Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Angel

Mock Stained Glass Window
Construction Paper and Tissue Paper
8.75" x 11.50"
(See the slide show below for steps and the post below that for instructions )
The Light Is Upon Us At Christmas
Elaine Winter (Steszewski)
Crystal blue sparkling evening stars
A full moon shining brightly in the heavens lighting our path
Bright candles in the churches all over the land
This must be Christmas!
Church choirs, children's Christmas plays, Christmas Parades
Welcoming the Savior's Birth
Welcome Jesus to the earth!
A gift from God for us forever.
I asked Elaine for permission to use her poem on my blog and she kindly agreed. As I worked to finish the Christmas angel "stained glass window", I thought that Elaine's words would go very well with my art work. Thank you, Elaine!
I thought of so many things when I first saw Elaine's poem on the Polish_Genius genealogy list.
The big Christmas tree that used to be placed in the middle of highway 6 in Calvert, for the community Christmas program, and for the enjoyment of people driving through town. The big cedar tree had to be moved back off the highway, thanks to the highway department rules and increased traffic, further into the intersection on Mitchell street. After that, people didn't come out as much as they did for the event, which included the singing of Christmas carols and a visit from Santa. The wind sometimes blew the tree over.
Nearby Hearne had a similar program, but they had an intersection downtown, off the highway. After their tree was blown over, too, they drilled a hole in the street where the tree could be secured better each year. They haven't had the tree in Calvert for years, and, more recently the buildings were outlined with white lights. That looked really nice. Like a story book town. Unfortunately, they have lost some old buildings. The park is now decorated, unlike in the past. That is another place that is like a storybook.
I thought of the Christmas programs at the Sneed Memorial Methodist Church. The Christmas tree there in the basement. Mama would play the piano, and we had a little program and refreshments. Santa would come, and, when we got older, we tried to guess who he was. It had to be someone in town, but who? The black rubber rainboots were always a giveaway that this was not Santa from the North Pole. His boots would have been fur lined for the snow up north. Mr. Ford would always bring apples or oranges from his grocery store, or, in good years, both, and everyone got one. I think I remember one Christmas that we were given the delicacies of a tangerine. I don't remember that we got presents, but I remember the fruit, and, sometimes, a candy cane, and some nuts. I remember that, one year, especially, Charles' father came to play his guitar and sing for us.
There would be a Christmas program upstairs, too, and Mama played the organ for that. "Miss Immie" (Miss Imogene), would sing and direct the choir and a program, while she was still living. And we would have to sing or recite something, perhaps read from the Bible. One year, when my sister was very small, she was coaxed into wearing a dress and singing "Away In A Manger". She was very tiny, and very shy, but she made it through that song like a little angel.
There were Christmas plays at school and at the City Hall auditorium upstairs, when we dressed in costumes. White gowns, with fabric wings lined with golden ropes of Christmas tinsel and halos fashioned of the same golden material. And, some years, our little group of Calvert girls who were taking ballet and tap dancing lessons at the country club in Hearne, were called on to put on costumes and dance. I loved the glittery sparkle, but I was so bashful that I would cry and have to be coaxed out by my friends.
I remember one Christmas, not so many years ago, when Reba and I talked about going to Midnight Mass at the Catholic Church in Bremond. We couldn't get anyone else to go with us, so we went alone. I went to pick her up and was amazed that she left a large candle burning on her piano. It looked very pretty through the big window. But, I was concerned about the safety of leaving it. She explained that she had taken precautions and it would be safe. The candle was for solidarity and the people in Poland who were going through so much and were fighting for their freedom at that time. Lech Walesa was spoken of a lot in the news. She felt that we should go to the largely Polish community and church to show our support. And, her candle in the window was in response to the request for people to light candles all over the world in support of solidarity. We weren't Catholic, and she wasn't Polish, and I didn't know at that time that my great-grandfather had come from Poland (Prussia at the time that he came over). But, we joined many others that Christmas Eve with the little that we could do for freedom and to worship as we chose. I didn't know how memorable that night would be. I had left my children at my parents' home, where we were all living, after we had our Christmas tree and presents, and everyone had gone to bed, to drive to another town and join in their Christmas Eve service. We did often stay up and watch Midnight Mass on tv, but this was different. The Mass was in Latin and Polish, so we didn't understand a lot of it, but we did enjoy the music, and just being in this different atmosphere. It was special and moving.
