The Fifth Memory of Christmas

Today’s memory is brought to you via our Christmas Letter from 1977.  Just so you know …  We have five children, our youngest being born May 5, 1977, and our oldest turning 9 on December 9, 1977.    

“Twas the week before Christmas, and all through our house

Not one person was pleasant, not even our mouse.

The whole fam’ly was sick, with some kind of flu,

Even PaPa was home having aches and pains too.

And he with his hanky, to catch all the sneezing,

Was trying to help MaMa reduce some of the wheezing.

And Kimmy, the baby, so sweet and so happy,

Had just settled down for her afternoon nappy.

When from her room there arose such a clatter,

We sprang from our sick beds to see what was the matter.

She was jolly and plump, a real cute little elf …

But I gagged when I saw her, in spite of myself.

She was covered with poop from her head to her feet,

And so was her blanket, and pillow, and sheet.

Lynn spoke not a word but went straight to his work,

Since she’d filled both her stockings, she went with a jerk

To the john, and was stripped and put in her tubby,

By St. Nick himself, who looked just like my hubby.

He laid both of his fingers aside of his nose,

As the smell from the child in the tubby arose.

And giving a sigh and a nod of his head,

He sent me to clean up the stuff in her bed.

She cleaned up quite well and and was smelling quite nice,

When I saw Lynn in his work clothes and splashing Old Spice.

And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight.

“It’s much safer at work.   I’ll see you tonight!”

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The 4th Memory of Christmas, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus

     Beautiful music stirs my arms to goose bumps. Maybe that’s why I always feel cold. One of the most challenging things I’ve done with my musical talent is participating in an organ/piano duet from Handel’s “Messiah” while Dad directed the Draper 4th Ward choir. Dad committed mother and I to do it long before we knew about it, let alone were convinced it could be done. I’d played the piano part with Marilee Sjoblom on the organ a few years earlier for a special ward talent night program, and mother and I had played it together at home for easy to impress friends and relatives, but to play it while the choir was singing and the congregation sat with high expectations seemed more than a little formidable to us both. I didn’t like feeling I could mess it up for THAT many people. It would take hours and hours and hours of practice … and then it would still take a miracle.

     At just about any given evening hour either Mother or I would be sitting alone at the piano or organ, or we would be sitting there together, carefully counting and practicing together … sometimes crying … always encouraging each other … as we tried to learn our parts well enough to accompany the choir. By the time we started practicing with the choir we both felt it would take more than a Christmas miracle for Dad to pull this one a off. If we got off, the choir would get mixed up. If the choir got mixed up it would throw one or both of us off. Through it all Dad just kept telling us, “You can do it, there’s plenty of time. If you do all you can do to prepare for this program, angels will fill in the gaps.” I thought he was asking a lot from the angels. “Choir members began to pat our backs after choir telling us not to stress, that it was “coming together so … nicely”. Well, of course, we stressed anyway. It’s in our genes.

     I would dare say we played that song four hundred times over the next four weeks and by the week before the performance we could play it together “good enough” most of the time, and more frequently we each played it “very well” … but never at the same time. We had not once achieved what either of us considered “excellent”, either alone or together. At our final, dress rehearsal (our choir practices were at 6:00 AM Saturday mornings) with dad conducting and the full choir singing, we each made one mistake after another. It was disheartening to say the least. We didn’t think our nerves, or our bowels, would survive. I secretly wished I would slip on the ice and break my arm.

     On the day of the performance, the choir bowed their heads while Dad offered a simple prayer that went something like, “We are just humble children who want to do our best on this joyous occasion. We have diligently practiced, putting in many hours privately and together. Please send angels who can buoy us up and fill in any gaps, that those who have come to worship the birth and the life of thy Son, Jesus Christ may feel of Thy spirit.”

     Well, we did receive a miracle that day. Our choir of thirty five members sounded like a host of heavenly angels and Mom and I didn’t miss a note. What ecstatic joy we all felt as we played the last booming chords exactly together. For a moment the choir stood silently in awe while Dad, who was limp with emotion, stepped from his little raised podium and sat down, wiping the tears from his face with his folded handkerchief. “Mom whispered, “Lewy, LEWY … you forgot to have them sit down again!” (This was something he often forgot to do and the choir members had threatened to remain standing until he got back up and sat them down.) He stood and turned to face the patiently waiting choir members once more and opened the lapels of his coat to reveal a sign he’d pinned to his stiffly starched, white shirt that read, “You may be seated.” (My Dad never failed to bring a smile to people’s faces and this was no exception.)

     It was a marvelous experience for a teenager and one I think of every year when I pull out my box of Christmas music. Thank you Mom and Dad for always believing in me and pushing me to reach beyond what I think I am capable of.

