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Longboat Key Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020 1 year ago

Holidays past and present on Longboat Key

No holiday season has ever quite been like 2020, and many hope there's never another one.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

It seems the world has squeezed out every way of saying that 2020 will bring a new set of holiday trials and traditions. You don't need us to come up with another pithy phrase to say it again. It's going to be weird. It's going to be different. But we're going to get through it and return to long-held and briefly interrupted Christmas and Hanukkah traditions once more. This year, your neighbors reminisced on holidays past and plans for holidays present, with an ever-hopeful eye towards the promise of holidays future. 

Scott Wuesthoff

Scott Wuesthoff 

My kids generally visit every other year, alternating between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas Eve is generally devoted to Christ and attending a Christmas Eve service at All Angels Episcopal Church followed by a generally low-key family dinner. All are allowed to open one present, not from Santa as he has yet to arrive . . .  by boat. Christmas Day starts with opening presents, followed by a wonderful homemade brunch and then stocking presents.  The rest of the day is generally very relaxing and may include friends dropping by for some holiday cheer. This year is lining up to be much of the same in that my children were here for Thanksgiving. Not that things are changing but I do miss my kids each year when not present. There is nothing more special or dear than family. We are very sensitive to those whose holiday plans have been turned upside down and expect to invite them for a Christmas Day Open House. The goal is to ensure no one celebrates/experiences such a magnificent day alone.

Debby McClung and her family.

Debby McClung 

We always gathered at my Nana's house for Christmas Eve along with all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and anybody else that wanted to show up for a grand eve. When she passed we took turns hosting Christmas Eve at the other family homes. Last year I lost both my parents, and with COVID-19 I'm spending a quiet Christmas at home with my roommate. Travel this year is just too risky for me. There will be a Christmas next year and I hope to make it a "Grand Christmas" again.

Chris and Tammy Sachs during a cold Christmas past.

Chris and Tammy Sachs 

Christmas forever changed for us when we relocated to Florida from Connecticut permanently in 2017, An early retirement opportunity allowed us to switch from snowbirds to sunbirds.” This has changed many things in our lives, especially Christmas. Holidays up north invariably involved snow and downhill skiing.  Holidays here in paradise involve sand and water skiing — in theory anyway. While enjoying all aspects of the LBK’s sun and surf, I confess that I have actually not water skied yet. Tammy says that when you live in a vacation destination, everyone comes to you. That was the case in our first three Christmases in Florida. Family dispersed throughout the country found their way down to the Gulf Coast for a welcome respite from nor’easters and black ice.  But COVID-19 has changed all that. Like everything else, Christmas 2020 will be virtual. Tammy says that while they will certainly miss the physical presence of our kids, it does take a lot of the pressure off the holidays, especially the traveling. It will be a quieter and more reflective holiday. Given the current climate, perhaps that’s a good thing.

Susan Gorin's family: Joe Meth, Jayne Meth, Bonnie Wilder, Roz Ehrenpreis (front), Karen Gary, Skip Wilder (back) and Bob Gary with his grandson Andrew Lieber.

Susan Gorin

In the past [at Hanukkah] we would be getting together with adults whose children are far away, so we [would] gather together and light Hanukkah candles, with the exception of Gary’s grandson (It must've been winter break). All the people in the photo live in our neighborhood and we had a dinner together, but first we lit candles. It was a social event. Being with others at Hanukkah is really important and lighting the candles is so beautiful. As you can see we lit a lot of candles and it was only the third night of Hanukkah, so imagine nine candles times however many menorahs were present. We are Zooming with our kids who live in Tennessee and California and they each received two dozen latkes today. There's always FaceTime [every year]. Even though it’s just David and me I just decorated for Hanukkah. I put up big banner, took out all the dreidels, I'm silver polishing the menorahs and it’s really just for us but it is a fun and beautiful happy holiday.

Bob and Carol Erker with their granddaughter, Penny, in 2019.

