Praying for Snow

A few days ago we had our first real, honest-to-goodness snowstorm. It’s Dog’s first and she’s not sure what to make of it.

A change of scenery

I, on the other hand, love it.

I also love the gray skies and the way my phone claimed it was -4° when I woke up yesterday.

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Mind over matter, folks. Mind over matter.

I’ve always loved snow so this desert gal is glad to be back in it. The -4 and dropping?

Hey, I can handle it. As long as I have my LL Bean boots and down coat, I’ve got this.

boots ll bean

I’m pretty sure our neighbors think we’re crazy. Moving from Phoenix, AZ to central Minnesota was the first clue, but when a grown woman tromps around in the snow and giggles?

Yeah, she’s a nut-job.

But then I’ve always been a little crazy when it comes to snow. Like, for instance, the time when I prayed for it.

I was an innocent preteen, back when there were such things, and we were headed to South Dakota in early October to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. We usually visited them in June or July, on account of school, but I was a good student and my teachers gave me plenty of work to keep me occupied for the entire 10-day trip. (I finished it in two.)

When my parents announced the trip, I was beyond thrilled. For the first time in my life, I might see snow!

Okay, let’s back up. I’d seen snow before, but I’d never been in it. Never felt it upon my face. In the winter Dad might drive us a couple hours north of Phoenix, point out the window and say, “Look guys, there’s snow.” That was about it.

Twelve years old and never built a snowman.

But now, in South Dakota, in early October? Will it snow?

“It’s too early for that,” Dad said.

Mom agreed. “It never snows this early.”

Never? Never ever?

“Well, it’s highly unlikely.”

So there’s a possibility?

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

Too late.

But I wasn’t leaving it all to chance. Every night, I made my requests known unto the Lord.

Please, oh please, oh pleeeease, let it snow! I don’t need a lot, just enough for a snowman. That’s all. All I want is to feel it on my face and build a snowman. That’s it. Please?!

Every night, over and over. (I was a strange 12-year-old.)

We left Phoenix on October 2. Two days later we were at a motel in Nebraska, right at the border to South Dakota. It was morning, our last day of travel, maybe three hours from my grandparent’s house. Dad took our luggage to the car.

He walked back in. “It’s snowing,” he said. Not happily.

What?!”

I zoomed past him.

“Christi, get your shoes on!”

“Prayer works!” I cried.

Alleluia and praise be!
This is the snow that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

My South Dakota relatives were not amused. It was one thing to deal with an early snowfall, but to find out your young relation had prayed for it? Hoo-boy, that didn’t sit well.

Even so, two of my uncles and one cousin aided me in my quest for a snowman. Despite everyone’s belief there wasn’t enough snow.

O ye of little faith. I knew better.

I had prayed for “just enough” snow and that’s what we had. Along with a lovely coating of leaves for rustic charm.

Uncle Bobby loaned his hat, Uncle Richard fashioned a pipe from a stick, Cousin Sheila found some fallen apples for the eyes and nose.

Me with snowman

My first snowman.

You know, it’s funny. As much as I love this picture and the flood of memories it gives me, I don’t really believe it was divine intervention that created that snowstorm.

Had it happened today, my dad would have checked his weather app before we left Phoenix and would have known all about the storm. And he probably would have stopped off at a gas station to buy his silly daughter gloves because she forgot to pack them.

Don’t get me wrong — I believe in prayer and I pray daily.

Well, mostly daily. Sometimes I forget. (Hey, I’m human.)

I think far too often we confuse God with Santa Claus:

If I’m a good girl and I pray really hard, God will give me what I want.”

Sorry. Doesn’t work like that.

I read something recently that said prayer is about making yourself open to a relationship with God.

Which, when you think about it, is a whole lot more scary and probably why I “forget” to do it.

Like I said, I’m human.

In any case, that’s my take on the situation. Maybe you have different views and that’s okay. There’s room enough for all here.

But right now there’s a layer of snow in my backyard with more to come, that’s for sure. And while I have no plans of building any snowmen, I remember a time when I did. With complete confidence it was God who made it possible.

And who knows? Maybe that 12-year-old girl had it right.

I mean, just look at the joy on her face.

me with snowman up close

Are you going to tell her otherwise?

Cookin’ With Grandma

Note: Beings how this is the week I’m moving, I figured rerunning an old post was understandable. With any luck, we should be up and running new material next week. Until then, I hope you enjoy this little visit with Grandma…

My grandmother was one of those “pinch of this, dash of that” cooks. She never used a recipe, even for baking, making things difficult for someone hoping to recreate a dish.

