Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 30, 2022

Holiday expectations - and evaluations

About Dec. 10, I started feeling achy. "Uh-oh," I thought. By the next day, I was miserable. I spent most of it in bed. Husband Art and I had tickets to see the Flint Hills Children's Choir Dec. 11, but that was a no go. Lunch and dinner plans with friends on Dec. 12? Scrubbed! Coffee with a former student Dec. 13? Nope. Lunch and afternoon coffee with friends Dec. 14. Uh-uh!

But who was I to complain? Over the years, sister Gaila and I have rarely been together at Christmas. But this year, she and hubby Humberto spent the first week of December with us. We went to the "Spirit of the Holidays Lighted Parade" in Manhattan on Dec. 2. The floats, cars, bicycles - and people - were strung with lights of all colors. Santa and Mrs. Claus brought up the rear in a white carriage pulled by two white horses.

The next evening, the four of us went to Vista - one of Humberto�s favorite eating places - and then headed to Salina. Nephew Michael's gang were in the Salina Community Theatre production of "A Christmas Story, the Musical." Michael was "The Old Man," his wife Kristina was "Mother," their middle son Dominic was "Ralphie" and their oldest son Gabriel was "Scut Farkus" - the bully. The 1983 movie is a family holiday favorite and that helped make the musical version all the more entertaining.

The following day, we traveled to Gaila's and my hometown of Burns to visit with family friends Tom and Nedy and their son Christopher. We had a great meal featuring wonderful homemade Reuben sandwiches. I'm not sure what we talked about, but we arrived just after noon and didn�t leave until 9! We also put silk peonies Gaila and Humberto had purchased on our folks' graves. Peonies are family favorites from our time on the farm.

The day after Burns, daughter Mariya and her wife Miriam joined us four for an early Christmas. Art had put up our tree and lights earlier in the day, so after our ham dinner, we did some decorating and exchanged gifts. Gaila, Humberto and I closed out our time together by heading to the local mall to see the lovely decorations and wave at Santa Claus.

Although Gaila and Humberto had to leave, my Christmas activities continued - breakfast with a friend on Dec. 9, and friend Steve's annual holiday party that night; "A Country Christmas" at Lazy T Ranch and "Tuba Christmas" at the mall the next day. I had never heard a Christmas concert with just tubas, euphoniums and baritone horns, but the music reverberated throughout the mall, adding to the festive feel.

So, I guess with all that socializing, there was a good reason why I became sick the following day. And with all I had done, well, it was hard to complain ... well, not too hard. After all, I still had plans of shopping, baking, decorating the house and more. Instead, I spent day after day trying to clear my head and stay awake.

After almost 10 days, I began to feel alive again. I celebrated my return to wellness with a special Christmas Eve surprise gift. My Grandpa Nels Mostrom's homemade Ljuskrona - "light crown" - had been refurbished by Art, Miriam and Mariya. Nels and Grandma Hulda would decorate it with greenery, crepe paper, or whatever materials they happened to have. Later, aunt Edith inherited it, and she often wrapped white silk poinsettias around the cross pieces and used white doilies to catch wax from the nine candles. After Edith passed, her daughter Linda gave it to me when she was downsizing.

I didn�t want lit candles in the house, yet I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. So it had sat at Art's work for years. Without my knowing it, this year he wired it for electric candles and Mariya put a new coat of bright red paint on the four arms, center pole and base. The girls finished with a silver garland, silver stars and small yarn balls on strings. When I saw it, well, I cried!

It served as the centerpiece for our Christmas Eve meal of turkey with all the trimmings.

The next day, we opened gifts and listened to Christmas music. A couple of days later, we joined the girls and Miriam's parents, Guille and Carlos, for pozole, a delicious Mexican pork-and-hominy stew.

We also plan to head to Wisconsin for a delayed Christmas with daughter Katie and son-in-law Matt and to see Art's cousins.

People like to think we remember life as it really was, so I should recall this Christmas as one with two highs separated by a low. But that is doubtful. Psychologists tell us that we recall most strongly any stand-out item from an event and how it ends. This is why musicals always have a big number at the end or recollections of football games are one or two big plays and whether our team won or lost.

Having Gaila and Humberto here was definitely a "high" and the Ljuskrona was as well. And it all ended on a positive note. So, in spite of being "out of commission" for two weeks in the middle of the holiday season and it not unfolding as I thought it would, it will likely be remembered as a wonderful mix of planned events and surprises. Perhaps our flawed memory is just another blessing.

Top (l-r): Fire truck in the parade; Gaila, Kristina, Michael, Dominic, Gabriel, Art, Gloria and Humberto after the play; Tom, Nedy and Christopher; Gloria Gaila and Humberto in mall. Bottom: Mariya, Gloria, Miriam, Gaila, Humberto and Art at ham dinner; "Tuba Christmas" program; Gloria with friends Deb, Steve, Lou and Linda at Steve's Christmas party; Art and Gloria with the Ljuskrona.

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