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The fourth, no … third Memory of Christmas

Christmas Eve and (Almost) Five Years Old Edna

Well, let’s see now…

     When little Edna was (almost) five years old she was such a true believer in Santa Clause that it was inconceivable that there could be any doubt he existed.    By then, of course, she could remember what had happened the year before and she could hardly wait for it to happen again.

     Edna’s older siblings worked hard during December to fill her to the brim with stories and activities so that by Christmas Eve her excitement level was bubbling over the top.    As her father would say, “She was as jumpy as a fart on a hot skillet.”    Her only sister was twelve years older than Edna, and her brothers were ages eight and ten years older; it was the perfect time to work on Edna’s imagination.    She seriously soaked in everything she was told about Santa, his elves, the North Pole, and Santa’s Toy Shoppe … and it was all vividly painted in her imagination.

      Her brothers told her tales of Santa’s elves and how they jumped from snowy fence post to snowy fence post; how they were so fast that you rarely ever saw more than a blur from the corner of your eye as they ran around gathering notes for Santa’s list.   The brothers knew everything about the elves from the tips of their pointed little hats right down to the bells on their curly little shoes.   They knew where they slept when they were on “duty” and how they would sneak in at night to get warm by the coal-burning upright heater in our living room and sneak little nibbles from our bread.    Bill swears to this day that he saw one leap the high fences that corralled the farm animals who lived down the dirt lane from our home to the barns at the back of our three acre lot.    They would take Edna to the windows of the house and watch for elves, occasionally screaming, “Did you see it?   Did you see it?”   At first, she didn’t … but by the time Christmas came around, she was pretty sure she was seeing them too.    Both of her brothers made sure she understood the seriously worrisome details of how easy it was to get on Santa’s “Naughty” list, particularly if you disobeyed your older parents, your sister, or your brothers.   (This story teller knows it was their way of expressing their love).   

     Ann, was in high school, and Edna thought she was the prettiest, nicest big sister you could have ever, ever … ever wish for and she always seemed to make sure every holiday there was plenty of “sister time”.    She would show her pictures of the North Pole and tell her stories of Santa’s workshop, how the toys are made, and how easy it is to stay on Santa’s “Nice” list.   

      On Christmas Eve, after visiting some neighbors, singing carols together with the family and reading the story of Christmas from the Bible, it was time to hang up the Christmas stockings.    Edna was trying to find the biggest stocking she could among the ones in her drawer but her foot was much smaller than the ones everyone else had found.   Her mother found her sitting on the sofa, arms folded across her chest and a big frown on her face. 

     “What are you doing sitting here like that?   You better hang up your stocking and get to sleep before Santa comes or he will see us still up.   He has to visit every house in the world, and you know, he never comes unless we are asleep,” Mother told the pouting little girl.

     “My stockings are too little.   Santa won’t even be able to give me a big orange and apple in its toe,” she grumbled, holding up her longest stocking, which compared to the others was, indeed, very small.    “That’s what he puts in the toe, because I know.”

     Daddy, who overheard this exchange winked at her and motioned secretly with his finger for her to follow him.   They went around the corner, through the kitchen, down the hall, and into her parents bedroom, which was filled with mysterious shopping bags and lumpy things that were covered with Mother’s table cloths.    Finally, inside the closet, Daddy opened the drawer that held his neatly rolled socks and told her she could pick any one of them.

     “I can?” Edna asked excitedly.   “Won’t Santa care if it isn’t my own stocking?”

     Daddy laughed and said, “No, I absolutely know for sure that Santa won’t care if you choose one of mine.” 

     And so she did.    She chose the longest stocking in Daddy’s drawer and went running happily back to hang it in the living room where five other stockings were already hanging in a row.  (This memory was three years before Reed was born.)

     “Now Santa can fill it clear full,” she thought to herself as she sat once more on the sofa to look at the Christmas room; the decorations, the lights on the beautiful tree in the corner, and the odd shaped stockings hanging on the wall.    She felt safe and happy as she looked at mother’s Christmas Crèche and thought about Mary and Joseph, the singing angels, the shepherds sleeping on the hills with their sheep, the wise men who followed the star all the way to where baby Jesus lay sleeping on the hay.  Her mother told her the story when they would rock in the big, leather rocking chair and Edna knew that Christmas was the birthday of Jesus.

     “I love Jesus,” she thought as her eyes got heavier and heavier until she was sound asleep.     Her Daddy quietly picked her up and carried her up the narrow stairs to the bedrooms that were built in the attic above the kitchen and living room.    The ceilings of the rooms were higher in the middle so everyone, even Daddy, could stand up straight but then they sloped at an angle out to meet the walls on two of the walls before they angled down about four feet to the floor.     To get to the room Ann shared with Edna, Daddy walked through Bill and Chick’s shared room and then he gently laid her down in-between the nice, clean sheets and pulled the covers up and tucked them around her chin.