Such as my mom, who was always trying to find something of grandma’s she could make. One time in frustration she asked Grandma to write a recipe down in detail. “Don’t leave out a thing,” she said.

This is what Grandma gave her:

Open cabinet door. Take out your oblong glass cake pan.
Next, roll out graham crackers. Put layer in bottom of pan.
Thicken a quart of rhubarb sauce and pour over crumbs and cool good.
Take a tub of Cool Whip, add small marshmallows and put on top of rhubarb. Next mix up a box of instant vanilla pudding and then put that on top. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top. Then when cooled good you can eat it.

Notice how Grandma mastered the art of crystal clear confusion?

I decided we needed to chat.

Beings how she was called to that great heavenly kitchen in the sky some 25 years ago, this proved tricky. Once again, my imagination didn’t let me down.

Me: Grandma! Oh my gosh, it’s so good to see you! (We hug.) How have you been?

Grandma: Where am I?

Me: In my blog.

Grandma: Your what?

Me: Never mind. Could you introduce yourself to my readers?

Grandma: You got readers?

Me: I like to think so, yes.

Grandma: (She looks around) There’s no one here, dear.

Me: Well, they’re kind of… never mind Grandma. Listen, I was hoping you could help me with this recipe of yours. The rhubarb one you gave Mom? I was thinking if we made it together, I could show my readers how it’s done.

Grandma: The readers who ain’t here, you mean.

Me: Let it go, Grandma. Now, I’ve already done the first part, see? I opened the cabinet door.

Grandma: Uh-huh.

Me: And then you write: take out your oblong glass cake pan. What size pan would that be, Grandma?

Grandma: I don’t know. Whatever size my oblong cake pan is.

Me: Right… so… would you say that was 13 by 9? Or 11 by 7? Personally, I like 11 by 7.

Grandma: (Shrugs) I don’t measure it. I just use it.

Me: Let’s say it’s an 11 by 7.

aprons 2Grandma: Fine by me. (Looks around) Where are your aprons? If I’m gonna cook, I need an apron.

Me: Wow, Grandma, you haven’t changed a bit. As it so happens, I have a few of your aprons over here. See? I made a little display of them.

Grandma: (Puts one on) Alrighty, now where do you keep your rhubarb? I hoped you canned plenty. Oh, and you better take the Cool Whip out of the freezer.

Me: Okay, first up, no one does canning anymore Grandma. And I can’t grow rhubarb in Phoenix.

Grandma: Kinda hard to make rhubarb dessert with no rhubarb.

Me: No, it’s okay! See? I bought frozen. Also, I was hoping we could use real whipped cream? It’s so much better than Cool Whip, and my readers have come to expect quality from me.

Grandma: Again, the readers who ain’t here.

MeGrandma

Grandma: Fine, only I ain’t gonna whip no cream. You gotta do that.

Me: I’m way ahead of you, Grandma. I’ve got the beaters right here. I’ll whip this baby up in no time.

Grandma: Okay, you do that. Now, let’s see… I’ll do the crust… Hmm… coulda swore I put nuts in this.

Me: WHAT’D YA SAY, GRANDMA? I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE BEATERS!

Grandma: I SAID I FORGOT TO WRITE DOWN NUTS – I USUALLY PUT NUTS IN THE CRUST!

Me: THAT’S OKAY! I GOT NUTS!

Grandma: GOOD! WHERE DO YOU YOU KEEP YOUR… oh land’s sake, I’ll just find it myself.

Me: WHAT’D YA SAY, GRANDMA?!

Grandma: I SAID NEVER MIND!

Me: OKAY!

(Three minutes pass)

Me: Okay, Grandma, I finished the whipped cream. Now about that rhubarb. How do you make that?

Grandma: Hmm? Oh, that’s done. It’s in the fridge.

Me: Wait… what?

Grandma: And here’s the pudding. I made that too.

Me: Grandma! I wanted to see how you did everything!

Grandma: Time and dessert wait for no man.

Me: What’s that supposed to mean?

Grandma: This goes a lot faster if you use Cool Whip.

Me: Grandma!

Grandma: There, that’s done (hands me the finished dessert). Now, what are you planning for dinner?

Me: I didn’t even get a picture…

Grandma: How about bean soup? You got bacon, don’t you? And beans? Tell me you got beans.

Me: (sighs) Yeah, I got beans. I love you, Grandma.

