Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Memories Part 4

This will be the final chapter of my Christmas reminiscences. We lived in a different world when I was a child. My memories will take you back in time to an era I consider to be warmer, safer than the one we know today.

I don't have any pictures of the whole gang gathered for Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Their house was small so we had to pack ourselves into it in separate areas and the only time we were all together in one space was at mealtime. Otherwise, the women were cooking, the men out hunting or gabbing in the living room around the tree, and the children in various rooms or outside depending on the weather.

Togetherness ruled in Grandma and Grandpa's world. None of their family questioned where they would be on Christmas day. Everyone would be together, rubbing elbows in small spaces, surrounded by laughter and familiar voices.

World War Two was still a recent memory then, so Uncle Kenny Ketchell shared war stories or tales of the shell shocked veteran who lived with them. Homeless veterans were rare in those days because family or friends took them in out of respect and concern. We kids never tired of Uncle Kenny's stories, told proudly from a well of patriotism and amazing courage.

Grandpa and Uncle Don Ford took great delight in teasing and joking. No one escaped their mischief -- especially the children -- and they kept it up until Grandma silently intervened by giving them the dreaded "straight mouth." When Grandma pursed her lips together, even Grandpa hunkered down and took a break from mischief. Uncle Don was not so easily intimidated, but switched from teasing to intellectual challenges to appease Grandma.

Before we gathered for our meal, Uncle Jerome Lueers sang "Bless the House" as our family prayer. His beautiful Irish tenor voice penetrated every room from corner to corner, ceiling to floor, touching hearts and spirits. Stresses fell away and anxieties departed because his voice soothed and healed.

So many of the participants of our gladsome gatherings are gone now. I remember them with fondness today because they are a part of the tapestry that is my life: Grandma and Grandpa Ford; Mother, Verla Ford Smith; Aunt Maxine Ford Ketchell, Uncle Kenny, and their sons Randy and Keith; Uncle Jerome Lueers and daughter Nancy. I miss their presence and their gifts.

We epitomized the American family in those days, relatives who enjoyed every nuance of Christmas and made no apologies for it. We were a family who believed in God, a family that prayed together and took comfort in the Christ Child's message, who put angels on our trees and creches in our yards. This Christmas I will celebrate those times, envision those familiar faces, and fond memories will put a smile on my face. Merry Christmas!

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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