     “Good night, Babe (He always called her Babe),” he whispered.    “I love you.”

      “I love you, too, Daddy”, Edna whispered back, even though she was already dreaming of elves, and candy and dollies who really drank from teensie, little baby bottles. 

     Morning took forever to arrive for the children in the attic.   There was a firm family rule that no one … and that means NO ONE … was to go into the living room without first waking up their parents.   The tradition was that Daddy would get up and sneak in first in to make sure Santa had come and gone, so he wasn’t disturbed before he was through filling the stockings and putting presents beneath the tree, and then he would turn on the bright, flood lights so he could take pictures of the children who would come down the hall, shortest to tallest, to see what awaited just around the corner.

    The first four or five times that one of the children quietly snuck down to the side of their parents bed to ask what time it was, they were told that it was still the middle of the night and to go back to bed.    The last time, when the boys talked Edna into sneaking down to check on the time, Mommy sat up in bed and said, “Oh come on, Lewy, (that was what she called Daddy) let’s get up and see what Santa brought.

     “It’s 5:00 in the morning,” Daddy loudly whispered as he sleepily sat up and stretched his arms wide as he yawned.     “We don’t even know if Santa has been here yet.”

     “Well, you could quietly sneak down and see,” Mommy whispered  back as she winked and smiled at the now wide awake Edna.    “You go back up the stairs very, very quietly and  tell everyone they can sneak down to our room and Daddy will go see if Santa has come.”

     Edna whispered back, “Okay, Mommy,” and she quietly did just as she had been told.

     The children quietly huddled at the back wall of the hall, shivering in the morning chill, already lining up so they would be ready when Daddy gave the word they could march into the living room.   Shortest to tallest; Edna first, then Chick, then Bill, and then Ann lined up very quietly in the hall and whispered excitedly as Daddy tip toed with a highly exaggerated steps, down the hall where he stood pressed against the wall as he peaked his head around the corner.

     Quickly he pulled his head back and gave a panicked look at the children down the hall, motioning for them to be very still.   Slowly, he flattened his back along the edge of the wall of the kitchen and began to inch his way very carefully and quietly back down the hall to where they stood.  All motion and whispering had stopped and they were dead still as they watched Daddy make his way back to the family, where he quietly patted his chest and breathed in some big gulps of air.

     “Don’t anyone move or sneeze or make any kind of noise.   Santa and the elves are in there right now.    You know what that means.”  Daddy whispered seriously.

     Yes, indeed, they did know what that meant, and Edna tried to stand still, but Ann, and Bill, and Chick kept whispering to each other and getting the giggles.    The coal heater, you will recall, was in the living room and the hall was so chilly that cold Christmas morning that their teeth began to chatter, which made them giggle even more.  Daddy hushed them and said he could hear movement in the living room and suddenly, so could they!   They really could, it wasn’t their imagination!   They could hear faint talking and bumping sounds, and the jingle of bells, and then, just as suddenly, everything was quiet.    They waited quietly for another long minute before Daddy once again crept down the hall alone, just to make sure.

     “It’s clear,” he called as he flipped on flood lights, played soft Christmas music on his new recording machine, and stirred up the fire in the furnace.    “Oh boy, you aren’t going to believe the things that are in here,” he would call out every few seconds.

      “Hurry, Daddy,” we called back as we took our turns in the single bathroom that everyone shared.  Mommy and Ann decided to take their hair out of the pin-curls they slept in and comb it and put on lipstick for the pictures.    It seemed to Edna that it was taking everyone FOREVER!.

      When the excitement was literally bouncing from the walls and ceiling, Mommy and Daddy went into the living room and called, “Okay, you can come now!”

      The first thing Edna saw when she turned the corner to the room of surprises was a row of stockings hanging on the wall … with round, full heels and toes and mysterious bumps with a banana and candy cane peeking from the top.    What a relief she felt!    Santa had really, really come!   

****** 

And that’s where this memory ends because even though our gifts to each other were carefully chosen and deeply appreciated, and Santa had given us wonderful presents, those things are not what I remember most.   I remember the things we did as a family in the days leading up to Christmas; whispering secrets, telling stories, singing carols, hanging our stockings, reading from about the first Christmas from the Bible, and faking sleep so I could be carried to bed.  How fun it was when my father caught Santa in the act, and that we heard he and his elves in living room as we all stood quietly shivering in the hall.   

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Meet our turkey, Jon Pierre 1978/1979

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.

