winter solstice

12.22.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
my new reindeer ornament! ~ 12.22.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

We will be doing a lot of celebrating this holiday season, planning to enjoy family and five different Christmas trees, including our own. Tim has a vacation this year so we’re off to visit our children and siblings soon. But first we had our winter solstice gathering here, enjoying candlelight dining, music and good conversation with dear friends on the longest night of the year.

12.22.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut
12.22.12 ~ Groton, Connecticut

On Saturday Tim & I and Dima & Larisa went to celebrate with my sister, brother-in-law, aunt and father at their little house in the Connecticut woods. My sister has been dreaming of a boxwood Christmas tree and this turned out to be the year she found one! Isn’t it pretty? So simple and sweet. I think she may be planning to plant it outside in the spring.

12.22.12 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
12.22.12 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

The ancient ones were delighted to see Larisa and seemed to be enjoying the festivities, but we didn’t stay too long because they do tire out from all the bustling excitement of having company. The four of them will be having a quiet Christmas dinner on the 25th. We’ll be heading for New York, Virginia and Georgia.

12.22.12 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Auntie and Larisa ~ 12.22.12 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I brought Dad some clementines and fondly watched him enjoy peeling and eating one. Sometimes I hesitate to share pictures of him because part of me wants to remember him the way he looked when I was a child…

12.22.12 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Papa ~ 12.22.12 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After my mother died Dad and I used to drive up to Cape Cod to visit her parents, my beloved grandparents. He always brought along a little supply of fruit. As I was the driver, he would cut the fruit into bite size pieces with his pocket knife and share them with me, popping mine into my mouth so I wouldn’t have to take my hands off the steering wheel.

Most of the time Larisa was with us, riding in the back seat, and sometimes Auntie would come, too. One summer day when we were using the air conditioning in the car, Larisa had brought some chocolate with her. We stopped at a rest area to use the facilities and she left her chocolate in the car. When we returned to the car she was very disappointed to find her chocolate melted into a gooey puddle. But not to worry! Grandpa took that glob of chocolate and held it out close to the air conditioning vent in the dashboard for many miles until the chocolate had hardened up again. If his arm got tired he never mentioned it. That’s grandfather love for you!

We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!
~ Charles Dickens
(The Pickwick Papers)

28 thoughts on “winter solstice”

  1. Sweet Christmas memories! Love that you get to travel around to visit everyone…
    I just realized, this will be the first Christmas in 55 years we don’t have a tree, maybe I will attend to that later today.

    Have a sweet beautiful Christmas!

    1. Thank you, Jeff! I hope you got your Christmas tree in time – it adds a little magic to the day, especially when a family is going through difficult times. Some years a simple little tree seems best, and other years a huge festive one, and all sorts of moods in between over the years. I hope you and your mom had a lovely Christmas and will have a happy, healthy new year!

    1. Thank you, AA! I’ve been enjoying taking in all the different ways our families have chosen to decorate their trees – hoping to post a few more pictures when we get the latest pictures uploaded to my laptop. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and blessed New Year!

  2. Hi,
    Really great photos, the tree looks magnificent.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family and all the Best for the New Year as well. Enjoy the festivities. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Mags! Somehow that tree turned out to be bigger than what we were planning for – but we manged to find extra ornaments and ribbons to dress her up a bit. I hope you and your loved ones are enjoying the holidays down under! 🙂

  3. Oh Barbara, such beautiful Christmas memories you have shared! Your father is very special and I am so pleased to have seen him today. I can tell you from my own experience that you don’t necessarily remember your loved ones the way you last saw them, you remember the feelings you had for them in your heart.

    A beautiful and blessed Christmas to your whole family, from my heart to yours. <3

    1. Thank you so much, Joanne! Every time Christmas comes around I can’t help wondering if it will be the last one we share with Dad or Auntie. I think I am going to see if I can dig up some younger pictures of my father to share. Hoping you and your loved ones shared a wonderful Christmas and that you will all be blessed with a happy and healthy New Year! ♥

    1. Thank you, Colleen, and I hope you had a lovely Christmas with your loved ones, too. It can be poignant how memories are made as some lives are fading away and others are coming into full blossom.

