Christmas Eve 2012
Remembering California Christmas Eve 1974
Around the dinner table at Robin's tonight, everyone was taking a turn telling something about a Christmas Past.
Brad talked of a memorable Illinois Christmas at his grandparents house. Jamie, Robin and Brad's oldest, begged the question, not sure that this year might not be the one he would talk about later.
When it was our daughter Karen's turn she laughed.
"Ofcourse I remember the year I got all the stuff."
She paused and then added,
" but there is the Christmas Eve we were out here, in Madera, at Grandma's and we went to Yosemite."
Jim and Robin and I nodded. "Oh, yes."
This is not our first California Christmas.
My husband is a California native. He went to medical school on the East Coast and ended up staying out there. Jim's father died in March 1974.
We came back to California with our three kids for Christmas that year so that all the family would be together. It was a wonderful reunion of aunts, uncles, and cousins as those anniversaries often are.
Christmas Eve dawned. All the resident families had chores to do and fixings to complete for the holiday. We were at loose ends and in some ways in the way.
Jim suggested we take our kids for their introduction to Yosemite - only a 90 minute drive away.
As we climbed toward the mountains we met snow. There were snow capped peaks ahead as we drove through lightly dusted hills and valleys.
We stopped for breakfast at a lodge near the entrance to Yosemite Park. The dining room had a cathedral ceiling and large windows framed breathtaking views of the snow capped mountain peaks.
A floor to ceiling grey stone fireplace dominated one end of the room. Standing near-by was a 20 foot evergreen tree. The top just missed the rough hewn ceiling rafters. The room was perfumed with a mixture of spruce and wood smoke. The thick farm pancakes and maple syrup were as perfect as the setting.
We entered Yosemite Park through a tunnel. As we emerged the monumental El Capitan
stood before us on the left.
Ahead on the right we saw a bright white streak against a sheer rock face where
Bridal Veil Falls was frozen solid.
We were all so awed that we spoke in the same hushed voices we use in church.
The air was cold and crisp and pure. The skies overhead were bright blue with an occasional white cloud floating by.
Ours was the only car at the vista point. And that was how it continued all day. We saw no more than three cars all day. We owned the park.
Deer grazed in snow covered clearings.
When we walked toward a creek we heard the rushing water before we saw
it tumbling over the rocks. At every twist in the road there was a new view of the white capped Sierra peaks that surround Yosemite Valley.
Half-dome dominates and is my favorite sight.
That was thirty years ago today - but I can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday.
How could we have known that we were capturing a timeless moment that would live for each of us - -
Today I think of it as the day we spent in the Presence of God -
and I am so grateful we shared it as a family.
Back to the present:
I had not connected coming to California in 1974 to be with the family after Hal's death with this trip - but there it is. I suggested coming to Avila Beach because Jim had really wanted to come to California before he died - and is time ran out. So here we are - partly to make the trip for him.