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Christmas with Pam and Terry
My youngest brother Terry and his wife Pam and their daughter Megan, invited Mother and I to spend Christmas day with them at their home in Newmarket, New Hampshire. On Christmas morning I arrived at Mother's house around 10 AM and found her busy watching the Rose Bowl parade; a holiday tradition for many years. There was a time when her living room was filled with the sounds of six young boys excitedly tearing open Christmas presents and having the time of their lives. In those days my Great Aunt Tante spent the night sleeping on the living room couch. I remember her thick Dutch accent and silver white hair. My brothers and I always had to wait until she rose and ate her breakfast, before we could enter the living room and open our presents. It always seemed like an eternity.
Today was a little more subdued. All my brothers have long since moved away from home and started families of their own. Presents from each of them and their families sat on the couch. Mother sat next to them and was talking on the phone to Ronnie who lived with his wife Kathy and their children in West Virginia. Over the course of a few days around Christmas all of my brothers and many of their children would call home or stop by to visit.
Like years long past, a small pile of brightly wrapped presents were sitting on a chair, waiting to be opened by me. Together, Mother and I opened our presents, and shared comments and compliments about the givers and the gifts. I crunched up paper and tossed it to a couple of the six cats who lived with Mother. A few played with the paper for a while and then went to sleep. Later, Mother and I ate lunch and packed her car for our journey. The weather was mild and the ground was bare. After a pleasant four hour drive we arrived in Newmarket, New Hampshire just as the sun was setting.
Six to eight inches of snow blanketed the small town of Newmarket and bright Christmas lights adorned homes and businesses. The air was crisp and cold. I could see my breath fog the night air as we walked up the front steps of Terry and Pam's home. A beautifully decorated Christmas tree sat in one corner of their living room and underneath were still quite a few presents. Much to our surprise, the abundance of presents were for Mother and I. We gave Pam, Terry and Megan their gifts we brought from home. All of us spent the next 45 minutes opening our Christmas presents and sharing warm thoughts and conversation.
Soon it was time for dinner and the fine china and crystal were set in place. A delicious meal of roast beef, potatoes and green bean salad followed. After the meal we sat around the table and shared pleasant memories of times past.
The next day Terry treated Mother and I to lunch and then took us for a scenic drive along the coast of New Hampshire. We started in historic Portsmouth, located just across the river from Kittery, Maine. Many old and elegant buildings adorn Portsmouth's historic district. We walked around a small, colonial era district that was an open air museum. Unfortunately most of the homes were closed for the holidays but I think that it would be a fascinating place to visit during warmer weather.
We followed a narrow, winding two lane road that gently hugged the coastline. The cold and grey waters of the open Atlantic ocean curled and crashed upon the rocky beaches to our left. Beautiful, colonial era and a few more modern homes dotted the rolling hills to our right. On we traveled, past Wallis Sands State Park, past Rye Beach and on to North Hampton beach where daring surfers in wet suits braved the frigid Atlantic waters.
The harbor in Portsmouth on a cold winter day.
Along the coast of New Hampshire
near Rye Beach.
As the sun started to set in the cold winter sky we turned north and headed back to Newmarket and another delicious meal. Megan was absent from the table so the conversation was not as animated as the previous night. None the less we ate an enjoyable meal of turkey, potatoes and vegetables. Tired from the long day, we turned in early.
The next day, all of us except Megan, drove to a small cottage on a lake in Maine that Pam and Terry were renovating. It was cozy and comfortable, nestled between pine trees on a long and narrow lake in the small town of Casco, Maine. It reminded me a of a cottage along Lake Wyola in Massachusetts that my brothers and I often spent our summer vacations at. The air felt the same; cool and crisp and heavy with the scent of evergreens. Like Lake Wyola, the water here was pure enough to drink and crystal clear.
Today a thick sheet of ice covered this lake from shore to shore. A lonely floating dock sat upon the bank. An idle motor boat rested in the garage. We made ourselves comfortable inside the warm cottage. Terry, Pam, Mother and I passed away the evening with pleasant conversation and dined on homemade turkey soup and toasted cheese sandwiches.
Only a few miles from Terry and Pam's cottage is a looming hill with a Christian shrine at the summit. Terry and I hiked to the top along a surprisingly steep, paved path. The cold, dry air numbed my fingers and burned my lungs. I stopped several times to catch my breath. At the peak was a hand carved, wooden statue of Mother Mary and child, a holy well and several lovely rock gardens. The view to the north and west was unobstructed. Off in the distance was the Presidential range of the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. Mount Washington stood clearly on the horizon as it rose above the lesser peaks.
The next day was bright, sunny and surprisingly warm. Terry and I rose early, went to town and saw the sights. Later we picked up Pam and Mother, packed the car and headed out for a hearty breakfast at a small, country restaurant. We leisurely drove back to Newmarket via a scenic route that wound around pristine lakes and passed through mill towns full of old brick buildings. A little past noon we arrived in Newmarket. Megan joined us as we posed for a good-bye photo. The sun was bright and the snow was melting rapidly in the balmy, 50 degree air. Another Christmas had come and gone but this one was special. We shared presents and created memories that would last a lifetime.
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