I have been “pondering” lots of things since last week and as I write about them I am sure I will repeat myself or forget a very important event. The nice things about blogs, you can correct or add to your previous posts and even change history if necessary. I may have mentioned some of this earlier when I was posting on Facebook, I am too lazy to check.
My earliest memory is of Br.Lawrence delivering a one step above Charlie Brown Tree to Marie Legaz, then registrar. The tree was set up and decorated with lights and ornaments and you could almost forget it was slight of branches. This year was also the year Fr. Gerard collapsed at the counter when I asked him to sniff my bird (it was a cinnamon scented candle in the shape of a bird). Br.Lawerence played a big part in that first Christmas as it was the year he explained how the Angel ended up on top of the tree. Shirley Crews, bookstore manager had a pre-Christmas dinner party in the bookstore before we gathered with the monks in the cafeteria for Christmas dinner. Years prior to my arrival there are stories of gifts of cheese, turkeys and hams to the staff and faculty. I arrived late for that.
Other early Christmas memories include the number of Christmases when I served as Mrs. Claus to a number of Mr. Santas, most notably with Fr. Kevin Myles, Dave Boren, Myron Apilado, Andrew Moyer, Fr. Edward and some professional ”ringer” from off campus that I never saw again. Some still say Mrs. Clause could never keep a man. I guess they were right but I had a good time when we were together. Fr. Kevin and I were the most daring and dashing as we worked the cafeteria and then drove to the SUB to distribute gifts to the students. Some of you know what I mean when I say “ we drove.. “.
Amy’s birthday is today 12/20 and when she was young Larry and I held open house to celebrate her and the holidays and since I had become part Saint Martin’s friends would stop by to share some Sangria or Hot Buttered Rum or Egg nog and treats and visit. Fr. George would play the piano and after singing Happy Birthday to Amy the guest gathered around to sing Christmas Carols while the fire placed glowed. Warmth filled the house, warmth of friendship.
Our house wasn’t the only off campus Saint Martin’s celebrations, dear Dr. Bailey hosted many Christmas parties for the faculty. Les had a passion for lights on his tree and even before it became fashion his 6 foot Doug Fir emitted enough light to read “A Christmas Carol” without any other illumination. One would never turn down a party invitation to Dr. Bailey’s as he was an amazing cook and really knew how to feed his friends. It was someone common to end the party at Les’s with friendly games of Bridge, art there such things? Well we tried but a few drinks often brought out the real competitors and for awhile we had to restrict the players to neophytes. I ask you to pause here for a moment to recall your memories of Les Bailey, his life, his food and most of all his amazing friendship. There are few to equal his love of Saint Martin’s. His body left us 2 years ago on Christmas eve but his presence will remain on campus and in Old Main.
A celebration that stood apart from the Christmas celebrations was the celebration of the birthday of a dear friend Holly Harmon. Holly had been blessed with a birthday on Dec 24. It was important to her family and friends that her birthday be defined separate from Christmas. For several years a group of us would meet at a restaurant in downtown Olympia and share an hour or two celebrating our friend, Holly. It was a great break for all of us to recall that many wonderful things happen during December besides the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations. This year plans have been made to revive the tradition and we will meet on Monday for just that. Thanks Holly for being born.
Another standard Christmas eve party was hosted by Carl and Kathy Manning, often in the form of a Christmas eve dinner prepared oh so carefully and well, 20 or so guests would gather around the expandable round table and by candlelight appreciate the homemade bread and amazing meal. No matter what was going on at Saint Martin’s this tradition continued with special candlesticks made by Kathy’s mother and special ornaments each year for CP, Pat and Anna. Many of us would relax after dinner sipping wine and sharing stories until 10 when those of us who planned to attend Christmas Mass at the Abbey Church would gather our goodies and coats and head up the highway to secure our chairs at the Abbey Church.
