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Tromsø – Hike to the Cable Car via the Bridge

12 Jun

First view of the Arctic Cathedral

We agreed ahead of time that instead of a paid “excursion” we would hike across the high harbor bridge, past the Arctic Cathedral to the Cable Car. We had 4 hours and 15 minutes to get off the boat get there, explore the mountain at the top of the Cable Car and get back. We planned to walk there and if needed take the # 26 bus back. Our friend Mary agreed to join our personal “excursion”.

Tromsø is our next stop

Tromsø is about 240 miles north of the Arctic Circle, so we had our thermals and layers ready. It was a nice day, our good weather continued to hold, it was cool but not frigid cold. I prepared my day pack, we filled the water bottles, rolled up and stuffed in the emergency rain coats. We reviewed maps and confirmed our bus route back with the ship’s activities staff.

  

First view of the Arctic Cathedral

It was a beautiful trip into the harbor. Snow capped mountains surrounded the perimeter as far as the eye could see, all around Tromsø, some near while others far and then much farther in the distance. The city of Tromsø is the largest in northern Norway, about 70,000 people. We passed quite a few ships coming into and later out of port. Freighters, excursion boats, fishing boats, cruise liners, sailboats – all a lovely cacophony.

A tall bridge about a mile long dominated the channel between the major island the mainland. We knew this was the bridge we had to cross to get to the cable car. We saw on the map that our ship would birth fairly near to it. On our starboard side we could see the cable car on the hill and the platform 1,300 hundred feet above us. We would need to cross the bridge to get to it.

There seemed to be four segments to our trip. Walk along the harbor, take the 15 minute walk across the high bridge, pass the Arctic Cathedral and make our way to the bottom entrance station to the cable car, then ride the car up to top entrance at an altitude of 421 meters above the harbor.

It was 2:15 PM when the MS Lofoten snugged into its berth. The gangplank was carefully placed by a forklift. The crew prepared to check us out, we all queued up, had our Ship ID Cards scanned, “goodbye” it signaled, and the five us gathered on the pier, cameras and cell phones out and ready to take photos; then we were off. It was always great to get off of the boat for a few hours of exploring each day.

My son, daughter, and I alternated fast walking and taking the lead through the harbor piers so we would each have a few seconds to stop, snap some photos, then fast walk again to keep up with fellow hikers. Snap, snap – harbor, fishing boats, rowing boat team, statues, interesting houses, businesses, signs in Norwegian, the harbor, freighters, and then the bridge.

Once we were on the bridge it was a fairly long steep climb. Again the three of us fast walked, then paused to take pictures – city skyline, ships, piers, the Arctic Cathedral, the far shore, the cable car, and the many snow-capped mountains in the distance.

We stayed on the right side of the bridge, designed and dedicated for foot traffic. We saw or passed walkers, strollers, and joggers going both ways. Cars, trucks and buses used the center lanes. Bikers made good use of the left designated bike lanes, again being frequently used both ways.

Above us and beside us were sea gulls, floating on the natural breezes but also on the breeze being generated by ships passing under us, and by the vehicle, bike and human foot traffic passing along the bridge. They floated slowly by, hovering on the breeze slightly above us, beside us, or just below us – seemingly happy and enjoying the day. Sometimes it was just one bird smiling, Other times it was three or four birds together wafting along on their own excursion beside the bridge a couple of hundred feet above the harbor.

The steady climb up the bridge went on and on, and then finally it peaked and we started down towards the Arctic Cathedral. The walk down seemed much faster now aided by gravity. Our strides seemed longer and views of our destination drew us on at a swift pace. As we made a slight curve to the right we now had a clear view of the lovely Arctic Cathedral. We paused, snapped a few photos and then continued our march.

As we came off the bridge, we paused to take a few snaps and to orient ourselves. Our maps did not show a clear path by foot, to the bottom of the cable car. We could see the cables up the hill in the distance and decided to follow the road signs for autos to the cable car. We paused to take a photo of a phone booth. It seemed a common sight at the various islands and towns we visited during the cruise, but phone booths are increasingly rare in the US, at least where we live.