Then there was the Christmas , about that same time, when the old hotel, where I had grown up playing around and visiting my cousins and their grandmother there, had been converted to a hotel and dinner theatre. I was still shy, but I went to the produtions to write them up for the newspapers. They convinced me to take part in the Christmas play, "A Christmas Carol". Now, I really dreaded it because I was really bashful, but, the worst part was that I never could remember things I had to memorize. The first few lines would stay with me, but, after that, it all disappeared. But, I did like to dress up and play around with makeup. I went over and over my lines, but only the first part seemed to stick. We had a good time rehearsing, and I thought a lot about the days when we played around the hotel. I thought that I knew every nook and cranny of the place.
There was an opening play before "A Christmas Carol" started, about a Sunday School class Christmas party, and I got to play the part of the teacher. My daughter was one of the Sunday School students. She was scared stiff! But we just tried to ignore the audience and pay attention to what we were supposed to be doing on stage. I had a pretty white satin blouse and a long white satin skirt with quilted velvet squares for that part.
Then, the fun began when the director played Scrooge. He powdered his hair until it was gray and drew wrinkles on his face with an eyebrow pencil. And, when we went out on the stage, I was a little shocked at him wearing long handles! Larry was a hoot!
Everyone dressed up and got into the mood. We got together at rehearsal and made tape recordings of moaning and chains rattling. The hotel owner was Marley, dressed in Victorian finery. I can't remember who the young man was who played the ghost of Christmas to come, but he was frightening to see. Looked like death. He had a hooded robe, and you couldn't see his face. He was tall and just seemed to float.
I was the ghost of Christmas past, and couldn't really afford a costume, so I used a long white dress that I had. Then I used some remnants of blue sheer material, that were long enough to wrap around me and trail. I layered those and made a train and a veil. On top of my head, I wore a piece of blue lace. Then Larry powdered my face to make me look pale.
Larry was so good at his lines, but, then he started improvising on stage. He told me that he was going to , but to just follow him. He led me around that stage and I was so relieved that my lines fit!
It was almost over and I was about to exit off the back of the stage into the lobby. I tried to float gracefully off the stage, and, as I got into the lobby, so relieved to be off stage, someone told me to wait. One of my trains of material had caught on a nail, and I had left it behind, draped across the stage! Someone had to go get it for me, and I about collapsed into a puddle on the floor with embarassment. But, I survived, and so did everyone else. Unfortunately, the dinner theatre didn't, and the hotel was sold.
The Calvert High School band had concerts in the auditorium at Christmas, Easter, spring, and anytime we could. The choir sang for programs and, in music appreciation class, we sang.
I remember cold, clear star filled nights, looking for the Christmas star in the dark blue sky.
There were Christmas parades from the school to downtown, and I watched from Conitz Dry Goods Store, until I was old enough to march in the band with my flute. Merchants hoped that visitors to the parade would come in the stores and shop. Eventually, we would go to the Christmas parade in Hearne, too, and those merchants were also hoping for more trade. The towns were in competiton to see who could have the biggest and best parade. Floats became more numerous and complex and awards were given.
We always hoped for some snow, and nights of going caroling, followed by refreshments and hot chocolate. A picture perfect Christmas. That never happened. Snow and ice seem to only come in January or February in our area, if at all. (I do remember a little snow for Thanksgiving a couple of times.) I think that I remember going caroling one time, and then going in for refreshments at the big Foster home, where "Miss Immie", and her sisters lived.
We didn't have lighted plastic or blow up yard displays. But there were tastefully done lights, and maybe candles or bows, around town in the homes and businesses. Deep, red light glowed from the ruby glass windows at the Presbyterian Church, and from the stained glass windows in the other churches in town. Riding around to look at the Christmas lights was something that had to be done often during the Christmas season. It wasn't a matter of who had the biggest or best display, but to just take it all in and enjoy each decorated home and public place.
We heard the story of Christmas everywhere. One year, my mother bought me a beautiful book with pictures from the story of Jesus' birth. The paintings were all in delicate pastel colors, but the halos and everything that should have been gold, appeared to be painted in gold. I took my book to Sunday School to show my teacher and my class. I remember that Miss Rita told us that Mary was a young girl, about our ages, when Jesus was born. One girl asked if that was true. And everyone was shocked. The bell rang and we went upstairs to church, shaking our heads in wonder. There was more discussion from my book the next Sunday morning. I still have my book, but it is now tattered and worn.
I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, and that the weather is not too bad where you are. As they say, remember the reason for the season.
Scroll down and check out the Guest Book that I have added at the bottom of my page. You have to go all the way down to the bottom of the page to see it. Add your name, where you live, and a picture, if you would like. It's interesting to hear from everyone. And, if you are an artist, you might like to show a piece of your work in the picture area.
Merry Christmas!