Christmas report

This Christmas report courtesy of Nancy (thanks!):

Christmas started early with the arrival of Steve, Cate, Ben and Maggie the dog on December 22. We had Crab Bisque waiting for them on their arrival. Amy and Lib came over the next night to decorate the tree that Dick had cut down from the side of the house. I made a big batch of Mexican luncheon for the group. Ben seemed more interested in the computer, so Amy. Lib and Cate did the decorating. Christmas Eve dinner was at Amy and Lib’s and included David, Janice and Alexa in addition to the Boise family. Alexa brought her guitar and we managed some singing after dinner. Julia had to work on Christmas Eve so they didn’t arrive until afternoon on Christmas Day when the rest were off on the traditional walk to the beach. There were 14 of us for dinner including Cate’s brother Mark and his girl friend Ann. So we had a little table set up giving me a chance to use the table cloth embroidered by Auntie Bea.

The weather cooperated as it was cold but sunny so during the week after there was time to meet with David, Janice and Alexa for a walk in Discovery Park. Alexa, just turned 16 and Ben, almost 12, had a good time together during the times together so that was happy. Cate’s birthday is December 27, so Steve and Cate met friends for dinner and we took Ben to the Black Nativity that has been a Christmas specialty for the last several years. Lots of drums, dancing and gospel singing, audience clapping, gorgeous costumes. Ben told Cate it was awesome. Steve and Cate had time while here to see the Michelangelo drawings and the Calder exhibit, to see friends and more of Cate’s siblings

They left the morning of January 30, Dick worked at his part time job and we went to Lopez on the 31st to celebrate the New year with Mike and Julia. We decided Boise time was late enough to stay up. So the 2 of us had a long lazy weekend spending more time with M and J, then with Mike after Julia went to work, coming back home on Monday, stopping for oysters at the Edison Tavern.

As Nancy explained (or re-explained) to me later, Autie Bea was one of GG’s sisters, so she was Beah’s aunt. Nancy said she was single and worked in a bank I think, maybe  in Chicago. When Betsy and Sid’s parents died–who were Beah’s cousins and children of the children of one of GG’s brothers–Auntie Bea moved to Seattle to take care of them “and stayed here to be their Mom.”  While Frank and Beah were in Berkeley, Beah spent a lot of time with Auntie Bea; that was the year before Nancy and Dick were married, which is what led to Auntie Bea making the beautiful tablecloth and napkins for her.

A Calder Mobile

Let joy be unconfined (happy new year)!

Here is yet another family history post, this one in the form of a speculative history of a phrase associated with a particular grandmother (of Nancy’s, great-grandmother of the Rust kids’ generation, great-great-grandmother of the Arcadia, Alexa, and Ben generation, and great-great-great grandmother of Arlo Murch): the phrase “Let joy be unconfined,” a favorite of Blanche Shuttleworth (née Blanche Sokol, 1869-1957; read short biography here), aka Nanny.

To us lit’rary types a phrase like that has the ring of a quotation. So I did a little “google-ing” and discovered that the phrase comes from (or was at least used by) Lord Byron in his poem “The Eve of Waterloo,” which is a part of his long narrative poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage published between 1812 and 1818. The poem “The Eve of Waterloo” (read the whole poem here) is about a fancy ball given the evening before one of the battles before the great battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, at which Napoleon was defeated by British and Prussian forces. At the ball, the party-goers first think they hear the sounds of battle but decide they don’t and keep on dancing and celebrating; eventually, though, it’s clear that they were right in the first place, and they leave the party to go off to fight. Here are poem’s first stanzas:

There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium’s capital had gathered then
Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o’er fair women and brave men.
A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell;
But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!

Did ye not hear it? — No; ’twas but the wind,
Or the car rattling o’er the stony street;
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when youth and pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.
But hark! — that heavy sound breaks in once more,
As if the clouds its echo would repeat;
And nearer, clearer, deadlier than before;
Arm! arm! it is — it is — the cannon’s opening roar!

Could Nanny have picked up the phrase “Let joy be unconfined” from Byron’s poem? Maybe, but if not from there, it turns out that it’s a phrase that was used frequently in all kinds of Iowa newspapers–many published near Sibley–where more often than not it’s stripped of the sense of foreboding that surrounds it in Byron’s poem. In an article from February 11, 1929 (in the run-up to another kind of Waterloo . . . ), the phrase is used in the Mason City Globe-Gazette in an article about Mardi Gras (see full page with lots of interesting ads here):

Mason City Globe-Gazette, February 11, 1929

Another appearance of the phrase is in a fairly long article in the Humboldt County Republican devoted to superstitions about weddings, published on April 11, 1895, tantalizingly near and in advance of Blanche’s and Will’s wedding in 1896. Wrapping up a discussion of superstitions about wedding dates and localities, the article enjoins, “Let joy be unconfined to any locality. The date of your wedding day will always prove the anniversary of the best day in your life.” Could the bride pictured below have remembered the phrase “let joy be unconfined” from reading an article about wedding dates while looking forward to her own?

Blanche Sokol and William Shuttleworth, 1896