this year. Paul had just driven up from North Carolina. Mitchell’s was Dad’s favorite craft store, and everything was on sale. Wrapping paper, suitable gifts, and all-around good buys. I found a shiny eggplant tree ornament. Cool! Mom’s favorite color was purple.

Toy trains and cars for Paul’s boys, some things for the girls, brushes and tubes of oil color for me. The others had a field day selecting supplies for whatever craft and woodworking projects they were working on. Heck, everything was on sale, and Delaware had no sales tax!

The wooden ornaments for the tree were made by Pete's parents for their granddaughter Ari. Dad made the big Rudolph with the shiny nose, too.

The wooden ornaments for the tree were made by Pete’s parents for their granddaughter Ari. Dad crafted the big Rudolph with the shiny nose, too.

Because we arrived early in the morning, we’d beat the crowds. On the way home to where my mother-in-law Dorothy was waiting and where Pete’s sister Penny would be arriving, we probably stopped at the Brandywine River Museum of Art to pick up more presents, and we probably stopped at the Brothers restaurant run by my Italian sister-in-law Patty’s relatives for pizza. There are certain places we always went when touring Pete’s old stomping grounds at Christmastime.

Nice, sweet memories, and a reminder that it’s not necessary to plan everything to the last detail during the holidays. Christmas is not just a day on the calendar. Christmas can be every day. I think if I keep open minded to welcome the surprises that are bound to come along this year, it will be enough.

(Well, okay, I did start a list today. Sort of! ;-))

Copyright 2014 Rebekah Luke




Reflections of Christmas Day

26 12 2011

Picture-perfect family home on Christmas Day

Once when I was a teen, my best friend Margy had the bright idea that I should bring all my Christmas presents to her house to open with her family on Christmas morning.

Sometimes I’d go after Christmas Eve service, when we sang in the choir, and spend the night so I could witness the little kids’ joyful squeals as they awoke to see what was under the tree for them.

We’re senior adults now, and Margy’s been living in Oregon, but for most of the Christmas mornings that followed I have visited the venerable Sinclair Family home.

Presents under the tree

Each year varies as to who of my hanai family is arriving throughout Christmas Day, and Mom Ivalee who reared six children can rattle off the list.

Yesterday DH and I were the first to arrive and the last to leave.

That meant I could help make breakfast with Kathy and Ruth. And wash dishes — my job. Ruth cracked open the eggs for two big pans of scrambled eggs with bacon, onion, and cheddar cheese that Kathy tended while I toasted and buttered English muffins. We kept brewing more coffee as the others arrived.

Kathy comes from her Idaho ranch every year and helps Mom decorate. Now widowed, she’s voiced her plans to move back home to Manoa with her horses, cats and dog. Ruth, also an equestrian, is single again too, and she has listed her Kailua house for sale and already moved back to Mom’s with her dog Shadow. These life changes have a way of working out, and it’s wonderful these three wahine (women) are together at home.

My hanai sisters and mom: Kathy, Ivalee, and Ruth

The Hurleys from Australia and Las Vegas arrived. They all came to Hawaii for the baptism last week of their baby granddaughter Jasmine, born to Jodee and Paul. These lovely folks are in-laws and daughter of Julie, my hanai brother Karl’s wife.

Jasmine is baptized, Dec. 18, at St. John Vianney church

The senior Hurleys, who live near Melbourne, gave DH and I the idea of buying an around-the-word air ticket when the time comes to visit Miss Marvelous and her family in Italy, which is half way around the globe from Hawaii. (Have I mentioned they’re moving for three years? 😉 and  😦 Big change!)

The Hurleys said that plan could be cheaper than buying an out-and-back round trip, and then we could visit them in Australia. I will look into it!

Karl’s family includes Brandon and his lady Charlotte, who also drove up, and Brandon’s little girl Trinity. Then my first college roommate Becky arrived on her way to the UH ball game.

Presents for everyone! Trinity and her cousin Patrick, 3,  liked popping the bubble wrap the best.

The morning group left, and in the lull I washed dishes. There were a lot of them. We walked the dog until we got tired, and Ruth made three yummy from-scratch pies for dinner. We staged the rest of the dinner meal around a baked ham and kalua turkey. I think Mom spoke long distance with her two eldest, David and Margy, in Alaska and Oregon. Our thoughts were with Margy and family whose husband Jon is recovering well from a stroke.

Then Miss Marvelous, her parents Ari and Travis, and baby Perrin arrived. Afternoon wine for the adults!

Shadow, Ari, and baby Perrin

Luckily my hanai brother Brian’s family could make it for dinner, as his physician’s on-call duties were light. Our niece Anna is home from college. As she spent a high school year in Italy, our kids were anxious to hear from her what living abroad might be like.

I made only a few photos in between opening gifts, visiting with everyone, and . . . washing dishes! No images of the peak excitement periods, but be assured, it was another Christmas Day of family love at the Sinclairs’. Here’s GG, our touchstone, with the youngest of our extended clan.

GG (Great grandmother) and Perrin (age 1 month)

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke







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