Category Archives: Holiday

Stories relating to the observance of religious, national, or cultural celebrations.

Reader’s Comment ©

At BOBB your comment is what transforms a bowl of ice cream into a hot fudge sunday.

Below is a comment from Carol, who wanted to tell me about a memory she had after reading Easter Nest.  Carol graciously allowed BOBB to share her comment with you.

I believe everyone has a story and BOBB is the place to tell yours.  If you have a story you would like to share, please contact me by leaving a comment.  Enjoy!

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Greetings Shinazy,

Thanks for the lovely story of your Easter Nest ….

I really enjoyed the story and the memories that it brings to mind.

commentMy own Easter was in a boarding school in India, where the entire school participated in amazing music and pageantry, from the 6-year olds up to the 18-year olds.   We all dressed in white and paraded in to [the hymn] “Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Hallelujah”.  The Saturday before, groups of students scoured the hillsides for lovely white lilies, and the church / gymnasium, was decorated with lilies.  A huge wooden cross was at the front, smothered with lilies from top to bottom, all gathered by energetic students, hiking over the hillsides in the mountains.

I also remember shopping for the white dresses.  But, Easter Sunday started with a sunrise service, 6 am, on Coakers Walk, overlooking a huge set of hills and valleys.   Actually from Coakers Walk, it is possible to see the “Bracken Specter”, which is where very occasionally, one can see ones shadow on the clouds gathered below, when the sun is in a particular position in the sky.

commentAlthough I went to Coakers Walk probably hundreds of times over 11 years, I never did see my shadow.   But I always knew it was a special event which could happen from this tiny remote hill station in the Palni Hills of South India.

Easter involved weeks of preparation, with each class singing some special music.  I must say the quality of music at our school was outstanding, with amazing voices and orchestra.  So for me, Easter is filled with memories.

After the services, we were usually invited to someone’s home for a touch of “home” away from home.  My parents could not come up the hill, travelling from  Delhi, North India, until later in the summer.  So we always hoped for someone to take us in for the day.

Thanks for the sweet reminders of Easter in Kodaikanal School.

Carol

photos by chimothy and ananth

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Easter Nest ©

Shinazy’s family Easter Nest tradition

easterMy mother loves the pageantry of holidays and celebrates with couture runway flair.  In my youth, when Easter approached, she would start the search for the next new outfit; for me it was time for another magical visit to the ancestral homestead in Colma.

Every year when the daffodils emerged from the dirt, I knew we would soon be shopping for the perfect dresses, bonnets, gloves, and shoes.  My two younger sisters and I – life size ‘Russian nesting dolls’ – would wait, hands folded in our laps, while shop ladies scurried about to find three identical suitable Easter dresses.

Although we did this every year, I only remember wishing that this year’s frock would be long enough to cover the scabs and bruises on my tomboy knees.  These shopping trips ended with the purchase of black patent leather strapped shoes called Mary Jane.  (I secretly called my shoes Sally, in honor of my former imaginary friend who moved away once my sisters were old enough for me to boss – but that’s another story.)

The purpose of these outfits was that we looked stylish for the Easter Parade, the annual spring photo shoot at my grandmother’s – Pauline, aka Gigs.

Before I was born, Uncle George decided that Easter needed more than just baskets and eggs sitting on the dining room table.  One year he returned from the yard with an armful of weeds that he lovingly arranged on the table; this was the start of my family’s Easter Nest.  When my generation increased in size, the nest moved to the front porch, where Aunt Judy decorated it with daffodils.

Every year, my sisters, brother, cousins, and I would stand in single file waiting for Gigs to adjust the focus and light meter on her cameras.  We would then parade past the Easter Nest, then pose around the nest, then pose with our baskets, then pose, and pose.  These movies and photos memorialize a tradition – a time in a family’s history – our Easter Parade.

Shinazy_BOBBblog_EasterNest_ALvin-egg-huntWhen my daughter was old enough to understand that the Easter Bunny delivered sugary goods and multicolored eggs, I continued the Easter Nest custom, sans, the clothes shopping excursion.  We lived in an apartment and had no lawn to mow or weeds to pull for the supply of nest building material; so coworkers would provide garbage bags filled with freshly cut green clippings.  The front door landing became the site for our first Easter Nest.  Some of my favorite holiday pictures of my daughter and son are the Easter Nest photos.

