Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Season 1974 - 1975!!

The holiday season went into full swing the beginning of December 1974. Snow in Bethany always made the mood for a fun Christmas and New Year holiday. Ever since Marc and I got married we celebrated Christmas the German way. The exchanging of gifts was Christmas Eve. However when the children were young Marc insisted that one special gift was to be opened on Christmas Day morning delivered by Santa Claus. The children were happy with that and said we have two Christmases.

In Germany we never saw the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve - all lit up and gifts put under the tree. Candles all over the house. I followed my homeland tradition until our kids were teens. My Children never saw our Christmas tree lit until Christmas Eve. Our tradition began with Marc packing up the children and driving them around to see all the Christmas displays around the town. When they came back home after about 1 hour, I had the tree decorated, the candles lit and presents under the tree. Oh boy what excitement! Supper was before they left. Now, I do put up the tree the week before Christmas.

For the last 20 plus years we made it a tradition to have Curry Shrimp Leek Soup on Christmas Eve, listen to music and, after the kitchen is cleaned, we open presents. When the kids were little it was of course so much more fun.

Back to December 1974.  Marc and I had planned a  traditional German New Years Eve dinner in our home. The prep for Christmas had also begun - baking, cooking, and shopping with the children so they could find just the right gift for their Father.

We were quite settled in our home in Bethany by 1974 and Marc’s commute to his company was less stressful. When Marcus arrived home he showed signs of extreme fatigue, he would retreat into the Den/Music room, and yes that is what I called it. Instruments were everywhere - flute, guitar, violin, although the piano was in the living room. We also had a wet bar in the den.  Marc would sometimes pour himself a drink, which was not the norm, loosen his tie and sit down on the couch, wanting to be left alone for a while. As you know, kids want to talk right away but we had to establish some ground rules: the first 15 minutes that Marc was home, no one was to bother Dad, including me.

One of those evenings I found Marc rolling on the floor in the den in pain.  My urging him to go and see a doctor went on deaf ears for at least 2 more weeks. Finally I threatened that if he did not make an appointment I would make one with my doctor for him. I was full of fear that the children would see him rolling around in pain on the floor. I made the appointment with my doctor on December 31, 1974. That day the nightmare began.

Rodmond, Steven and Neal were helping me in the kitchen (I make a disclaimer, I can’t quite recall who all helped that day) to get the New Years Eve dinner done for 10.

During that time Marc called and said, “Well it is not aneurism.” That thought had never entered my mind.  A few minutes later the doctor called and said, “Marc does not want me to tell you this, but I feel you must know.  He has a tumor the size of a fist in his chest on the thymus gland, Cancer.  He needs to come into the hospital January 1, 1975 for surgery.

All evening while I pretended not to know the test results, I entertained our guests in a daze. Some of our friends are physicians and it so happened that 3 and their wives were our guests that evening. I recall Jeffrey, Norton and Gerald saying to me that Marc does not look too good. He was so pale and he perspired so much. I told them to take Marc out for a walk and have him tell them what is going on, he would not tell me what his thoughts were, and I had to wait until after the party.

Marc let it all out with Jeffrey, Norton and Gerald and they stayed close to him all evening for moral support. We all tried our best to be cheerful for Marc. One thing that saved the evening was some of the kids tumbling in and out. We concentrated on them and put hats on everyone and blew horns at midnight.

Shortly our guests left with a heavy heart and best wishes for 1975.

The traditional German New Years Eve Dinner was/is pork hocks and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes. I added smoked pork shops for the guest who would not eat pork hocks.

Pork hocks and sauerkraut on New Years Eve is to bring you prosperity the following year.

January 1, 1975 I took Marc to Yale University Hospital to have surgery the following day.

The saga to be continued.

German style Sauerkraut

1 quart sauerkraut
3 strips of bacon
½ onions if desired

Drain the sauerkraut and cover with water and bring to a boil, simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes. The reason for this is to take some of the tartness out of the kraut. In the meantime sauté the bacon until crisp, remove from pan and reserve the bacon grease. Crumble the bacon and save.

Now drain the sauerkraut, add the bacon grease and crumbled bacon, cook for about 5 minutes. If you like to add onions, sauté them until light brown and add to the sauerkraut.

Makes about 4 to 6 servings

No comments: