Readers and staff share their thoughts on the holidays gone by
By Dwight Widaman | Editor
Some years ago Anita and I had planned to take our kids to the local nursing home on Christmas Day, distribute goodies and carol the residents. The idea didn’t go over well with my daughters but the girls helped with decorating treats on Christmas Eve day and carefully arranged mouth-watering plates piled high with cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and homemade peanut clusters.
That Christmas Eve, Kansas City received as much as 12 to 20 inches of snow, depending on where you lived. The next morning, with snow still lilting down, we could see that our manger scene, set among the bushes, was almost buried. All that was visible of a kneeling Mary was her forehead capped with a bouffant headdress of snow. The cow, donkey and sheep were gone, not to mention baby Jesus. Joseph had collapsed from joy–apparently blown over in the wind. He was just a hump of white. The poor wisemen looked as if they would rather have stayed home instead of lugging frankincense and myrrh through our landscaping.
After our family traditions that morning (which include homemade cinnamon roles before stockings, breakfast casserole, reading the Christmas story in Luke and then gifts), I opened the garage door and paused. “What am I doing?” I thought to myself. I really didn’t want to shovel the driveway and questioned whether our little Honda CR-V could make it down our country lane and onto the road.
“Is it worth it?” “Will anyone really care if we don’t show up?”
I thought of a multitude of excuses why NOT to drive into town. I wasn’t feelin’ the determination of those snow-covered wisemen.
I came in and Anita immediately read my mind. Without either of us saying a word, I turned around and headed back out. With one side of the driveway cleared I made a test run with our old All Wheel Drive CR-V down our long and winding lane to the road, which was still untouched by vehicle tracks.
Returning to the garage, I loaded up the family and we made our way through Pleasant Hill. It was a virtual ghost town. Pleasant Hill Health and Rehab was a similar story–only one or two big SUVs sat with their windows already dusted with fresh snow. Maybe we made the right decision I thought.
Inside we greeted the CNAs with a special plate of cookies and thanked them for their service to the residents on this snowy holiday. Passing out our other goodies, the residents’ faces lit up, not because of the sugary treats, but at the moment their eyes met those of Hannah and Emma. Big grins ensued and they reached out to hug or pat the girls on the cheek. The residents laughed with delight.
Later we made our way to the cafeteria where residents were wheeling and walking in. Anita played the piano and we sang every Christmas tune and Christmas hymn we knew. Our captive audience was smiling and joining in and didn’t mind if we didn’t know all the words. They did and that was all that mattered.
On the way home I asked the girls why it was important to give up part of our Christmas to visit with people we had never met before.
“Because it’s Christmas Day and there were no families to see their grammas and grampas,” Hannah replied. “We were their family,” Emma added.
We didn’t bring incense or Myrrh and our family quartet wasn’t a choir of Heavenly angels announcing the birth of Christ, but our little offering of time to some lonely nursing home residents was the best–maybe only gift–we could lay at the manger that snowy Christmas morning.
A Victorian Christmas Tea
Debbie Carpenter, Tucson, Ariz.
The tea room was warm and cozy with a Victorian decor.
The ambiance invited each guest to relax and temporarily put asideÂ thoughts of the shopping, wrapping, and baking yet to be done as Christmas rapidly approached. The essence of oranges and cinnamon from the winter blend tea steamed out the spout of our blue and white teapot.
The ladies in our family had gathered for Christmas tea. Each was allowed to pick her favorite bone china cup to use for the occasion.
An ivory lace tablecloth graced our table. On the center of the table sat a three-tiered server displaying finger sandwiches, scones, and a variety of petite cakes. Lemon curd, Devonshire cream and raspberry preserves provided tasty options for the scones.
As I looked around the table, my gaze fell on Nana Em, the family matriarch. With a merry heart she had arranged this lovely treat for her daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters as she did every year on the week before Christmas. What joy she had in giving this special gift to all of us.
Nana Em is not able to attend the Christmas tea party any more. She is celebrating in heaven now, but her family still keeps the tradition in her honor, and in honor of the Holy Child who was the greatest gift the world will ever know.
20 years of Christmas memories
By Stan Wilson
Dodge City, Kan.
I don’t have a single favorite Christmas memory, but I have 20 years of Christmas memories. I don’t remember a time that my parents and I did not attend church as a family and my parents made every Christmas season a memory.
Let’s seeâ€¦there was the outdoor annual living nativity scene that we visited for at least 10 years. And, no Christmas was complete without two or three evenings spent driving around and looking at the beautifully decorated homes.
We always decorated the outside of our home the week after Thanksgiving. My mother was quite gifted artistically and she had at least three complete sets of hand-made Christmas tree decorations that she rotated every year. (I still use these decorations for my grandchildren.)
Daddy and I did get a bit testy when it came to decorating the Christmas tree, because mother insisted that it be perfectly balanced and it looked like a postcard from Macy’s. Artificial Christmas trees became popular about that time and we had the usual plastic trees and one that I’ll never forgetâ€¦the Aluminum Christmas tree on a rotating stand with a rotating three color spotlight. Even though tumbleweeds were plentiful in West Texas, mother didn’t go for the Tumbleweed Christmas tree fad that swept thru West Texas in the early 60’s.