The air was fresh, the temperature cool, but not cold, it was a great day for a hike. So we set off up the hill following the road signs, After a bit of a climb there was another road sign up the hill further, then we saw the anticipated sign to the right. Another sign said the equivalent of “keep going”, in Norwegian. As per our norm, various members of our crew paused to snap a new picture of a house, a sign, the city across the harbor, the bridge, the passing ships, or the mountains in the distance.

Finally there was the expected sign to turn left and up the hilly parking lot was the bottom entrance to the cable car and we smiled inwardly, three legs of our journey done. We walked up the hill, turning once or twice to snap the view. We bought our tickets, getting two discounts for students (college students count). Then we had about a 10 minute wait for the next cable car.

These of course were not like the San Francisco Cable Cars. The cars are gondola type cabins are suspended by cables and ascend fairly rapidly to the upper platform – only a four-minute ride. Our group was first in line so we secured the optimal places in the car to look down and backwards to take more photos of the view as we rose to our destination.

We arrived to a small snack area, that opened at the front to a large viewing platform with a 180 degree view of the city and harbor area across the channel. To the right was the bridge far below us. On a hill diagonally in line above it were the 2 or 3 ski jumps, now bare of snow, that I had seen on the city map. We could see the airport on the back half of the island that had been hidden by the central hill above Tromsø. We could see the high, jagged snow-capped peaks in the far distance across the water behind the island.

We could see many other islands and snowy mountains on all sides in the distance. It was a lovely panorama. We had our friend Mary take group shots of us with the town and the mountains and the landmark bridge behind us. There were even large table like chairs on the viewing platform where you could lounge, out of the wind and just soak up the Arctic sun.

Behind us were hills still fully covered with snow, We had seen one man carrying snow skis earlier on our hike to the cable car. It was the first of June, but still ski season for some. Just outside of the snack shop there was a snow drift about 6 feet high. We could see where the hiking trails started, most were still snow-covered of course.

Several of us walked over to a far viewing platform through about eight inches of snow. There was a somewhat beaten path where others had walked, but it was a might slippery at times. Luckily my feet stayed fairly dry. Again the view from the far platform was stunning and slightly different than from the viewing platform. You could see another 45% degrees around to south with a long view across water to the farther away rugged snow-capped mountains and islands in the distance. It was a lovely view, I smiled inwardly, enjoying being up on a snowy mountain on the northern coast of Norway with the sun shining on my face.

We walked carefully, again with a bit of slipping and sliding on the snowy path, less beaten, through less walked path through the snow. We all got hot chocolate at the snack shop. They actually had an additional cafeteria space with tables and chairs, the Fjellstua Cafe. If we ever go back in the summer for a mountain hike, I would definitely take advantage of this. I walked out on the viewing platform for one more look at the view. Came back in and enjoyed my cocoa. We made sure we queued up early to get the prime front view in the cable car going down. After a five-minute wait we were on our way – four minutes down to the lower station while snapping more photos of the view.

We decided we still had 90 minutes to get back to the ship. My family and I decided to walk back. Our friend decided to try the bus. Again, gravity made the walk down to the bridge must faster. We stopped to take some external photos of the famed Arctic Cathedral. We decided to save visiting this for another trip, hopefully. We enjoyed our fast 15 minute walk up and over the pedestrian side of the bridge. We passed more walkers, strollers, and joggers, cars, trucks, and floating sea gulls. We did not see Mary’s bus, but we did see other buses crossing the bridge regularly. The air and the view were again lovely and interesting.

Off the bridge, we strolled through the city a bit, glanced over at Pepe’s pizza – no, no, not this trip… We got back to our ship with plenty of time to spare. We walked around the dock area a bit, then watched freight, still being loaded onto the M.S. Lofoten continuously for the past three hours. This freight was headed for still further northern, smaller, more isolated towns and villages on our cruise path north.

The M.S. Lofoten is a working ship. It carries freight and passengers to and from towns that may have no roads, air, or train connections to other towns.