An important element of Christmas day was celebration with family. After Larry and I moved to the Olympia the Conley Christmas’s were a bit scarce but the Law family celebrations were held at 5942 E Sarazen St for the next 30 “odd” years. Odd years do not reference 3,5,7,9,11 etc but the other sense of Odd. New traditions were added and some older revived. Our Christmas trees always had cherish treasures and one new ornament each year for each member of the family.You can imagine the number or perhaps count the number of ornament that covered our trees as the years passed, a great excuse for always getting a tree that touched the ceiling. In 1978 or 79, “Grandma Navarro” joined our celebration as the Von Neudeggs joined in and added to our Christmas. Grandma Navarro brought “Christmas Crackers” from London and each of the guests popped open the “cracker” and found a small toy, a joke or proverb and a tissue hat. The hat was worn during the dinner. This tradition continues today even though the celebration has moved to Seattle and Amy is in charge, we will all have “crackers” and we will wear the hats and laugh at the jokes and proverbs. As mentioned in earlier posts “traditions” can be good things.
Christmas celebrations didn’t end until the ornaments on the tree were removed and packed away and the tree recycled. At the Law house that happened on the 1st of January while watching football. The weeke between Christmas and New Year was peppered with small parties or get togethers.
One of the favorite parties was hosted by Rebecca ”Becky” Wonderly on New Years eve and many of the folks from Saint Martin’s attended with others of her friends and family. I recall the sense of wonder as we would come into her house always a beautiful Nobel Fir with ornaments spaced beautifully and lights twisted carefully around the branches. The arch or entry to her dining room was framed with shiny silver Christmas bell-balls that she had been given by her father throughout the years. The house was warm and welcoming with the smell of cookies and candles and a warm fire in the fireplace. Thank Becky you planted seeds of love full of wonderful memories that have lasted for years.
After Amy left home to establish and build traditions of her own, I have gradually reduced my home decorating, On the first year I was on my own, I was anything but on my own. I had adopted a new family and had become not only Mrs. Claus of Saint Martin’s but Mutha Security. As Christmas approached and decorations went up in our makeshift Records Office in South Park, I shared my concern about decorating my house. The student staff of Security Office offered to help out and they came to my house on the Sunday before finals to accomplish the tasks that seemed impossible. Jonathan Sprouffske donated his tree from the Sprouffske Tree Farm, Igor Srenk hung the lights on the tree (remember it had to touch the ceiling) Jonathan Sprouffske donated his tree from the Sprouffske Tree Farm, Igor Srenk hung lights outside and on the bushes (I think there may still be a string attached as they were very diligent). Stephanie Day, Kate Lasko, Heather Stoltz and others assembled the decorations inside the house. “Extended family” took on a new meaning and to this day my heart warms as I recall the specialness of the people and the time. The Security family really help carry me through a rough period in my life that many of you have heard me refer to as the Reign of Terror. Lots of changing and growing occurred throughout the campus and best of all the Saint survived.
I almost forgot to mention the joy of celebrating in the music building (maintenance building to many) with Br. Aelred, Br. Elias and Andrew. Singing or listening to them sing and enhancing their repetoire with great works of “I Want a Hippopotumus for Christmas” and the notable “Suzy Snowflake”. I mention the fun songs because everyone knows their ability with the classics but I may be the only person who has heard Br. Aelred sing “Here Comes Suzy Snowflake” and I treasure that memory along with many others that will be mentioned in future blogs, great people, even greater friends.
Before I close my Christmas memories I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of the wonderful people who worked with me in the Registrar/Records Office. Decorating and singing and sharing and loving This Place I call home. Debbie Long, Br Ramon Newell, Satch Tapango, Laurie St. Ours, Renee Burden, Gail, Jennifer McGee, Kelle Peterson, Kirsten Chase, Tammy Jutte, Kim Hamilton and Ronda Vandergriff. I was afraid to include work study (other than Debbie Long) as I know I would miss some, but if you worked with us you know who you are and I do appreciate you. Your patience help and love and perseverance made so much difference. You are each special gifts with your own special memories in my life.
Well I am late in posting this blog post and it has run on longer than I intended but once I started remembering I just couldn’t forget and it was therapeutic to put them to paper.
Christmas is special as the reason for the season but it is truly the special moments we share with our friends and families that keep the celebrations and memories alive.
(Happy New Year next week