Cat (willowisp) wrote,

The Koledy Saga

I've mentioned the koledy saga a few times in passing, and I figured that if I don't write it up now, it might not get written until next December. While the most intense part only spanned a few months of 2001 and the beginning of 2002, it was somewhere between five and ten years in the making. As the writing has progressed it's also intertwined with the "Grandpa and cancer" timeline.

The best way to begin is to explain what koledy are, aside from ways to make the LJ spellcheck freak out. The word has several possible pronunciations, but the two you will hear if I ever mention koledy are as follows: kole/yen'/da and kole/en'/da, with the accent on the second syllable. The first is how my family pronounces it, so will be more common; the second is how it is pronounced in one of the songs on the album. Koledy (used both as singular and plural) are Polish Christmas carols. Note that they are not "traditional" carols sung in Polish, but instead carols which originated in Poland and aren't heard much outside of Poland or areas of Polish concentration elsewhere.

The album we grew up with was called Christmas in Poland, and was sung by a men's choir. I believe they were priests or training to be, since the choir is listed as "The Schola Cantorum of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary Directed by Rev. Henry A. Waraksa". The songs aren't quite a capella since there is some accordion music bridging sections together, but the songs proper are in large part unaccompanied. At one point I memorized one of them to sing for some school or girl scout event, but though I can still sing the words, unfortunately I have very little idea what they mean. Maybe if Grandpa gets better I could learn more than a few words here and there from him -- it's one of those things I'd always meant to do at some point; learn Polish from him.

Anyway, things happened and I ended up spending several Christmases alone or with my (future) in-laws, and while I always missed the koledy, I never got around to asking about them. Then, in late July or early August of 2001 (I apparently put it in a PS to which Mom responded on August 4th) I mentioned them to Mom in an e-mail, and she replied that the two extent albums (one of Grandpa and Grandma's, and one we had) had disappeared. She said that Uncle Rich had a copy on tape, and she and Gerry had a copy of some other koledy they'd bought, but which none of us had liked. At some point we found out that the tape Uncle Rich had was of the latter, not the one we wanted.

When I telecommuted for IDT, my main job was taking long-dead links and trying to find the new site or, barring that, similar content. Along with learning a lot about manipulating Lynx (the area I was working for was aimed at people on pre-windoze machines), I also learned quite a bit about web-searching -- which keywords to use, how to narrow down or expand searches, when and how to come up with creative variations on keywords which yielded no results, and so on. I remembered the album title and Mom remembered somewhat hazily the name of the choir and, armed with that, I began a search.

There is a woman who hangs out on TooMUSH; Chance. Her parents were raised and married in Poland, and she speaks Polish fluently. She helped a lot (not the least of which was telling me how to spell "koledy"), though among her family's extensive koledy collection she didn't find a match based on the sparse information I had. I still need to get a copy of the music and send it to her in case she doesn't have it, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, as the astute may have guessed, "Christmas in Poland" yielded about a trillion results. There are many other albums by that title, as well as webpages, as well as that specific phrase. The two variants of the choir name which Mom had given me, when coupled with the album title, resulted in nothing. I went through several permutations of koledy and kolenda as well as the choir name snippets, and eventually found a CD of koledy by a group with the same name as the snippet, but something about it made me believe it was not what we were looking for. Mom also tried searching for it offline, enlisting the aid of (this is one of those cousin of a friend's hairdresser things) some friends of a Russian Orthodox minister whose daughter was one of my sister's best friends.

Pamela, my sister, married the first Dave in 1997. He was in the Marines, and ended up being stationed in San Diego. He and Pamela moved down there, I believe, in 1998. They moved back in one of the two years which Andy interned in Ca, because they visited us on their way home. The marriage broke up when they got back to Rome, and Pamela never unpacked. Finally, on or near October 13, 2001, she began unpacking and found our copy of the album. There was only one problem: it was an LP, and none of our family had an LP player.

I began scouring the web again with the corrected information, while in Rome they turned to Tanya's dad (the aforementioned minister), who had an LP player. Unfortunately, somewhere between a trip to California and back and sitting in a damp basement for a year or three, the album had taken on some hissing and such. Also, while it was being taped Tanya's dad was walking around and bumped the player on the last song. Still, we had that much, and at Thanksgiving in Rhode Island, my Uncle Rich played it and he and Andy tried to come up with a way to get better sound quality. We went home with a CD of it.

Then the Grandpa saga began with the news that he had something other than the skin cancer he'd been dealing with for years. They went unplayed while I started trying to arrange a last Christmas Eve with him (my first message to the family about possibly doing a traditional Christmas Eve dinner was sent on Dec 14th, with the initial plan to do the dinner in February in Florida. I also first floated two ideas, one to get him a computer (this was shot down in no uncertain terms by Grandpa himself) and the other to make a photo album for him, but I digress). On Dec 17th I got e-mail from Uncle Rich saying he liked the Christmas Eve in Feb idea, and also noted that a friend had found some promising information regarding a good copy of the LP and a noise-reduced CD of same, but it wouldn't pan out for at least 6-8 weeks, placing the potential date in February.

The plans for Christmas Eve in Feb fell flat due to a non-reaction from some of the family, then I got diagnosed with diabetes in January and let more or less everything slide. Then, in May USAir ran a fare sale to Rome and I jumped on it. While there we invited Grandpa, Mary, and Grandma Shad over, and I told Grandpa about how I'd tried to arrange a Christmas Eve, and Grandma Shad (Have I mentioned recently how much I adore her?) asked why we couldn't still do it. That got Grandpa going, and we sort of hashed out that Columbus Day weekend would be the best time to do it, since Aunt Eileen, who works for the government, gets the Monday off and can't take discretionary time off usually. Grandpa said he'd make sure she came, and I believe Mom may've called Gerry and Uncle Rich that night and they both liked the idea.

Meanwhile, Uncle Rich had been busy. In January he'd sent mail to his siblings asking for a picture of Grandma, and Gerry had found one. On July 4th Uncle Rich, Aunt Mel, Christopher and Susanna went to Rome, and Uncle Rich left behind a bunch of CDs. They have the koledy and a picture of Grandma, plus the dates of her birth and death and the words "In memory of". They're beautiful both to look at and listen to.

The way it worked out, from what I can tell, is this: Uncle Rich contacted a guy who is an audio wizard. He went and found as good a copy of Christmas in Poland as we could hope to get, given how old it is. He then made a master CD from it with as much reduction and enhancement as possible, and sold Uncle Rich the album (so Uncle Rich is the owner) and the master (to which Uncle Rich was then entitled because the album is very definitely out of print). He then made copies for anyone he thought might want one.

On July 25th we found out that Grandpa had relapsed or, more probably, had never been in remission in the first place. I've pretty much journalized since then, but the gist is that on August 1st our worst fears were confirmed, on August 2nd Andy found some good airfares to Rome, and in late August I took the first of several months' trips in a row. Uncle Rich and crew were there, and we solidified plans for October. In September Aunt Eileen and crew were there and we managed to make sure Aunt Eileen would be here in October and also convinced Kim, Meredith, and Sandy to come along. In September I started gathering photos for Grandpa's album.

Finally October came, and Gerry and Mom had decided to have the gathering in a hall instead, and the whole thing is summarized here. The koledy were played during the dinner itself, though I forgot to mention them in the entry.

At around 07:00 on February 17th, I got the call.
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