Christmas 2010 in Review: the Gifts, the Food and the Mood

Happy Holidays, everyone! I haven’t posted in a few days because I have been – probably just as you have – swept up in a flurry of holiday activity. Here’s a little re-cap of our past few days celebrating the holidays on Maui.

Sir Gordon Whitebeard Posing with our Tree

This year, Joe and I decided to try another Christmas Eve gathering at our Maui cottage. We invited a handful of friends to come up to our house to enjoy some food, drink and holiday tunes. Joe started a fire in our pit outside, Gordon hid somewhere outside, we lit up the porch and decorated the table, turned on the Pandora (we love the “Nina Simone Holiday” station) and I went to work in the kitchen.

Cider-Poached Apple Dish. Photo by Romulo Yanes for Epicurious

With a LOT of help from my Epicurious iPhone App, I successfully spoiled my friends with the following:

I think the Cider-Poached Apples were the overall favorite. The party went until the wee hours and included a lot of alcohol consumption and Joe and another friend serenading us with old Metallica tunes on acoustic bass and my 12-string.

Joe's Wrapping Skills = Art

Then, the next morning it was time for presents. In my house this means getting a big laugh out of Joe’s gift wrapping skills, as demonstrated in the photo to your left. <———–

Nothing could have prepared me for the moment I opened a gift from my mom. All of the other gifts she had sent were not labeled, which meant they were gifts for both myself and for Joe. But there was one – a small gift bag labeled with a note that read: “This present is for you, Sara.”

My grandpa's CCC ring, on my hand.

I opened it, and tears immediately began streaming from my eyes. Inside the bag was a very special ring that had belonged to my late maternal grandfather, William “Willie” Donohue.

I first saw the ring when Joe and I were visiting my family on Long Island during the Plant a Wish tour. My mom took it out of storage to show me that my grandpa had been in  the “CCC” or the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program launched in 1933 as a part of FDR’s New Deal. Turns out my grandpa Willie was a big tree planter himself. During the 9 years the CCC was in operation, volunteers like my grandpa planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide that would become the start of most state parks, developed forest fire fighting methods, etc… It was so inspiring to learn this – that tree planting was in my blood – that I begged my mom to let me have the ring. I could tell she wanted to give it to me, but just wasn’t ready to part with it yet…so I let it go.

You can imagine the range of emotions I felt when I saw it on Christmas morning, there in my hand, 5,000 miles away from where I last saw it. The gift completely overshadowed any other thing I could have opened that morning. I immediately put it on the ring finger of my right hand.  As the tears kept falling, Joe grew concerned and asked, “are you sad?”

I couldn’t really answer at the time, but now I know that I was very happy in that moment. I felt like I was given a gift from someone who was no longer physically alive – who I haven’t seen at Christmas since I was a very young girl. But there he was – his story, his energy, our tree connection – staring back at me in a ring wrapped around my finger. Thanks, Mom.


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