The Shinazy clan has produced another generation of wide-eyed cherub faces to smile at the wonder of the Easter Nest.  Although we no longer live within 20 miles of each other, continuing the tradition keeps the family connected and our stories carry on.

photo by danielle & shinazy

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A Very Merry Christmas ©

A Christmas story by Will Jones

christmasOn July 18, 1983, I made this entry on the first page of a new spiral notebook: I started training for the Central Coast Marathon.  The race is in December.  Running a marathon had been a goal of mine for many years.  My wife and I were celebrating our second anniversary, she was pregnant, and the baby was due in December.  What better time and what better motivation would I ever have to put in the work necessary to run twenty-six miles?  After all, wasn’t my wife training for a marathon of her own, giving birth?  I dedicated my training to Melinda and our future child, and I maintained a thorough journal all the way through to two great events: completion of my first marathon on December 18th, and the birth of our son on December 21st.

Thirty-five at the time, I was managing a small restaurant and coaching a women’s softball team in a local recreational league.  I worked long hours and it was a struggle sometimes to stay true to my training, especially on the weekends when increasingly long runs were scheduled.  My goal was to run eight-minute miles and finish the race in three hours and thirty minutes.  There was no way I could accomplish that goal without rigorous preparation, so, despite the devil on my shoulder tempting me to skip a day or stay in bed on Sunday morning, I usually came close to my weekly mileage totals.

As I trained I ran in local races from 10 K’s to a half marathon, matching my goals in most of them.  But it’s journal entries like this one that kept me going: Felt the baby move in Melinda’s belly this morning.  Not much, but enough to bring home the realization of what’s going on.  My wife is a wonderful woman. What a fine baby we’re going to have!

On race day I lined up early in the morning with a couple hundred other brave souls, some of whom were friends.  On instructions from me, when the gun went off a friend in the crowd shouted “Slow down, Jones!” and I quickly relaxed into the pace I hoped to maintain.  Detailing the thoughts and challenges I experienced during the race are for another BOBB post.  I crossed the finish line in three hours and twenty six minutes, met there by Melinda in her red maternity top.  We embraced for a long time.

christmasThree days later our son was born.  A long labor ended in a caesarean, so my family didn’t come home until Christmas Eve.  By then I had decorated a tree in our small apartment, and that night, to give Melinda a break a slept on the couch with our boy on my chest.  The next morning I dressed him in a red sleeper, and when Melinda came out of the bedroom she found him in his baby seat under the tree.  Twenty-nine years later, it’s still the best Christmas morning of all.

photo by Walt Stoneburner and Tammy Lewis

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Thank you Norman Rockwell ©

Do You Remember Your Small Triumphs as Norman Rockwell Paintings?                   by Travis Burchart

norman rockwellAs newlyweds, my wife and I purchased a small house built in the 1940s. The house had a bay window that looked out to the south, and below the window, the dark, hard earth suggested the beginnings of a garden.  We planted ivy where there was nothing, and as the ivy grew, we guided the long tendrils to the porch.  Eventually, the ivy lifted itself and twisted into the iron works, where it curled upwards to the roof.  Our entrance, when we finally moved, looked like an English garden.

At the time, training ivy how to climb felt ordinary and mundane, but I now remember it in bright, dare I say inventive, detail.  The small acts and struggles that define the phases of our lives life can be captivating in retrospect.  Though mundane at the time, I often remember these moments as overly tinted slices of Americana.

It’s truly difficult to describe how I see these small moments.  I might describe them as having a painted quality, things I remember as truth, yet which are accented by colors too bright and illustrations too detailed.  Apparently, Norman Rockwell has set up shop in my head.

norman rockwellAnother small moment occurred during our first winter in the house.  To celebrate Christmas, my wife dreamed of icicle lights, the kind that hangs down in various lengths, suggesting a freeze of electricity running jagged along the roof.  The house pre-dated external outlets so I didn’t have a power source.  The solution was a small plug-in attached to a light bulb base, which I screwed into our porch light’s socket.  That Christmas (and all to follow), the porch remained dark, but strands of icicle lights illuminated the rooftop. It was a small struggle, but it helped define our first Christmas together.

While it might not be accurate, I remember planting the ivy backlit by downy sunshine.  And I envision that first Christmas through the absence of porch light, the silver moon tinting my breath as I climbed the ladder to hang lights.  Again, my recollection is doubtful, but I appreciate my memory for painting these minor moments in major colors.

