During this holiday season, I’m missing the at-home sights and sounds of not only an American Christmas, but also those of my other-cultures, traditions given to me through my nomadic military travels (in countries with Christian traditions).

In watching my grandkids, I think it must be nice to be grounded in one’s life, to know who and what you are and not to miss parts of your own life with a sharper pang than that generated by ordinary nostalgia. I don’t know if a settled life is ‘better’ and a nomadic life ‘worse’ (or vice versa) but being from one place might have less existential angst.  Or maybe not.  Hard to tell from the vantage point of having had just the one childhood.

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I’m in luck concerning my first culture, English, the one I think of in my child’s mind as ‘the way it’s s’posed to be.’  At a young age, you don’t know you’re not living where you’re nationally-assigned to be living.  You also don’t know that what you’re experiencing as ‘normal’ is a mix of two cultures, that of your parents, and that of the country in which you live. All you know is that you’re home, and that’s that.

I’m lucky that crackers, as one element of my early Christmases in England, are now readily available.

 

23 christmas crackers

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Another part of my other-culture heritage is seeing the Gombey dancers from Bermuda.  When I was a kid, the dancers didn’t seem to be as well-organized or to have as good P.R., as they do today, but again, that observation may be a result of the childish attention span.  Still, they’re something I remember seeing on the island around Christmas.  I think we could do with some Gombey dancing around here.

23 Gombey men

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From the decades I spent with my husband in Europe comes the memory of Christmas markets.  Everywhere we went during December we found Christmas markets.  Some were big and some were small, but they all contributed to the seasonal spirit. One of the items commonly found at the markets are figurines for the household Nativity scenes.  The items are expensive and collections are often added to one piece at a time over the years.

A French-culture specialty are santons.  Where Americans limit their Nativity scenes to manger-scenes, the people of Provence have the tradition of making an entire village to host the Nativity.  One display we saw in the city hall of Strasbourg, France filled the entire lobby and the scene was a multi-room panorama as visitors moved through the ‘town.’  Butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers, old men playing boules (like bocce), mothers in houses bathing their infants, beasts and birds and houses and scenery.  C’est magnifique!

The last Christmas we spent in Europe, we visited the Marché de Noel in Mons, Belgium.  The marché (market) was small with little huts selling thick waffles, utterly scrumptious frites (fries should be called Belgian fries rather than French fries),  hot drinks, and little gifts. The main hut displayed a Nativity scene. In the Mons market, the chief attraction was an ice-skating rink.

If we made a video recording of our visit, I haven’t the slightest clue how to get it off our last-century video tape and make a computer file of it, but I’m in luck — other people have recorded their visits and uploaded them to YouTube.  This video ends with a left-handed caress for good luck of the little brass monkey outside the city hall of Mons.

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The biggest, and to me the best Christmas market is the Christkindelsmarkt in Nürnberg, Germany, a market that takes place under the gaze of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a city symbol memorialized in a clock that I sent to my parents from Germany, many years ago.  With coddling, our clock still ticks away and plays its tune.

 

12 23 01 Clock

In Nürnberg, the Christmas market spectacle is magnificent as the church rises above the ‘streets’ formed in the market square by row upon row of red and white striped tents. In the tents, innumerable glass ornaments on the counters and hanging from the ceilings in the tents sparkle under the spotlights.  The visual feast is accentuated by the aroma of the small bratwurst (never called “brats”) grilling in the open-air, little sausages that tease the nose and make the mouth water. Mingling with the smell of grilled wurst is the wafting scent of Glühwein (mulled wine) for the grownups and Kinderpunsch (mulled punch) for the kids.  The Christkindlesmarkt is a sensory delight.

 

With your feet frozen from hours of wandering on the cold cobblestones, it is an absolute treat to find a Konditorei (a German café specializing in coffee and cake) and sit at a linen-draped table sipping hot chocolate and nibbling a slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cherry cake) with your boxed gingerbread house at your feet.  The event is a lasting memory.

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I suppose I wouldn’t be missing all the kinds of Christmases I’ve known if I were in a festively-decorated house, watching the twinkling of the lights on my Christmas tree.  But no, I have cats, specifically, two young cats whose mission is to investigate anything and everything in the house. I’m waiting for them to grow up some more before introducing them to a Christmas tree.  Until then, I have my memories and the entertainment of watching the cats chase through packing paper from catalog orders and jump in and out of empty shipping boxes.

