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Every Life is a Story
    A place to share my own family stories

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas from Indonesia

My Aunt Bonnie, as I described in my last post, is a very fun person with a wicked sense of humor. She's an artist who mostly focused on Western Art throughout her career until her husband ended up getting a job in Indonesia. Suddenly, paintings she did of Native Americans and horses became paintings of leopards and the native people of Indonesia.

Bonnie made the most of her adventures in Indonesia. She told us of the marketplaces where someone once tried to sell her a cow's nose for dinner that night. She had pictures of the big lizards that crossed her front yard, and the gigantic spider that took up residence in their shower. She was even able to go and visit some of the remote tribes of Indonesia, including the Dani Indians. She had pictures of her with the Dani. The men there wear gourds over their privates that are specially grown for them as they reach manhood. We loved hearing about her adventures.

One Christmas that Aunt Bonnie was spending overseas, we were excited to receive a package from Indonesia. It was a present for my father, to be opened at Christmas. We speculated about what kind of exotic treasure it could be. We all watched Christmas morning as my father opened the gift. It was....a gourd. The exact kind of gourd the Dani men wear. She sent one to every male member of the family. For some reason, my father wouldn't model his gourd for us. We kept the gourd for a long time on top of the entertainment center- the ULTIMATE in conversation pieces.

"What IS that?" people would ask.
"Oh, that's Dad's Gourd." we would casually explain.

Eventually, the gourd was put away, but the story is still there. The record of a holiday practical joke to be treasured, and now shared.

Merry Christmas, Aunt Bonnie.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Black Christmas Tree

My Father's family had a tradition. Each family member had a different color that they would use to decorate their tree. One had gold, one red, one green, one blue, and so on. I remember our color was blue and for years we had all blue lights, blue glass balls, and blue ornaments. This changed gradually, as traditions do, until all the colors were represented, but the Christmas tree of my childhood was mostly blue.

My Aunt Bonnie's color was silver.

My Aunt Bonnie is the character of the family. An amazing artist, and even more amazing person, I grew up with stories of AUNT BONNIE. I heard how when Mother Goose created the nursery rhyme "There was a little girl, who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad, she was HORRID." she was actually writing about my Aunt Bonnie. I did not doubt the truth of it.

One Christmas, before I was born, my Dad's family had a Christmas Eve party at my Aunt Bonnie's house. True to form, my Aunt Bonnie threw a great party. She had decorated spectacularly. The centerpiece of it all was the Christmas tree- all in silver with white lights. And to emphasize the silver, my Aunt Bonnie had flocked the tree. In black. It was literally a black Christmas tree- straight out of the pages of a Halloween story.

My family has laughed and talked about the black Christmas tree for years. Recently, I talked to my Aunt Bonnie about that tree and what it meant to us as a great story. Her response? "Hey, that tree was BEAUTIFUL!"

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Hazards of Snow

All this last week, my oldest child has been limping, with her toes taped together. You see, it snowed last weekend, and that made things around here very treacherous.

When I first came to Utah, I was so excited to see snow. I grew up in Oregon, and while it rained a lot, it really rarely snowed. If it snowed an inch, it was an occasion to close the school. We would travel to the mountains in Oregon to VISIT snow, but it wasn't the same as being in it every day. The first snow was absolute magic for me. It was Thanksgiving weekend at BYU, and a huge snowball fight broke out at the apartments the night before Thanksgiving. Everyone was out there and it was so much fun. The next day was quiet, with most everyone gone, and Jay and I had the whole day to ourselves to get ready for dinner, and take walks through the wonderful snow. It was perfect.

Then the snow kept coming. And coming and coming. I learned that snow got gray and sludgy as it got old, and that I didn't like the cold at all, and that icy sidewalks got slippery and hazardous. It was my second winter in Utah that I slipped on a patch of ice in my lovely patent leather- completely treadless- church shoes. I broke my elbow in the fall, and spent the rest of the semester in a half-cast and arm-sling. I can't walk in snow anymore without keeping my eye on the ground looking for black ice. I take tiny tiny steps for fear of slipping. I am the only woman in church wearing a dress and mukluks when the snow is really bad.

And now my daughter is injured, and it's the snow's fault again. Did she slip? Well...no. She wanted to make the snow built up in the branches of a tree to fall off suddenly in a big pile. So she kicked the tree. She didn't even use the three years of martial arts lessons I paid for to have her kick it right. She just ploughed her toe into the trunk of a tree. The tree didn't even have the courtesy to dump the snow on her the way she wanted. So now her toe is injured- pretty sure it's not broken with the way the swelling has gone down quickly, but bad enough that she's limping through school.

Darn that snow.

"To be a person
is to have a story to tell."

- Isak Dinesen  

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