Thank you Norman Rockwell.

photos by jojakeman & shinazy

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Sugar Cookies, Our Christmas Tradition ©

How sugar cookies became a Christmas tradition for Tammy Lewis

sugar cookiesAs Christmas quickly draws near, I am inundated by a myriad of memories from my childhood.  In particular, I remember that every year, a few days prior to Christmas Eve, my dad would come home with last-minute presents to be wrapped, assorted sparkling colors of wrapping paper, and various foods for Christmas dinner.  He would park it all on the dining room table for my mother to unpack and put away.

I was 10 years old when a few days before Christmas Eve, I helped my mom unpack Dad’s latest last-minute purchases.  It was then that I noticed and realized that every year without fail, my dad would bring home bags of oranges and tangerines, bags of nuts in their shells, a tin of old fashioned hard candy, and last but not least, a box of powdered sugar cookies.  I thought nothing of my discovery and mentally filed it away.

When I turned 17, my grandmother (Dad’s mother) came to visit.  One day I overheard her discussing with my mom about hard times that she had endured in her past.  She said that one Christmas was especially poor, and she and my grandfather had no money to spend on Christmas presents.  To her surprise, a few days before Christmas Eve, neighbors stopped in for a visit.

sugar cookiesWith them, they brought gifts of oranges and tangerines, assorted nuts for shelling, a canister of hard candy, and powdered sugar cookies.  She was so humbled and overcome with gratitude.  Because of the neighbors’ kindness, she was able to provide treats for my dad and uncle.

As I overheard the conversation, I immediately knew that was the reason behind my dad’s last-minute purchases of the same food items.  A thoughtful visit and gift from neighbors turned to a long-lasting memory for my dad, and in turn, he made it a tradition to provide the same treats for his children.

While I may not have children of my own, my nephews and nieces are near and dear to me.  Just a few years ago, I relayed to them the story I overheard my grandmother tell about the oranges and nuts.  Now every year as Christmas approaches, they gently remind me to make sure I remember the most important purchases of the season: bags of oranges and tangerines, nuts for shelling, old fashioned hard candy, and finally, yet importantly, powdered sugar cookies.

For my grandparents, my father and uncle, I have made sure their Christmas tradition remains alive and will be passed onto future generations.

 photos by buchesandbits and sutherlandviolin

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Alien Attack at Local Safeway! ©

Encountering an alien with Len Hodgeman       

alienI had stopped at my local Safeway on the way home to pick up a few things for dinner.  But it wasn’t very “Safe” that day. Coming out of the store, I was accosted by an alien.

Honestly, he looked like any other typical five-year old.  Bowl-cut blonde hair, striped jersey, jeans and scuffed sneakers.  He looked at me with piercing blue eyes, freckles and a Grand Canyon grin, standing boldly in the middle of the sidewalk.  He told me, rather matter-of-factly, and very convincingly, “I am an Alien From Another Planet.”

He had what appeared to be a thin stick in his hand, though I had a suspicion it may have been a disguised ray gun.  There was a dark-haired boy next to him with a Saint Christopher pendant around his neck, who also waved his stick towards me.  “And I am a Dragon Slayer,” he exclaimed.  “Are you a Golden Dragon?”

I think the ray gun must have worked, or the Dragon Slayer’s stick was really a magic wand a la Harry Potter.  I was frozen in place for some reason, completely unable to move.

Lucky for me, the sound of a car door slamming nearby also had a magical effect.  Suddenly I could move my head.  I turned toward the sound to see this attractive young woman—In her early twenties I’d say–looking at me curiously and perhaps a bit protectively.  Was she too an alien, or perhaps a sorceress?

No, I thought, she must have been one of the boys’ mom.  I met her gaze bravely and smiled.  “So, he’s an alien from another planet?”

“Apparently”, she replied with a conspiratorial grin.  “Today anyway.  Last week he was Abraham Lincoln.  Ran around freeing all the slaves in the neighborhood.”

Just then both boys pointed their sticks towards me.  The Alien From Another Planet made a soft sizzling sound–tsssst-psst, though it may have come from the ray gun, and the Dragon Slayer solemnly exclaimed “Animagicus … Planetarium.”

There was no question what needed to happen next.  I clutched at my chest and made a loud gurgling sound.  My face contorted in pain and horror—eyes round and my mouth wide open.

I dropped to me knees on the sidewalk.  Ouch, that hurt.  But it was well worth the look on their young faces.   A look of wonder, grateful complicity and absolute delight, tinged with just the slightest hint of doubt and absolutely real concern.