My mother was a wonderful cook and she started making Christmas goodies right after Thanksgiving (no wonder that I’ve always had a weight problem.) My parents always held two Christmas open houses. One was for my friend’s families so “us kids” got our own special open house. Then, my parents had an open house for their friendsâ€¦but I was always there and always spent a little time with the adults. That’s when Daddy had his annual whiskey drink. He liked just a little whiskey in his eggnog. He said that it was just too sweet without a dash of whiskey. Did I mention that my mother made “food to die for.”
As an only child with no cousins, Christmas shopping was pretty short, but I always gave both of my parents a gift and they saw that I never was lacking on Christmas morning. My dad’s sister lived in Alaska, and she always sent us some special Alaskan gifts. We had a family tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve and it was always the surprise gifts from Alaska.
While in junior high school, I sang in the youth church choir, and we always had a part in the church Christmas program. The choir director always asked me to sing “solo”, or was it “so low that my teenage voice didn’t rattle the chandeliers.”
My parents started a very special tradition that I still keep. We always attended the Christmas Eve candlelighting serviceâ€¦I still get choked up at this one.
As soon as I was able to read, it was my job to pass out all of the gifts on Christmas morning. We then took turns opening one-gift-at-a-time so that we all got to “ooh and aah” over everyone’s presents. Daddy usually came out with the short straw, but he was smart enough that mother usually had three or four gifts left after daddy and I had finished opening ours. Daddy always held the plastic garbage bag for our wrappings and mother boxed up every bow and ribbon for next year.
Mother always prepared the picture-perfect Christmas dinnerâ€¦with enough left-overs for a week.
I think Dad’s favorite part of Christmas was taking down the decorations, which he completed before the sun went down Christmas day.
Our traditional Christmas night meal was a bowl of red beans and cornbread.
All of this was done to honor our Lord and Saviorâ€¦and maybe to give me memories which I still have at the age of 66. Thank you, Mother and Daddy.
My Nine Dollar Christmas
By Paul Nichols
In the 1950s, my parents were not well-to-do folks. Times were tough for us so Christmas gifts were carefully chosen, and often came with a surprise gift for each of us kids. Otherwise, we got things that we “needed.” Shirts, belts, underwear andâ€”ugh!â€” more socks.
When I was a junior in high school, my parents gave me a gift that came in a small, square box. Not the kind where I’d find another pair of socks. I was sitting on the floor, leaning against a wall, my few Christmas gifts and crumpled wrapping paper beside me.
“Hmmm. This is different,” I thought. “Wonder what it is.”
Just my luck: the box was difficult to unwrap and just as difficult to open. I picked at the stubborn tape and frantically riffled through my imagination. “What on earth?”
I finally broke open the box. I looked in, but still couldn’t figure out what it was. It was bright and shiny and upside-down. I never had a bright, shiny, upside-down present before.
“A watch!” My eyes saw it, but my brain didn’t. “No! It can’t be!”
“We can’t afforâ€¦. They don’t have enoughâ€¦. How could they afford this?” It was my first watch. With unrestrained disbelief I broke into shaking and sobbingâ€”right in front of my little sister.
“Well, Paul? What’s wrong, honey?” Mom asked. She and Dad stood by the tree with hot chocolate and proud smiles. I just shook my head and kept on sobbing. I didn’t want to cry. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. I never dreamed that my parents would sacrifice so much money on me.
It took me a week to take that nine dollar Timex watch out of the box, wind it up and wear it.
One of the brightest, shiniest discoveries I ever made was realizing that my parents were more well-to-do than I thoughtâ€”especially at Christmas.
Adventure in trust
By Judith Vander Wege
Orange City, Iowa
No wonder the angels got so excited, I thought, as we sang, “born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Having recently received Jesus as Savior at age-9 Â½ , the Christmas Carols seemed more meaningful than ever before.
Looking out the car window at early evening stars during our family’s long drive, I pictured shepherds hearing: “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:11, NIV).
Halfway to our destination, the car stalled at the only open gas station around. The service station attendant “Says he can’t fix it,” Dad informed Mom. He handed her a bag of peanuts.
They passed around the bag of peanuts to help us wait for supper at our Grandparents’ house, and we waited under blankets in the car.
My parents had begun learning to trust God that fall. “Remember Romans 8:28,” Dad told us. “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” We need to trust him now.”
It’ll be okay, I thought as we sang more carols. Grandma and Grandpa will be happy to see us whenever we get there. I felt loved and accepted by Grandpa, whose kindness made me feel valuable. His sense of humor was fun, too.
After some time, a serviceman going home on leave pulled up to the station. Thankful to find a place to get gas, he offered to ” take a look.”
Soon he had our car fixed and both cars were on their merry way. Now the service station attendant could go home for Christmas knowing he had been a blessing, too.
It seems fitting to me now that this was the year I received my first Bible from my grandparents. It reminds me of the beginning of my lifelong adventure of learning to trust. God really does work in everything for good.