01 Audrey after candycanes

Happy Holidays!

2014 11 Nov Family Veterans Day picture

A collage of photos of our family members who have served, from the Civil War to Desert Storm.

I can only mention the father and son who served in the  American Revolution.

Twenty-five years ago, not only was the Berlin Wall breached, but also, by extension, was the Fence along the Inner German Border separating East Germany from West Germany rendered an anachronism. Even in the time after the (accidental) opening of travel from East to West Berlin, getting past the Fence wasn’t quite as easy as much of it was protected by land mines planted in the ground around it.

I took this picture in 1979, 10 years before the beginning of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.  During my husband’s assignment to the American military community near Fulda, we lived about twelve miles away from “the fence.”  Had there been hostilities, the front lines would have, again, overtaken the homes, gardens, driveways, farms and fields of ordinary people.

A view near Fulda of the inner-German-border fence constructed by the East German government.

A view near Fulda of the inner-German-border fence constructed by the East German government.

 

Other links:

Our middle grandson, in 2008, at his first Royals game.

Our middle grandson, in 2008, at his first Royals game.

I and the family are not particularly happy that the Royals were shortchanged last night on their World Series tying run.  One base away, that’s all it was.

This morning, I was very happy to watch a televised celebration for the Royals at Kauffman stadium. The 10,000 fans packing the lower level of seats changed their usual “Let’s go, Royals!” chant to “Thank-you, Royals!”

The team gave the fans a splendid post-season ride and now we’re all looking forward to spring training.

Let’s go, Royals! (after your well-deserved rest)

Watching the first Royals post-season game since my dad was around.

1982, Maryland Dad with (almost all) the grandkids, plus me and my sister

1982, Maryland
Dad with (almost all) the grandkids, plus me and my sister

Hoping, naturally, that the Royals win.

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Edit:  And that would be — a WIN!!!!!!!!!

Dad would have enjoyed that game so much.

The latest Miss Marple in the PBS series Masterpiece Mystery is Endless Night, a bit of an oddity because Miss Marple isn’t a character in the book.<-  [highlight to see spoiler]   Continued spoilers, and a good review, are at the blog, The Agatha Christie Reader.

I’m happy that the stories continue to be made for new audiences as well as for those of us who apparently can’t get enough of Mrs. Christie’s books (the blue volumes in the near-top left and right shelves).

In addition to being happy to see the remake of the story, I liked seeing Tamzin Outhwaite’s name in websites about the episode. I last saw her in Redcap.

I was also tickled to see Janet Henfrey in the cast.  I so enjoyed her as Mrs. Bale in As Time Goes By with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer.  Her attention to the shipping forecasts reminded me of my dad talking about the persistence of “gale-force winds” in the Scottish isles, an apparent feature of the radio weather reports in England in the early 1950s.

It makes it hard for younger people in the acting profession to get work when so many of their older colleagues continue to work well in the craft, but I do enjoy seeing familiar faces in familiar stories.  Aspiring novelists may also have a tough time breaking into the ranks of well-known stories and characters because of the devotion of readers to their favorite writers.  I know that if I’m reading another one of the Christie books, I’m not reading the stories of newer authors.  I try to balance it by reading contemporary authors during the day when it’s easier to concentrate and saving Mrs. Christie for my soothing nighttime reads.

So, I’m sitting here, allegedly multitasking by checking a Sisters In Crime email list, emailing a thank-you, cribbing information on formatting ebooks, and watching the movie Scoop on Netflix.  I’ve read that multitasking doesn’t actually work, but it seems that I’m doing it anyhow.

While I’m multitasking, a little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me I’m missing something. It’s a nagging little feeling, nothing momentous (thank goodness), but just something.

Through my haze of reading, typing, muting the story when suspenseful things are happening (I’m fine with mysteries, but I don’t [gracefully] do suspense), I think, “Lovejoy.”  It finally dawns on me that one of the primary characters in the movie is Ian McShane, an actor I haven’t seen onscreen in years. That little voice isn’t in the back of my head, it’s coming from the television.

Now I’m going to have to waste time looking on Netflix for Lovejoy. I don’t have much hope, but you never know.  In the meantime, back to Scoop.

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