More Christmas Memories from the Hood River News staff: ‘The best time of year’: Christmas is found in the music

I can still picture the moment each December when we would open up the old piano bench and dig down through to find the treasure trove of sheet music for Christmas.

My mother would bring out those brightly colored folios and I knew that the best time of year was at hand; family sing-a-longs, freedom from school, treats and gifts galore, an overall feeling of happiness in our home.

The familiar images that perched like banners across each favorite tune’s cover are still vivid in my mind. They were old friends I welcomed back each year with pure and unfettered joy, with a goofy, crinkled smile.

I can see the top-hatted men and fur-bedecked women sitting atop a horse-drawn sleigh on “Jingle Bells.” “Frosty the Snowman,” featured a snowy gentleman with coal for eyes and a carrot nose, a slightly tilted head with crumpled black hat and arms encircling his belly as if to hold up his hearty laugh. “Away in a Manger” enticed with the bowed, blue-veiled figure of Mary, eyes alighting on her new babe, both sheltering alongside a bearded, kind-eyed Joseph.

Opening those books and sharing those carols with mother, father, sister and brothers was a fantastic gift unmatched by whatever came under the tree. Our voices together, some on pitch and others not, would ring through the house signaling strength, love, unity and hope.

The best years were those in which our entire family sang together. The memories can still make me cry if I linger on those long-since-past scenes.

I, being the youngest, would eventually experience my family’s contractions most acutely. The first waves of loss tinged those annual carols after each departure of my older siblings off to college and their adult lives. And later, at the greatest contraction of all, with the departure of my father as well: He left to join some other family’s choir.

I remember that first truly lonely Christmas for the added, painful absence of the music we had all shared before. No one’s heart had the strength to open up that old piano bench lid and it stayed closed; the house, quiet.

As our family recovered from that unexpected, devastating departure, we carried on and later began to add new choir members through marriages and births.

The beautiful music at Christmas eventually returned and grew into a new symphony of sounds and singers. Ultimately I and my brothers and sister all successfully carried that beloved, familiar music into our own homes, creating new family memories, interlaced beautifully with the old.

The music was the thread, and we the weavers, artfully knitting together the wonder and challenges of our lives.

In spite of the many humble, dazzling, surprising and wonderful gifts given and received over the years, it has always been the music that radiated the complex message of love, loss and renewal that Christmas offers to us all.

I am grateful for every melody, lyric and singer — all instruments in a hand much greater than our own.


Turn to page A5 for more Christmas Memories.

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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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