As I was growing up, there was an emphasis on Christmas family gatherings, specially on my mother’s side of the family. For as long as I can remember until my late twenty’s we drove long hours through blizzards on icy roads. All making our way to Fisk Street in Muskegon, Michigan. It was a modest home filled with all of the smells and sounds of Christmas.
My Grandmother was a quilt maker and made all thirteen of us grandchildren stockings. She would fill them with all sort of goodies, including toothbrushes and home-made slippers. We’d make up plays and musicals in the basement while the Aunties and Uncles played card games. And of course, we’d share a traditional dinner. Some years, we would go to the Muskegon City Rescue Mission to serve the Christmas meal to those with no place to call home. There was the occasional ice skating escapade and in later years, we would include a jaunt to the local movie theater to see the latest Christmas block buster.
Then my grandmother died and everything changed.
I suppose it’s probably pretty normal, the natural progression of time. As the grandkids got older and started having their own children, the aunties and uncles began to nurture their own traditions with their immediate families.
It was a pretty good run. I was in my early 30’s when the Christmas of my youth passed away, always to be remembered and cherished but never to be replicated.
This year, we all made the trek to Colorado for our family Christmas, and for the first time, in a long time, we were all in the same place. We decided to converge in Estes Park, Colorado.
Our five days together were beautiful, incorporating some of the old, as well as, each individual families traditions. We wrapped presents, made cinnamon rolls (the gluten-free didn’t go over as well as I had hoped), papa read a story about the Christmas child and nana carried on her mother’s tradition of all of the little stocking stuffers for the grandkids. We went to see the Hobbit at the local movie theater, enjoyed ice-skating, hiking and playing our favorite card game, Hand and Foot. Technology made a strong appearance this year with Minecraft as a favorite among all of the cousins, I-Phone’s posted photos to Instagram and Facebook, updating all those who cared to have a gander at our family fun. It was a beautiful week together.
There is a longing in all of us to replicated what is good in life. That’s what traditions tap into, right? However, if there is any lesson learned from past experience or from our nomadic journey, it would be that each moment, each experience, is its own. If the future holds another go round, we will embrace it fully. We cherish these moments, savory them while they are happening, all with a healthy understanding that we know not what tomorrow brings.
The Hollands! Christmas Tour. We kick off this weekend in Tucson, AZ.
For details on times and cost visit www.thehollands.org
Looking forward to seeing all you kinfolk out on the open road!
Colorado Springs has become a place we find ourselves coming back to time and again. It’s no surprise though, with hosts like the Penely’s who wouldn’t want to come back. With a heart as big as the ocean, the Penely’s open their home often, to youth, community gatherings, travelers, fostering and caring for others. Not only that, but they are engaging. Conversations of faith and community are often the focus. This time around we were able to pick up a copy of Paul’s book, Reenacting the Way and had some great pre-read conversations around the fire. We cherish these moments with kinfolk and are especially grateful that they happen to live in such a fantastically beautiful part of the country.
We spent five days in the Springs, exploring the Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, Helen Hunt Falls and local shops. It’s not only a place of beauty but a place that offers us restoration.
At the Falls we discovered a hummingbird exhibit. The humming-bird is one of my favorites. If you’ve never seen one, they are quite fantastic as they hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12–80 times per second (depending on the species). They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which sometimes sounds like bees or other insects. We also learned that they are the only bird that can fly forwards and backwards. What a fascinating creature!
But of all the places in Colorado Springs to visit, Garden of the Gods is one of our favorites. It is a registered National Natural Landmark and it is a free. The park has a fantastic Nature Center where you can learn about the history of the native people from that area, the plant life, animals that inhabit this area, and the geology of the amazing red rock formations. We highly recommend making this park of your stops along the way!
We’ve spent the last three weeks in Colorado including Denver, Winter Park, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. We had a handful of legit folkie shows and the rest of our time was spent around the table.
Our first stop was in snowy Denver with the Stephan family. We were referred to them by a dear friend in Green Bay, WI. We parked street side in the new Stapleton Estates. Easy going, the Stephan’s made us feel right at home. We rested after a long trek across the plains states, enjoyed encouraging conversation and on our final night I had the opportunity to make a dinner for us all in their kitchen. Stocked with full amenities, all the bells and whistles, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking in my bus kitchen, but this was a delight. We had organic Shepard’s pie, leafy greens and flourless chocolate cake for dessert, all from my ‘The Apron Strings‘ Cookbook.