Grandma: I love you too, sweetie. Now scootch yourself outta here and let me cook. And where’s your mop? Floor’s a bit dirty over here…

R.I.P. Fluffy, Bear of Noble Mien

Moving across country is not for the softhearted.

One must be willing to part with unnecessary items. Purge the dross. Winnow possessions to the basic few.

It is no time for sentiment.

Therefore, it is with heavy heart that I must say farewell to thee, Fluffy Bear. Steadfast Teddy these past 45 years.

Give or take a year.

Fluffy

Ah, how well I remember when you entered my life.

I, a sorrowful lass who lost her previous bear due to an unfortunate intake of far too much candy, and his subsequent visit to the washing machine.

Alas, poor Herman. Loved so dearly, gone so soon.

Then one sunny day, you entered my life after the family collected enough proof of purchase labels from a certain brand of toilet paper.

Our lavatory supplies were covered for the remainder of the year.

Your label read, “made of 100% fluffy synthetic fiber.” Hence your name. Fluffy.

Our early years were carefree and bright. Remember the times you watched me standing on the seat of the backyard swing, singing at the top of my lungs?

I’M ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD LOOKIN’
DOWN ON CREATION!

You were so kind, never pointing out my sour notes.

Later you donned your dapper attire, looking oh-so-noble in my niece’s cast-off baby jacket.

Perhaps other bears would object to the wearing of pink, but not you. You were comfortable in your skin.

And later when your nose fell off? Or your tongue? Oh, how many times they fell off! But each time you withstood the needle with such stoic silence.

It was admirable.

Sadly, all things must come to an end. And so it is with you, dear Fluffy. It is time we bring this relationship to a close.

Goodbye to you, my trusted friend…

Fluffy trashed

Don’t look at me like that, Fluffy. It’s for your own good. Do you know how cold it gets in Minnesota? You’d hate it there.

And that hole in your back? It’s not getting any smaller, you know. Why, the move alone might do you in. Never mind the cold.

Fluffy, no! Turn those orange plastic eyes away from me!

Be reasonable, Fluffy! I’m 50… um… some-odd-years-old. A 50-some-odd-years-old woman doesn’t keep a teddy bear.

It just won’t do!

You never know. You might like the landfill. Think of all the other toys you’ll meet.

Discarded dolls… unwanted G.I. Joes… unloved teddy bears…

Gah! I’m sorry Fluffy, please forgive me!

*rescues from trash*
*hugs tightly*
*weeps softly*

Come to Minnesota! We’ll keep each other warm! I’m sorry I ever considered parting; what was I thinking?

You and me, Fluffy. From now until the end of time, that is my promise.

Here’s your travel bed — my dresser’s top drawer…

Fluffy in transit

*waves back*

See you in Minnesota, Fluffy. ❤️

A Pink Suit, Marching Band, and Soggy Cereal

At this moment I’m in Minnesota house-hunting.

Wish me luck.

In the meantime, to keep you all amused and this blog on a regular schedule, Husband gave me permission to share a few more pictures from his youth.

Whatta guy!

First up, the pink suit…

Husband in the 70s

There are a few things Husband wants you to know:

  1. The suit is not pink. He claims it’s maroon. (It looks pink to me)
  2. This was the trend, everyone wore suits like this. (Okaaay)
  3. This was conservative compared to his friend’s suit. (Now THAT I want to see)

When I asked him what his date wore, he said he wore this to the end of the year band banquet and he didn’t have a date.

That sounds about right.

Remember when I showed you his band uniform?

Husband in band uniform

Of course you do. How could you forget?

I’m not sure what I find more appealing. Is it the tall furry hat? The way the sunlight twinkles on the visor? Or maybe it’s the shirt itself, bringing to mind the Matterhorn workers at Disneyland.

In any case, Husband informs me that the ensemble was actually the updated uniform.

So what was the old uniform like? So glad you asked.

hsbandoldNow I don’t know about you, but I rather like this uniform and see no reason for it to be updated.

I like the color scheme (black and gold, his school colors), the enormous letter in case he forgot what school he went to (Maryvale High), and I especially love the hat!

But you know what I love best about this uniform?

It reminds me of Commodore Condello’s Salt River Navy Band!

Commodore Condello's Salt River Navy BandFor those of you who didn’t spend your childhood in Arizona during the 70s, you have my sympathy. Reason being, you missed this wonderful group performing for the Wallace and Ladmo show.