Technorati Tags: 12 Days of Christmas Memories,Edna Henke

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The First Day of Christmas Memories

            “YES, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUSE” 

Little Teddy with the permed, very, very curly hair and the smile that showcased her two missing front teeth, had some difficult decisions to make the year she turned eight.    And for an eight year old, it felt like it was pretty heavy.    It was mostly about Santa Clause.   Some of the older classmates were beginning to whisper quietly that their dads were really Santa Clause.   Edna was, and had always been, a believer so she stood up with her hands on her hips and told them so.   Recently, however, it was getting harder to defend her position, because two of the boys had started to call those who maintained Santa was real … a baby.   Her teacher, upon hearing snatches of their conversations, had taken each little boy by an ear and led them to the corner where she scolded them smartly while shaking her long, pointy finger in their faces.  The boys were sternly warned not to say anything more, but when the teacher was out of the room they would look over at the girls and rub their eyes and act like they were crying like babies.    Edna pulled her eyebrows together and scowled hard at them but that just made them laugh, and she just hated it when they laughed at her, even though Mama told her it was only because they thought she was cute.  

    When Edna asked her two older brothers, Bill, & Chick, if Santa Clause was real she was told, “the minute you start thinking there isn’t a Santa you’re doomed because he’ll know it and then you’re on the naughty list and he only brings you underwear”.     She found that very easy to believe because obviously her older brothers must have done something bad to get on Santa’s naughty list since most of their Christmas gifts were clothes.     Her sister Ann hugged her and said, “Santa Clause is the spirit of Christmas.”

    When she approached her mother with the same question she was carefully told, “All I know is what my Daddy told me when I was a little girl, and that was, ”If you stop believing in the Magic of Christmas, Santa just might stop coming around.  Do you want to take that chance” her mother asked?       No way did Edna want to risk that!  She would go to her grave hanging on to that Christmas magic!   But still, in those secret quiet moments when she was all by herself, sometimes she thought about Santa … and wondered.

     Every year she had whispered in Santa’s ear that she wanted a new doll.    She loved her dolls and had given each one a name.   She now had four!   She’d already begun her yearly job of getting all of them especially clean and neat so she could line them up on Christmas Eve so Santa could see for himself how careful she was with the gifts he’d given her. 

     Most years, Edna’s family chose a clear night when the temperature was well below freezing and they would pile into the old, wood-paneled station wagon and head from Draper for their special ride to the Avenues above Salt Lake City, Utah, to see the beautiful Christmas lights in some of the city’s most highly decorated neighborhoods.   Of course, they always filled the car with nice, warm blankets, ear muffs, scarves, heavy winter coats, and nice thick gloves and they would all snuggled together until they were nice and toasty. Even so, the car’s heater wasn’t powerful enough to chase away all of the nippy, below zero cold, so their breath came out in little misty puffs as they talked.   They laughed when their teeth chattered so hard and fast together that it garbled their words. 

     On the way to the big city the family would sing Christmas carols one after another until their voices were hoarse.   Somewhere along State Street Daddy would stop at one of the places that sold Christmas trees of all sizes for $2.99, and they would all pile out of the car, walking through the trees and examining them from all sides.   It was always Mama who found the perfect tree and then the boys would help tie it to the top of the car.

      Edna remembered last year’s trip when they made a side trip to Sugar House so she could visit Santa Clause where he sat in a little shack right in the middle of streets that cross-crossed in the busy shopping area.   Because it was so cold, the other children who were lined up to see Santa moved through rather quickly, but not so quickly that Edna didn’t have enough time to worry as she inched closer and closer.  She had somewhat the same feeling in her tummy that she always felt on the last day of school when she was waiting to get her paper that would say if she was going to be promoted or held back. 

     As she inched closer and closer to Santa she couldn’t help but think that perhaps this was the year she would be on Santa’s “naughty” list.  What if she waited and waited and waited here in the cold to talk to Santa Clause, and then when it was her turn to talk to him he just looked at her sadly and shook his bearded face back and forth while he slowly told the helper by his side, “Not this little girl.  She has been naughty and I won’t be visiting her this year.” 

     What a relief she’d felt when he’d finally lifted her onto his knees and asked her if she had been a good little girl.   Of course, she said “Yes”, which she quickly followed with the sentence she had practiced so carefully many times in her mind.   “Can I please have a dolly that opens and shuts her eyes and has real hair?”

      By the time she would get safely back in the car and wrapped snuggley in her blankets she was filled with relief and the Christmas spirit.   Not only had she told Santa what she wanted. she was sure she’d talked to the real Santa because just for good measure she’d given his beard a good, solid yank just before she jumped from his lap.   Santa had winked at her and laughed his booming “HO HO HO” as he gently squeezed her ruddy red cheeks.  His beard was real and his tummy was nice and plump and right at that minute she’d had no doubts about Santa Clause.