We took off our extra layers, stowed away our gear, day pack, water bottles and rain gear, and assimilated back into “cruise” mode. Dinner was in another hour and a half and there would be lots to see as we started the next leg of our journey. Let’s see, it will be Skjervøy next at 10:15 PM.

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Tromsø – Hike to the Cable Car via the Bridge is one of a series of blogs – Our Norwegian Cruise by Bruce Summers, summersbw@gmail.com  Bruce is a Personal Historian and founder of Summoose Tales.  He is a former board member, regions and chapters director of the Association of Personal Historians.

Our Norwegian Cruise

11 Jun

The waves were over 15 feet high and the wind was strong as we crossed open sea during the last 13 hours of our cruise. It’s like riding a horse, but with an immensely strong “bucking” motion every 4 or 5 seconds.

Some passengers retired to their bunks at 3 pm, others just after a short stop at a port around 5 pm. I was one of the lucky few who seemed less affected by the rocking of the MS Lofoten way… forward down the back of a wave, and then way… back as we road up the front of the next wave. Then suddenly we would start to roll way… over to starboard, was it going to stop we wondered! Then a slight pause, and we would roll way… over to the port side, impossibly far…, but the good ship righted itself as it had in all-weather and all seas for the past 53 years.

Our family recently returned from a Hurtigruten Cruise up the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes. All together the Lofoten made 33 stops as we sailed up the magical and rugged western coast of Norway.

We traveled well above the Arctic Circle. At one point we were just 1,250 miles from the North Pole. We sailed above the northern tip of continental Europe and finished up about 15 kilometers from Russia and due north of Cairo, Egypt.

The Lofoten is an older smaller cruise ship, more intimate with less than 90 cabins. You really do get to know all of the crew. By the end of the seven-day sail you get to know, by face, most of the passengers. Several were on a first name basis and start sending us emails before we get home, saying they miss their “cruise family”.

The Lofoten, is a classic cruise ship, still with elegant service and white table cloths at each meal. My favorite waiter spotted me across the dining room each morning, caught my eye and headed over to serve me a long elegant stretched out pour of coffee from a foot away.  Some how the coffee always streamed directly to my coffee cup, regardless of the rock or roll of the ship.  He knew I was good for four, maybe five refills for breakfast. One more, he would ask and I would nod and say thank you.

 

One waitress smiled at the end of dinner one night, “that’s my last meal” (the last course she needed to serve on the second serving).  She was happy because she would get a two or three-hour break ashore at our next stop. She shared, “I will go for a walk, and there is a cafe I like to go to.” Another waitress later appeared on deck. She smiling to herself with her bicycle in both hands, ready to roll it carefully down the gang-plank to the pier, and then go for a ride to relax on shore after a busy day of serving meals.

Before our cruise we took a fascinating train ride from Oslo, the capital of Norway, to Bergen, the second largest city in Norway on the western coast. A bus took us from the train to the MS Lofoten. We checked in our bags and then we got lost looking for the “tourist” harbor. Those stories will be in other blogs.

Our Norwegian Cruise will include a series of blogs, each with photos and commentary:

  • Preamble – Train from Oslo to Bergen
  • Bergen – Getting Lost
  • Ålesund – 418 Steps
  • Trondheim – by Bike
  • Bodø – RIB to the Saltstraumen
  • Tromsø – Hike to the Cable Car via the Bridge
  • Honningsvåg – Hike to the Overlook
  • Kirkenes – Stormy Seas

“Our Norwegian Cruise” is by Bruce Summers, A Personal Historian and Founder of “Summoose Tales“, former Board Member, Regions and Chapters Director, Association of Personal Historians, summersbw@gmail.com

Azaleas at their Peak

24 Apr

Spring is arguably the prettiest season in Northern Virginia.

This is especially true in my Truro Neighborhood.

Truro has thousands of mature oak trees.

