Group at tables

Lisa loves Christmas trees. One year, we had three in the house, but this year, she is content with one. It is not just the smell of fir resin in the air or the beauty of the lights in the dark of winter that appeals, but the opportunity to throw a party.

Our community tree trimming party in early December is an annual event. This year we invited almost 20 people; friends, former community members, people interested in the community.

Lisa picked out the tree at the tree lot. “A Frasier fir, six feet tall,” she said to the seller. She took the first one he showed her (she has an expert eye) and was done in five minutes.

Bounteous food at tree trimming

The party started with tree decorating at 4pm. The kids were into decorating for a short while, but the adults had the stamina to finish it off. Lisa has a hundred tree ornaments collected over the years, and more inherited from her mother. Between those and lights, the tree was transformed into beauty and mystery.

Several community members prepared food, and guests brought potluck, so there was an abundance when we sat down to eat; celeriac soup, chili beans, bread, hummus and pita bread, chips and salsa, salad, cheese and crackers, wine and drinks for kids. And cookies, of course, which the kids had helped make.

Then it was time for singing. We adjourned to the Blue Room, distributed the Quaker hymn books, and started calling out our selections to Lisa, who accompanied us on the piano. We had some fine voices present: Peter and Mary sing in the acapella Chicago Chorale, Lisa is a musician and singer, and Julia takes voice lessons.

We sang in O Tannenbaum in German as well as English; the pre-Christian son

33 people at New Year’s brunchg is about a fir tree and is from Silesia, the homeplace of Lisa’s ancestors.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum
Wie treu sind deine Blatter!
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum
Wie treu sind deine Blatter!
Du grunst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum
Wie treu sind deine Blatter!

New Years’ Brunch

The New Year’s Brunch tradition grew organically out of our first New Year’s Eve party in 1993. That party continued well past midnight, with Lisa’s friends Graciela and Alicia making us the last stop on their party-hopping around 4am. Out of town guests slept over, and when Lisa awoke mid-morning, she decided to feed everyone. So she whipped up brunch, and the tradition is now in its 24th year. This year, we had about 33 people.

Group at tables
Conversation at New Year brunch

While Don and former community member Katie set up tables in the Meeting Room, Lisa, Julia and Sophia started preparing large quantities of food in the kitchen. Karen and Sophia made Nutella Christmas trees. Monica (who had flown back from visiting family in the South that morning in time to help) and Sophia decorated the room and tables. Then Monica moved into the kitchen for the last hour to cook. Joe had cooked muffins earlier, avoiding the crush in the kitchen.

The 2017 menu consisted of several egg bakes (10 dozen eggs), two trays of hash browns, traditional black eyed peas, a taco salad, fruit salad, blueberry muffins, and bread. Let’s not forget orange juice (for mimosas), cookies, pecan pie and other desserts.

People at tables
33 people at brunch

Our oldest guest was 90 year old Quaker, Brad Lyttle, who has appreciated our cooking since the community moved into Quaker House. Other guest included Lisa’s colleague Deann and her two girls, Sened (one of Lisa’s former students) and his girlfriend Emily, Red, and Taylor (Julia’s school friend).
Former community members were Mary and Peter and their two kids; Carrie and Em, Katie, Sadie and Dustin, and Karen, who lives in North Carolina but visits this time each year.

After some guests had left, there was still energy for a Nerts tournament. Nerts is a card game that brings out the shadowy, competitive forces buried deep within the sweetest of women. It is a bit like a  multi-player Solitaire war. We started with eight players, with Monica and Lisa standing so they could play their cards faster. Lisa found her touch in the second round, and went on to win.

You might think that clean-up would be a burden, but it happens without being organized. So many people have lived here before that they know the routines and start washing pots and pans before the cookies are being passed, then others help put the chairs and tables away as they become free, and another shift works in the kitchen as they feel inclined until eventually it is all restored to normal.