Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Silent Night

Yes, this is a "re-run" ...  

Shlomo's story appeared many years ago in an issue of Readers Digest that my mother photocopied and kept with her holiday cards and letters.   I hope it touches your heart as much as (it does) mine.

Wishing each of you a most blessed Christmas!


Of the narrow escapes my sister, Judith, and I had from discovery during our year in the orphanage, one stands out particularly. It was Christmas of 1944 -- a white Christmas, with snow falling outside, but warmth within from extra coal and larger food portions. We even had meat -- meat! A Christmas tree stood in the corner, and we children were seated on both sides of a long table nicely arranged with plates. We were singing Christmas carols, their simple and pleasant melodies totally out of context of the savage war that had been raging for six consecutive Christmases.

The pleasant feeling of food in our stomachs loosened our tongues, and contrary to the usual silence enforced during meals we were permitted by the sisters to converse quietly. Boys and girls were separated as usual, but Judith and I could see and smile at each other.

Then suddenly, the door opens and Mother Superior enters, accompanied by a German officer. Judging by his uniform he must be at least a general.

"Children," Mother Superior says, "the commander of the German garrison in Zilina is a devout Catholic, and he asked to spend the evening with you. He also brought you a nice present."

The present turns out to be a large chocolate cake. It is delicious, but I cannot escape an oppressive feeling. Even on this night must the Germans intrude on the tiny and shaky island of peace I have tried to carve out for myself? I notice, too, the tension on Judith's face as she eats her cake silently, her apprehensive eyes on Herr Commandant.

Again we sing some carols -- one of them "Silent Night, Holy Night," itself so close to a prayer.

When we finish there is a pause, and the commandant whispers something to Mother Superior. After a moment's hesitation she asks: "Is there anyone here who can sing 'Silent Night' in German? It will make our distinguished guest very happy."

Both Judith and I know some German; actually we had learned the German version of this song before the Slovak one. But should I now stand up and sing it for our enemy?

As I hesitate I see Judith slowly rise from her chair and walk toward the commandant. The decision has been made for me, so I stand beside her and we join our voices: "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht ..." As we sing, the face above the medals becomes animated and involved in our performance -- the lips move together with our words.

Then suddenly Judith gasps and stops, terror in her eyes. She has suddenly realized what I, too, had feared: Why are we two the only children who know the German version? Where are the others? 

The answer is simple, and surely the German officer knows it. In this part of the land it is only Jews who understand German. 
The Commandant has trapped us -- he knows we are Jewish.

He motions to us to approach. It seems an eternity before he speaks. Then looking at us, he says softly: "Hab keine Angst, deine Mutter und Vater werden zuruck kommen" -- "Don't be afraid, your mother and father will come back."

For him, too, it was a silent night.

* * *

When I first shared Shlomo's story with Blogland in 2008, I had no idea if his was a first or last-name - or any other information about he and his sister.  Then, a few days ago I consulted Google and discovered this piece in a 1993 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Snapshots and Take-Aways

Home again, home again ... jiggedy jig!

In truth folks, my jiggedy's pooped.   While we crafted some lovely memories with the kiddos, I returned home with a nasty head cold and an eyelid infection that left me looking not so much the sophisticated traveler, but someone's half-witted elderly aunt.

Yes, I'm feeling lots better, but my mind's yet to fully engage. Rather than trying to weave a storyline, I thought I'd share a few pivotal moments -- to me, anyway.

For instance?

Only moments after take-off, I was startled by an announcement from the cockpit:  
"We've just passed through 10,000 feet.  Isn't that amazing?"

Several of us looked at one another -- Sweet baby Jesus, is there a 6th grader at the controls?

Thankfully, our initial flight was incident-free ... tho' late arriving at Dallas Love.   I was a bit amused - and really touched by the senior citizen seated behind us who -- obviously overhearing DH and I discussing the state of his hip and whether he'd be able to hustle-like-OJ to our connecting flight -- announced she was going to run on ahead.  Sure enough, a few minutes later here she's waiting by the gate waving her arms furiously and proclaiming, "I told them they must wait for my friends."  LOL :) Unfortunately, that flight was so packed full, we lost sight of one another and I never had a chance to say, "Thank you."

As many times I've flown into Birmingham you'd think I could find the correct route leading 'home away from home.'   Oh, nooooo.   First I had us going to someplace called Gadston; then to Atlanta.   Nearly apoplectic, DH convinced me to return to the airport.  Maybe it was my reddened eyes or the desperation in my voice, but the Ramada Inn's desk clerk abandoned his post and actually walked me out to the road to point out the correct course.  Yup, there's angels, everywhere.

Sure n' not all went according to Hoyle.  While I was expecting hoping for snow flurries, last Saturday's temp was 80 ... and there I'm standing at Wal-Mart's check-out, sweating putty balls in a hoodie.

