dual personalities

Angels from the realms of glory

As everyone is acutely aware, it’s gift-giving season. I don’t know about you but I always find it a little stressful finding the right gifts. My DH rolls his eyes when I mention this and invariably reminds me that he  has to buy me two sets of presents, since I have a December birthday. Poor, overburdened man. As a child, I always loved my birthday because it falls on the festive side of Christmas, when everyone is excited and there are lots of things going on. For obvious reasons, however, I did not have a lot of birthday parties.

Nevertheless, when my mother decided to throw a party, she went all out. At my second (and final) birthday party (was it fourth grade?), she made Christmas stockings for everyone to decorate — it was, according to one attendee, the best party ever. There were gifts, of course, but I only remember one of them. It wasn’t a toy or a book; it was a Christmas ornament, and the girl who brought it was embarrassed to give it. Apparently, her mother forgot about the party and just grabbed a new ornament on the way out of the house. I didn’t care, because her present turned out to be a beautiful angel with a red velvet robe and gold foil wings. The angel became my favorite party gift and I still have her.

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She seemed divinely beautiful and every year I insisted on hanging her on the tree myself. Nor would I allow her to be packed away with the rest of the ornaments. Indeed, I still follow those rules today. Call me weird, but what can I say? This little angel is special. I bet the person who gave her to me doesn’t even remember the party, let alone the gift. Life is funny that way, isn’t it?

Don’t stress about finding that one right present or think you have to spend a lot of money. And never apologize that your gift is not good enough, for sometimes the least of things makes the greatest impact.

I leave you with Christina Rossetti’s wonderful hymn. Pay particular attention to the last verse.

 

 

Father of minutes, Father of days*

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Well, the weekend is upon us. Sigh. I intend to check out our Grace Church Holiday Sale, go to a baby shower for daughter #3, and attend our Advent Lessons and Carols service. Maybe I will convince the OM to go with me to buy our Christmas trees…

In between the aforementioned fun activities, I plan to start watching Christmas movies. You know:

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

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The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

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or maybe Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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There are so many to choose from! Meanwhile, maybe I’ll get started on those Christmas cards!

BTW, don’t forget to set your DVR this month, because TCM is, of course, showing a lot of Christmas classics! Here’s the schedule.

And this Instagram made me laugh:

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Enjoy your weekend!

Lighten up

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“I hear that in many places something has happened to Christmas; that it is changing from a time of merriment and carefree gaiety to a holiday which is filled with tedium; that many people dread the day and the obligation to give Christmas presents is a nightmare to weary, bored souls; that the children of enlightened parents no longer believe in Santa Claus; that all in all, the effort to be happy and have pleasure makes many honest hearts grow dark with despair instead of beaming with good will and cheerfulness.”

–Julia Peterkin, “A Plantation Christmas,” 1934

Today is the first day of  December. Let’s try not to get all stressed out.

Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season–not some unattainable perfection of decorating or entertaining. Relax. Pay attention. Have fun.

And listen to this:

I feel better. Don’t you?

Faithful soldiers and servants

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Blessed Lord, who wast tempted in all things like as we are, have mercy upon our frailty. Out of weakness give us strength; grant to us thy fear, that we may fear thee only; support us in time of temptation; embolden us in time of danger; help us to do thy work with good courage, and to continue thy faithful soldiers and servants unto our life’s end.

–Brooke Foss Westcott, British bishop, biblical scholar and theologian, serving as Bishop of Durham from 1890 until his death in 1901

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These woodcuts are by Frances Hammell Gearhart (b. 1869-1958), California artist known for her color woodcuts of the Sierras, the Pacific Coast, and the area around Big Bear Lake. Aren’t they wonderful?

“Zion hears the watchman singing”*

How was your four-day weekend? Mine was nice and long and pretty relaxing.

After watching the Macy’s parade and our local parade from the comfort of our couch,

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(I spilled the entire Mimosa after taking this Instagram photo!)

we had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner over at the boy’s house, featuring daughter #3’s famous stuffed poitrine de dinde and my cheesy potatoes.

