Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas Past

I was amused reading writer Cosmo Landesman's recent account in the Sunday Times of Christmas Day spent at his hippie parents home. His mother would invite strange people to join them all for Christmas dinner - people who had no family, no children and no friends.
It rang bells with me remembering Christmas Day when our sons were young and we would be joined by Miss Lambert-Lambert. She had tutored Latin and French to our eldest son in preparation for his entry exam to a new school. 
I discovered that this rather elderly lady would be completely alone at Christmas and invited her to join us. It wasn't a 'one off' - it became a regular date until she was too frail to join us anymore.
As H and I carried the Christmas dinner to the table Miss L-L regaled us with news that she had a tiny birdlike appetite and a very delicate constitution. During the meal youngest son's eyes grew wider and wider as he watched her eat a hearty meal and then proceed to fill up her plate yet again.
I would place silver Victorian three penny pieces in the Christmas pudding, which finders could then use to make a wish. These were carefully packed away for reuse at the next Christmas season. For some reason Miss L-L kept finding them in her portion and exclaimed "Oh! see what I have found" make a wish and pop them in her pocket. Tactfully, eldest son informed her "they are not keepers Miss Lambert-Lambert." 
Unbeknown to her the day would sometimes become strained as she would decide now was a good time to test the boys on their Latin conjugations and French conversational skills, not an ideal pursuit for young boys on Christmas Day.
She would make us all laugh telling us odd and strange stories about her life which were difficult to believe, but on investigation often had an element of truth.
One Christmas I recall showing her some photos of our walking adventures in the Austrian and Swiss Alps, she quickly remarked "did Kodak compliment you on your photos?" and assured me that they did on hers!!!  Much to our amusement, and in all seriousness, she asked if we had guides and ponies to assist us in the mountains. Much later, however, she would show me a photo of herself as a young women standing in the Alps. She was wearing jodhpurs, a couple of guides were in attendance armed with ropes slung across their chests together with ponies carrying her luggage.
When I was younger I had a habit of picking up and collecting waifs and strays big time, this would lead me into countless often strange situations. Sometimes they were highly amusing but at other times would put me in an uncomfortable place.
When we moved home and location 20 years ago I decided enough was enough, and consciously made a decision that my pick up days were at an end. There would be no more Miss L-L's, Mrs P's or for that matter anymore lost and lonely old men.
Thank you very much for your very kind comments left for me over the Christmas period. I appreciated them all and enjoyed reading them on my return

53 comments:

  1. That is a funny story, you made me laugh!

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    1. We had many amusing moments with Miss L-L which still make me smile when I think about them.

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  2. Hello Rosemary, My last few years in Cleveland, we had a similar tradition of inviting stranded foreign students to Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners, and so I know what a great experience it is to open your house to people like that, although I must say that no one was quite as idiosyncratic as your Miss Lambert-Lambert.Personally, I think that you should still keep inviting her. After all, you invested a lot in your children's educations, and those Latin declensions tend to evaporate if not occasionally reinforced.
    --Jim

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    1. She passed away many, many years ago Jim, but she is still remembered by us all.

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  3. It's a nice tradition to invite people who are alone for Christmas. I could not help laughing when I read the story about Miss Lambert-Lambert, especially her birdlike appetite, but eating for two and what about the silver three pennies, haha.

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    1. I am pleased that I have been able to convey to you the spirit and character that was Miss Lambert-Lambert Janneke

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  4. My mother had the same habit and we never knew who woild be at the table for Sunday brunch. Normally there would be a foreign student or two but sometimes there would be an old priest or nun who would (horrors!) grill us on our catechism.
    I could picture you Miss LL on her trekking gear - I enjoyed this post!

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    1. Lovely to hear from you Pondside - it would have been lovely if I had the photo of Miss L-L trekking in the Alps, it definitely was from an era read about but unknown to me.

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  5. Dear Rosemary,
    this is almost a "Miss Bundle"-story! Thank you so much! (I see her before me, your Miss L -L - and the boys, tested on Latin :-) I almost had forlorn visitors myself - 2 Italians,who do not know each other, but then I decided against it - to husband's relief...

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    1. Dear Britta - you probably had a narrow escape there - I can well imagine husband's relief.

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  6. Dear Rosemary,

    I enjoyed your story of Miss Lambert-Lambert. My parents once invited an older single lady to dinner because she had appeared to be a lonely neighbor. To their delighted surprise, she turned out to be a great deal of fun and regaled everyone with stories of her years as a child living in the Wild West and much later, serving as General Omar Bradley's personal secretary. She stayed a close friend and one with whom even I exchanged correspondence. So at least sometimes that chance gesture blossoms into a great and lasting connection.