As I crumpled to the ground and the groceries spilled out onto the sidewalk, I closed my eyes in respect.

I too, many years ago, was once a Space Alien, a Dragon Slayer, a Cop and a Robber, a Cowboy and an Indian.

photo by connor vicki

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Halloween Of Yesterday ©

Shinazy’s  Halloween Memories

halloween

My earliest Halloween memory is when my younger sisters and I dressed our baby brother for his first trick or treat.  We costumed him in our frilliest feminine frock with bows in his hair and patent leather Mary Janes on his feet.  He was our living doll.

As the first door opened to our knock knock, the neighbor complemented each disguised sister.  But when the neighbor’s eyes dropped to my brother her smile faded.  In a concerned maternal expression she asked, “Oh, sweet girl, why aren’t you in a costume?”  And, in a forlorn voice my brother said, “But, I am … I’m a boy!”  The neighbor’s words validated our fashion designer talent.

When we became moms, we continued the family’s Halloween tradition and introduced our children to the art of masquerading.  One year my daughter and her friend, Helen, dressed as the couple in the painting, ‘American Gothic’.  The disguise’s realism convinced the candy-givers that Helen was my daughter’s chaperon.   The girls were prouder of their artistry than their haul.

Another year my middle sister visited with her five-month old son who was wearing a yellow fleece sleeper.  Instantly we all saw the possibility and out came the black electrical tape and white pipe cleaners transforming him from sleepy cherub into cuddly bumblebee.  As the girls buzzed out the door, they carried him in a sling, giving the appearance he was flying.

Each year we thought about who would be what.  There was the year my daughter or son transformed into a clown, scarecrow, Thing from the Adams family, Oscar the grouch – complete with garbage can.

My son’s favorite persona was being a mummy.  For two years I cornered the local four-inch gauze supply on the entire San Francisco Peninsula.  I appreciate the patience required by Hollywood make-up artist; for several hours I wrapped, shredding at strategic points, rubbing other areas with carbon paper.  The longer he paraded about the more unraveled he became – a creature of the living dead.

Then came the pivotal year when either age or height interrupts the notion to repeatedly say, “Trick or Treat.”  When this happened to my daughter it was Toga Party time.

halloweenThe year this happened to my son, he, a friend and I dressed in all black.  We blacked our faces, and loaded my 1969 VW Bug with toilet paper and set off to TP several friends’ homes.  This was no roll-tossing-into-trees happening.  We draped a hedge with TP garland, tied bows on branches, gift wrapped a car.  With each home we became more skilled at the craft of TP art; we even returned to the first home to improve our Halloween caper.

When October approaches I think how fun it will be when the next generation is ready to continue our family Halloween habit – what will they want to be?  Perhaps an iPhone.  It’s possible.

photos courtesy sister72 and stevendepolo

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Bastille Day ©

Bastille Day is important to Shinazy

bastille dayJuly 14th is Bastille Day, a day I’ve been planning for, well, for years. I waited because I needed Bastille Day to land on a Saturday. The previous two times it did, I was unable to organize the family reunion I desired – I thought our family was too big for me to track down and arrange a gathering.

But this year, is the year!  Because, I learned, I knew every member of my family – it was just us. No unknown relative living in a town I had to research to know what state it was in. No long lost anyone.

The planning started when I was into genealogy and uncovered some facts about my great great grandparents, who came to San Francisco from France.  Julie Robinet arrived first, in 1866. She emigrated from Paris. I am unable to image how she felt. She was young, single, and unemployed; a city girl, speaking a language different than everyone else, arriving in a lawless, dirt street, frontier town. She was a brave babe.

Jean Jacque Chaine arrived later that year from Lyon. He came with buddies, this had to help him transition into his new life. He was a farmer; she owned a laundry (but that’s another story). He bought land in what is now Colma, CA, then deeded it to her 5 months later (I bet there’s another story here, too.)  My family still lives on that property – the seventh generations to do so.

I also discovered the location where they were buried. On a Bastille Day years ago, I decided to visit them. The old parts of cemeteries are difficult to navigate. I found where I thought they should be, but there was no marker, just crabgrass. I felt sad. This is all there was to commemorate the lives of two courageous people. Something had to be done and I am, after all her intrepid great great granddaughter; I can do this. And, so the idea of a family reunion on Bastille Day was formed.