Carol Erker

Every Christmas since we moved to Longboat Key from the Chicago area in 2014, we have packed our cold-weather clothes and snow boots and headed back up to Chicago to spend the holidays with family and friends. Last year was very special as we got to greet our newest grandchild, Penny, who was born on Dec. 15, 2019. Now she is crawling and standing and babbling as she celebrates her first birthday, but we have determined that it is not safe for us to travel to be with her for her birthday and the holidays. As much as we enjoy our visits with her over WhatsApp, it just can't compare with being there to hold her chubby little hands and hear her laughter in person. We will have a quiet holiday here, probably just the two of us — a big change from past years.

Gail Loefgren 

 A normal holiday season for my family is church on Christmas Eve  with my daughter, her husband and the three grandboys. Then on Christmas Day there’s a family gathering for 13 of us with turkey and all the trimmings. As soon as dinner is over, presents are opened. Everyone looks forward to emptying the stockings as my big present is always at the bottom of each stocking. This year, we have yet to discuss the ways in which we will celebrate. I for sure will be attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service online. The events on Christmas Day will be dictated by COVID-19 and whether it will be safe to gather. Our decision is not even about traveling as all 13  of us are in Bradenton. On Christmas Eve what I will miss the most if I feel uncomfortable  is attending church in person and the shared experience. And, on Christmas Day, if we are not able to all be in the same house, in the same room, what I will miss the most is the look on the grandkids faces when they open their presents. But, I want all of my family to be safe and stay healthy so we may all be together at holiday time in 2021!!

Murray and Alice Blueglass

Murray Blueglass 

Often family will come gather but it will be just the two of us for Hanukkah. In spite of the fact that we won’t be near family we will be Zooming, and that’s good because you get to see them. One thing that’s never going to change as long as the two of us are together is Alice’s potato pancakes (latkes). They are the lightest potato pancakes ever. My mother was from Poland and learned to cook heavy and even her lemon meringue pie you had to eat with a knife and fork always said potato pancakes were supposed to be heavy. But Alice’s are so delicious. To this day I don’t know what she puts in them but whatever it is is absolutely magnificent. When you bite into them they are so crisp. I regret when the holiday is over and we can’t eat them anymore. 



Mary Baker with her granddaughters on Longboat Key during a warm Christmas past.

Mary Baker

Every year we get together with some or all of our five grandchildren during the holidays.  We have four granddaughters close in age, and they all love swimming.  We have spent many happy holidays together at the beach and pool here on Longboat Key.  Sadly, this year will be different as no one is going to travel.  We will miss them but look forward to next year's holiday festivities.

Mary Lou Johnson with her daughters, Erica and Randi and granddaughters, Carlin, Lucy and Ellie

Mary Lou Johnson 

So I must ask: What is normal anymore?! I think the name of the game is to keep plans very fluid as exposure or actually catching COVID happens in a flash.  

Our Thanksgiving plans usually have been to go to Tallahassee to stay with one daughter’s family along with our other daughter’s family, who drive up from Tampa. We are all together going on hikes and just hanging out.  I love just spending time with them all.

However, this year one week before Thanksgiving, that plan evolved through several different plans with the final one being that no one was going anywhere just to be safer. Fortunately, we do see them often so it was sad but not as difficult as if it was a rare visit.  

Past Christmas plans and present plans at this moment are that both daughters’ families come here to Longboat Key. They all love to cook, so Bill and I luck out and get the privilege of playing with our four grandchildren, 5, 3, 3, and 1 years old, during the food preparations! With four water babies, we all love being outdoors at the beach or pool. We keep it fun and easy. We will cook and get take out, which works well with their young ages and early bedtime.

One family then usually flies on Christmas Day to in-laws up north although this looks doubtful this year. This is all a few weeks out, so God only knows!  I love that they all wake up here together for Christmas morning.  I truly hope that doesn’t change.  

For now, all are healthy and we are counting our blessings, taking one day at a time……and staying very fluid with the Christmas planning.

My prayer for all is for strength and direction to do what we need to do to put this all behind us.  

Mike and Nicki Bergin are still dealing with flooding from Tropical Storm Eta at their Twin Shores home.