     But this year, the year Edna turned eight, her family couldn’t make the trip to Salt Lake City.     For the first time that she could ever remember, they hadn’t gone as a family to pick out their Christmas tree.  Somebody at work had given her father a big, bushy pinion pine and now it was glowing in front of the window, bubble lights bubbling and lights reflecting off the colorful glass ornaments mother kept safely wrapped in white tissue paper.   The Christmas tree was fine, it wasn’t that that was bothering her as she looked around the empty room.   Her mother had given her some pretty stationery to write Santa a letter year but that hadn’t been very fun.     Everything was changed this year and it made things not quite fit together in Edna’s mind.   She wasn’t about to say so, though, because it was really close to Christmas Eve and she was on her very best behavior.   

     Two days before Christmas Edna’s mother handed her a soft dust cloth and sent her into the living room with instructions to dust it carefully.    Edna had been feeling anxious and sad all day but she wasn’t really sure why.   She just couldn’t shake off the feelings about Santa this year, and she was starting to feel that she’d already lost some of the magic because of it, and it worried her.    And now she’d been sent to dust the front room again, when she’d just dusted it the day before.   Mama plugged in the lights of the tree and opened the curtains so Edna could see the beautiful giant sized snow flakes that had been falling quietly since the night before.   The flakes looked like they were as big as silver dollars and the trees, and bushes, and fence posts were all evenly covered in a sparkling blanket of white.     Edna watched the as it danced outside the window for a little while and suddenly two big tears spilled out of her eyes and found their way down her face.    It was nice to have a white Christmas, she thought to herself, but not if it meant your daddy had to go to work all night to plow the roads so other people could drive safely.    She would rather have her daddy home where he was safe and warm than have a white Christmas.  

      Slowly she turned to do her dusting and heard the faint tinkling of Christmas bells.  She stopped and leaned her right ear forward listening intently, wondering where the quiet jingling was coming from and a quiet “tap, tap, tap” on the window behind her caused her to spin around and peer once again out into the darkness.   One more time she heard the quiet song of bells and suddenly right there in front of her, peeking in her living room window, was the realest looking Santa of all Santa Clauses.   He looked just like the Santa in her picture book!

     “Ho, Ho, Ho.  How are you Edna?    I heard you were sad because you didn’t get to see me this year, so I here I am,”  Santa said as the quarter sized snow flakes settled on his white hair and red suit.     

     “Santa!” Edna squealed with delight.   “ I can see you!  You are here!   I’m going to go get Mama!” she said as she prepared to run from the room.

     “No, no … I am in a hurry,” Santa called to her.  “There is just enough time for you to tell me what you want for Christmas.”

     Edna turned toward him again, her eyes wide with wonder and a joyous smile that seemed to have taken over her entire face. 

    “Santa,” she whispered through the window as close to him as she could get.   “Santa, are you for real?”

     The question seemed to surprise Santa and he put his chin into his big black glove as he thought for a moment before he cleared his throat and scratched his head.    “Well, little girl, what do you think?” he answered.   “Do you think Santa is real?”

     Edna looked deeply into Santa’s eyes before she answered, “Well, you are here, and I can see you, and there are no footprints out there in the snow … so that is kind of like Christmas magic.    I was afraid I had lost some of the Christmas magic because my brain kept asking if you were real.”

     “Sweet child,” Santa said as moisture pooled in his eyes.    “There is a magic to Christmas but it is not because of me.    What I do at Christmas, anyone could do.    But do you remember whose birthday we celebrate?”

     “It’s when Jesus was born,” Edna answered quietly.    

    Santa answered back, “I would like to think I will always  be in your heart and help you feel the magic of Christmas, but never forget that it is Jesus who has given you the greatest gift of all, not me.    The gifts I bring to you will be gone some day, broken or passed on to some other child, but the gifts He brings, will be with you always.   That is the magic of Christmas.” Santa said as he gently smiled at her.  “That is what you must never lose.”

     Edna stood at the window for a long time after Santa left and she thought about Christmas, and Santa, and her Mom and Dad and the happy feeling that was here in her house.     And she thought about that first Christmas long ago when baby Jesus was born in a stable … and that was when she felt it.   That was when it had all come together like a warm light had been turned on in her heart and its warmth had spread through her chest, then her arms, clear to the ends of her fingertips.    “That does feel like magic,” she thought as she quietly stood and watched the beautiful snow fall into the still, black night.

  • So, dapper little man with the cumber bun and the hat made of feathers, if I chose this day to go back to it would be because this was the Christmas when I began to understand that even though Santa plays an important part in spreading the love of Christmas, the real magic of Christmas isn’t Santa Clause.   It is the light of Jesus Christ.   And somehow I knew that night, that no matter what else changes, He will always be there for me..   
  • P.S.   I love Santa Clause more than ever now that I as old as he is.