I designed a stone for them. It has a french cross, called the Cross of Lorraine. I wanted a modest marker because I think they were unpretentious people, at least their daughters and granddaughters were – I knew them and that is why I decided my assessment was correct.  I put their full names, dates, and the city from where they came.  I had it made from California Granite because they choose California and it felt right.

So, now, forever after, when anyone wanders through this old part of this cemetery they will see that Julie and Jean were important and loved. I may never have met them, but I know who they were because they are me. On this Bastille Day their descendants will gather and celebrate them; I am grateful I am one of them.

photo by shinazy

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Freedom Fighters ©

4th of July

A Story by Will Jones

 By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

~ From “The Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

On April 19, 1775, 500 militia and minutemen defeated 700 regular British troops at the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. Forty-nine Americans and seventy-three British soldiers died, and the Americans harassed the British along the Battle Road all the way back to Charlestown. So began the American Revolution and the eventual establishment of one of the world’s greatest democracies.

On May 17th of this year, during a trip to Boston to visit my son, my daughter-in-law, and our three-month-old granddaughter, my wife and I walked part of the Battle Road between Lexington and Concord and spent over an hour at the area around North Bridge in Minuteman Park.  Although I grew up in Philadelphia and visited its historic sites, including Valley Forge, many times, never before did I feel the powerful spirit of the Revolution that I felt on the battlefield of Concord. Never before did I fully understand the great gift those brave men gave us on that unforgettable day two-hundred-and-thirty-six years ago.

Maybe it was because my granddaughter was with me, or maybe because it was a pristinely beautiful spring day, but I was completely alive to the heroics that took place on that field, able almost to see the troops, hear the shouts and musket fire, and smell the smoke rising from the hollow along the Concord River.  It seemed miraculous to me that the farmers who took up arms to defend their freedom were willing to sacrifice their lives for it, as if they somehow knew the historic importance of what they were doing.

America is not right now experiencing one of its greatest eras, and it is easy to become cynical and pessimistic about the future. But on this 4th of July, I am going to remember the feeling I had at Concord, the pride I felt in being an American, and the debt of gratitude I owe to the nameless heroes who fought for the freedom my family enjoys today.

 photo by Will Jones

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FOLLOWER Friday: The Christmas Tree

Family Christmas tree memories with  Tammy Lewis 
My mom always used to say that she enjoyed the Christmas tree best after Christmas was over.  Every year, for a few weeks after Christmas ended, my mom would come home from the store with a new batch of ornaments.  Rather than put them aside for the following season, she would unpack them and hang them immediately on our tree.
christmas tree
I remember watching her rearrange Christmas ornaments, balancing the lot just right until she was satisfied.  Her trees were artwork, and she was at her happiest crafting and dressing her trees.  She always smiled and whistled Christmas carols as she went about her work.  I asked her why she enjoyed the Christmas tree better after the holidays were over.  She observed that after the rush of the season, after all the presents were unwrapped, after all the guests left and all the cooking and cleaning were over, she could finally manage the time to just sit and admire the tree.
In many ways, I have followed in my mother’s footsteps.  Not surprisingly, I share her love for Christmas, and find myself sitting quietly and admiring the tree long after Christmas is over.  I realize I may be alone in my post-holiday appreciation of a decorated tree, but ultimately, I must permit myself to do it. 
There is often no rhyme or reason why we do or enjoy things just a little differently than other people.  Happiness is not one event but countless and otherwise ordinary moments in our life – each one unique among a sea of individuals.  I am unabashed in my love of wintry and rainy weather, and do not await the return of the sun as I feel content at the sight of raindrops on the window.  Listening to music is an activity I enjoy as much as any other, but I enjoy it solely while driving my car.
Other people may enjoy their cache of music while exercising or working at their computers, activities that I prefer to do in silence.  And further, reading – a verifiable passion rather than just a hobby for me – I take pleasure only while it is late at night, curled up in my bed, and with my dog snoring contentedly at my feet.  I never feel inclined to read during the day, on the porch, on the couch, at a café or anywhere else.  
Sometimes, I am unsure if to admit my very slight eccentricities as I want to “blend” in with a crowd, but each of us has something subtly unique that brings us small pleasures for each person is patterned as distinctively as a snowflake in a sky of flurries.  Therefore, we should embrace ourselves and carry on, even if it is just adding decorations to the Christmas tree after the start of a new year.

photo by tammy lewis

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