The Stephan’s also connected us with a local charity, The Urban Farm and we were able to connect for a benefit show. That lead to us meeting a first grade teacher at Fletcher Primary, who invited us to come and share our Australian Folklore workshop with eighty 1st graders. They loved Craig’s mustache, and sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with all their might.
Next we stored our rig with our dear friends at Radiant Church and drove our mini-van up to Winter Park/Fraser to serve at Timberline School. The drive is terrifying coming up that pass but once we were there the beautiful sunshine and snowy mountain tops erased all the fear. Our friends, Dan and Sarah Thomas are the directors at Timberline and we have always wanted to offer some sort of service to their efforts. So when we were planning our fall tour, we blocked out a week to pour in. We shared in song with the students, we joined them for most of the morning and lunch meals, we helped with child care, building projects and enjoyed making a meal or two for the Thomas’s. And, just a small family affair, we celebrated Graciana’s sixteenth birthday with a home-made pizza party. We had a french themed party for her in September with all of our friends in Chicago, but it’s special to celebrate on the day as well.
Back to Denver for a gig at Swallow Hill and short but sweet say with some of our old friends; Randy, Beki and Diego. Through out our travels we have met amazing kinfolk but there is something about a visit with an old friend. There is an ease to laugh, cry and share deep moments. This was just what we needed. We meet Beki and Randy at Lifest in 2007 and have performed with them and enjoyed community with them. Plus we were able to share a meal in celebration for Craig’s birthday, which falls right after Graciana’s.
On to Colorado Springs to spend a few days with the Penley family. We met them through the Thomas’s and have connected with them over the years. The Penley’s are generous and kind kinfolk. Younger than us but wise beyond their years. Their house was full to the brim with family and the laughter of children. With three children and fostering one, Christy is a super mom in the best sense. She is strong, organized and gentle all at the same time. And, Paul, he’s about the smartest person we’ve ever meet. We enjoyed conversations over delightful meals, a bon fire, quiet time of reading, baking with the kids and shared in song at their church, 1st Presbyterian. While there, Graciana connected with a new friend, discovering a similar taste in books, music and in the journey of being homeschooled.
We also had an opportunity to do a little sight-seeing, visiting the Olympic Training Center. Highlight was seeing the wide open arm span of Michael Phelps. That boy is big!
And our final Colorado stop was in Fort Collins with the Borden family. Dear friends from Chicago, Diane was my boss at Grrr Records and, the most encouraging person you’ll ever meet. We dove right in at the Borden house, cleaning and getting the garage space ready for about 28 folk to enjoy a Thanksgiving fest. It was a joy to sort through and organize (I’ll admit, I love organizing, I have been known to spend a good amount of time at the thrift store organizing the dresses by size, then color. Ha!) It was also a great visit for our kids, as the Borden clan is five strong. They watched movies, played a building video game called mine craft, helped prepare Thanksgiving decorations, put on plays with dress ups, and made funny movies on their I-Pad. We connect with kinfolk and got our worship on at ECC. Craig got his craftsman fix in by laying down a deck for the Borden’s. And, on our last night I made Asparagus/Mushroom/Leek with a wine cream sauce and Crepes for dinner.
We are thankful for our time in Colorado, for the community and encouragement that keeps us on our way and for the many meals shared with kinfolk, new and old.
We landed in Denver, CO after thirty hours of travel. It had been seven weeks since we last lived in our bus (Celu’haven) and we were anxious to see her. Thanks to the folks at Radiance Church, our bus had been parked in the back lot, safe and sound.
Our minds were filled with all of the amazing adventures from the past two month in Australia but quickly had to move into survival mode as the reality of living in a half build bus was more than apparent. We had no food in the fridge and struggled to find comfort in the 90 degree heat with no plumbing or air conditioning. Thank God my sister only lived 1 1/2 hours away in Estes Park. We drove up to her home and enjoyed a shower and her speciality, Enchilada’s Verde. Yum! The next few days were spent working on the oil leak in the engine, gathering supplies and reconnecting with folks in the US. Our daughter especially enjoyed getting her phone back on-line. (Although, I will say, the seven weeks phone free down under was a nice respite.)
We got our driving legs back on and began to forge our way towards the midwest. A few hours later we hit another oasis in North Platte, NE. Our global/local neighbors, Job and Gail Vigil, owners of Da Buzz Coffeehouse, had this precious text welcoming us. When we arrived there was a hot meal and another shower waiting for us.