  4. Beautiful post Barbara – such heartfelt honest writing! I felt as though I were peeping in the windows of all the scenes you shared.
    You captured something really special in the photo of auntie and Larisa. Congratulations.
    I’m glad you included a photo of your Dad. Nice to see him 🙂 I felt almost tearful when I read the story of how he cut up fruit for you and kept his grand daughter’s glob of chocolate on the end of his knife til it hardened.

    1. Thank you, Rosie! It often surprises me when I start writing about one thing and the next thing I know I’m reminiscing about little memories that happened years ago. Couldn’t quite believe I captured that moment between Auntie and Larisa. Auntie’s walker was obscuring the view and I was afraid when moving it out of the way that they would stop looking at one another, but I took a chance and they didn’t seem to notice, so I got it! 🙂

  5. Lovely post, and so nice to see a photo of your dad – I can see the youth in his eyes, maybe you can look for his younger self there, too? Have a very happy Christmas and healthy and happy new year, Barbara. Hugs.

    1. Thank you, Val! I guess I miss the younger version of my dad, living with his dementia seems like an endless goodbye – too late for hope and too soon to fully grieve. But we do have some coherent enjoyable moments now and then. I hope you are having wonderful holidays, Val! *hugs*

  6. Wishing you a Merry Christmas!! I take this opportunity to wish you Joy, Love, Peace & Properity. Its nice reading about your past days. I love the picture with Auntie & Larisa.
    Thank you so much for sharing the words by Charles Dickens. Very well written.

    1. Thank you, Sonali! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year, too! I’m happy you enjoyed Charles Dickens’ thoughts about the warmth and nature of Christmas memories. I couldn’t believe I got such a touching shot of my aunt and my daughter – Auntie has been large part of Larisa’s life ever since she was born…

    1. I’m happy you love the chocolate story, Jane! It’s funny sometimes the simple little things our brains decide to remember… I hope you and your loved ones had a very merry Christmas, too!

    1. Thank you, Kathy. It was truly a bit of Christmas magic to get the picture of that moment between Auntie and Larisa. It’s this sweet side of Auntie, not often shown, I hope to remember…

    1. Thank you, Bente – I couldn’t resist that reindeer ornament – it just had to come home with me! 🙂

  7. Dear Barbara,
    You won’t remember meeting me a long time ago- around 1965-66. At the time I was a research assistant working in the UConn animal disease lab with your dad. You were visiting your dad one day when he introduced me to you, your sister and mom. You were two cute little girls and very shy.
    I was at Uconn for a short time before moving to Amherst Mass and a research position at the University.
    I also recall that sad day when Your grand dad passed away. I attended his funeral in Uncasville with Wally Butterfield and Stavros Kottaridis.
    After leaving UConn I lost contact with your dad but never forgot the friendship I enjoyed with a man I truly admired. Ted was honest and caring and a wonderful example of a loving family man and a sincere gentleman. His guidance and concern for his colleagues and students was outstanding. He was like a big brother to me and I was honored by his friendship. Recently I began researching old friends in far away places. Your dads name brought me to this website and I immediately recognized Ted Chomiak. Older and tired but still the man I respected and admired so many years ago.
    I know your dad will not remember me being that its been about 46 years since we last met.
    Still, I would appreciate your wishing him a happy and heathy new year for me and may God bless him and his family.
    Arnie Rosen
    Fort Myers, FL

    1. Arnie, Thank you so much for your very kind words and for sharing your memories of my dad!

      I recognized your name immediately so it must have been mentioned often around our dinner table. I printed out a copy of your comment and brought it to my sister and Dad over the weekend. My sister has a memory of you making a giant salad at a lab picnic at Mashamoquet Brook State Park, using a large plastic bag inside of a trash container!

      We all remember Wally Butterfield and Stavros Kottaridis, too…

      Dad does remember you well and was visibly moved when reading your words. His long-term memory is sharp, his short-term memory is all but gone. I can’t thank you enough for adding such a bright spot to his day! He’s been on a long decline since my mother died in 1991, and my sister and I have done our best to look after him. He asked me to thank you for your well wishes and and he sends his warmest regards back to you.

      Again, we thank you for leaving your thoughtful comment – it brought joy to me and my sister, as well as our father. We hope all is well with you and your loved ones, too. Happy New Year!

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