Mike Bergin 

About a month ago, we got flooded out from Tropical Storm Eta.

Next morning while cleaning up the seawater/backed up sewage in our condo, Nicki slipped on the wet floor tiles in our living room and fell very badly on her hip. [We called]  911 to take her to Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

After tests, it was determined to be nothing more serious than a bad contusion

She came out after six days to rehab at home only to be told within 24 hours that they needed to pretty much demolish our condo internally along with our four neighboring condos and the rebuilding will take approximately three months due to storm surge.

So, our condo has literally been demolished internally by SERVPRO. And, when I say demolished, I mean there is nothing left inside whatsoever! Rebuilding started Dec. 7.

[The] silver lining [is] our neighbor four doors down is not coming down at all for the season and has lent us his condo indefinitely as he cannot visit his season (COVID-19) because he lives in Canada!

Nicki and I have been overwhelmed with the daily outpouring of kindness [and] thoughtfulness and generosity by all in “Our Twin Shores Family!”

The constant flow of visitors to our front porch to check in on us (especially Nicki) daily, has been emotionally amazing!

We are all truly blessed to live among such kind-hearted people!

Cheri Starn

[In] December 2019, all the traditional Christmas events came to a quick halt. Our mother, 83 checked in at an annual dentist appoint, within 24 hours she was sitting in an oral surgeon's chair for a biopsy in her mouth, within a matter of days she was seen at The Ohio State James Cancer Hospital for further testing.  All the results indicated surgery was needed to remove a cancerous tumor.

From the moment our mother left the dentist chair, the family prayer chain was put into action.  Six children and spouses, 13 grandchildren & their spouses, 14 great grandchildren surrounded our parents. We all witnessed many Christmas miracles unfold as her surgery date of Dec. 23 approached. We gathered together that morning at 5:30 a.m.  as mom/Grammie was checked in.

"No One In This Family Fights Alone” and surrounded by love, my mom went into surgery and for 12 hours straight we gathered as family and several friends, prayerfully waiting to hear each update from the nurses and doctors. Christmas 2019, could not have been less traditional for the Dewitz family, but no one cared.

We were together in a rented VRBO eating off paper plates, celebrating the joy of mom’s successful surgery and God’s blessings over our family. It’s been almost a year as I share this, the recovery road for mom has been very long and definitely still not over.

COVID posed even more challenges to her recovery and isolation from many of her loved ones. Mom remains faithful and continues to fight every day.

I know we are not alone, it’s been a hard year for many families. [I’m] hoping everyone continues to stay strong and, above all, love and support each other.

Residents of the Longboat Harbour Condominium complex held a contest to see which dock had the best holiday lights setup.

Bill Coughlin 

Even with COVID-19 and a shutdown of social events at  arguably one of the most social communities on Longboat Key, the Yacht Club decided we could still do our Lighting of the Docks event to add holiday spirit, celebration and cheer to our community.  Many residents who normally go North for the holidays decided to stay at Longboat Harbour this year because of the travel restrictions and health concerns, making this event all that more special for the community.

All 43 docks in our inner harbor plus our south fishing pier were decorated.  Almost 10 docks were decorated by individuals or groups who adopted the dock because the boater was out of town. Picking the top five best-decorated docks was quite a challenge because everyone did such a great job. The top five docks were awarded gift certificates to Lazy Lobster.

On Dec. 5 at dusk from the South Fishing Pier (we call it Christina's Pier because Christina Filkins has decorated it for years), residents began the stroll of our inner harbor to view the docks. Everyone was wearing their masks and stayed in groups of less than 10. 

After everyone finished strolling all the docks, many residents strolled back to dock 17 where our old Sea Dog Larry Bateman was sitting on a sailboat. Bateman just retired from the Yacht Club as Dock Master. He also served in the past as a Commodore and a former member of the LBH Board of Directors. Bateman pumped out more boats and repaired more broken dock lines than anyone in this community. Residents spread out on the grass as the Yacht Club presented Bateman with a plaque and a few gift and sang  "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."


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