Saturday, December 19, 2009

In Passing & Pausing

As I gather up and feast upon the precious new memories of this Christmas season, it's not without a reflection (or ten) of those of my childhood. Among my favorite memories are ...

Searching for Rudolph.

I fell for it every year; or at least every year until I was old enough to know better.

On Christmas Eve, just after dark, the olders would lead me out the back door to walk the same stretch of sidewalk behind our home we'd walked many a year prior; ostensibly to search the night sky for Rudolf and the host he headed.

Naive and unwizened as was I, they'd (these colluding olders) steer me this way and that. Our sojourn was dotted with their convincing exclamations (dare I say
taunts): Oh where could that Rudolf be? or You don't suppose Santa got lost, do you?

After a pre-planned span, someone would point to the night sky, and to the dot of red there. More exclamations:
It's Rudolf! I see Santa's sleigh! (How was I to know it was a radio tower; the same radio tower light they pointed out EVERY year?).

We'd scurry home, hoping to catch a glimpse of Claus at best, the tail on Rudolf's (or Donner's or Bitzen's) hind end at least. Imagine my shock and utter delight to discover a bundle of goodies had been left, even though I'd missed the bearded one. Again!!

The Fireplace Nativity

I don't recall there ever being a fire in our fireplace. It stood at the end of the living room, and often played back-drop to family pictures - princess-clad prom girls and their awkward beaus among them. In fact, each of we four girls had many a wedding photo captured with that fireplace face in them.

It was a gathering place, in oh-so many ways.

At Christmastime mother would line the fireplace with Douglas Fir boughs and then set about the charming task of positioning the family Nativity within it's enclosure. For hours on end I would sit on the tiled hearth to observe that scene, whisked away by my imagination and the strong need to lift and closely inspect each scene member.

The Poker Gang

OK, so good Christian families don't gamble. BUT ... in an era pre-dating Uno and Trivial Pursuit, my family's Christmas afternoon pass time was playing poker - - this amidst the clamor of mother & crew puttering in the kitchen nearby.

There were penny and nickle bets, and often someone would lose a heaping sum of $2 as others bemoaned their plight.

It was my great pleasure to move from lap-to-lap so I could sort & stack the chips (or eat some of the goodies they'd selected), or to glean a hug from an uncle or brother-in-law. But mostly I loved the laughter and the mysterious babble behind it. I can hear them still:
Ante up! Hit me. I'll call you.

Uncle Elmer

Everyone has one, a favorite relative. Mine - and I dare say the entire family's - was Uncle Elmer.

Elder brother to my Dad, he'd suffered what has come to be known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the first World War. He lived out most of his days in a soldier's home; a sanitarium of sorts. Kean of mind and heart, his disorder's manifestations were lost on me! That's him on the left in the photo, next to another brother, Ed (and yet another favorite uncle).

He was a funny little man that smoked unfiltered Cheste
rfield cigarettes in rapid succession; his fingers permanently stained the color of tobacco. He also had false teeth which, to my great delight, were the source of much entertainment. So quick you'd miss it if not intent upon staring, he'd click them in-and-out. I begged him over-and-over to perform his most unusual feat, and he never disappointed or complained.

Mostly Elmer was warm and kind, with a twinkle in his eye I've yet to see in any other mortal. And when he'd laugh ... his entire body scrunched up and bent a little, even as his face crinkled. It makes me laugh just thinking about it..


I never tired of them, my dollies. I had but a few, yet they were my very own little family; and I their mother. I was probably about to enter my teens before I stopped asking for them at Christmas.

In this scene with me (age 8), is my first Barbie-type doll. Unlike the sophisticated Barbie, she was a little sandy blond-haired girl, and just my age - a true mini-me, complete with her own pajamas and a few dresses. .

The list could go on and on; so many are the collectibles among my Christmases past. But I'll stop here to give thanks to God for the richness and goodness of my days as a child. That is perhaps the best of my memories, and among the best of His gifts to me.


Linda said...

I love your Christmas memories. It's so comforting to spend time looking back at Christmas' past and the traditions we loved as children.

Debbie said...

Kathleen, I love these special memories you hold so dear. I also searched for Rudolph and Santa each year as a child. I love your kind comments concerning your uncle who suffered after the war. And dolls; well we must be kindred spirits. I was a mom to my family of dolls for so many years. I would line them up on my window seat and sometimes include my little sister in the midst of them. I could spend hours playing. I especially loved the cuddly dolls. When they came out with Thumbelina, I was in heaven; LOL. She felt like a baby.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. And may you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.


manthano said...

Searching for Rudolph sounds so much like our
"snipe" hunts of yesteryear.

But when reading it I could not help but think of
how you were being led along. And it seems
that is so much the way the Church is being led
by a lot of our religious hucksters.

Am delighted that you finally grew up.

God bless you.

sonja said...

I love these memories! And they dostay with us our whole lives. As you said... we were blessed!

Merry Christmas Kathleen!

Just a little something from Judy said...

Stepping back into the treasured memories of your past is something I consider a privilege to be able to do. Since I did not know you in your childhood, it helps me to be able to share in your memories. They are what make us what we are today. I love the tribute you made to your uncles. Helps me realize what a crucial role I might play in my neices and nephews lives, years down the road. All these special memories go into making you the truly beautiful lady that you are today.

Denise said...

Thanks for sharing such precious memories.

Rose said...


I really enjoyed how you brought your memories to life so much so that I could feel them and experience them as well.

The old b/w photo's are great but I loved the "Rudolph" hunting story the best. Parent's could be so sneaky at

Hugs and Merry Christmas

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

For me, it was my grandpa Al--my dad's dad. We weren't together very often, but when we were, he always took me (one of 10 grandkids) under his wing and out back to his "shop" of treasures (actually it was a bunch of junk, but he was a tinker-er... a painter who never made it past the 6th grade. He, too, had false teeth, which I found to be one of the most fascinating things about him, along with his penchant to give us twinkies for breakfast! I can still see grandma chasing him around that little kitchen in her pink bath robe with slipper in hand!

As for poker, we still play it; it's a family thing dating back to grandpa, and Rummy as well. How I long for the days of youth when we would visit northern IN for a visit with them.

We'll gather again this June at the beach to reflect and remember for a week. All four of my grandparents children & spouses, with their 10 children, spouses and their children.

And yes, poker will be the order of our evenings, although the youngers will be using pennies and peanuts!


Shirley said...

Memories...the sweet nectar of life!!!

Merry Christmas!

Winging It said...

Hello! I loved your comment at another's blog I was visiting. And after reading your profile, I knew I had to stay and visit!

Lovely lovely, lovely Christmas memories. I think your uncle moved me the most.

So many lovely posts. I loved your post about Why the Star, as it has been significantly on my mind this Christmas season.

I pray the New Year finds you well, happy and full of peace!