These are our most prominent feature for much of the year,

but in April, it’s the Azaleas that take pride of place

 

Azaleas of many hues

Complemented by white and pink flowering Dogwood Trees

It is hard to walk past two or three homes

Without seeing a burst of color in April

It is hard to walk up or down a street

Anywhere in Truro

Without seeing Azaleas

And Dogwoods

Blending in with more Azaleas

A bush

Or a clump

Or a cluster

Or a hedge with

 

Pink, or

Red, or

 

White, or

Purple, or

Fuchsia, or

Any imaginable blend

Of Azalea

Stretched out along the edge of the sidewalk

Or back against the house

Or Clustered in a wood lot

Or blended with other flowers,

Or lining the border

To our local park

Or complementing an American flag

Or covering a trellis

Or blending into a grove of trees

Or pulling the eye up the steps to a home

Or providing a pleasant splash of color

In the near distance.

Azaleas are everywhere

Perhaps other neighborhoods

Also can lay claims to most scenic, perhaps they boast a view of a lake, a pond, a golf course, a mountain, the ocean, a steam train, a desert. They may also have azaleas, but I must say, walking through my neighborhood in April must be one of the most pleasantest things that I can think of to do.


By Bruce Summers, Bruce is a Personal Historian at Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com

He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Personal Historians, and serves as its Regions and Chapters Director


See also: Our Trip to Paradise – Part 5 – Arrival in Paradise (Wildflowers were everywhere)

Dad – What question would you ask your great-grandfather?

20 Feb

My Dad shared, “I would ask Oren Stone why he started the Flint Woolen Mills and what brought him to Flint, Michigan?”

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

The following are answers I have recreated in the voice of Oren Stone (my great-great grandfather)…

“I was born in Sennett, in Cayuga County, New York in 1833. My father and his ancestors going back many generations had grown up in Massachusetts. New England was becoming crowded and many New Englanders moved either directly to Michigan or, like my family, to upstate New York and then on to Michigan. As a boy we lived near the Erie Canal.  It was easy for us to use the Erie Canal to move west to Oakland County Michigan when I was eleven years old, this was in 1844. As you may know, Michigan had just become a state in 1837.

“Later I moved around a bit, at about age 18 or so my parents helped me purchase a stock of goods and I set up a general store. I was also a local postmaster for a while. Eventually I settled in Flint in 1857 and set up a general store there. So that is how I got to Flint.

“Now about your other question about why I started the Flint Woolen Mill. Well, I was doing pretty well with my general store in Flint. Then the Civil War years created a strong demand of wool products. A lot of local farmers, including my uncle D. Hulbert Stone, started raising sheep, my uncle produced Merino wool. Well uncle Hulbert and other local farmers came to me and convinced me that they really needed a local woolen mill, since they were paying way to much to ship wool to the mills in New England.  So I found a few local partners and we started the Flint Woolen Mill in 1867.

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

“It started out as a small but very profitable business both for me and for our local farmers. In a few years I bought out my partners and became the sole proprietor. Later, I formed a life-long partnership with William Atwood.  We changed the name to Stone, Atwood & Company, but we were still known locally and later nationally as Flint Woolen Mills. We picked up and bought out other partners over time.

“The mill continued to grow and was known for quality wool products, cashmere, Neptunus, and suit making wool. I even added a specific Pantaloons wool product line.  Lots of local women worked in the mills and men worked as laborers.  We had a nationwide distribution system. For a while we experimented with trying a cotton mill, but that did not really work out.

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

“My son Dwight Stone, your grandfather, worked at Flint Mills for a while, but he seemed even more interested in our real estate and insurance business. So I am not sure whether the Flint Woolen Mills will stay in the family after I pass on.

“A couple of my other interests: I was active in a number of civic interests, it is important to give back to the community, and Flint has been good to our family. In 1888 I even served as the Mayor of Flint. I am very proud of restoring the Stone Opera House in Flint.  It has deservedly had a good reputation throughout Michigan.

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

“You may not know that I lost my first wife, your great-grandmother Susan C. Thompson. She died in 1870 when your grandfather Dwight was only 7. I remarried a wonderful woman Harriet Hayes Stewart. Her family members were very early settlers. Her parents arrived in Flint in 1833 and it is said that Harriet was one of the first white girls born in Flint.

“I hope this was helpful. Flint has been a great town for our family, I am proud to have played a key role in it development.