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    1. The tales surrounding Miss L-L and the places she ended up in the world are legion. She told me she was Governess in the 1920s to the King of Siam's children!

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  7. Miss Lambert-Lambert must have been an intrepid lady in her youth and an interesting teacher although perhaps not during the Christmas holiday festivities! We used to have open house when we lived in Berkshire so there were always extra people, usually singles, around our meal table. It was good to get to know them during the university years or welcome overseas students who came for a shorter period of time.

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    1. I remember her vanishing for a while and rang her up to see if she was alright. She told me she had just been to China - she was one of the first overseas visitors when the doors first opened in 1978 at that stage she was 80, so yes, she was a very intrepid lady.

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  8. Dear Rosemary, So funny. Isn't there a movie or a short story where a young publicist has lunch with a writer who repeatedly insists that she is not very hungry but would like to taste just a few of the freshest strawberries and just a little bit of a fine salad and only a morsel of some other delicacy, wile he had only coffee. The publicist, being a very young man, only had a few dollars in his pocket. By the time lunch was over he had just enough money to pay the bill.
    Poor Ms Lambert-Lambert. It would not be easy to like her. But you have a kind heart.

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    1. Dear Gina - there were two sides of the coin with Miss L-L, she was very, very entertaining, but hassle was the other side of the coin.

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  9. What a kind thing to do , to invite ms Lambert-Lambert. Seems she did have a full life.
    A real nice christmas story Rosemary.
    Do hope that your Christmas with your yongest son went well.
    We had a wonderful christmas. Still coming down from the full week of family.
    xx val

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    1. It is funny how you can read something and it sends your mind travelling down long forgotten roads into the past.
      We have had a lovely Christmas thank you Val and have been well and truly cosseted by our son, his lovely wife and the grandchildren. They each made us a gift - when people take time and care to do that it is very special.
      I am so delighted that you have also enjoyed a happy family Christmas Val.

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  10. It was very nice of you to invite Ms L over for Christmas. This is the first year I spent my Dec 25 alone but I quite enjoyed the solitude.

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    1. I don't like to think of you being alone, but if you enjoyed the solitude then that is a comfort to know.

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  11. Lovely to hear about tales of your Christmas past. Miss L-L sounded quite a character and I'm sure very grateful for your kind hospitality. Happy New Year to you and yours. :))

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    1. Thank you Patricia - it is sometimes fun to remember days past and Miss L-L was certainly entertaining in small doses. A Happy New Year also to you and your family when it arrives.

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  12. It sounds as though you must have had some very entertaining meals together! You have certainly done your bit for sharing with human kind at Christmastime. I hope you had a great Christmas and will have a wonderful new year! xx

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    1. Miss L-L was one of life's unique characters - Christmas for us was perfect, hope yours was too, wishing you a Good New Year Amy

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  13. Luckily for me, my son and his little family came to stay with me, this Christmas .. as a newly widowed person, these big holidays are rough and can be difficult for anyone alone.. so I sort of relate to little Miss LL and I am glad that you were kind to her. So many people are so wrapped up in themselves all the time, it is easy to forget those who are alone.
    My mother used to take me to a Nursing Home on Christmas afternoons .. we would just visit and talk and listen and be there for lonely old people who had no one left to love them. Perhaps like Miss L-L.

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    1. I empathise with you, and I am very pleased that you had the company of family over Christmas. Although my 'pick up' days are over, I would never knowingly neglect someone if I knew that they were on their own. As we get older being alone is something that is forever lurking in the background and for those who have no family at all it must be extremely difficult to cope with.

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  14. Lovely to hear about your Christmas past Rosemary...
    Best wishes for a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
    Greetings from a cold and snowy Öland & Titti

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    1. Your lovely Öland sounds as if you need to keep indoors Titti - take care and keep cosy♡

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  15. Well, it sounds like Ms L,L liked your cooking! We had an "extra" little lady at our Christmas dinner. My brother in laws sister never married, and they have no other close relatives. I knew she would be alone, so we invited her despite other in our family who thinks she is a little off kilter. She must have told me three times how much she appreciated the invitation. Her gratitude made me feel warm a fuzzy.

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    1. Privately I worried that she might have eaten too much and suffer some dire consequences, but not at all, she appeared to be as right as rain.
      It is nice to offer the hand of friendship when people are alone. It must be difficult to be completely alone.