If you never heard of Wallace and Ladmo — again, my heart goes out to you — you missed something pretty dang special. They were the children’s show to beat all children shows, going over 35 years presenting cartoons, skits, musical sketches and lots of snarky humor to the children of Phoenix.

It was glorious.

One of their bits was this band, and I had one serious crush on Commodore Condello, let me tell you.

And now that I think about it, Husband looks remarkably like him in that band uniform. In fact, had Husband wore his band hat to the banquet? And I was just a wee bit older and actually knew him?

I totally would have been his date.

Just for fun, this was my favorite song from the show:

I don’t think there was a kid at my school who didn’t know every word to Soggy Cereal.

Sigh

I’m gonna miss this city.

Packing for the Move, Making Progress…

Until I hit the photo albums and, like a damned fool, I open one…

This is a picture of my dad with two Army buddies. Written on the back:

Swimming at Kamakura Beach
July, 1946

Swimming at Kamakua

My dad is the one on the left, but the other two? No idea.

As many stories as he told us about his childhood and family history, of his Army days he spoke very little.

Army photo

I should have posted these on Memorial Day.

Moving on, here’s a photo of me as a baby, making five generations of my mom’s family:

Five Generations

On the far left is my grandmother, next to her is her father, and seated is his mother, my great-great-grandmother, Kate Goodroad.

There are three things I want to point out about this photo:

  1. My mother’s dress. It’s lovely, don’t you think? She rarely wore dresses, so I’m thinking this was taken after church and given my age, we must have still been living in South Dakota.
  2. The photo on the wall behind my mom — doesn’t it look like two cats? Did my great-great-grandmother like cats? Did she have cats? (I think I would have liked her.)
  3. Look closely at the chair great-great-grandmother is sitting on. Specifically, the back and arm rests. See the dish towels? Every old person on my mom’s side of the family used dishtowels as chair protectors. It was the Goodroad/Jurgens way.

Several months after that photo was taken, my family moved to sunny Phoenix, Arizona, where we had a dog named Foxy.

Here’s a picture of Foxy in his doghouse:

Me by doghouse

I should point out that Foxy was black, so all you can see is his tongue.

Also in Phoenix, we had an above-ground pool:

Me with pool float

I sure seem happy, don’t I?

And look at my brother Dean, standing behind me. He kind of looks like he’s planning something.

I wonder what?

Me with Dean

What happened next, Dean?! Huh? WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?!

Oh, look! We have pictures from Husband’s childhood, too!

Here’s Husband with his trumpet, looking oh so cool and jazzy:

Husband and his trumpet

Do you think they planned this photo, or was it just happy coincidence the shadow landed as it did?

Also, I feel it should be pointed out, had Husband put more effort into his playing? Let’s say, practiced day and night? This would have made a mighty fine album cover.

Just sayin’.

Even so, I’m happy to report he played in his high school band.

Lucky for you, he gave me permission to post his band picture. His exact words: “Oh, I don’t care.”

Funny. Seems like he’d care.

Husband in band uniform

Cute guy.

Funny hat, but cute guy.

I’m going back to my packing now. Wish me luck.

Thoughts on the Simple Life and the Good Old Days of Bad Roads

Hate to say it, but I’m running behind. I’m behind in my to-do list, behind in my reading list, both books and blogs (sorry, blogging buddies). I’m even behind in my listening (You should see the number of podcasts backed up in the queue).

This is unusual for me, I need you to know that. Normally my to-do lists end their days with nary a check missing.

Despite this busyness, however, I’m still finding time to read through my family’s Pioneer Memoirs and I remain dedicated to bringing you snippets now and then. Partly because my invented deadline of Wednesdays for my blog posting has seeped into my brain with such ferocity that if I should be 98 and on my deathbed, I dearly hope it’s a Tuesday.

Along with that, reading these Pioneer Memoirs reminds me that however busy my life is at the moment, when all is said and done, I’ve got it pretty good.

On a previous post, one of the comments made mention of how wonderful it was to hear of those simpler times. I agreed at first, but then got to thinking. I wonder if it’s true? What I mean is, did they think their life was simple?

Somehow I doubt it.

Consider when Thoreau moaned on and on about all those men living desperate lives, yada, yada, yada.  That was pre-Civil War! No freeways, no rush hour traffic, no commercial television or Russians in your Facebook.

Makes you wonder what old Henry had to complain about, am I right?

Following this logic, perhaps one day people will look back on 2018 as a simpler time. Just as I might look back on this time and think, “Eh, I wasn’t so busy.”