Author: Bruce SummersSummoose Tales, Personal Historian, also

Board Member, Regions and Chapters Chair, the Association of Personal Historians.

Additional Credits:

Annie Payne – my Association of Personal Historians colleague who inspired the question by her Blog on what she would ask her Great Grandfather.

Also:

Extract: From, Stone Flint Woolen Mills, Flint, MI (Stone, Atwood & Co.) https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15a590279d7d6e53?projector=1

As strange as the name sounds, “Stone Flint Woolen Mills”, the enterprise was started by a man named Oren Stone who was talked into creating a local woolen mill to help local sheep farmers sell their wool at profitable prices. Shipping the wool to the large mills on the east coast was not a simple matter in the late 1800’s which made it costly for the farmers. Stone opened the mill and before long, teamed up with William Atwood to rename the concern Stone, Atwood & Co. Stone’s products included blankets, flannel, a product they called “cassimeres” which might mean cashmere, mittens, hosiery and towards the end of the run of the operation a high-end “water-proof” fabric for ladies tailored suits named “Neptunus”.

And:

Extract: From Flint Woolen Mill Records https://www.umflint.edu/archives/flint-woolen-mills-records-0:

Sheep raising was one of the earliest agricultural specializations in Genesee County. Due to the heightened demand for wool during the Civil War, prices increased dramatically. Farmers in the county complained of the unfair prices they were receiving for the commodity and induced Oren Stone (born July 24, 1833 in Auburn, N. Y., died April 20, 1897 in Flint), owner of a general store, to establish a woolen mill. In 1867 he began the Flint Woolen Mills, with stock in the company being held by a number of owners. By 1870 he was sole owner.

In 1876, having survived the economic troubles of the period, Stone added William A. Atwood (born April 11, 1835 in Newfane, N. Y., died April 11, 1908 in Flint) and, at least by 1879, Charles H. Bowker as minority partners. The company then was known as Stone, Atwood, and Company, although the physical operation continued to be called the Flint Woolen Mills. Atwood’s share ranged from 1/4 in 1879 to 5/13 in 1896. Bowker left the company in 1882 or 1883; J. N. Blake joined as a minority partner in 1885 to 1890 and Edwin W. Atwood, William’s son, from 1895.

Atwood was part owner at least until 1901. By 1905 David D. Aitken and John E. Shortle had become owners. The Flint Woolen Mills folded between 1910 and 1913.

SCOPE AND CONTENT

This collection complements the larger Flint Woolen Mills collection at the Michigan Historical Collection at the Bentley Historical Library. It consists of records documenting the financial and manufacturing aspects of the firm’s history. There is little or no material reflecting the personal lives or interests of the mill’s owners.

 

How much time do you have… Mom?

9 Jan

 

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Jane Summers (1929-2016)

Mom was breathing really hard. But she was still alive. She had waited for us:)

Mom had not been conscious for four or more days. She had eaten little the week before and stopped taking fluids. But she was resilient, just like her Mom before her.

Today was Christmas Day.  We arrived in the afternoon. I went into see her. She thrashed her arm a bit. I tried to re-cover it. But, she didn’t want it covered. The Visiting Angel who was watching over her, gave me space and time to be with Mom.

Mom always wanted to have her family home for Christmas. My wife and my children and I were there with her. My brother’s family was there with her. My Dad, and two other extended family members and alternating Visiting Angels traded off spending time with Mom during Christmas, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups.

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Christmas 1994

The Angel shared, she can’t talk with you, but she can hear everything you say. So we started chatting with and about Mom so she could hear us and know that we were with her.  We could hold her hand and feel the warmth.

One of Mom’s favorite holiday songs was Silent Night, so my son and I sang a duet of Silent Night for Mom, this went well. Then we tried a second song, this one was off pitch a bit and we were stumbling over the words… Mom’s armed thrashed and she made a noise.  We stopped… leaving well enough alone.

In the other rooms of the house, we celebrated the traditions that Mom had established… catching up on family news while sharing cheese and crackers, admiring Mom and Dad’s Christmas tree, watching some sports, the dreaded Pittsburg Steelers came back from behind to defeat the Baltimore Ravens, knocking them out of the playoffs. This to the glee of a few and to the groans of many.