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  16. I have a great friend who is very much like you in that she collects waifs and strays, devoting as much time as she can to their well-being. It does make me wonder about my own status - am I a waif or a stray, I wonder?

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    1. You are your own person Nilly - waifs and strays are lost souls.

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  17. Ms L L sounds quite the character. My thoughts went back to a nanny my mother engaged for me. She would undoubtedly have preferred working for the King of Siam, but we kept in touch for a good many years. Another woman of the world and intrepid in her own way. She ended up in the States somewhere I think.

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    1. Some of these maiden ladies did live extraordinary lives. I should imagine that many of them were alone as a result of WWl & ll. Attaching themselves to other families to care for or help educate their children was likely a very important part of their lives.

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  18. We too have picked up waifs and strays for Christmas they certainly add a different element to the day. Your Miss L-L sounded a real character. Wishing you all the best in 2015 Rosemary.

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    1. I am pleased that you picked up on the essence that was Miss L-L, even her name is a mouthful.

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  19. What an entertaining time you had with Miss L-L, Rosemary, although I do wonder what your boys thought about it :)
    We almost had a Christmas day alone this year (narrowly averted), and you have given me something to think about. Extending the hand of friendship to those who are alone is certainly a nice thing to do on a special day. I do love your collection of Victorian three-pences; my mother also had a collection of them, though of more recent monarchs. I wonder what happened to it?

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    1. Dear Patricia - The Victorian 3d bits were actually made out of silver. They vanished during decimalisation in 1971 - the last 3d bits were made of brass and were shaped like a polygon with 12 sides to them.

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  20. Oh Rosemary, I grin so much reading this!!!!!!!
    As a child I aways thought when I grew up I would invite old, lonely people to to holiday dinners. It seemed so sad to know they would be all alone and without friends or family. Somehow, I have never quite pulled it off. We always have "stray" friends and such, but not complete strangers. This last thanksgiving we talked about doing a meal for those who would otherwise have none, at our food truck, but it was too last minute… Maybe next year… I love this post and knowing this bit of your nature : )

    Cheers!!!!
    Marica

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    1. Dear Marica - Sometimes lonely people that come unexpectedly into your life can show you an extra dimension - we also need to remember and be grateful that we ourselves are surrounded by a loving family.

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  21. Some fun times in the past it seems with wonderful memories.

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    1. It is strange how half forgotten memories can be triggered by something you read or see.

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  22. Hello Rosemary
    Ms. L.L. must have enjoyed and looked forward to Christmas with you. It can be such a lonely time for some. In my single days, living in Sydney Australia, I had what became known as "the orphan's breakfast" which was ex-pats living abroad without their families. It was a lot of fun.
    Wishing you a very Happy New Year
    Helen xx

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    1. Dear Helen - I was very interested to learn about 'the orphan's breakfast' which was obviously started by some caring and thoughtful people. It is so easy to get caught up in the of the preparations for the festive season and forget that for others it is a time of difficulty.
      Greetings to you for a Happy New Year♡

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  23. Wish you very happy new year 2015, Rosemary.
    Hugs

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    1. Happy 2015 to you Orvokki and so pleased that we have met

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  24. Hello Rosemary and Happy New Year. My parents bred dogs, and our Christmases were shared with other doggie people - a pair of ladies of advanced years who had lived together as 'sisters' for the past 40 years, or a strange single gentleman who wore a wig and wore silk underwear. All fascinating, and puzzling, for a child.

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    1. The world would be a lesser place without them Stephanie - Happy New Year to you.

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  25. Dearest Rosemary,
    I want to thank you for all your kind visits over the year. For me, it has always been a pleasure to read your precious posts. Wish you and your beautiful family, happiness and may the new year bring everything you desire.
    Warm greetings
    Olympia

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    1. I am extremely touched by your kind comment dear Olympia - isn't it wonderful the way the blogosphere has brought so many of us together around the world? Sending my new year greetings to you, your husband, and your lovely young daughter.

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  26. Happy New Year Rosemary to you and your family.
    I enjoyed reading your story of Miss Lambert coming to have Christmas dinner with you - also loved the silver pennies, ( brought back happy memories from my childhood.
    Best wishes for a wonderful 2015, with good health, happiness and prosperity
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  27. Hahaha!
    Happy New Year Rosemary.....
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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  28. What a very kind gesture that was to include Miss L-L in your Christmas festivities, Rosemary and I enjoyed your reminisces of her. I imagine your kindness meant a great deal to her.

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