In any case, the last two weeks I brought you tales spun by my Great-Aunt Clara. Today’s story comes from her father, my Great-Grandfather, Abraham Jacobson.

Old Abe came to the United States in 1848, when he was 12 years old. As you’ll see below, he and his “trusty legs” were rarely idle. He graduated from college, became a Lutheran minister, traveled to Quebec to help newly arrived immigrants, served churches in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, found some time for farming, and eventually ran for public office.

This particular tale tells us of when he traveled from Decorah, Iowa (in the northeastern part of the State), into the newly formed Dakota territories… by foot. It was a story my dad used to tell us kids, as it was a bit of family pride that our relation was the first Lutheran minister in the Dakotas. (If that should ever come up in a trivia contest, now you know.)

The following was written in 1908, two years before he passed away at the age of 74. I hope you find it a pleasant diversion from your busy day…

In the vast domain of the Northwest there may still be found places where roads are poor, but the ease and facility of present-day travel cannot be compared with conditions fifty years ago.

In the summer of 1850, when I was a boy of fourteen, my trusty legs carried me across the state of Wisconsin from the vicinity of Milwaukee to Prairie du Chien, a distance of more than two hundred miles. This journey was made in company with a large caravan of emigrants who were to settle in Iowa. The day’s journey was short and the roads were good, so the four week trip was an enjoyable one, though it was strenuous enough for many of the older people.

In the eleven years that followed, among many varied experiences, I was ordained into the ministry and served a congregation in Chicago. Circumstances so shaped themselves that a journey to the then new Dakota Territory seemed to me a duty, from a religious point of view. A keen desire for recreation for both mind and body was also an impelling factor in my determination to undertake the trip. An opportunity for the realization of this wish soon presented itself.

In October, 1861, a small party of eight people in Decorah were in readiness to make the trip westward to Dakota. The company had four yoke of oxen and four wagons. Three of these wagons had just been driven in from Dakota by settlers who came to meet some newly-arrived relatives from Norway.

Our wagon was constructed in a practical manner, in true prairie schooner style. The arched bows were covered with canvas and, as an extra precaution, were again covered with oilcloth, so that we were well protected against both wind and rain. We were amply provided with provisions and cooking utensils, and this later proved to have been a wise forethought.

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The first event that occurred on our trip, and which yet remains vivid in my memory, happened near Calmar. Along the main highway to McGregor came a man with a yoke of oxen hauling a load of wheat. A little boy, who was a cripple, sat on top of the load. The weather was warm and the road dry and dusty. The poor draft cattle were undoubtedly both tired and thirsty,  for their tongues protruded far from their throats.

Near the road there was a depression full of water, apparently a little pond, but in reality a so-called “sinkhole,” the opening in the bottom of which was partly closed by a deposit of clay which had been washed in from the road. As soon as the oxen saw the water they became entirely unmanageable, and down into the hole they rushed pell-mell, with the wagon and the whole load. The sides of the bank were steep and the heavy load shoved the wagon so far down that the water reached to the boy’s waist. Fortunately some of us were nearby.

We brought the boy back to dry land, unyoked the oxen, and finally helped the poor man to get the wheat and the wagon out of the water. The man, whose home was near St. Ansgar, was on his way to market his wheat and had taken his ailing boy along to consult a doctor. Now they had to spread the wheat upon the ground and let it dry before they could continue their journey.

To be continued…

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Here’s Abraham with his wife, Nicolina, and their 11 children.
Talk about busy!

School Stories From Olden Days: Trust Me, We Got it Better

As much criticism leveled against public schools nowadays, it might be tempting to think it was better in the past. Back when there was no standardized testing or government interference, back when parents had complete control. Then you read something about that earlier time and you realize it was only the rich who could afford good teachers; the rest of us poor slobs were on our own.

Continuing on with our perusal through my Great-Aunt Clara’s writings in Pioneer Memoirs, we come across her memories of school, or rather, the pioneer version of school. Specifically, two teachers whom she remembers fondly, however incompetent they turned out to be.

Keep in mind she’s writing this in 1911, regarding events that happened nearly 50 years prior. Imagine in this small country parsonage, somewhere in Dane County, Wisconsin, there lived our spunky writer, along with her parents and 10 younger siblings.

Someone must teach the children, yes? With no Board of Education or government funding, you take what you can get.

“One of them was old Berentsen. He must have died years ago. He came from Lindesnes in the southern part of Norway; “near the lighthouse at Lindesnes,” he said.