(What on earth are you doing at Wal-Mart in Pike Road?)  Well, it seems a certain uber packer who shall remain nameless took leave of her senses and failed to include any 'unmentionables' in her suitcase. Souvenirs come in all shapes and sizes!

It may sound strange, coming from someone who doesn't put a lot of time or effort into cooking ... but a real highlight was having G'daughter #1 beside me, learning to make Great Grandma's banana nut bread for her dad's birthday.   Happily, son proclaimed it, 'great!'
Last year at Christmas I had my mom's hand-written recipe printed on linen towels 
for my DIL and both girls.  

A few favorites ...
#1 Grand and her sweet fiance, Daniel
Sarah's taking Grandpa Tom on a tour
Baby sister loves her some night mudding!
Morning after the Night Before!

No, there were no big shakes to be had.
But it was wonderfully comforting ... and Real.

Real, as in my DIL off-handedly asking, "So, when are you going to retire?"
(Normally that question - coming from anyone else - is likely to set my teeth a'griding:  "I-would-if-I-could-but-I-can't-so-I-won't.")

She followed, "Would you consider moving here?"
... and I surprised myself with a resounding, "Yes."

In the end, I guess it's as simple as that.

In spite of their home's footprint, I just can't envision us all living under one roof like the Ewing's.

Besides that nasty boss-hog rooster who lives out back behind the MIL area has it out for the backs of my legs!

Mebbe, one of those 'tiny houses' which have grown so in popularity?  (... or two, to house DH's musical equipment!)

We've lots to think about!

Son Troy, g'daughter Sarah, DH
... and Molly Jane, the wonder dog!

As always, thanks for pausing to take time from your busy lives to visit!

This is the part I'll normally wish each and every one of you a very, "Merry Christmas" ... but I've a very special share coming Wednesday eve.  
It never fails to move me, and I hope it will you, as well.

'Til then ...

Hugs from Phoenix,


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Desperately Seeking Claus

... or not?

OK, who's the wise guy that pushed the 'fast-forward' button?!  Before anyone suspects I've run off to the North Pole, I thought it prudent to step up to the plate.

(Actually, I've authored several posts -- epistles, if you will -- but promptly deleted them for sounding too inane ... or worse, snarky.)

So, last night I guilt-ed myself into asking DH to retrieve the tree from the garage.   You see, he's asked ever so nicely the last couple years if we might decorate, but I (a) pretended to be mute or (b) blamed the puppies for probable chaos.  

To be honest, I didn't especially want to see the darn thing again.   We called it Cara's tree: When she wasn't 'tending to business' or eating, she loved to abide under its branches.

What to do but pour a glass of wine, indulge in a good cry, put on my big-girl panties .... and deal with it.  After all, my dear mother put up her own tree for my son's behalf - only a few days after my father's passing - with a smile on her face.

"Stupid tree!"  
... That's me, trying to wrestle it's bulk into something resembling a stately spruce.  Unfortunately, both its shape and mine have shifted less than gracefully.     

Then (ca 2008)
... and now.
What?!  Don't go looking for a picture of the author!

Does anyone else out there struggle with feelings of melancholy this time of year?   I was never raised to believe in Santa Claus -- unheard of in the 1950's! -- but lately I've found myself searching for his spirit.  Some mornings I'll put down my car window - perchance to smell a memory.

While I'm busy searching, I thought (one or two) of you might enjoy these olden images.

... that would be 1950
Santa's expression never fails to crack me up!
(ca) 1956?  Lovin' my new Davy Crockett get-up!

I've heard it posed, "If you could witness one Christmas moment come to life again, what would that be?"   
For me, it's a toss-up:   

When I unpack the sleigh-bells worn by my grandfather's team of horses, I'll imagine my mother as little girl, bundled against the elements in the back of a sleigh-car, as her father guides his team towards town to observe Christmas eve with family.   There was only one gift to be had ... but she remembers cherishing it.

On the other hand ...
My father and his siblings never saw their Christmas tree until after his father's final church service on Christmas eve.   Returning to the parsonage, Pastor Willer would gather the children, then throw open his study doors to reveal "the most beautiful" tree.  Little else is known, but oh what I'd give to see those children's faces!

How little it took to make them happy!

I'm interesting in knowing, what Christmas moment would you most appreciate witnessing? 

Hugs from Phoenix!

PS - 
I may be off the grid for a few days, but will visit blogs as I'm able via my phone.   See, I've an important date with my son and his family over Alabama way.  (yay!)  
Of course, that means entrusting the TSA and pilots union to do what it is they do best -- but I'm nervous just the same.  Thanks for your prayers and well-wishes ... not just for DH and me, but all the travelers across this big old world.

Some of my favorite humans ...
a Favorite Memory (ca. '98)