Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Holidays with Pop atop the Snowy Bluffs

Quiet, quiet Christmas Eve Day morning as the birds wake up on top of our bluffs above the Mississippi. They flitter and twitter around the Ruth E. Thompson memorial bird feeders. A nod to one of my mother's most passionate pass times. Snow, snow, snow. Even the river is frozen. We used to skate on the neighbor's pond in this kind of weather, but now that farm is owned by a corporation.

This week while nuclear families are off doing their nuclear things, Pop and I meld into a domestic unit secluded from the world. We take time off for a few days with no projects to do or discuss. That will wait until Sunday night. It's as if we are building a Holiday Storm Shelter to hunker down in. Batten the windows with plywood! Seal the cracks with duct tape! Soon enough the holiday frenzy will blow over and we'll emerge stunned by the brilliant sky. By mid-week we might even field some phone calls and receive callers. Until then we're on our own.

I get up early to putter around. I set out his medicine on a blue-patterned tray. When he wakes up, he'll come out in his shorts, maybe, or fully dressed, and we'll discuss how he slept and how he feels.

He gets his own breakfast of oatmeal with raisins; then we have our morning meeting. "Well, what are we doing today? Tell me about it." We have no ambitions this Christmas Eve day except to "live through the day as gracefully as possible"--a favorite phrase my father likes to use in the morning when we have no particular agenda.

Our most exciting activity for the weekend is exploring Pop's written world of Romance & Redemption. By Sunday night Pop finished reading "Homefront: Parts 3 & 4" to me. He sits at the large-screen computer and reads for hours while I lounge in the chair which I will always think of as Mother's. It will always be Mother's chair even though she hasn't sat it since May 1, 2006 when she went to meet her maker. When Pop finishes reading, then we'll discuss how the book might end. He's developed a rich cast of characters that interconnect. There's always a community that helps troubled characters receive redemption. There's always that kiss that gets the girl.

Silent day will lead to silent night. No shepherds yet quaking at the sight, but cardinals fly from magnolia branches dusted with snow. Pop's been doing his accounts and writing on yet another novel titled "March the First". I finish reading the last book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy. I've been reading them in reverse order as they show up in the library.

In the afternoon I warm up the parlor. We only heat it in the winter for special occasions. This is one for sure. Long ago Pop welded an African violet tree for my mother out of scrap metal. It displayed the violets and made it easier to water them. The violets are long gone now like so many things. I decorate it seasonally. Finally I improvise Christmas decorations, and bring out the nativity scene. We're merging our plaster set from my childhood with a molded plastic set I bought just a few years ago from Our Lady of the Snows. So instead of three wise men there are six. Instead of one Joseph and Mary there are two. The more the merrier, I say.

Pop and I quietly celebrated Christmas Eve in the parlor where we used to open presents when I was a child. Hot carob, traditional German Christmas cakes my brother baked...and just the right amount of thoughtful and creative presents. We share Christmas stories from his childhood and mine. He tells me about a doll he drug around when he was a toddler until it got filthy. The aunties did their best to wrest it away from him, but he stuck to it like fleas to a dog.

It's an early evening as we get ready for bed. The last of the medicine. Hooking up the oxygen. Then off to dream of Christmas' past and present.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tagged as: , ,

4 Responses »

  1. Hello Janet and Pop,

    I so enjoyed reading your article. Brings back memories of our Missouri Christmas when I was living there with my parents. Do hope your holidays are peaceful and the new year prosperous for both of you.

  2. Gwyn,

    Thanks for your note. Your wishes for us wrap right back around to you. "Memories of Missouri Christmas". Good title!

    Janet Riehl

  3. Hello, I have been good friends with Jack and Carol Riehl for many years, having lived in Franklin, TN, for the past 32 years. I just talked with dear Carol, and she told me about the book of poetry by Jack's 95-year old uncle - totally amazing and wonderful. In September I married my first love of 52 years ago, and we are now living in Illinois for a few months. I told Carol we would love to take her to Elsa and some of the points of interest near Grafton / Godfrey that we frequented this fall - simply beautiful. God bless you in the New Year. Tim and Gail Welte of Palmyra, IL.

  4. Tim & Gail,

    Yes, Pop turned 95 this November 9th. He is the first cousin of Jack Riehl. Our poetry anthology is "Worth Remembering: the poetry of our heritage." Congratulations on your long-delayed love match.

    Janet Riehl

Leave a Response