We opened gifts, retold the story of how Mom hand-knitted and then sent the huge Christmas stocking with presents to Dad while he served in the Army during the Korea War, this before they were married. We cooked Mom’s favorite dishes and shared Christmas dinner together while the Angel watched over Mom.

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We continued to stop back in Mom’s room, visiting, looking in, and saying prayers. For me, many of the prayers were thank yous for the extra three months we had with Mom.  We thought we would lose her in September. However, the support from the Angels, combined with Mom’s resilience and Dad’s love kept Mom alive.  We were all blessed with time for visits and talks by phone. Mom was even able to get up and come to the Thankgiving table by wheel chair for about fifteen minutes in November.

All of this extra time was a series of blessings. In Mid-August Mom stopped eating and started sleeping most of the time. Her biological clock started winding down. We all started wondering, how much time do you have… Mom? How much time do we have? We all focused on visiting more, on getting her to eat when she was awake, and on offering her fluids to drink.

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Dad, Mom, me and my three brothers

Just before Mom’s birthday, in early October, I was up for a visit. I found a box of old style – Brown-Sugar-Cinnamon (Non-Frosted) Pop Tarts at the store. Well, I had fixed one of these Pop Tarts and boiled  a cup of tea for Mom every morning before school in the later 1960’s and much of the first half of the 1970’s. Inwardly, I smiled and brought a box home.

janes-birthday

The next morning Mom woke at a reasonable time. I asked her, Mom, would you like a Pop Tart? “What kind,” she asked. Brown-Sugar-Cinnamon (without the frosting), I replied.  She said “I haven’t had one of those in years!'” Would you like one?” I responded. “Sure,” she said. So I toasted one and brought it in for her with a cup of hot tea, with two ice cubes in it. An Angel helped her to eat and drink.

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Later my Dad shared privately, that it did not really have a the right type of calories for Mom.  He was of course right, but we all sort of knew we did not know how much time we had with Mom. She was resilient, but her biological clock continued to tick towards the end. Later on, Dad or one of the Angels gradually offered her the rest of the Pop Tarts. It was with mixed feelings that I saw the box of Pop Tarts was finally gone when I visited in early December.

brown-sugar-cinnamin-pop-tart

How much time do you have Mom? Back at the end of August, I was able to talk Mom into going for a swim in her backyard pool.  This after much resistance. She was weak but still able to get her swim suit on and walk out to the pool. “I don’t think I want to get in,” she demurred. Sure you do, I had already gotten in. “I think I’ll just watch,” she added. The water is a perfect temperature I responded. “I don’t know if I can get down the steps,” she deferred. I can help you, and I did. Mom eased into the pool, eventually her natural buoyancy took over and she was relaxed, floating on her back, she was Mom.

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Mom and her sister Joan

She loved her pool. She had taught most of her grandchildren how to swim during “Grammy Camp” during summers past. Her first job as a teenager was teaching children how to swim at a summer camp.  She taught her four boys how to swim, then later drove us to a pool for lessons and to the YMCA for swim meets. It was great being able to spend time with Mom in the pool. She was back in her element.

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The next time I came up to visit. Mom didn’t want to swim.  Thoughts of putting a bathing suit on were now beyond her. But Mom, I shared, I need someone to watch me. I can’t swim alone. Well, Mom, knew this well since she had instilled this precept in each of her children from an early age, never swim alone. So I went out to the pool. Mom followed up the stairs to the pool area and sat in a chair so that she could watch me.  I swam for a long time, often talking with Mom, and then even after my brother came out to visit, Mom stayed there watching over me. This, despite her propensity to sleep most of the day away and night away, she would not let me swim alone.

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During a visit in September, Mom lay propped up on the couch. I went through the 1996 photo album that she had curated. I showed her the pictures, she smiled a bit remembering when her oldest five grandchildren were little. My daughter was just a baby. There were lots of smiling faces as we visited with “Grammy” and “Pop Pop” (with Mom and Dad) at the pool, at the beach, at family gatherings, and during holidays, these often organized by Mom. I re-shot images of the photos in the album and reflected on the amazing memories my Mom had preserved, but also of the indelible memories and experiences that she had fostered.