He had been a teacher of navigation. He tried to get a job teaching parochial school and pestered the minister with his many and lengthy testimonials. Once he was really allowed to try teaching, but he was not fitted for it, for, as a farmer declared, “We might just as well have a cow to teach school as this Berentsen.”

It was his first and last effort in these parts.

I remember Berentsen well — the square figure, the red wig, and the straggling hair handing beneath it. He had all his belongings in a bag that he carried on his back. He always shook hands, Mother said, with such a fierce grip that her fingers tingled.

She always treated him like a guest and never showed that he was not especially welcome. It amused us children to see him eat, for he had an unusually good appetite. He was not troubled with dyspepsia.

When he had eaten he always read the newspapers. He also read certain books. He asked permission to read Holberg’s Comedies nearly every time he came. He sat and read in a half whisper, chuckling as he read. Poor old man! Then he forgot his troubles and sorrows and lived in another world far away, where no doubt schoolmasters led a far more honored existence than fell to his lot.

Old Hans Heegaard was in many respects a complete contrast to Berentsen. Tall and thin I remember him, with an almost military bearing.

His long, well-worn coat was carefully brushed. He had a large neckerchief that he tied with great care. He would stand before the mirror as long as any lady of fashion. He would spread his silvery locks to cover his bare head. I remember how pleased he was once when Mother gave him a new neckerchief. He did not like to share the bedroom with John, the hired man who had been with us so long that he was a real factotum.

Heegaard once told Mother something about himself when he was in a talkative mood. In his youth he had been a clerk in one of the larger cities in Norway. He had gotten into gay drinking parties with like-minded companions and so gradually he went down. In brief, it was the old story — he lost, step by step, money, position, friends, health, all. By an accident he came to America, where for some time now he had wandered about in the Norwegian settlements.

He had also tried his luck as schoolmaster, presumably with not much better success than his colleague, Berentsen. When Heegaard came to us, he always asked Mother in his most polite manner, “O dear Mrs. Jacobson, may I stay a couple of days? I’m so tired and poorly.” Mother, of course, could not say no. The “couple of days” usually became weeks.

I remember the time brother Jacob was to learn to read. He was rather slow and had no liking for the A-B-C’s. As Heegaard happened to be there at this time, Mother proposed that he should undertake to be Jacob’s tutor. Heegaard expressed his willingness, and the lessons began quite impressively but were very short ones. The boy read about five minutes and then had a recess that lasted till Heegaard saw Mother, when he would tap at the windowpane and call, “Jacob, Jacob, you must come in again.” Soon both teacher and pupil became sick and tired of the reading and the boy had a vacation until Mother took hold in earnest.

As much as I love Clara’s description of these two men — it’s a wonder she never attempted a novel, right? — for my own part, I appreciate our modern version of schools. In particular, our teachers.

Here in Arizona, we are in our fifth day of teacher strikes. Their demands are modest. In a nutshell: competitive salaries and for school funding to be returned to 2008 levels. It is expected our legislature will have a favorable meeting today and classes will resume tomorrow. (Keep your fingers crossed.)

Due to being out-of-town, I haven’t been part of either the marches or the “Stand-Out” groups on city corners. But I have to say, the site of our downtown being turned into a sea of red is indeed lovely…

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Hug a Teacher Today ❤️

I Never Got What I Wanted for Christmas

If that sounds like a whine, I don’t mean it as such. It’s true that as a child I never received anything I wanted for Christmas, despite the fact that I noted page numbers in catalogs, circled items, made note of color preferences and quantity, and any other helpful information my mother might need.

Nevertheless, it’s true. I never got a single thing I requested.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I also told you how Santa Claus never visited my house. That’s true too, but I’m not asking for your pity. In fact, if there was ever a child less deserving of pity than myself from days past, I’d like to meet them. For not only did I have a family who loved me, I had parents who knew what was best for me. And what was best for me was rarely what I wanted.

This is a picture of my brothers and me on Christmas Eve, before the evening’s festivities began.

Brothers and me

My two older sisters are missing, the oldest one married with a little girl of her own, the other sister… well, I’m not sure where she is. Maybe she was still getting dressed.

The sparkly dress I’m wearing was my “movie star dress.”  I wanted to wear it all the time.

“Mom, mom, can I wear my movie star dress? Pretty please? Pleeeease?”
“No dear, that’s too fancy. That’s for fancy events.”

Christmas Eve was our fancy event.