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Chapter One, The Contract

Midnight Reminiscing …

     Oh I love the quiet of the night, when it’s just me and the Christmas lights.   I often find my mind taking me back to Christmas’s Past and the golden memories of happy times spent with friends and family; particularly to our own little flock of five.   I like to close my eyes and smell my sweet newborns cuddled close to my neck where I can feel their warm little puffs of breath.     Often, as I gaze out into the quiet of the night, I hear beautiful Christmas anthems as I think about that very first Christmas in Bethlehem.    If I had been alive then instead of now would I have followed the star?   

     I go through my cluttered mind picking up scraps here, snippets there; remembering so many joyous occasions from the past 65 years.    Can I really remember when I was only three or four years old singing Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer at Grandpa Matheson’s Christmas program, or have I heard that story repeated so many times I claim it as a vivid memory?      Memories … what a treasure they can be if you have been as fortunate as me.

    Well, a strange thing happened to me the other night.   I suppose it was because of all of this reminiscing about Christmas’s Past that what I am about to relate to you came to pass.    I know you’re probably not going to believe it, but if you want to know the truth, I’m still not sure I quite believe it myself, and I was there.    I swear I haven’t been sneaking doctored eggnog or doubling up on my medication, nor do I think I have crossed over to that state of confusion that sometimes accompanies old age when fiction mingles with fact.   

      I was idling through an old cardboard box of Christmas ornaments that once belonged to my grandfather, when I felt something interesting down deep in the corner under the shredded newspapers.   I pulled it out to discover a miniature tin canteen that looked some what like, but not exactly a replica of, the canteens my sons used on their Boy Scout camping trips years ago.  It had a covering that looked like animal skin and it hung from a thin leather, braided strap that would have fit a toy sized shoulder rather than attached to a belt.  I assumed it must have been a toy belonging to my father, or perhaps even my grandfather who had been a devoted scout for his entire life.

     I sat there for a moment admiring the detailed craftsmanship that had gone into making such a fine canteen for a little boy’s toy soldier, wondering how many of today’s toys would have lasted so long and still looked basically as good as new.   It felt a little heavy so I screwed the lid off and lifted it to my nose for a sniff and  just as I leaned in to smell the canteen a pothering whiff of dust came up from the box and I began to cough intensely, unable to catch my breath, so I went into the kitchen to get myself a cold glass of water.    As I returned to the living room (this is the part you may have trouble believing but, hey, it happened) a man, who was bending from the waste to study the ornaments on my Christmas tree, quickly snapped to attention.   I almost choked to death, this time on my drink, as I sputtered diet coke (okay it wasn’t ever cold water) through my lips and nostrils while tears sprouted from my eyes like a fountain.  I’m sure my face was an unflattering red, not that it should have mattered, anyway.

 boy scout uniform early 1900s      Perhaps you will understand why I might have been momentarily shocked into silence if I describe how this man appeared, for he certainly didn’t appear as if he belonged in this century.   Everything from his posture, to his attire, to his bushy white mustache and eyebrows.   He had beautiful wavy, white hair that almost looked iridescent with the lights of the Christmas tree directly behind him.   His demeanor and the set of his jaw and mouth literally screamed  the word “dapper”.    His uniform, (did I mention he wore a uniform?) which I have since researched and found that it was similar to this one worn by the early Boy Scout founder, Baden-Powel, was green and red and involved a cumber bun and a feather hat but he didn’t really look to me like an old boy scout.   

     I’m sure he was rather disappointed in me since I was still lounging in my sweats at noon and had not bothered to do more than run a brush through my hair since climbing out of bed.  I was in total shock, standing there feeling frumpy and out of place … in my own living room!   That is until I remembered that it WAS my home and HE was the intruder.

    “Hey just a minute here, Mister.    What do you think you are doing?”    I firmly asked.    (Trying to throw him off guard with my assertiveness.)    “This is MY house, and you cannot just walk into it unannounced like this … (I ran out of words about here) … uh … just any time you want!”

     “I beg your pardon, Madaaam”, he stiffly answered, “I did not just walk into your house.   I believe I was summoned.”

     Summoned?    What is he talking about?    A summons means someone sent for him and it surely wasn’t me.    “Well you can just turn around and march out that that door then,” I sputtered as I squared my shoulders and stood as stately as I muster while I pointed sharply at my front door.   “You have obviously been summoned somewhere else.   Who were you looking for, anyway?”

     “Looking for?    I most certainly was not looking for a single soul.   I do not look about for people or places, I get summoned and I come.   Quite simple, my dear.    And I do assure you, it was you who did the summons.    Now get on with it … I don’t have all day.”

    So, yadda, yadda, yadda, I’ll cut to the core here and spare you the time.  The long and short of it is that Mr. Fancy Pants was a Genie.   I found it a little hard to believe, myself, since he wasn’t all diapered up in colorful silks and wearing a well tucked turban on a bald head.   Apparently, I had been wishing I could re-visit some of my “Christmas Pasts” and I had summoned him there to grant me three visits if I met certain conditions.   (Isn’t there just a catch to everything now days?)    And here I am, actually thinking all of this really happened and it wasn’t just a giant bubble in my oxygen machine, because as soon as he handed me the following conditions he just vanished in another puff of dust and glitter.   I’m not sure if I’ll do it or not.   I mean … no swearing, nudity, or violence when we are talking about Christmas memories with children?    I would have to negotiate that condition.

                      CONDITIONS OF VISITING CHRISTMAS’S PAST

1.     You must write down twelve of your favorite Christmas memories, one a night beginning on the 13th day of December.  You have a plethora of memories to pick from so you must be careful not to become lost in them or you might not finish your writing.

2.     These memories must effectively describe why you might want to re-visit that particular Christmas, and it must be done in such a way that it will stir the emotions of our hearts and minds.  

3.      They must be written in a way that future generations will understand your personality as it has developed over the years.

4.      It must be written in a way that does not absolutely slaughter the English language.   

5.      You are to write it on a “G Rating” level.   There shall be no swearing, nudity, or violence.

6.      Your memories must be shared with any friends, neighbors, and family members who show an interest in them.   Their reactions will be considered before we summarize and cast our votes.

6.     On the 24th of December, a decision will be rendered and if we so deem, we shall bestow upon you the gift of re-visiting three Christmas’s Past.    They shall be from your list but of our choice.

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Peace In Our Hearts

       Water retention is an ongoing problem with me and I often take my rings and watch off, put my watch band through the rings, then shut the clasp and put them in my travel jewelry box for safe keeping.    So I didn’t IMG_5908-1think anything of it when I was shopping and  subconsciously ran my thumb under my left ring finger to twist my rings like I do throughout the day and they weren’t there.    The next day when I was in a hurry to get out the door I went to get my rings and watch from the box… and they weren’t there.     I then thought I must have left them on the table by the chair I sit in to watch television.    I again forgot to pick them up as I left home, and the next day I was mostly in bed resting all day so I still didn’t really worry about them.    Two days later my heart was heavy and anxious after having looked over and under and in every thing in the house a zillion times.    I tried not to give up hope but I couldn’t help but think of the possibility that I’d never see them again.       

      I prayed about it but even while praying I realized that as valuable as they are to me … irreplaceable and heart achingly sentimental … they are nothing compared to the things people all over the world have lost to disasters.    So many people are suffering immensely because of the economy, natural disasters, famine, disease, rulers, or wars.   So many people have lost a loved one or entire families, their homes, their rights.    So many people do not even know about Jesus Christ, the redeemer of the world.  

       I still prayed about finding my rings, but also prayed that I remember they are really temporal; just things I want back.    Lynn and I don’t need them to exist.   I loved them and hoped for their return, but I  began to pray more intensely for people around the world …  that peace and also added strength can be in their hearts no matter what circumstances they are in.    I prayed that all people can have the right to worship how they see fit without fear of retribution, humiliation, or censor.     I prayed that people everywhere can know the peace that I feel because of my faith in Jesus Christ.   

      Last night, as I was preparing for our trip back to Utah, I gathered all of my things from the top drawer of my dresser … the same drawer I had strip searched several times … and as I turned to close the drawer there were the rings and watch … right in the middle of my empty drawer.    I felt an instant flood of relief and gratitude and joy.    I knew I would guard them  more carefully in the future but at the same time I will continue to pray that my prayer for peace in the hearts of people around the world can be answered as well. 

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Over The River and Through The Woods …

IMG_5837 It is literally over the river and through the woods to this Grandmother’s house in Duval, Washington.    I can just picture it from the viewpoint of sitting in a sleigh with a horse high stepping it to the jingling cascade of Christmas bells.    Of course, I would be tucked beneath several layers of warm blankets, thermal underwear, a coat, hat, and gloves.

I take my woofing little dog a little more seriously here in the forest when she suddenly sits up and growls menacingly out the sliding glass window that steps out onto the covered porch.    The other day this happened when she was stretched atop the back of the sofa  and Lynn and I decided, without getting up to look for ourselves, that she was “barking at her reflection from the glass doors” again.    Moments later I was sitting reclined in front of the side window that looks toward the trees by the street when movement outside of the side window caught my eye and I looked up to see what I first thought was the neighbor’s Bobcat - Fijetland, Conrad - USFWS dog.    However, as soon as it stepped completely out from behind the bush that has grown up to where it interferes a little with my view, I received a wonderful gift from. nature when it looked directly at me for a moment   I could see clearly, all the way from the beautiful tufted ears, to the defined stripes around its eyes and nose, on down to the bobcat’s stubby tail.   (This picture is courtesy of http://www.weforanimals.com./ )  It looked bigger than those I’ve seen next to the tigers and lions at the zoo.    By the time Lynn made it to the window our cat had stealthily crept the length of the lawn and was headed into the trees at the front of the property.      There wasn’t time to pull out the camera but we have since removed it from its case and have it sitting readily on a nearby shelf.

