Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'll Be Home For Christmas


“I’ll be home for Christmas.” As the song played softly on the radio, stirring up memories of my childhood and of days when our own children were home,  I felt the familiar lump rise in my throat. That song has been responsible for many tears over the years.  It made me cry when I was away at college and longing for home.  It made me cry the first year after I was married when we lived too far from my parents and siblings to visit, and now I cry because I miss both my childhood Christmases as well as the days when my own sweet children were at home.

The words ring true for me, I will always be home for Christmas, even if it is in my dreams and I know I am not alone in feeling that way.  While I now create new memories with family,  life is perpetually changing and I will always cherish the memories of past Christmas. 

While Christmas traditions have varied greatly over the years, one theme seems to always be consistent and that is that Christmas has always been a time to gather with family and friends.  For that reason, the Christmas of 1886 must have been particularly difficult for my great great grandparents, John and Olivia (Rainwater) Ganus.  Having left their native Georgia on the 16th of November,  John and Olivia, along with their sons and their families, spent December 1886 on the cold wind swept plains of southern Colorado.  Nearly 1500 miles from “home,”  they were far from their extended family and lifelong friends.


Trena Ganus, Sanford, Colorado
View looking across San Luis Valley, Colorado,
 Taken August 2013
By Trena Ganus

They were totally new to the wide open spaces of the west and, while I personally love the valley where they settled,  not much about Southern Colorado would have reminded them of “home.”  The seemingly unending fields of grassland stand in stark contrast to the Haralson County area of Georgia with its hills and pine forests.  While Georgia’s low temperatures can dip as low as the mid 30’s during December,
temperatures in the 30’s are frequently the high for Southern Colorado with temperature sometimes dropping as low as 40 below zero. Were John and Olivia prepared for the harsh winters of their new home?  Did they have adequate clothing and bedding? 

Many of the foods of Southern Colorado reflect the heritage of the Mexican people who originally settled the area, in addition to foods typical of the Scandinavian and English people who settled the area prior to the arrival of the Southerners. These foods were vastly different from the foods most often enjoyed by the southern people.  I can only assume that the Christmas traditions also reflected the cultural heritage of the earlier settlers and were also somewhat foreign to John and Olivia.

Having left all extended family behind,  there would have been no family near by that December to drop by John and Olivia’s home for a visit or to drop off even a simple gift or homemade goodie, nor would there have been invitations to extended family gatherings. On Christmas day, long before the days when home phones were common place,  there would not have been calls made to brothers and sisters back home to help ease the homesickness. I wonder, how did the Ganus family feel that Christmas season?  Did they reflect on past Christmases?  Did they long for family and friends left behind?   

Over the years, the Christmas Season has become exponentially bigger, louder and brighter.  Despite the aggressive sales campaigns, Christmas music blasting in the stores way before I want to hear it and the traditional colors of red and green now sharing the stage with hot pink, purple and lime, one thing seems to remain the same and that is the desire to be with family.  I suspect that at Christmas time I will always reflect over the memories of past years with parents, siblings and our children and that just as the song says, " I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."  

May your Christmas be filled with the love of family and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


 Top left:  "Farmyard in Winter" by George Henry Durrie, 1858 PD Art, courtesy of Wikimedia; in public domain.   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Farmyard_in_Winter_by_George_Henry_Durrie,_1858.jpg

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tar and Kerosene--Just What the Doctor Ordered

File:Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret - An Accident - Walters 3749.jpg While standing at the grocery checkout recently with people coughing and sneezing on either side of me,  I could not help but wonder how many varieties of germs I had been exposed to.  It’s that time of year again.

  Today people use everything from antibiotics to essential oils in dealing with illness, but many years ago our ancestors dealt with illness in many different ways.  I can’t help but shudder as I  look at some of the old time family remedies that have been handed down on both sides of my family .

In my rather large file box of recipes I recently came across several such family “recipes.”   I remember copying these recipes years ago from my mother’s cards,  not because I planned to try them anytime soon, but because they were “family recipes” and I found them intriguing.
Aunt Sylvia’s Canker Medicine
1 pt. water
3 T. sage (rubbed)
1 T. alum
1T. borax
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. golden seal
Boil water and sage together about 5 minutes.  Cover and let set to steep.  Strain and cool.  Add alum, borax, honey and golden seal. 
Throat Swab
1 pt. iodine
6 pts. glycerine
Mix well and paint throat.
Earache
16 drops glycerin
1 drop carbolic acid
Drop in ear
Curious, I did a search in Google books and found several very similar recipes, predominantly from the 1890’s.

In a three ring notebook, I also have a collection of family stories and recipes that have been shared with me from distant cousins in my patriarchal line.  Among the recipes,  I found instructions for a “poultice.”  The recipe directed you to go to the woods and get pieces of pine.  Next you were to dig a hole “in a clay bank on the side of the road” and place the pine inside the hole with a pan placed beneath the pine to catch the tar.  Next, you were to cover the hole in order to keep the heat inside.  The tar would then boil out of the wood and run into the pan.  Next  you were to saturate the cloth with the tar and melted lard.  (Instructions indicated that the lard helped to keep the tar from blistering the skin.)  This poultice was then placed on the chest of the ill person to draw out the congestion.  Another recipe prescribed a cloth saturated with kerosene and melted lard that was then placed on the sick person’s chest.  I assume that these were the precursors to the Vicks my mother use to put on us when we were sick and, while we hated the smell and the sting of the strong salve, I can see that it was a definite improvement over earlier times.

As much as I fear the flu today, I think I would have feared it more years ago knowing that along with the misery of being sick, I would be subjected to such “cures."   What remedies have been passed down in your family? 

Picture: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret  “An Accident”  Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013