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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

Here's what it's all about sans GB

Many of us know by heart, the visitation of three spirits to Charles Dickens’s Scrooge—the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.  Each year I time-travel in reverse, as I recall our Christmases Past.

The above-pictured familiar drama was performed by three of our children—Laura, Debbie, and Eric—circa 1963.  Other memorable Christmases include: 1) the time when some cars failed to start due to sub zero outdoor readings, and the few cars still running shuttled back and forth between homes— bringing family members to our large gathering; 2) poignant Christmases underscored by the loss of loved ones; 3) an ethnic-flavored Christmas when a Swedish friend brought her children, each bearing a battery candle, to our door in celebration of St. Lucia’s Day—the oldest daughter enacting Lucia; 4) and a fair number of Christmas seasons when nearly everyone threw up.

There was a Christmas when we were especially pinched financially, and I made each child (we had our first five, then) a stuffed animal pillow from pre-printed fabric detailed and shaped like the animal it represented.  The animal I recall most vividly was Eric’s gorilla, because Eric was attached to his pillow for years.  The other gifts that year (an additional two for each child) were necessary clothing items—hats, mittens, or a sweater.  

It was a thoroughly blessed and joyous Christmas!  We had good food, a warm home, warm beds, and each other!  Our family’s happiness never centered around possessions or the lack of them, but rather on the fun of just being together. 

Recent Christmases Past featured:  1) the up-north years, when we came to Southern Wisconsin to visit our family members here and stayed in a neighborhood motel with a lovely warm pool; and 2) that “famous-in-our-family” Christmas of 2010, when both Joe and I had major surgery on December 23rd and spent our Christmas in hospital rooms next door to one another—an accommodation kindly arranged by one of our surgeons. 

Joe had a muscle graft over a 4th degree burn, and was not allowed out of bed, whereas my surgery required that I get up and exercise as much as I could.  So several times a day I shuffled next door with my “dancing partner”—the IV pole—to visit my love.  Our hospital Christmas was indeed special, because of opportunities to share with hospital personnel the WONDERFUL REASON for my peace and joy—serious health issues notwithstanding.

Now in 2012, Christmas Present once again presents a health challenge which in no way detracts from the wonder of the fact that our Lord took on human flesh and came to live among us.  Again I testify that a challenge actually augments the wonder of it all.  Because Christ died to save us, and conquered death to give us eternal life, we can experience irrevocable victory over whatever may be happening around us—or in our bodies.

All of this leads to the fact that Christmas is only part of the story.  Christmas culminates in Calvary and Resurrection.  And there’s more wonder yet to come—when our Lord returns to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He will return, perhaps in the year of a not-too-distant Christmas Future.

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I wonder if a lot of readers are like me, prone to reading in streaks.  I can look back over the last couple of decades and dovetail our family’s history with my reading.  Several years ago I read most of Charles Dickens’ novels—this took some time, as they are large!  Then I read everything I could find about the sea—documentaries of shipwrecks past and recent, plus novels like Conrad’s LORD JIM.  I have spent a couple of years tracking with Brian Jacques’ REDWALL series, when riveted by anthropomorphic fantasy—a lifelong passion of mine. 

The streaks come and go, and periodically repeat themselves, ever branching into newly discovered books.  I have English mystery streaks as in Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, and long spells of devouring Irish history—in documentary and fiction.  I have read John Galsworthy’s 3 huge trilogies of novels cavalcading English society from the 1880s up to 1930.  I’ve spent days in drawing rooms with Jane Austen.  I’ve discovered Wilke Collins and our son-in-law, Rick, has lent me Collins’ books.  (They are fantastic!)  And I’ve labored over Dostoevsky’s casts of characters—each with at least 3 melodious, hard to spell Russian names.

More and more I’m loving documentaries:  accounts of daily life in the far northern wilderness; historical records of wars and plagues; legends and histories of cultural groups; biographies of writers, artists, statesmen, and rulers; discourses on social trends, etc.

Two excellent books consumed a part of my last winter:  TEAM OF RIVALS, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 700 plus pages of well-researched documentary on Abraham Lincoln’s political genius and his remarkable character; and THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS–the Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, by Ross King—the subjects of which are implicit in the book’s title.  As well as depicting the tumult of the Parisian art scene in the 1860s and 70s, this account sheds detailed light on the Franco-Prussian War and those deprivations suffered by the resilient, resourceful French during the siege of Paris.

Most of all, I loved THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS for its thorough and insightful treatment of the art revolution—at the time when the camera came into existence, releasing artists from the responsibility to record history and events realistically.  Before the camera, artists were needed for accurate renderings of people, places, and scenes—to establish a form of provenance.  If it hadn’t been for Holbein, we’d have no concept of the breadth and girth of Henry VIII or the physical appearance of his serial wives!  I love the art revolution because it freed artists to operate out of the right brain—and I’m reaping the joys of that freedom in my studio today!

Now that summer is nearly upon us (and indeed the weather has frequently been summer-ish!) my favorite spot for reading is our above-pictured patio outside our living room.  It’s an outdoor living room, and I literally live there morning, afternoon, and sometimes evening in hot weather.  My right brained art on the patio wall and the rug showing on the lounge chair are indications of my current reading streak, one that occurs and re-occurs on a regular cycle in sync with one of my most beloved decorating themes.  (See the fake barrel cactus on the right, for another clue.)

So I’ll spend many happy patio afternoons—imbibing CRYSTAL LIGHT® or iced tea (or a combo of both) and feeding my streak.  For fiction mood days I’ll turn to that matchless creator of scene, characters, and action, Louis L’Amour.  And when documentary is the hunger of the day, I can choose from two recent antique store sale purchases (totaling $3.02), pictured below:

To accommodate our ever expanding home library, and to rescue towers of books from constantly toppling on the floor, Joe built more shelves—this time in our front hall.

An amazing sight—my man on a ladder!  Those readers who were with us on this site a year ago will definitely agree.  🙂 

Happy Reading Streaks!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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