After two years of far-flung adventures and Covid interrupted lives the elder Hale siblings and their spouses gathered in Astoria, Oregon at the Bowline Hotel. It was an overdue celebration of Christmas and family.
The siblings have been celebrating Christmas together in some form or another since Martha arrived in 1952. In 2020 there was a chaotic Facetime Nose Flute Gathering. It was suitably, or unsuitably, ridiculous depending upon a person’s ability to tolerate whatever noises were being produced. We gathered.
When I look back Christmas gatherings are what I remember most vividly. Pre-Christmas evenings with our borrowed cousins, the Kinney’s, where conversation and noses buried in books come to mind. Christmas at Uncle George and Aunt Bobbie’s were colorful explosions of food and light. The tree was flocked. The lights were whatever was flashy and new. The food was gourmet before any of us knew what that meant. Uncle George Farr told quiet tales of growing up in Liverpoole, WWI, and PNW logging camps. Aunt Dee giggled when I did impressions of Lawrence Welk’s tap dancers. Peanut brittle would be folded into whipped cream. Oysters might be added to the stuffing. The apricot brandy Aunt Bobbie put in her mincemeat pies was breathtaking.
There were never any turned up noses from the Hale kids. Every time our mother cooked it was an adventure. At Uncle George and Aunt Bobbie’s we knew the adventure would be delicious. Those Christmas dinners have given us all a lot to live up to.
I really don’t remember much about Christmas presents. A family game that involved being the first one to say ”Christmas Gift” was more exciting than watching wrapping paper pile up. Of course there was the orange short sleeved shirt from Aunt Dee. It had brown windmills and clipper ships on it. I got out of wearing it to church by pairing it with a plaid sports coat, striped tie, and fuzzy electric blue mohair socks. An early version of a self-winding watch from Uncle George lasted a week before it wound itself to death. It probably wasn’t designed to be worn by teenaged boys.
In 2021 a spur of the moment idea had Hale siblings and spouses checking in to Astoria’s Bowline Hotel. We met in the lobby and ordered craft beers and cocktails from The Knot. The bar menu featured items that could have easily graced Uncle George and Aunt Bobbie’s table. Donna is still talking about the roasted mushroom tart with soft cheese and pickled shallots. Their roasted mussels will be attempted at home. As family caught up sea lions barked and a rainbow arched across the Columbia River. Time and distance melted away.
We walked to one of Astoria’s celebrated fish and chips joints for dinner. Then it was back to our Bowline suite for presents and room service delivered cocktails. We could have been young, or old. Not meeting the dawn together was the only thing that proved we are a tad past our prime. We would gather again in the morning and sample The Knot’s tasty breakfast offerings.
Christmas memories are made out of shared laughter, recollections, conversations, and just being together. After our far flung adventures and covid protocols gathering with siblings and their spouses felt like a precious luxury. No matter what is being celebrated it is the gathering that brings it home!
Thanks to Bowline’s staff for their gracious hospitality! (bowlinehotel.com)