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There’s been a lot of disturbing noise from the property behind this house as lumbermen have mercilessly “clear cut” the large trees that lined the back border and the acres behind us.     It has created a homeless situation among the wildlife that have been our neighbors   I feel sad when I think of their homes being destroyed; especially with winter blowing in so quickly.   I can’t help but wonder wblack bearhere all of my furry little friends will go from here.    We’ve seen squirrels, deer, and possums, and we suspect we have a midnight raccoon but we haven’t yet spotted the neighborhood’s black bears. Needless to say we are taking good care of our garbage and keeping a close eye and a short leash on little poochie while she takes care of “business”.  

We are loving our stay in the woods.     It’s different living where the skies are grey and it rains more than it doesn’t, but it has been comfortable … and healing.   IMG_5794 As I write this I’m sitting by a crackling fire listening to the cadence of the rain that counts along with the 4/4 timing of the keyboard as I type.   The rain and I are the perfect accompaniment to the Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of “Sleigh bells”.  The stately pine trees are even swaying in sync.    I just love it, love it, love it!    A huge, from deep in the heart thank you to Warren’s friend, Tracy Green, for trusting us with his mother’s home for a few months.   Anyone would feel good here!

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Midnight Lullaby by Jane Roman Pitt

I don’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t had a daily dose of music.   My mother used to hold me on her lap and sing to me while we rocked in a big, soft, leather rocking chair.    “So?” …  you might be thinking … “We all used to get rocked by our mothers.”    Well, I can remember mother rocking and singing to me at least until I started junior high school!  How many of you can beat that memory?

So I was delighted when I was asked to review a new album entitled “Midnight Lullaby” by Jane Roman Pitt.     And then, I got sick … and sicker … and sicker and listened to her music often but was too sick to write a review and post it.   Kind of cheating, I know, but I seriously have been in an un-bloggable place with this illness.    Her beautiful album was just what I needed for me during this time, however, because it is peaceful and sooo relaxing that it reminded me of those rock-a-bye’s from Mother.    

One of the things I’ve lost because of the Pulmonary Hypertension is my ability to sing.   It takes too much breath and makes me cough … and I my voice is gravelly and low.   When the little grandchildren spend the night, I plan to have Jane Roman Pitt sing to them while I rock them to sleep.   

Some of the songs are her originals others you will recognize; such as “Forever Young” (Bob Dylan), “La Moora” (Donovan), and “Baby That’s Not All” (Josh Ritter).      I highly recommend that you take my word for it and go to her site ( www.ladylullaby.com ) and listen to a sample of her singing.    You will probably want a copy of this album for the same reason I did … to put the kiddies to sleep at the end of the day … but I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t find yourself playing it when you want to relax and let your mind go to your happy place.

I’m going to try to write regularly again.   It feels good to be back … good therapy!    Have a great day everyone!     Love, Grandma  

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Up Up And Away …

imagePurple is the color that has been chosen to represent Pulmonary Hypertension.   It works for me since it’s one of my favorite colors anyway.   I wonder if they chose purple because we who have this disease turn purple without our oxygen.   I tried to find out why it was really chosen, but I couldn’t so I assigned it to this balloon and think of it as “Up, Up, and Away”.  

The tests in May showed that even though I felt a little better the disease had progressed.    That turned out to be both good and bad news because it meant that maybe our insurance company would finally approve the use of a new drug imagecalled Letairis, which has proven effective for many of the people who’ve tried it.    With Pulmonary Hypertension it;s a game of “pick and choose” until you stumble onto the drug that works right for you.    What is best for one does not necessarily work for another.     We’ve now climbed the ladder from the least intrusive drugs to the more intrusive ones but it’s a ladder that we knew needed to be climbed and we’re grateful to our doctor and our insurance company, P.E.H.P., for making it available to me.  Today as I took my first little $133.00 ($4,000.00 a month) pill, I was very grateful that our co-pay is only $150.00.   

My days of laziness are over and I’m determined to write more often.    I’m hoping that Letairis makes it so that more blood will be pumped through this head of mine and the fog will lift that has held my familiar words captive for the last eight months.    With or without those words I’m going to write, so feel free to send me a list of your useable words if you find mine lack luster and excitement.     Again … Up, Up, and Away …

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