The Christmas Gang

 

There is an ancient British tradition called Ganging, from the Anglo-Saxon word gangen, meaning ‘to go.’ For fifteen hundred years, in what evolved from a solemn prayer ritual, village folk would gather to go ‘beat the boundary.’ They walked all around the parish to impress upon the youngsters’ memories the place they called home.

 

Their elders dunked them in dividing streams, knocked their heads against bordering trees, and made them climb over the roofs of houses built across the line so they would never forget.

Our family has a gentler holiday tradition, a celebration as much as a reminder. Our Christmas tree is nothing like those featured in House Beautiful. It’s topped with a Star of David, as we also celebrate Hanukkah.

The oldest ornament, a cellulose umbrella, decorated my great grandmother’s tree. We carefully hang Grandma Rhea’s handmade ornaments, dioramas inside blown eggs dressed in velvet. My children’s contributions are made of Popsicle sticks, glitter, and clothespins. The marshmallow snowman has grown sticky and yellow, with a tiny bite taken on the sly from its backside, but it makes me smile, and bookmarks an era.

I hang up the key to the house where I grew up, and recall my childhood, running barefoot through the back alleys of Detroit. The little Polish dancer wears the same costume my dashing husband wore performing with his dance group Polanie. The glass pen celebrates the year my first book was published. A tiny guitar marks the year my husband broke his leg and, instead of sulking on the couch, taught himself to play guitar. It hangs near Eli’s tiny oboe, and Bea’s violin and clarinet. A small glass bottle contains ash from Mt. St. Helens, collected from my pants cuff in 1980, when I was caught bird watching in Eastern Washington during the eruption.

Each Christmas, we carefully remove our ornaments from their tissue paper cocoons. As we hang them on the tree, we retell the stories. It’s like a crazy quilt, where scraps of colorful memories are pieced together and, voila! E pluribus unum! From the contributions of individuals we have compiled a portrait of one family, and from the many generations we have pieced together one history.

Ganging, or beating the boundary, is a tradition that teaches children their limits and sets rigid boundaries. Instead of knocking our children’s heads against a tree, let’s invite them to help create an empowering communal story among the branches of the family tree, free of boundaries and limitations, celebrating their lives, so full of possibility.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without…

Sex on the Beach (and The 2013 Blog of the Year Award!)

We rang in the New Year with a 1950s cocktail party.  Costumes were recommended, encouraged, applauded and appreciated.

Eli took a class in bartending while in Argentina last year, and mixed some very colorful cocktails for some of us, and some very tasty mocktails for the kids, teetotalers, and designated drivers. He dressed the part, right down to the fake cigarette that made little puffs of corn starch when blown into.

We have the best friends in the world!  We can always count on the Rahn Gang to come dressed to the nines…

Check out those poodle skirts!

We had our beatnik, our cube(squarer than square), and our cool cat.

Remember the Alamo?  How about Davy Crockett of the Wild Frontier, the rage in the late fifties?

Speaking of wild, Cousins Nancy and Ian lent some class to the party when they arrived looking like James Bond and Jackie O, only better.

And in a class of their own…Sue, Rick, and Stu!

They brought soft drinks I haven’t seen since the ’50s AND….

(Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!)

…the fine fare we were raised on back then:  Bugles, Velveeta, Franz Fruit Pies, Vienna Sausages, and Hostess Twinkies, Cupcakes, and Ding Dongs!

Not to mention Wonder Bread and baloney!

My new favorite photo in the world—Sue holding “Mommy’s Little Helper.”

Our bartender kept ’em coming, mostly non-alcoholic drinks with all kinds of fruity juices adorned with tiny umbrellas.  I saw a really pretty drink go by, and asked for one just like it.  I thought it was a mocktail, but it went straight to my head.  “Isn’t this non-alcoholic?” I asked.  Eli replied, “Mom, if it were a virgin cocktail it probably wouldn’t be called  ‘Sex on the Beach’.”   Yeah, probably not.  But I did discover how much I enjoy Sex On the Beach.

At midnight, like always, we toasted the New Year with a chorus of Auld Lang Syne and a round of Boston Coolers, the perfect combination of Vernor’s ginger ale and vanilla ice cream.  

Dear friends, family, followers, and all my blogging buddies, here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year!

 

And one last nod to the old year…

Many thanks to Sarah Potter, of sarahpotterwrites for nominating me for The 2013 Blog of the Year Award.   Sarah is a novelist, a talented musician, and a poet with a fresh voice and a sly sense of humor.  Her mastery of the haiku is a wonder.  Please check out her blog!

 

Who Turned on the Lights?

People find the light in their life in so many ways and places.  It can be as easy as turning on a switch.

 

Some find all the light they need in a sunset…

…or a moonrise.

Others find illumination in a church…

…a synagogue…


…a mosque…

…or a library.

Sacred is a place that lights up your heart.

It isn’t always easy to find…

Some look for it in food…


…at the bottom of a wine glass…

…or through yoga.

Some light up with the joy and anticipation of adventure.

And what constitutes an adventure is very personal.

Sometimes light comes from the joy of creation in all of its many forms…

 

Everyone’s light shines through differently.  To each his own.

For me, love shines brightest of all.

 

It’s our life’s work and pleasure to follow the light…

…or to make our own.

It is there.

It is there.

It is there.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine.

Colores Locales

Wherever we go, there is color all around.  Sometimes the colors are muted, but still, they are painting our world beautiful.

In Mexico, color is a feast for the eyes, a celebration…absorbed through all the senses.

From the jungle parfait…

..to the pink cotton candy clouds.

We could hear colors in the music.

We saw it in the art…

…and in their traditional dress.

We tasted it in the wine…

…and felt it in the colorful characters we were fortunate enough to meet.

…including some we will never forget.


I’ve never seen water so intensely blue.

Or skin so intensely red…

…flora so purple…

…leaves so green…

Colors were hiding everywhere, just below the surface…

…ready to burst out and surprise us.

And everywhere we turned, there were rainbows.

We love Seattle, our silver city by the sea, but long after we had flown back north….

…Long after our footprints had been washed away in the sand…

…to tide us over on those cold and gray Seattle days, we carried a bit of the Mexican rainbow home in our hearts.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Colorful.

Click here for more interpretations of   The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Color.

All words and images c2013NaomiBaltuck