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Though I continued to wonder how much time Mom would have, I was also very glad that she had so much time to share her love of her family. I realized that there were shelves full of memories, dozens of curated photo albums, and all those family pictures on the walls throughout her house. As a professional Personal Historian I had started recording Mom stories and Dad stories and Their stories back in 2012.  I have well over 100 hours of recorded memories and stories on audio tape. Mom had shared with me the queued response book that she had filled in – over 170 pages of handwritten responses to questions about her life. These, to complement the hours of recordings and the photo archives.

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This helped me to reflect, that though Mom was not able to respond to my questions now, she could now interview us – asking us what’s new, how are the kids doing in college, in jobs, in grad school, and in sports. She continued to be proud of us all. She had given us an amazing legacy of memories and a legacy of love and shared family experiences.

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Christmas to Mom was family time, we were playing a family game as Christmas came to a close. Other family members were back in Mom’s room as Christmas and the game came to a close. Just after Christmas ended, Mom was ready and she went home. She was at peace, we said our final goodbyes. Afterwards, I pictured her sitting in heaven with two of her lapdogs sitting on her lap watching over us.

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We do not know how much time we have… but thank you Mom for loving us and for investing in us your values and all of that quality time. The memories will last.

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Blog by Bruce Summers, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales, Summersbw@gmail.com

Bruce also is a Board Member of the Association of Personal Historians, also Regions and Chapters Director


See also

Mom Stories

also

There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart…

and

Mother’s Day and Memories

 

How did you celebrate Christmas?

23 Dec

This has been one of my favorite questions for the past 50 years. I was chatting with a colleague at a holiday party after work recently. She said, I remember Bruce what you shared about your work as a Personal Historian? Yes, I explained, we record people’s life stories and help them to preserve and shared them with loved ones.

She then asked, you were telling me about how I could capture stories from my aunt. What questions should I ask her and how should I record it? I shared, “Well, first ask her about her earliest memories. To record, you can use the voice recording app on your smart phone, or buy a digital voice recorder.  These cost about $90 or so. You can download and save the recordings on your computer. So, when your aunt calls, you can receive the call on your iPad and then start recording. I shared several other sample questions, and then I shared one of my favorites – How did you celebrate Christmas?

As I shared earlier, I have used this one many, many times with personal history clients and with family members, some now long gone. The holidays or Christmas are a great time to share and record family memories.

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As I look across my living room I see my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree decorated with perhaps 100 ornaments that we have collected. Most have a special story – the pink one from Bermuda, the trolley from San Francisco, the round ornament with the great image of a bird we bought with my father-in-law at that birders’ shop on Cape Cod.

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The Christmas season is a great time admire an ornament and ask, “Is there a story behind that ornament?” Perhaps it is old, a child’s photo from an early Christmas or an ornament that has been passed down through the family for two or three generations.

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Some of the ornaments were presents from a lifelong friend. “Tell me about your friend, where did you meet?”

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While you are visiting friends during the holidays you may be offered cookies or other treats. “This tastes great, what is this cookie called? Do you have any special memories of making cookies with your mom? What did you make? What did it smell like?”

For me, music has always been part of my life. This is especially true during the Advent Season. As a teenager, I would go caroling with a group from my church. We would walk around New Freedom and stop and carol at the homes of shut-ins, people who could not easily get out to church. It was often cold, but it was joyous. Sometimes we just sang, received thanks, smiles and then we moved on.  Quite often though, we were invited in for cookies or a cup of cider or hot chocolate. We visited and warmed up a bit but had to move on, we still had quite a few stops and more carols to sing. “Do you have any special traditions that you and your friends did every year? Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?

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When I was growing up my grandmother lived nearby. My grandmother owned a farm going down the hill from her house. She lived in a regular house at the top of the hill, but there was a farm-house and a big barn down the farm lane. To the right of the barn, she, my dad and my uncles had planted a grove of pine trees to prevent a steep section of the hill from eroding.

