One wish: Growing families and memories

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Snow falls, blown by a furious wind, as I write this. Christmas carols play in a continuous loop, a joyous refrain for all to enjoy.

My wish for all would be, of course, for a very merry Christmas: Let there be a special gift for everyone under a twinkling tree. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for families everywhere to be together, happily celebrating, on this one special day of the year.  

I can’t help but think of those who are separated by any number of reasons — a war on the other side of the globe, a job taken away from home in order to hold it all together, a family divided by wars of their own making, a recent loss still too painful to endure.

Christmas Eve was always our treasured time together back when I was a child. We would get together with my paternal grandfather and my Aunt Marilyn in the big old Victorian home in which my father had been born. When we returned home that night, we were each allowed to choose one present from under the tree and open it before heading off to bed.

What a difficult decision it always turned out to be! Because the colorfully wrapped gifts were not numerous, it was tempting to choose the smallest one, but what if that one turned out to be the very best, leaving only pajamas or socks to be opened on Christmas morning?

Our gifts would sometimes be paper dolls, a board game, a book, a puzzle. We had a candy cane and an orange in our stocking.

As we got a little bit older, we sisters would buy each other little gifts with money we had managed to scrape up. My favorite, from my sister Debi, was a cardboard square game with a big lettered dial, surrounded by drawings of various things. If you dialed in the correct spelling of one of these items, it would appear in the hidden flap at the bottom of the board. It thrilled me to pieces, and meant even more because my big sister had saved her nickels and dimes just to get it for me at Woolworth’s.

In the magical days leading up to Christmas, I remember her whispering from her twin bed next to mine, “You are going to LOVE what I got for you!”

“Please tell me — I promise I will forget by Christmas!” I whispered back. That statement has become a family joke, repeated often.

What I realize now is that our Christmases then were so much more about the celebration of the season, spending time participating in joyous programs in the church, making sure that traditions took place within our families, even if it meant squeezing more people in to the living room of my maternal grandparents’ home than seemed humanly possible. We baked, we decorated, we shared ourselves with others in all sorts of ways that became tradition.

The one thing that my parents did, year after year, was to share a Christmas photograph of us, their growing family. Not long ago, a family friend told me she had run across one of those holiday greeting cards from my parents taken a year or two before I was born. Her comments prompted me to write the following:

Childhood captured in black and white

Shared with family each Christmas Eve night

Three tiny girls playing in the snow

Next year appears a new baby with a bow

Four little girls lie yawning in a bed

One year passed, each grown by a head

Another year done,

Along comes a son

Stair steps of five

Smiles so alive

Holding on tight

To memories so bright

* * *

Hold this day in reverence, as some day soon it will become a memory of the good old days. From my family to yours: We wish you a blessed Christmas.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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