Friday, December 20, 2013

Family Resemblances

                                                 JoAnn                                   Bronwyn                      

My sister, JoAnn, recently dug out some photos from her first birthday and sent them to me alongside some pictures of my daughter, Bronwyn, at her first birthday.  We've all decided that they look surprisingly similar.  I thought it was fun to compare and so I thought I'd post them.  I think the pictures of JoAnn would have been taken about 1980.

And I thought I'd share a little boy comparison too.  An old friend of my husband's family sent me a picture of my husband from when he was little.  I thought he looked a little like my current toddler, Elijah.  Fun family resemblances! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Bank Parties circa 1950's

More 1950's Christmas memories of how it used to be....this time remembering a golden era of employment in Seattle. 
My father’s career was in banking, and in 1952 my family moved from Oregon to Washington and he went to work for Washington Mutual Savings Bank in Seattle. At that time there was a main bank office downtown, where he worked, and a few satellite branches scattered in the Seattle area. Each year Washington Mutual would host a lavish Christmas party for the employees and their families. The bank would rent the Hec Edmondson Pavilion at the University of Washington for the night, and the parties were generally held the week before Christmas on a week-night after work. My dad would come home and change from his everyday work suit and tie to his Sunday best suit, while Mom had on a newly purchased belted dress, nylons and high heels, her hair curled and styled and red lipstick. She also had a mid-calf length green wool coat that she wore to parties with a Christmas corsage in it's lapel. I would wear a fancy new Christmas dress that usually 'twirled' with thin white cuff socks and shiny black patent leather shoes. When my little brother Joe got big enough he wore boy's slacks with a short sleeve white shirt and a red clip-on bow tie.  
Since we lived near the University, it didn’t take long for dad to drive us there, and I was always exited to see the round white dome of the pavilion as we neared the party. The Hec Edmondson Pavilion was a large basketball arena on the university campus, named after the head coach of the Huskie basketball team. Some of the bank employees had spent the day transforming the arena into a holiday party atmosphere. There was sure to be a large decorated tree, and a microphone standing up at the front with group seating  of metal folding chairs facing front for the crowd. Everyone would sit together as families, and mom and dad usually found a place for us in the middle of the group.
After the party started, there would be holiday entertainment, and I specifically remember one year they brought in  Stan Boreson, a local Seattle personality, to sing and play his accordion. He had a popular Christmas album out, where he sang Christmas songs with a phony Scandinavian accent that my Dad just loved. There would also be a real ‘live’ Santa at the party. Under the decorated tree up front was a huge pile of wrapped presents for the children, with all our names on them. Santa would be handed a gift and then he would call out the name of one of the children and they would go forward to get their gift from Santa who handed it to each child, with a kind word or two.
December 18, 1958

I would take my brother up front, when he was little and afraid to go alone, and shy of Santa. We got some very nice gifts at the party. One year Joe got a large fire truck  with a moving ladder and hoses, and I got a nice doll.
 During the party they passed out red flannel stockings with a turned down white cuff and our names embroidered in cursive on it and little silver bells hanging at the edge. I used that stocking for many, many years, until it became too threadbare to hold anything. I still have it tucked away among my Christmas decorations. It is laughable now to see how small and thin it is, compared to today’s Christmas stocking ‘standard’. Children didn’t receive many things in their stockings in those days, so they didn’t need to be large, and we were delighted with what we got. At the end of the party each year we got a red mesh plastic stocking as well, filled with hard Christmas candy, fruit and nuts. One year we got candy necklaces (see photo below) and Santa always gave us a candy cane or two.


Behind the main program area  were long decorated tables where the children sat and ate treats and Christmas cookies with milk. I loved seeing all the other kids and eating at our own special table.
1953  (I'm 2nd on the left)
The adults were served dessert with coffee or eggnog, and they stood and chatted in groups together. Dad was a people person and loved talking with all his friends in a social setting, while mom mostly watched over us.
There was also a photo area to one side of the Christmas tree with a couch and chair. Santa would be seated there to take photos with all the children. The bank photographer took pictures of each child with Santa for no charge, and the parents would be presented with an 8X10 afterwards. We got some lovely Christmas photographs that we would never have had otherwise. The bank photographer also took family pictures. The only ones I have remaining of those, are one year when our family was seated on a couch all together, and then one of  Joe and I standing by the tree with our gifts in our  hands, and finally mom and dad alone together on the couch.
I think Joe and I were always overwhelmed with the fun at these parties, and they were just riches for us kids and I looked forward to them each year. Since I am four years older than Joe, I remember those parties much better than he does, and I got the benefit of those years. It’s amazing now to think of how good the employers were to their employees in the post-war years. Those truly were golden years of employment in the cities. However, as times changed and Washington Mutual added new bank branches each year, they grew too big by the early 60’s to continue these parties and they were officially dis-continued. And of course they grew too big in the end to survive. All we have left are the memories....

