Thursday, Williamsburg Wreaths, Today, Jamie, Christmas Past

6 a.m. It is still dark outside.

Jim and I are going to 8 a.m. Mass on our way downtown for his shot. We hope the church will be almost empty this morning because we are staying away from people until Jim's white count bounces back near normal. This will be our Christmas Mass. But you know something, that's OK. I love our old stone church when its empty and quiet and prayers seem to hang in the air.

We are also praying for our grandson who is having hip surgery this morning in California. I can imagine that they will soon be awake in their house preparing for the drive to the hospital in Oakland. Jamie is a Senior in High School and a basketball injury has side-lined him for the duration of the varsity basketball season. Besides the pain, sitting it out is a bitter pill for a guy who loves the game like he does and has worked hard for his place on the team these four years.
And, for our daughter and son-in-law. This will be a tough morning for them.

Thinking about them this morning and wishing we were there. We had planned to spend these Holidays in California with all the family together at Avila Beach on the Central Coast. If you have not been to the wilder central coast of California someday I hope you will treat yourself to some time there. Anyway - - - Karen says it was the trip that was not meant to be.

First Jim's cancer treatments pulled us out of the game. When Jamie's hip was scheduled for today, everybody else cancelled their United flights. Last Saturday, you know, when we had the Snowcatastrophy on the east coast, was the day the this half of the group had reservations to fly out. They would have been sitting at Dulles Airport watching the snow blanket the area - not flying off to California. The good news is that, with Robin's help, I was able to transfer the accomodations to others and we recouped some of the reservation fees.

We have had other Christmas Eves in California - one magical day in 1977 stands out as a wonderful memory for all of us.

This year Jim and I stayed home for the holidays. It feels strange. But it was a good decision. As it turns out Jim is having some medical issues and being close to home is the right place to be. None-the-less we are missing Robin and her family and we feel a bit off our normal.

Since Robin's oldest son, Jamie, was born seventeen years ago Jim and I have usually spent Christmas with Robin and Brad and their kids in California. First in sunny Southern California and then for the last seven year in Lafayette which is on the Oakland side of the San Francisco Bay.

Several times we celebrated Christmas Eve with Jimmy's family here and then flew out on Christmas Day, arriving in time to have Christmas Dinner on the West Coast. It was as close to bi-locating as we are likely to get.

Christmas 2004 Jim and I flew to Robin's a week before Christmas and our daughter Karen arrived in Lafayette several days before Christmas. I wrote about Christmas Past then too.

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.


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