Disclaimer to the Hancey’s and Henke children: The memories are true and you will remember them all, but think of them as bits and snatches that have been floating around for almost 25 years. I grabbed them one at a time and formed them into one big ball for the this story. Please, please please, don’t tell the little man. It was either 1978 or 1979
On the 2nd Memory of Christmas …
“Hey, my name is Alice and my boyfriend’s name is Andy”, Marie Osmond’s voice rang out from the small tape player that sat on the kitchen table. My daughter Angi and her friends Annette and Jenny Hancey had been singing and dancing for hours without a break. Their faces were red and sweaty from their exhaustive dance moves, but they were preparing for a show for the two families and it was do or die.
The boys had given up tormenting the girls and had gathered every blanket and chair they could find in the house to make a huge tent in the living room. It was impressive but I couldn’t help but think about the work involved in getting all those blankets on the beds and back where they belonged. “Whew,” I thought to myself as I eased down on the edge of the sofa, trying not to disturb the heavy pile of books that were holding down the corner of their house.
It was our first Christmas in Ivins and I was doing my best to combat homesickness from the thought of not being able to get up to Draper, Utah, and attend the family parties. The closing costs on our house had been considerably higher than we’d been told and pennies were pinching at our house. Fortunately we had a little bit of a stash put away to get the children their Christmas gifts, but there was no money left for enough gas to get up to Salt Lake City, Utah, and back. We were fairly new in a small town that of people who seemed to be all related and I wasn’t feeling much of the Christmas spirit.
On the first day that the children were out of school for the holidays I decided to let the children have their friends over for the entire day. Well, actually there was a reason for this mad gesture of kindness and that was that my friend, Phyllis, needed to finish up four beautiful Christmas dresses, four Christmas nightgowns, and one nice warm pair of flannel pajama without curious children around. It was the day I’d set aside for baking … so I was willing to put up with just about anything as long as it wasn’t continually right under my nose.
The day before I had gathered ingredients and favorite family recipes and early that morning, in the tradition of my grandmothers, mother, and sister, I began baking up batches of cookies, brownies, and banana bread. I had many fingers in the batter when they thought my eyes were turned, but I figured the heat of the oven would kill any germs that were being passed around. I have to admit, I had my shares of samples as well. I may not have been with them in their kitchens, laughing, talking and stirring while beautiful Christmas music played softly in the background, but my house definitely smelled as good as theirs and I had eleven young children to keep me entertained … with the music of Donny and Marie Osmond blaring loudly in the background. As each mouthwatering treat was carefully set aside to set up or cool down, I found myself singing along with Marie’s, “Paper RoooZes, Paper RoooZes …” as I realized that I didn’t have to physically be with my family to feel the Christmas spirit. Carrying on family traditions and breathing in the familiar aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and chocolate would fill more than our tummies.
So it was time for Lynn to get the turkey in the oven. One by one the children’s eyes lit up and they quickly began to gather around … not because they loved turkey, mind you, but because our turkeys had personality. Well, at first they didn’t. At first they were just a dead old, naked, inanimate bird but as soon as Lynn picked them up and put them in the water to get washed, they magically came to life. This one was from France and his name was Jon Pierre, and he definitely didn’t like to be bathed in a kitchen full of people! He kicked, and tried to get away, and tried hard to fly with his featherless wings, all the while splashing water on the countertops and the kitchen floor. Lynn was able to calm him down with a nice massage but when he was thoroughly dried and ready for his tasty herbs and spices, Jon Pierre burst up once again in a last giant effort for freedom, chasing a screaming Brett and Ryan through the house and almost making it out the front door before Lynn was able to wrestle him back to the kitchen. He may have been one of the feistiest birds we’ve ever met. The children giggled and screamed as Lynn continued to try to reason with our turkey to no avail. Finally, in a last attempt to plead for his life, Jon Pierre sang out in a high pitched, falsetto voice, “Ta Ra Ra Boom-dee-ay, Ta Ra Ra Boom-dee-ay,” while doing the Can Can on the kitchen counter top, but everyone still gave him a merciless thumbs down and our spirited Christmas turkey was placed in the oven to roast. Satisfied with the results, the giggling children went back to their activities and Lynn and I began to mop the kitchen floor.
While the turkey sizzled in the oven I stirred up batches of delicious home-made fudge, English toffee, and peanut brittle. That night after dinner we were to be favored by a program featuring the children and Donnie and Marie Osmond … not exactly your traditional Christmas program but, hey, they’d practiced it. After Christmas caroling we would exchange gifts and read together about the birth of Jesus Christ, surrounded by our new (to be loved for many years to follow) friends and neighbors, the Hanceys.
Oh, and there is something I almost forgot to tell! When Lynn went to lift our beautifully roasted John Pierre from the oven he slid right out of the pan and onto the floor.