Friday, December 19, 2008

Family History Overload

Michael helped me decorate the tree this year

This has been an overwhelming month. This week I carefully placed our much beloved ornaments on the tree. At this point, not only do I have antique ornaments from previous generations, the ornaments from my babyhood are antiques! Somehow, the whole life-history-review-aspect of this exercise is exhausting. However, the result is a tree that is the most "beautiful tree we've ever had." On Christmas Eve, I'll recount that phrase and ask my kids where it came from. They'll tell me, "that is what you said every year when you were growing up in Portland, and we say it every year in our house." Okay. They won't say it like that, actually they probably won't say it at all, but I give them little "memory-nudges" along the way, whether they listen or not.

With Santa's sleigh on the table

Last week, after much effort, by moi, we finally received a shipment of Olson farm furniture and framed family pictures from Aunt Athalie, mom's 94 year old sister. Mom was so totally overwhelmed she called Rich and me at work, crying, about how some of it was so old "it looked like it could have come over from the Mayflower," which seemed like a reasonable response until we realized she was looking at the opaque-black-visquene-wrapped palette sitting in the driveway. You couldn't even see an outline of the contents.

She could barely restrain herself while Rich and James dismantled and unwrapped the two sitting chairs, a psychiatrist's couch and numerous family photographs in ornate gold frames. They were so fragile they had to have individual custom wood containers built for them before they could be shipped (for which Darlene paid a fortune). The chairs and the couch are already into Anthony Saia's to be rebuilt and reupholstered. We're negotiating with mom, who will keep the chairs at her place, but Rich and I are thinking all 3 pieces should be covered with blood red velveteen; however, we may have to compromise and agree to a burgundy color. I have no idea where we'll put the psychiatrist's couch, but probably in the dining room in front of the window. Rich says he'll ask our guests if they'd like to lie down before dinner.

The psychiatrist's couch, covered in gold velveteen by my cousin Joannie Ferrick

I wrote our 20th almost-annual Christmas letter, a tradition that started the year after we adopted Daniel. It's the most comprehensive and succinct recounting of our year. I send it out to family, far flung friends and colleagues, but the truth is, I write it for our nuclear family, so that we can remember the ups and downs, and small milestones of our lives. Really, most of the stories are sweet only to us. I'm concerned about preserving them, so today I figured out how to put them on a 3rd party platform (thank you Google) with a link to this blog. So, hopefully, between this blog, that platform, and our many copies, our kids won't misplace them until they are old enough to figure out that they actually mean something.

Then on December 16th I received a happy birthday email from my brother Myron, with a document attached, entitled "Sessa's Book." I opened it at work and blubbered through the rest of the morning, after realizing that Sessa (Stella was her given name) was my birthmother's sister, who had written a book of their family history going back to her parents' parents in Greece, and I was included, by name. For an adopted child who is realistic about the time and place in which she was adopted (1957, during a time of "closed adoptions") and expects never to be named in the originating family's records, it was a huge surprise and the best birthday present I could have received. Of course I called mom and she cried, and then I called Rich and he was about to cry. I am truly blessed by the kind hearts of these two families, and by Myron's thoughtfulness, and Joan's (his wife's) efforts at securing the book. "Sessa's Book" was apparently found in Stella's things after her death a month ago (I missed her!). I'm not sure who recounted the situation regarding my birth and adoption, but I am thankful to that person and to Stella for having the gumption to recount the truth.

Well that's enough for this post. I am officially "off" of work until January 5th but still have Christmas gifts to pick up and then wrap.

Ashbaugh Vlosky Christmas Letters Links (which will only work for those with *"permission"):

*If you're a friend and would like to see these, just write to me and I'll add you to the list.

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