Kirkwood beat Webster Groves for the fourth successive year in the 115th Turkey Day game (the oldest football rivalry game west of the Mississippi River). Please note that this was six days after winning the Class 6 state football title. We did not go to either game, but we are basking in the sunshine of their victories.

Ringing the Frisco Bell

Ringing the Frisco Bell

On Black Friday I stayed home and got out a lot of my Christmas decorations. It is always fun to see these guys again.

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Of course, despite my best efforts to be organized and having put everything away in the designated spot in the basement, I could not find the new outdoor lights that I bought last year. So the OM trudged off to Walgreens to see what they had

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and came home with something in fairly good taste. We got those up on Sunday without too much ado.

I also had coffee with friends and shopped locally like a good citizen on Small Business Saturday. It seemed like everybody was out and about, spending money freely, in our small flyover berg. What’s all this consumer confidence about?

Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent and the Gospel lesson was Matthew 24:36-44, which I like to think of as the “Left Behind” passage

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wherein Jesus warns that “Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Unfortunately our associate rector did not touch on this specifically in her sermon. Big surprise.

Then the boy and daughter #3 came over to our house for dinner on Sunday night to celebrate his 30th birthday. The OM made spaghetti and we had cake.

I am channelling my mother here. Can you stand it?

I am channeling my mother here. Can you stand it?

Now we are back at the salt mine and December approaches.

*Hymn 61

“I see The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee”*

wrc-2Today the boy turns 30!

His birthday is all the sweeter because he is a cancer survivor and a papa-to-be. Here’s hoping 2017 will be a fabulous year for the boy.

P.S. I may refer to my son as “the boy,” but he is sure enough a man.

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(But those baby pictures sure are cute.)

*Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)–Read the whole thing here.

Waiting and watching ever, Longing and lingering yet

Well, it has been a busy week. We got our first snowstorm of the season last Sunday and Monday, and it was a doozie, as you can see by my neighbor’s patio furniture.

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Fortunately, sons 2 and 3 arrived safely for Thanksgiving (son #1 could not make the trip) and we have had a lovely time, although now we are blanketed in fog.

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Despite the seasonal gaiety and inclement weather, I have managed to do some more genealogy. This week I present a letter (with my annotations) from my great aunt, Hazel, to my grandfather,  her brother, Daniel Cameron.

July 2, 1966

Dear Bunker,

We are usually out at this time of day, but this morning our air conditioner went bad and it is too hot to be on the road. We tried it but had to come home. The seat was actually burning me. Wouldn’t you know that would happen on a long weekend.

We need rain badly. Our lawn is getting burned and my garden is showing color but is spotty of course. I have fox glove, Canterbury bells, petunias in blossom and the loose-strife and delphinium are coming out.

You said that you would like me to write down what I know about our family. I doubt if there will be anything that you don’t already know and it will be a mixture just as I happen to think of it.

I’ll begin with Papa’s family. There were three children. Papa was the oldest, then Aunt Dora and Uncle Kenneth. Papa’s mother’s maiden name was Hilton. I don’t know her first name, but I think it was Ann. Our grandfather, as you know was a professional soldier – that’s what I always heard anyway, and was in the Crimean war where he died of wounds. I think after the battle of Alma [actually, he survived his wound and died in South Africa]. Papa went with his mother to South Africa when he was four years old [in fact, they all went together shortly after Papa was born]. When they came back I don’t know but he went to the school for soldiers’ sons [St. Cuthbert’s orphan hospital]. You know the name but I have forgotten it. His mother married again and had Tom, who went by the name of Cameron – why, I don’t know.

Aunt Dora had a son called Hamish, which is Scotch for James and Uncle Kenneth had Dan. Uncle Kenneth was a ground-keeper in Scotland and sent Papa their father’s medals because he was the oldest. You thought Dan died in WWI, but I wrote to him as late as WWII. You must be thinking of Ernest, Uncle Alva’s son, who died in WWI.

Papa came to Canada when he was sixteen. He was helped by a Miss Stuart, a friend of his mother’s. I remember her letters. That’s where I get my middle name.

