Sunday, December 20, 2020

Memories of Christmas, 2020 version



                              Christmas at Mocarski’s in Tiverton RI 2012: L to R, Sam Coulbourn, Isaac, Kit and Sam                                              Mocarski, Elizabeth, Marty and Charlie Coulbourn.

Dear Family and Friends,

            What a crazy year we’ve been through… but there’s reason to see a HEALTHY and HAPPY 2021!

            This season I’m running on the memories of loads of Christmases:

            When my Dad had a tree so tall, he cut a hole in the ceiling, so you had to climb up to the attic to see the angel on top…

            When Marty and I celebrated our first Christmas and we found out that if you are going to cook a frozen goose, you need to thaw it for a few days.   

            When John, Mark and Susan, all around the tree, had to shield their eyes from a bright light as I shot a movie of them.

             We were steaming submerged in the Mediterranean near the island of Pantelleria, off Sicily on Christmas Day (1963) and it was reassuring to look through the periscope and see people airing their blankets and getting on with life, while we headed eastward to cover our targets on a ballistic missile submarine. Back in America people were still disturbed about the assassination of President Kennedy.

            We were living in Iran when my Dad sent Mark (age 10) a BB-gun.  Mark and his wiser, older (12) brother John set up on our roof and began shooting out the New Year’s decoration lights on the A.S.S. Dry Cleaners, next door. Little did we know what would take place there nine years later!  Muslim Iranians were fascinated by our Christmas celebration. We had to drive down to the British Embassy in southern Tehran to find a Christmas tree. That was a much different time in Iran (1970).

Next generation of BB-gunners: Charlie, Sam and Isaac (2005)

                       Marty and the kids sent me gifts that tumbled down a cargo net from a helicopter, onto the deck of my destroyer, in the Tonkin Gulf. Later that day we watched waves of B-52 bombers flying from Guam to bomb Hanoi in President Nixon’s Christmas bombing (1972).

            In three Christmases in Naples, Italy we enjoyed visiting the ancient Spacca Napoli and seeing the elaborate presepe manger scenes for sale. In our first Christmas there our cousins Nancy and Ron Pomerleau and daughters Anne and Susan, joined us, and we took the train to Florence to experience Natale there.

Presepi in Naples’ Spacca Napoli

            We spent two lively Christmases in Moscow.  Our Ukrainian maid’s husband brought us a skinny little communist tree, but with our decorations it was like holidays back home.  A Chinese general paid a call on me and brought a box of ornate feathered tree decorations from China and took delight in putting several on our tree. We drove north of Moscow to the ancient city of Zagorsk and attended a church service with flocks of priests on a frigid, snowy day. This was in the days when religion was officially frowned upon.


                                                                                      Priests at Zagorsk

             The Pomerleaus, our cousins from New Hampshire, joined us for our first Christmas in Moscow. Ron and I spent one glorious evening sitting at the kitchen table, eating caviar, smoked herring and garlic, drinking vodka and telling stories—our idea of Russian men’s evening.


                             Pomerleaus, Coulbourns and Lajoies pose for photo in Red Square. (1981)                                             L to R: Ron and Nancy Pomeleau, John Coulbourn, Susan Pomerleau, Marty, Mark and Susan  Coulbourn, Renee Lajoie, Sam, JoAnn and Roland Lajoie, and dog.

            Marty organized a gathering of all the kids of military attachés from all the embassies in Moscow home for the holidays. Our apartment was flowing with young people from Burma, Sweden, West Germany, Turkey, Finland, Great Britain, Japan, India, Thailand, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Norway and beyond.

            Then the Swedish Naval Attaché invited us to an elaborate Smörgåsbord in their home, which was one of the only wooden frame houses in downtown Moscow—one built by the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, next to the Kremlin. The Russians learned a lot about blowing things up from Nobel. What we learned from that evening is that aquavit is almost as powerful as dynamite.

                   After two years in Russia, we spent three years in Japan, and while most Japanese weren’t Christians, they jumped eagerly into the secular Santa Claus part of Kurismasu.

Marty poses beside a Japanese (artificial) Kurismasu tree (1986).

             Then I retired from the Navy and we moved to Rockport and Marty presided over many celebrations there.  Marty loved Christmas. It was always a flurry of digging out the huge box of decorations, and writing cards, and wrapping packages and cooking and enjoying family and friends.  We spent many wonderful Christmases at the homes of Sue and Ted Mocarski in Bristol, then Providence, then Tiverton, RI and with John and Laura in Topsfield, MA.

            And always, Marty would bake an assortment of spinach and lobster quiche Lorraine, a dish of scalloped oysters and her beloved molded fruit salad. And she would always preside over the making of the gravy.

                                                              "Enough with the photos!"

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


 P.S. Sorry I couldn't get this system to left-align in places!