A Family’s Farm Christmas: It’s the people, not the presents!

In 1997, I wrote this story for my young daughter.  After my thyroid cancer diagnosis when she was only 14 months old, I had adopted the tradition of writing her an original story, with a soft moral “mom” message each year as a gift.  I wanted her to have something special from me to remember me should  I have croaked from the cancer.

This story was created to introduce my children to their extended family and be a record of some of our family’s Christmas traditions.

This year is the second Christmas since my second cancer diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma.  I feel wonderful, am filled with joy and am looking forward to many more years of making holiday memories.

I hope you enjoy, “A Family’s Farm  Christmas.”

In your great-great grandfather Ole Larson’s house, which is more than 100 years old, many years ago our family gathered making Christmas memories untold. This story is my present, package and bow. My child, these people I want you to know.

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It was Christmas Eve in 1962.  I was four, a little bit younger than you.

On that Christmas Eve in great-great grandfather’s house we all gathered within.There was grandpa, grandma, parents, aunties and uncles and cousins.

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The house was huge, three stories in height. It had three porches and was painted green and white. Inside the woodwork was oak and the parlor was grand. For there in its midst the great tree did stand. The tree your grandma trimmed in tinsel and sparkling lights. They winked merrily throughout that special winter night.

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My dad, your grandpa, hadn’t yet come in. Until all the cows had been milked, supper could not begin.  So everyone waited for him patiently. Adults laughed and joked while the kids poked at presents under the tree.

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Then, the outside door swung open with a rush, your grandpa stepping quickly inside. “What’s all this, is it my birthday,” he cried. The children all moaned with terrible fear. A moment before Santa had seemed so very near.

“It must be your day,” great Uncle Ed would consort. He teased children like it was a professional sport. “All those presents under that tree are just for you.We wrote other names on them so you wouldn’t have a clue.”

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“How right you are,” great Uncle Ing would shout. Ingvald was not one to be left out. He could make everyone laugh, and usually did. Uncle Ing was like a great big kid. “Why,” Ing would say “Everyone knows those packages are just filled with clothes.They are full of new underwear and socks. But, mostly, Burton E., they are filled with rocks.”

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“Rocks did you say?” your grandpa would chime in. “Why rocks are my favorite, my fields are full of them.”

Great Grandma Esther saw the children’s faces wreathed in frowns. She raised her left eye brow and the uncles and your grandpa all settled right down. “If you boys are all quite through the food’s getting old!!! What will I do with lutefisk that has gone cold!”

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For us youngsters the situation had just gotten worse. To a child, lutefisk is the worst kind of curse.

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All to the table, each to their chair, now it was time for the family table prayer. “If you people are ready,” great-grandma always began, “Now, who will be leading us in the Lord’s Amen! Come Lord Jesus be our guest, let these gifts to us be blessed.”

Our heads stayed bowed as we prayed for our souls. “Amen,” had to be said before we could pass the platters and bowls.

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The Christmas tree’s lights reflected off all of their glasses. The homemade bread was made of oatmeal and molasses. Lutefisk, potatoes, white sauce and more. There were pies, cakes and cookies galore. All of the ladies had cooked, baked and brought their best. Their efforts were for naught, an ironic jest. For you couldn’t really tell, because of the horrible lutefisk smell.

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After supper everyone from their chairs arose. It was time to put on our best church clothes.When we had changed and were ready to go,It was then that it always started to snow.

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Then car after car of them came. With highbeams on they came down the farm lane. There on the lawn in the new fallen snow with the yard light shining like electric moon glow. The Mennonite families sang to us songs of the Lord. They sang with no instruments, sang in harmony never missing a chord. They stood together singing from the heart, white bonnets, pastel dresses and men’s clothes so dark. They sang Silent Night to us that Christmas Eve. Then sooner than want it was time for them to leave.

We followed them out as car after car drove down great-great grandfather’s drive. The time for the Christmas church program had finally arrived.

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The church, like the house, was over 100 years old. The chimes in the steeple called us in from the cold. Christ’s story was on stained glass windows that reached to the sky, Or so it seemed to a small child’s wondrous eyes.

The church windows were colored ruby red, emerald green, sapphire blue and glittering gold. Today, they are still there and just as marvelous to behold. The altar was white, the carpet deep red, the choir sang from the balcony overhead.

For the Christmas program each child had learned a part. Mrs. Sandry insisted that we know them by heart. To the front of the church we marched in an unstraight line. While parents whispered, “You’ll do just fine.” Standing in front of the church I could plainly see. Way too many people looking back at me.

Each child in turn said their line, when my turn came, I said mine. “Let the little children come onto me.” Children are very special to Thee.

“Joy to the World” was always sung last. When you heard it you knew the program was past. So out we all went, row by row, each child receiving a brown paper bag with a bow. Inside was a manger to hang on our tree, peanuts in their shells and chewy cherry Christmas candy.

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On with our coats, back into the car, the trip back to the farm seemed oh so far! When we got there, the paper we’d tear from the presents under the tree. What’s inside we’d finally get to see. However, we did have to wait until our elders each found a seat. And, of course, our wet boots had to be removed from our feet.

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Here’s the part that is hard to explain. I don’t recall what any of those presents contained. I remember the faces of the people who were there. I’ll remember them always, for the memories we shared.

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Great Aunt Doris, a saint don’t you know. Then, there was the “Aunties” Agda and Amanda wearing Miss Haversham’s clothes. Now, politeness teaches us not to stare, but politeness never saw those 80 year old shoulders bare. Also, they wore fur bearing animals around their necks, eyes in place, tails intact.

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Old Otto could sing and Anna was so quiet. While uncles Ed and Ing could start a riot.

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Aunt Margie made all of us little girls nightgowns of blue and white. Cousin Bryan told stories that would keep you awake all night.

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Great Grandpa George he moved kind of slow. His thumb was bent backwards from milking by hand after breaking it so.

Great Grandma Esther quietly disappeared through the attic door. To hold the American flag her son Wendall wore home from the Korean War.

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Ida and Alec, my what a pair!  It was Alec that gave Ida all her grey hair.

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Myrwin, Jane, Galen, Diane and Chris, child I want you to remember this. It’s the people not the presents that makes life so dear.  It’s the love and sharing that brings holiday cheer. Yes, treasured memories I have a few, those I value the most are the times spent with you.

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May you all be blessed this holiday season.  May the joy of Christ Jesus’s birth and his message of forgiveness, love and eternal salvation be yours this holiday season.  

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One thought on “A Family’s Farm Christmas: It’s the people, not the presents!

  1. Mary WilbergThe peony looks so real I can almost smell the sweet fragrance. A beautiful job sweet girl... Mary says:

    I don’t know the people, and I enjoyed each and every page! Can only imagine how many “….do you remember…” conversations are begun as family members look thru the book. It will be/should be treasured. Mary

    Like

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