When he first came to Canada he worked on farms for a few dollars a month and I guess he was hungry part of the time when he got in a place where they didn’t feed them good. How he got in the lumber company I don’t know, but after he and Mama married, he went every winter to what he called “the Bush”, the lumber camps in the Canadian woods. That’s where he learned to like certain kinds of cooking like beans not too sweet. He told a funny story. Friday came and the Catholics had some nice fresh fish and the others the same old beans. Papa and another man said how they would like some fish. Papa said he was going to get some. The other man wanted to know how and Papa said, “Wait and see”. When they passed the fish, Papa made the sign of the cross and helped himself to fish.

He was paymaster for the lumber company W.C. Edwards, late Robinson Edwards Lumber Company. C. Edwards was a senator in Ottawa and sent Papa to Burlington where he worked for sixty-six dollars a month. How they ever did it, I don’t know, but we were always well fed with good food and had good clothes. Mama even had a beautiful beaver cape that came from Canada. I think they paid fifty dollars for it. It would probably cost a thousand now. I remember when Fassett’s bread was 5 cents a loaf, and of course Mama baked her own for a long while. Somehow when they came to Canada, Papa went into business with Uncle Duncan McIntyre. They had that store and a mill, but they didn’t do well. I guess it was the first and last time Papa went against Mama’s wishes. She didn’t know much about business, but she knew Uncle Duncan and she was intuitive.

That’s about all I know of the Camerons. You of course are the fourth Daniel Cameron [incorrect, he was the 3rd]. One thing more that’s kind of interesting. Papa traveled by snow shoe from camp to camp.

Mama’s family name was Blais. There were nine children and they lived in Thurso across the river. There were nine children: Philemon, [Edwin James], Alva, Lizzie, Laura, Louisa, Mama [Susan], and a two-year old [William T.], and a baby. Mama’s mother, the two-year old and the baby died of smallpox, and Mama went to Rockland to live with Auntie and Uncle James Erskine. Auntie’s maiden name was Taylor [she was Susan’s mother’s sister]. I remember Uncle Phil and Uncle Alva and Aunt Laura. Uncle Alva came to visit us in once and then went away to live in British Columbia [Alberta].

Aunt Lizzie married Uncle Duncan McIntyre and they had Edie, Archie, Louisa and Elizabeth. Aunt Lizzie died when Elizabeth was born. Uncle Duncan married Aunt Laura and they had Aileen who was about my age.

There were two Erskines [brothers] in Rockland living side by side, Uncle James and John. I don’t remember him or his wife, Aunt Betsey, but Mama used to talk about them. They had Florence and Will that I remember. Uncle John adopted Jean Erskine – that you must remember. She wasn’t really related to us at all.

There was a plush covered family album with pictures when they all were young. It was with the family Bible [Wish I knew what happened to this!]. This is all I remember. It’s a jumble and such writing I hope you can make something of it.

I suppose Mary has come and gone. You probably had a nice time.

Here is a cute picture of you with Chuck and the boy scouts. Chuck was a regular boy’s dog and how he loved you.

Love, Hazel

It’s a great letter — I love the story about Daniel pretending to be Catholic in order to get fish — but it does contain a few errors, as family lore often does.  As noted above, Hazel’s grandfather, Daniel Cameron, was not killed at Alma, but survived and died later in South Africa. You can read about his life here, here, and here and of Hazel’s father, Daniel, here. I’ve posted about the Camerons quite a bit already. What I want to concentrate on here is one small tidbit that Hazel mentioned; namely, how her Uncle Alva’s son, Ernest, died in WWI.

Indeed, Alva Isaac Blais, born 1863, did move West but he lived in Alberta, not British Columbia. Before moving there in 1906, he married Isabella (Belle) Miller of Osnabruck, Ontario. They had four children: Lily, Ernest Edwin, Alva, and Harold. Ernest was 18 or 19 when this photo was taken after he enlisted in 1915.

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First, he served as a private with the 13th Battalion of Canadian Mounted Rifles in Alberta. He transferred out to go overseas and when he was in England he was assigned to the 8th Battalion Infantry (Manitoba Regt.) in France. He was killed in action at Arleux-en-Gohelle near Arras, April 28, 1917, aged 20 years (source).   Wikipedia describes the battle: “At 04:25 on April 28, British and Canadian troops launched the main attack on a front of about eight miles north of Monchy-le-Preux. The battle continued for most of 28 and 29 April, with the Germans delivering determined counter-attacks. The British positions at Gavrelle were attacked seven times with strong forces, and on each occasion the German thrust was repulsed with great loss by the 63rd Division. The village of Arleux-en-Gohelle was captured by the 1st Canadian Division after hand-to-hand fighting and the 2nd Division (Major-General C. E. Pereira), made further progress in the neighbourhood of Oppy, Greenland Hill (37th Division) and between Monchy-le-Preux and the Scarpe (12th Division).” Poor Ernest fell on the first day of action. He is buried in France at the Villers de Bois military cemetery.

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Ernest’s death must have made it all the more difficult for Susie Blais Cameron and Daniel Cameron to send their own son, James Erskine Cameron, off to the war in 1918. He served in an engineer battalion and family lore has it that he was the victim of a gas attack and never quite recovered his pre-war vim and vigor afterward. Of course, Daniel’s nephew, Dan, (son of brother Kenneth) also served in France, but I have not yet tracked his record down. In sum, three cousins fought in the war, and two returned home. Alva Blais did not opt to put an epithet on Ernest’s grave (or perhaps those were reserved for officers), but I like this one from a British Lieutenant’s grave:

Waiting and watching ever,
Longing and lingering yet,
Leaves rustle and corn stalks quiver,
Winds murmur and waters fret;
No answer they bring, no greeting,
No speech save that sad refrain,
Nor voice, save an echo repeating –
He cometh not back again.

“Thora’s Song” by Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870)

Have a wonderful week — it’s the beginning of Advent. Christmas is upon us!!

 

Blessed assurance

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him,“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17: 11–19)

Well, at least today we should be openly thankful. It is culturally acceptable and all that.

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My plans are simple. I will read in bed for awhile

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before engaging in parade watching while drinking a mimosa by myself and toasting my daughters who are celebrating elsewhere. Do mimosas go with donuts?

Later in the day the OM and I will travel over the river and through the woods to the boy’s house where daughter #3 is serving dinner,

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after which we will indulge in our traditional Thanksgiving entertainment, watching that flyover favorite, Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1986).

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So count your blessings today and every day and

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Happy Thanksgiving!

The old broken links of affection restored

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Another fine poem by John Greenleaf Whittier:

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,

The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,

And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,

With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,

Like that which o’er Nineveh’s prophet once grew,

While he waited to know that his warning was true,

And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain

For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

 

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden

Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;

And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold

Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;

Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,

On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,

Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,

And the sun of September melts down on his vines.

 

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,

From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;

When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board

The old broken links of affection restored,

When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,

And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

 

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,

When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!

When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,

Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!

When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,

Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,

Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam

In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

 

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better

E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!

Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,

Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!

And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,

Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,

That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,

And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,

And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky

Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!

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“Do you believe in rock ‘n roll? Can music save your mortal soul?”*

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Over the weekend the OM and I watched the Oscar-winning 1970 documentary Woodstock, the film chronicle of the legendary 1969 music festival, which neither of us had seen. It is four hours long! We fast-forwarded through some of it, but we invested three hours in watching it.

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I think our older brother (who graduated from high school in 1969) always wished he’d been there.

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Our bro a few years after Woodstock. See–he even had a picture of Dave Van Ronk on the wall!

He would probably have enjoyed it–all the music, the drugs, the free love, man.

But not me. I wasn’t nearly cool enough for Woodstock. I really didn’t even enjoy watching it from the historical perspective of almost 50 years.

And, hey, Bob Dylan wasn’t even there. According to IMDB, the festival organizers offered him the chance to headline the festival. The fact that he had taken up residency in Woodstock, NY was a principle reason for choosing the location. But Dylan refused to appear. Years later, he derided the organizers for “exploiting the hell out of that town” and declared that the festival-goers were just a bunch of “kids on acid with flowers in their hair,” adding that the festival was not his “scene.”

Not my scene either.

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Hey look, there’s a historical marker there now. Well, follow your bliss.

*Don McLean