Christmas was always a huge deal when I was young. It was my mom’s favorite holiday by far. We would always crank up some Christmas songs on our giant cabinet stereo (later a smaller model) and deck out our formal living room (which we used pretty much only ever for Christmas and my parents’ occasional bridge club). It’s a tradition I’ve carried forward into my adulthood with my family.
I hadn’t thought about the old family traditions a whole lot until my wife recently brought home a candle chime device similar to one I grew up with that I had entirely forgotten about. The idea is that the heat from these four little candles set into a base rises and turns a horizontal propeller, which in turn causes little metal figures to twirl about. They dangle little metal rods that ting against a couple of bells. It was always such a treat to get this thing out and fire it up when I was young, so it was a nice bit of nostalgia this year.
Remembering this device made me want to go back and look at some old Christmas photos, and I here share a few for posterity. Reader, be warned: I was an unlovely child.
Easter was a fairly big deal when I was growing up. My family was a church-going family, and at least when I was very young, we had corsages and boutonnieres for Easter Sunday. The church usually did a Palm Sunday thing for which kids got to carry around palm (or I guess probably faux-palm) leaves. I think I recall that my sister and I usually got a new set of church clothes for Easter. And then of course there was the morning reveal of an Easter basket with chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, peeps, and assorted other candies that I would gorge myself on for a few days — plus the plastic grass that we’d find strands of for months to come. My parents would hide eggs overnight, so we’d start the morning with a little egg hunt, and I particularly remember that there was this one spot between the upper cushions of one of our love seats that they always hid an egg in. It was the perfect size and shape to hide an egg in. Usually we’d have a little stuffed animal or something to go along with our Easter basket.
My early Easters are fairly well documented in photographs, but the pictures taper off after my first few years. I don’t think we stopped doing the usual Easter routine after my very early years. Maybe the camera broke or we just lost photos at some point. At any rate, here are a few of my early Easter photos, presumably of interest only to any of my family who may run across this.
1977 – my first Easter.
Here I am in 1978. This is in the house I don’t remember — we built a new house when I was very young, some time after this year. I don’t remember the couch either, though I do remember the scuff-style slipper, which my mom wore many pairs of throughout her life. This is not the cutest or most flattering photo, but it’s surely the best of the batch of monstrous photos of me from this year.
This is me in 1979, rocking a sweet gut and a Lou-Ferrigno-as-The-Incredible-Hulk mop of hair. I’m in casual attire (rather than church formal wear) here and the pampas grass at bottom right tells me that this was my grandmother’s yard.
Here I am at four years old in 1981 with my grandfather, who must have died in the year or two after this, as my memories of him are few and fleeting.
I’m pretty dapper and maybe not a knock-out but also not entirely un-cute at five years old (if you discount the creepy teeth). This little stuffed bunny was a long-time favorite.
My sister-in-law has slowly been building up a bit of a menagerie. A couple of years ago, she had a bunch of dogs, a couple of cats, and a few chickens, but more recently, she’s added goats, a lot more chickens, and a couple of brand new wild pigs. We took the kids over today to take a look. Although it’s not really a working farm, the place has begun to resemble something of a farmyard, and the kids really enjoyed feeding the goats and holding the smaller animals.
I was looking back at the photos on my phone today and found these among the most recent. I have no idea what they are or how I accidentally took them. Some of them’re about as visually striking as ones I take on purpose.
Of my two grandfathers, I only ever knew one, and he died when I was a toddler. This is the other one, my mom’s dad. I understand he was not the best guy in the world, but otherwise I know very little about him. He laid tile by trade if I recall correctly, and I believe he flew airplanes as a hobby, though perhaps it was a commercial concern too. At any rate, here’s the only picture of him I know of. My mother found it years ago and I’ve had a copy ever since. I attach no sentimental value to it, but he sure does look swell all decked out for a flight, like somebody out of an old movie.
Some coworkers and I went to the Dead Sea while on a team meetup in Israel. My lower body’s too dense to float under normal circumstances (my legs just sink… like… stones), but I was assured I’d float here. And I did! It was such a funny sensation to wade out, squat, and feel my body rotate backwards as my legs sprang involuntarily up to the surface of the water.
The floor of the sea is covered with really goopy, dark greenish mud, and people actually rub the mud on their skin for (I presume) restorative purposes. I opted not to and didn’t think to get a photo. I did sink into the muck nearly up to my knee at one point.
As I was walking (more like stumbling) out of the water, I found a rock that had a bunch of salt crystals growing like gems on its surface. I also neglected to get a picture of this.
Luckily, I had no major flesh wounds on our visit, but I’m told the water really stings even minor cuts. I did have one little spot on my neck that burned just a tad, and although you’re discouraged from drinking the water or even getting it on your face, I ventured to lick my finger and found that the water burned my tongue.
Once we had our little swim (more of a bob), we showered off a little (an outside shower, no soap, just a rinse), but my skin felt horrible all the way home, as if I had gone for a week at the beach with no shower.
It was a really neat experience, definitely worth it if you’re in the neighborhood. It took us around two hours to drive back to our villa in Herzliya (near Tel Aviv), which is on the other side of the country from the Dead Sea. While in the sea, we could see Jordan across the way. I suppose we might have swum over for a visit, but the caretakers of the beach we went to had cordoned off an area for swimming, and I don’t imagine we could have gone under the thing to swim outside it (seriously).
This week on a trip to Israel for my job, I went with my coworkers to the port of Jaffa. You may recognize the name as the city from which Jonah is supposed to have left on his fateful voyage. It’s also the city in which Andromeda was chained to a rock in sacrifice to a sea monster only to be rescued by Perseus. It was a neat place to visit.