One of my special memories was going down the hill with my dad and one or more of my brothers and picking out our Christmas tree from the pine grove. This was a big thrill.  My father still has the same saw, hanging in his shed, that we used to cut down those trees decades ago. I remember the fresh scent of the pine needles and the pine sap that would always get on our hands and our coats. We would help dad carry or drag the tree out of the wood to the car. We would also cut sprigs of pine boughs and holly that my mom would use to decorate our home. “How did you decorate your home for the holidays?”

We would go over to my grandmother’s house a week or two before Christmas and set up her Christmas tree, we got out her ornaments, the lights, perhaps some garlands and tinsel.

On Christmas Day, we would wake up early at our house. We would run down the stairs to get our stockings, they were hand-knitted by one of my aunts. We were allowed to open these early, before my parents were up and ready for breakfast. There always was a comic book or a classic comics book stuffed in the top of the stocking. Since I was one of four brothers, we would always read ours first and then trade them around.  This was a brilliant “delaying” tactic by my parents, to keep us quiet and engaged for a while so they could grab five more minutes of sleep, get a cup of coffee or tea, brush their teeth, and get a few special treats ready for Christmas breakfast. It also helped to distract us from those “other” presents piled around the tree. “What was it like when you woke up Christmas morning?”

We had a great time opening presents as a family, then later around eleven o’clock my parents would drop my three brothers and me off at my grandmother’s house. I suspect this was to allow mom time to prepare food for Christmas dinner and dad some time to clear away the debris from the unwrapping, hmmm… what did they do with those two hours while we were at grandmother’s? Perhaps this is a new question I need to ask my parents?

My grandmother would always have a few presents for us around her tree. Sometimes my aunt Mary would be up visiting with grandmother for the holidays, so she would be part of the celebrations. She liked to travel, so there might be a small gift, a toy from another country that we would enjoy throughout the day. After opening gifts, my grandmother served the best sandwiches, some type of tender melt-in-your-mouth beef on buttered bread with the crusts cut off.  I can still taste them. “Did you have other relatives and family living nearby? Did you celebrate together during the holidays?”

Later in day we would have a gathering of three families, our family, my dad’s brother’s family, my dad’s first cousin’s family and of course my grandmother and aunt Mary. We would rotate each year which family would host Christmas dinner. Each family would bring special dishes, the host family would provide turkey and dressing. The ten children would spend time together and the eight adults would gather, perhaps to share memories of Christmas’s past. This is when I wish I had my digital recorder back in the 1960s and 70s and perhaps a camera and a camcorder.

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The good news is that I have been actively recording the Christmas and holiday memories of my parents and my extended family in more recent years. Perhaps this season is a good time for you to ask your friends and loved ones, “How did you celebrate Christmas?”

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For us it is great to have our kids home from college and grad school. We did some shopping together, we saw a movie together, we catch up on each other’s news, retell stories from the past year, and chat about future plans – what’s next? My son played a few songs on the bassoon while I hummed a few Christmas carols. We will have a few upcoming holiday gatherings with friends and family… hmmm… I wonder when I need to put the ham in the oven tomorrow?
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I hope each of you similarly takes time to celebrate the holidays, to visit with friends and family, and to capture and share memories.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a great new year.

Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian with Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com. He is a board member and serves as the Regions and Chapters Director of the Association of Personal Historians

Happy Holidays

19 Dec

We hope that you have a merry Christmoose.

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It is always great to hear from friends.

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Some of our friends even help us plan seasonal decorations.

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Sometimes even an Elf gets into the act.

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He and other friends usually work on the small tree.

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While other friends help us with the big tree.

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They did a great job.

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We wish you and yours a happy holiday season and all the best in the New Year.

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Bruce Summers is pictured with his daughter in front of the Christmas Tree at the World Bank Group Headquarters in Washington, DC. Bruce is a Personal Historian with Summoose Tales. He is a board member and the regions and chapters director with the Association of Personal Historians

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Merry ChristMoose

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