Remembering My Idaho Christmas

By Diana Green

When I was a small child, we did not have a lot of possessions; but we did not know the difference. We had a father that added fun and happiness by sharing his love, acceptance, jokes, and laughter. At Christmastime I helped decorate the Christmas tree with fascinating bubble lights. My dad worked six days a week, so we decorated our tree the Sunday before Christmas.

When the bubble lights were plugged in an outlet, we would pick our favorite color and bet on which would start bubbling up first. We thought the lights were cool and our tree was amazing! We looked for our longest sock before going to bed so that Santa could fill it to the brim. On Christmas Day, Santa would arrive, fill our socks with lots of candy, and place a gift for us to enjoy.

We attended Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle’s ranch at Mann’s Creek along with my dad’s nine brothers and sisters plus all their children. Noise filled the air with ladies talking, laughing, and catching up on their lives while they were preparing our Christmas dinner. We children were excited about all the new toys and games, so we brought some to show everyone or some for all to play. The men helped when needed and entertained each other with the latest news.

The home had the latest technology of the 1950s. After dinner we would descend into the basement and watch “reel-to-reel tapes” my uncle had taken of family plus a surprise addition of the latest cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny. We loved watching the cartoons!

There was generally fresh snow and ice on the ground, and it was beautiful. We would put on coats, gloves, snow pants, and warm caps and then go outside to play with our cousins. Soon we become so cold that we wanted to retreat back into the warmth of the house.

My dad’s sisters and brothers along with our cousins were very important to our family. They were not just an extended family but included us in every way possible. Dad and we children all had great love and adoration for them.

This is how Christmas became so important to my happiness in the month of December. It is a time I hold extra-special because it represents the birth of Christ, and it is also a time for showing our love and sharing for family and friends now as well in my past!

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Do I Believe in Santa Claus?

By George Erhart

In 1938 our nation was still struggling to come out of the Great Depression. My dad had just landed a full-time job, the family was together again, and we moved into a large wooden house. I was five years old.

It seemed a bit odd to me that, two weeks before Christmas, the living room was closed off. My sister and I, being the youngest, were told that the reason it was locked was because it was too costly to heat that big room. What we didn’t know was that Dad had sneaked a gorgeous silver-tip Christmas tree into that room and that our parents and older sister and brother were secretly decorating it.

Our family tradition was to open presents on Christmas Eve. So around 7 o’clock on December 24th, 1938, my mother said, “All you kids need to go upstairs and wait for Santa to come.”

Encouraged by our older siblings, my sister and I rushed upstairs where we quietly waited for the arrival of Santa Claus. Anticipation and excitement increased by the minute. This was further heightened by comments from my older brother, who kept saying things like ”Santa should be here any minute“ and “I hope he doesn’t forget to stop here,” or asking us questions like ”you have been good all year, haven’t you?”

Finally, we heard something on the roof above us. “What was that?” I asked. “Quiet,“ my sister says, “let’s listen.” Then we heard even more rattling. (My Dad was outside throwing rocks up on the roof!) My brother said, “It’s Santa! We’re hearing the reindeer landing on the roof.”

Then there is silence for a minute or two until we heard a loud “clump-clump” as Santa climbed the front steps. Next there was very hard knock at the front door. We heard my mother open it and say, “Oh hello, Santa, and Merry Christmas.” Then in a very deep voice my father, I mean Santa, responded, “Merry Christmas, and do you have some children here who have been good all year?” “Oh, yes,” my mother replied, “Please come in.” The door closed and then there was more silence!

Waiting upstairs, the suspense was building, and we could hardly contain our excitement! Finally, we heard the door open and, as Santa left, we heard his deep voice say, “Ho, ho, ho, and a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!”

More waiting. What was going on! Then we heard the reindeer on the roof (Dad was out throwing more rocks!). And then, more waiting (giving Dad time to quietly reenter the house).

Finally, my mother called from downstairs, “You kids can come down now.” As we started down, the youngest one went first.... that was me!

I can still recall the awe I experienced as I entered the living room, seeing the beautiful Christmas tree all lit up surrounded with neatly wrapped presents left by Santa. Certainly, a Christmas I could never forget!

How could a five-year-old not believe in Santa Claus after hearing his reindeer on the roof, hearing him talking to Mother, and then seeing all the gifts he left?

Yes, I still believe in Santa Claus, even if’s only in the minds of the very young!

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My Mother’s Last Christmas

By Ed Decker

We lived on a beautiful mountain river in the Pacific Northwest, and nothing could be more beautiful than a snowy Christmas among the towering cedars. It was something like a miracle to be watching the snow fall around us as the kids ran amok through the backyard, rolling in the soft, powdery snow.

My mom stood by my side and sighed. “Once I was a little orphan girl who cried herself to sleep every night because my mother, father, and sister died and God wouldn’t take me. I had no one. Now look at me.”

It was impressive. She was among almost 40 of her offspring, spanning five generations. I gave her a big hug and held her frail body in my arms for a long, long while. She had tears in her eyes when I finally loosened my grip and let her breathe.

Mom had set fire to the small condo where she had lived with Dad for 20 years. She insisted on staying there alone for 10 years since Dad died. But the fire had ended that, and Mom was now living in an adult care facility.

We had brought her to our home after the accident and moved her into the first floor guest suite. The third morning I found her waiting in the kitchen, in her full dress and coat, with gloves on, wearing one of her many hats. “A parent is not supposed to live with her children. Now take me to that place you showed me the other day,” she said. I did.

Today was our family Christmas gathering. Wheeling her in from the deck, I stomped the snow from off my shoes and worked our way into the family room, fighting hugs from everyone, finally settling Mom in front of the fireplace with its massive river rock wall. I covered her with a throw blanket, and we waited for the call to the annual Christmas meal.

The meal itself was a marvel, prepared and served by a dozen strong-willed wives, daughters, and granddaughters with a few husbands who were there for the grunt work.

Laughter filled the whole house throughout the meal and, when we finally made our way into the living room past the 15-foot Christmas tree that filled the front entry hall, all eyes were on the massive pile of Christmas gifts in the center of the room.

I settled Mom in the wheelchair next to me in a corner area where she wouldn’t be trampled but could be in the middle of the action.

The kids all hugged and mobbed her until she was half buried in wrapping paper. Then someone stuck a package bow on her sweater, and she was soon covered with them. She was so frail, but she squealed and laughed with every bow.

Tears steamed from her face and she quietly reached over and squeezed my hand, grinning like a child. I will never forget that precious look when her eyes met mine.

My wife, Carol, and I tried to get Mom to stay overnight, but she would have none of that. It had turned dark by the time I wheeled her to the car and pulled out into that snowy night, the heavy falling snow dancing in the headlights. It was like a winter wonderland as I drove down the winding country road along the river.

I treasured that time alone in the car with Mom as I drove her back to the care center. She placed her hand on top of mine and smiled at me all the way. We weren’t talking much, just holding hands and connecting deep inside in our hearts.

Mom passed away several months later, just a few weeks before her 90th birthday. I got there just minutes after she passed. She still had that smile on her face, and I sat there with her for a long while and felt the peace that surrounded her. It was that same peace that filled the car on that last drive home on Christmas Day.

We held a memorial service at the town’s senior center, where she had been the receptionist and Sunshine Lady for 16 years. We placed a few dozens of her famous hats around the room, and the ladies who knew and loved her were all smiles as they left with one of Anna’s “ladies hats” perched on their heads.

I was a momma’s boy from start to finish but, of all our special times together, I will never forget my mother’s last Christmas.

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