Snapshots by Gloria Freeland -- Jan. 1, 2004

Sweet holiday memories

After the holiday hubbub, I usually take time to contemplate our various celebrations and I often wonder how things have appeared through our daughters' eyes.

I'm sure when I was a youngster, my brother, sister and I received about as many gifts as most children did. But other than a Mattie Mattel doll and a Barbie Dream House, I really don't remember much of anything I received. Oh, I know if I think about it a bit, I will remember other gifts. But I'm surprised that even though I looked forward with great anticipation to what I'd be getting, it isn't the gifts I remember.

I've asked Art and others about their childhood impressions of Christmas and very few people seem to remember instantly more than one or two store-bought items. So each year when we purchase the things on Mariya's and Katie's list, Art and I are pretty sure that it really won't matter all that much what we get.

Instead, what seems to stay with us is a mixture of certain feelings and special events or images. To Art, Christmas has four elements which spring immediately to mind. One is heading into the north woods of Wisconsin with his Uncle Art to bring back Christmas trees for his grandfather's lot and the local churches. Another is trimming his grandparent's tree. Still another is about his Dad's work. It involved hauling the mail between the post office and the trains which carried it throughout the nation. After Thanksgiving, the amount of mail grew steadily and often Art or his brother were asked to help. Invariably, at least one box containing Avon products was damaged and the smell in the enclosed box car was overpowering -- and indelibly marked in his memory. The remaining image is going to his grandparents' home on Christmas night. There were more gifts there, but the highlight was seeing and being with all his relatives.

When I think of Christmas, we are back at the farm we called the West Place and I see the tree, covered with silvery icicles and dancing bubble lights. The Sunday before Christmas, we'd go to the service at the church and sing Christmas carols. As we left the church, Santa gave each of us a brown paper sack containing hard ribbon candy, peanuts and some fruit.

We always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve and at some point Dad would disappear for awhile. I suppose as we got older, we knew where he was going, but we weren't about to ask. Then, while we were playing and admiring the gifts we had already received, Mom would jingle the bells on her apron and say, "I think Santa has been here." With that, we'd rush to the porch to see what he had left.

The other part of Christmas for me was watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and traveling to my grandparents' home.

I wonder what the girls will remember. Will Mariya think of how she always plays Christmas music in her room or of the little tree she decorates each year which sits next to her bed with the lights twinkling? Will Katie recall the singing Santa which hangs from the dining room light and renders a wavering rendition of "Jingle Bells" when his bottom is bumped?

Whatever they remember, I doubt it will be about the store-bought gifts.

David, Gaila and I at the West Place, Christmas 1956.

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