The entire family gathered for dinner, relatives came from out-of-town, everyone dressed in their Sunday best. It was a sit-down meal with Mom’s finest plates (Corelle®) and her only set of matching silverware. We may have used fabric napkins, I don’t remember.

After the meal, everyone helped clear the table and the adults washed the dishes. By hand. We had to wait until every dish was clean, dried, and put away.

Finally, after the last piece of silverware was put in the box (not used again until Easter), Mom wiped her hands, removed her apron, and announced it was time. Everyone took a seat by the tree, we children sat on the floor.

One gift at a time, that’s how it was done. Usually Mom, but sometimes Dad, would select a gift, hand it to the person it was intended for, and we’d watch as they unwrapped it.

If this sounds ponderously slow, I should point out that children received three gifts each and the adults, as I remember, received one. If that. Even so, when you’re six years old and the last of five kids…

This particular year, the year of the photo, I wanted a doll. But not just any doll. I wanted Dancerina Ballerina.

Dancerina Ballerina ad

Push a button on top of Dancerina’s head, her leg kicks out and… get this… she twirls! Just like a real ballerina!

I told my mom: That’s it. That’s all I want for Christmas. Dancerina Ballerina

My mom, I have to give her credit, she looked into it. She must have for a few days later she broke the news: It exceeded her price limit for dolls.

You see, my mom was a great believer in budgets and rules. She had many rules, most of them her own creation. Two of her long standing rules involved dolls.

Mom’s Doll Rule #1: Every little girl should have a doll at Christmas
Mom’s Doll Rule #2: No doll should cost more than $20.00

Dancerina Ballerina cost slightly more than $20.00.

It wasn’t a lot, maybe a dollar or two at the most. But it was a dollar or two over $20, and that broke Mom’s rule. Other parents would have thought, “Oh, it’s not that much. We can swing it.” But those parents weren’t my mom. Mom was a rule follower. 

Plus, Mom was German. Dancerina Ballerina didn’t have a chance.

Even so, I had hope. When Mom handed me the wrapped, doll-sized box that year, presented it with a comment along the lines of, “This is Christi’s special gift,” I was certain it was Dancerina.

But of course it wasn’t. If it was, I would have titled this post something other than, “I Never Got What I Wanted for Christmas.”

Here I am with the doll I did get, along with my two other gifts:

Giggles and me
The larger doll, the one with the shiny golden hair, that’s Giggles. When you held her hands and moved her arms, she giggled. As I recall she sounded a bit like a dolphin, but that was okay by me. I loved her.

The next morning, Christmas Day, my brothers and I headed outside to show off our new toys to friends, who were all outside for the same reason. It would be several years before I realized they probably opened their gifts that morning. At the time, I thought everyone celebrated on Christmas Eve. I had no reason to think otherwise.

That morning’s “look-what-I-got” exchange is an especially memorable one for me. Of all the girls my age who received dolls, I was the only one without a Dancerina Ballerina.

I realize how that sounds. You probably think I’m exaggerating for effect, but please believe me, I am not. I truly was the only one without a Dancerina.

Again, don’t pity me. For there’s a funny thing that happens when children see the same toy over and over, then finally see something different. The different toy becomes the most popular.

Giggles was the life of the party.

And why wouldn’t she be? Everything made her happy, nothing ever got her down. She was the friend who cheered you up, the playmate who laughed at all your jokes. She was a perfect delight.

As for me, I remember holding another girl’s Dancerina and feeling her stiff, awkward limbs, seeing the odd button on top of her head. Without a word, I handed her back to the girl and gave quiet thanks for my mom’s rules. She really did know best.

Many parents worry over whether their children will be disappointed on Christmas Day if they don’t get exactly what they want. Personally? I think it’s a needless worry.

Children are resilient. They can handle much more than we give them credit for, even a few strange rules and a strict budget. And the way I see it, no one would be more deserving of pity than a child who always got what they wanted and never heard the word ‘No’.

In the end, all that truly matters is whether or not they were loved.

reindeer

Merry Christmas, friends. I hope the day brings you every good thing, many happy memories, and lots and lots of love. ❤️

The Story of a Young Girl’s Faith in Santa, Her Ensuing Disgrace, and Her Rescue From Certain Despair

The year was 1970. I was in the first grade, and I was being punished for believing in Santa.

Rather, to be more clear, I was punished for defending Santa.

srikanta-h-u-51975

You see, an unbeliever in the ranks – a heathen – was casting doubt on his existence. Pointing out irregularities in the Santa Claus canon. Casting aspersions on his good name.