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Ponderings

When you want to know something today you just 'Google' it. So, when I wanted to know the definition of Advent that's exactly what I did. And this is what I found:

1) The arrival of a notable person, thing or event

2)The liturgical period preceding Christmas

3)The Anglicized version of the Latin word  adventus, meaning 'coming'.

I have had advent in some light form or other in my life since childhood, but have never truly studied the liturgical period or the history. I am in the process of doing that right now. I have been in conservative, fundamental, evangelical, protestant churches all my life, and somewhere back along the line my ancestors did away with liturgy and much of church history in our services. Now in my 60's, I find myself yearning for more....theology, and a closer deeper understanding of my faith and heritage.

My first baby steps toward advent this year are to put out an advent wreath that is not traditional, but has meaning for me and my family alone. At each evening meal: to light a candle there, read scriptures about the coming of Messiah, read the history of one traditional church carol and sing it together, more fully appreciating the words. It's only been three days, but it's been good, very good.

Another thing I have been mulling over is the distinction between making things cozy,  comfortable and beautiful, to simple, deliberate and Messiah as the center. I have always veered towards white Christmases, beautifully wrapped and presented gifts, fresh flowers and lovely decorations. I have been guilty of'; materialism and buying and collecting Christmas trinkets, making myself and hence my family crazy and exhausted with too much self-imposed busyness, of trying to 'create' Christmas for those I love, being prideful in receiving accolades for my efforts, and craving but not leaving room for time alone with the one I said was the reason for the season.

So, as He leads me I am putting out only things that matter to us and enjoying it as I do it, a little at a time. Trying to not hear the voices around me in the culture of: 'I have all the gifts bought (in November), I have all my gifts wrapped, I have my tree up and decorated by December 1st, I have my calendar full of social events right up through New Years, or I have all my Christmas baking done and in the freezer.  It's hard to look away when that seems organized, or fun or the best way of doing it. Where to look? Not at our culture, not even my church culture. But solely at Him and I can only do that by leaving room for Him to teach and guide me.

I realized after just a short research online, that there are a great many ways people celebrate advent today, seemingly no two alike. That is comforting really, as there is no one right way, just people seeking our God. That is what I seek to accomplish in His direction and power.

Advent Candles - 2013

 Here is my finished project!  I am pretty excited about it because it's the first time I've actually planned and carried out an advent candle display for our family to enjoy and mark the Sundays leading up to Christmas.  We burnt the first candle last Sunday.  The second one we will light this Sunday and so on, until we light all four for the last Sunday before Christmas and burn them all for Christmas Eve and Christmas. 
 This was a last minute idea that I saw on Pinterest on Saturday.  I took my girls and made a quick trip to Michael's to get these three items.  The terra cotta pots were only .89 cents.  The moss was not so cheap ($6.99).  I only used a little, so hopefully I can put the rest of it to a good use on something else.  The candles weren't very expensive, but they came in packs of three and since I needed four I had to buy two packages.  Again, I can use the leftover candles for another use. 
 After setting the candles into the pots, my girls (ages 6 and 5), used Elmer's glue to glue bits of moss in the space between the candle and the top edge of the pot. 
 After setting the pots down the center of our dining room table, I decided that maybe I would sew some kind of table runner to go underneath them.  I consulted my fabric stash to see if I would find inspiration there.  What I came up with was three different red and green flannel fabrics that were essentially scraps that would be perfect for cutting into strips and braiding.  I tried it out and liked the result.
 Here is Amelia, helping me with some of the braiding.  We cut and sewed and braided a lot of strips to finally end up with a rope that was 28 feet long!
I coiled it and stitched it together with needle and thread on the bottom side and here is the result.  I'm looking forward to enjoying it on our table for the rest of the season.