Merry Christmas

A Maine ideal, for us all

December 24, 2005

A Christmas reading, with the glow of good wishes from the Hood River News:

In Robert P. Tristam Coffin’s “Christmas in Maine,” the writer describes the joy of a Christmas in the country of his boyhood:

“You must have a clear December night, with blue Maine stars snapping like sapphires with the cold, and the big moon flooding full, and lighting up the snowy spruce boughs like crushed diamonds.

“You ought to be wrapped in a buffalo robe to your nose, and be sitting in a family (carriage) and have your breath trailing along with you as you slide over the dry, whistling snow. You will have to sing the songs we sang, ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’ and ‘Joy to the World,’ and you will be able to see your songs around you in the air like blue smoke…

“I won’t insist on your having a father like ours to drive you home to your Christmas. One with a wide moustache full of icicles and eyes like the stars of the morning. For you won’t have the stories we had by the fireplace. That would be impossible, anyway, for there has been only one of him in the world…

“But you will be able to have the rooms of the farmhouse banked with emerald jewels clustered on bayberry boughs, clumps of everlasting roses with gold spots in the middle of them, tree evergreens and the evergreen that runs all over the Maine woods and every so often puts up a bunch of palm leaves. And there will be rose-hips stuck in pine boughs, and caraway seeds in every crust and cookie in the place.

“The Christmas tree will be there, and it will have a top so high that it will have to be bent over and run along the ceiling of the sitting room.”

In the sights, sounds, smells, and associations of Christmas, Coffin’s remembrance echoes the wistful yet tangible mood of the classic “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” by Dylan Thomas.

Both hold forth in fullness the small details of Christmas that many of us have experienced only fleetingly or in part, but the senses they emote give us all a glimpse of joy as satisfying as the Christmas tree train passing into a tunnel, knowing it will round the bend and pass by the steepled church and under the trestle.

In Coffin’s Maine Christmas, we can all relate: “There will be cousins by the cartload. He-ones and she-ones. The size you can sit on and the size that can sit on you. And you will come into the house and down a whole crock of molasses cookies — the kind that go up in peaks in the middle — which somebody was foolish enough to leave the cover off.”

“The whole nation of you in the house will go from one thing to another,” Coffin writes. “The secret of the best Christmases is everybody doing the same things all at the same time.”

May Christmas this year bring you a spirit of togetherness, “in every crust and cookie in the place.”

— With thanks to “A Christmas Treasury,” edited by Jack Newcombe, Viking Press

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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