Several of my classmates were listening and their faith was shaken. You could see it in their eyes.

I’d had enough. I proclaimed in a voice for all to hear:

There is so a Santa Claus! He’s been to MY HOUSE!

Gasp!

Unfortunately we were in class at the time and our teacher was not fond of loud proclamations. Even those in defense of Santa.

It was the time-out table for me.

I must pause here, for I need you to understand the overall makeup of our teacher’s time-out table. Only then can you grasp the true horror of what was before me.

Miss September — okay, my teacher’s name wasn’t really Miss September. It was something similar to Miss September. Something like Miss Sembler… or maybe it was Stremble. Honestly, I don’t know.

The fact is, I was never very good with names, even as a child. For those I didn’t recognize or couldn’t pronounce, I’d come up with a close approximation and stick with it. No doubt Miss September corrected me plenty of times before giving up, figuring there were worse things to be called than the name of a centerfold.

In any case, it wasn’t enough for Miss September that a noisy child sat at the time-out table. The point had to be driven home, which was why there was a stack of index cards on the table. Whoever sat at the table had to do so while keeping an index card in their mouth. The entire time.

I had never, in the entire history of my academic career (now spanning kindergarten and a few months of first grade), been punished for speaking out of turn.

I can still hear Miss September’s voice, “Who said that?!” Adding, in disbelief, “Christi? Was that you?!”

Was there a moment of hesitation? A possibility of reprieve given my incredible track record? Was consideration given for the fact my outburst was a necessary one? The foundation of our faith was being challenged! A defender had to rise up!

I was that defender.

But no. Consistency in punishment, that was Miss September’s way. She pointed to the back table without saying a word. I made my way, my head cast low.

The truly frustrating thing was that I had no reason to stand up for Santa.

Santa had never brought me a present. There was no chimney in our house for him to come down, no stockings to fill. My parents never threatened us with “Santa won’t come if you don’t behave,” because we were always to behave. Santa had nothing to do with it. And Santa never came on Christmas morning, presumably, because we celebrated on Christmas Eve. It was our family’s tradition from ages past.

Clearly, Santa and my family had denominational differences.

But being the broadminded people they were, my parents were not Santa-deniers. They never spoke out in favor of him, nor against him. They simply never brought him up.

What I learned, you might say, I picked up on the streets.

My faith was a pure one. Not born out of fear or greed, but out of sincere philosophical musing and sound theology.

Plus, as I said, he’d been to my house.

Santa and me 2

Many years later, as my mom was showing family pictures to my husband, I asked her who the man was who showed up at our house one December day so long ago, dressed as Santa.

She laughed. It wasn’t a man. (Gasp!) It was the neighbor lady from across the street. The people who bred Boston terriers and decorated their house with blue Christmas lights. It was her.

Honestly, I had no idea.

Back to Miss September’s class: I approached the time-out table, sat down heavily, put the card in my mouth. The tears… oh my friends, the tears! Never has a child suffered so much, nor felt it so deeply as I. Shame and misery were mine.

But the story doesn’t end here, for there was another student at the time-out table. She was a frequent visitor, a regular felon in our classroom. In truth, she was our class clown, and though we weren’t close friends, she gave me a gift that day.

I’m very sorry I don’t remember her name. A better writer would make one up for you. Just name her Angie or Susan or Debbie. Invent a name and run with it. But just as it is with Miss September and my Santa lady with blue Christmas lights, I cannot lie. Her name is lost.

I have failed you. Mea culpa.

All I can remember are two things: her hand sliding across the table until she got my attention, and then, when I looked up… do you know what I saw? This little comic genius had taken the index card, folded it in half, put it in her mouth and was now impersonating a duck!

Soon my tears of sadness were tears of joy and I could hardly stay in my seat due to giggling. My misery forgotten, my day instantly brightened.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, what impact we can have on others? Whether we dress up as Santa (remember ladies, it’s an equal opportunity position), or we cheer up a tearful child with a goofy face. It’s the little moments of kindness that matter.

So as we make our way through this holiday season — indeed, as we approach a new year — let’s look at the ways we leave our mark on others. The memories we give them, the words we leave them.

Let’s make them count, yes?

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And please, put in a good word for Santa. There are enough doubters in the world as it is.

First picture: srikanta H. U on Unsplash
Second picture: Author’s own, and ain’t I a cute one?
Third picture: Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash