REMEMBERING CHRISTMAS PAST
Holiday traditions are special to each family. We collected cherished memories from several Lawrence Presbyterian Manor residents to share -- from a dog who anxiously awaited his special present every year, to special guests and surprise gifts, it’s clear to see why these experiences made their mark. We hope you all make some wonderful new memories this Christmas season too!
We once had a dog named Stubs. He was a black/white/tan terrier with a stub tail -- thus the name. As Christmas approached, Stubs would become excited and chase an old and very ratty tennis ball around -- you know, the chartreuse green ones. As the presents were placed under the tree, Stubs would check and check to see if his was there. Yes, he knew the shape. A long tube with something special inside: three brand new CHARTREUSE tennis balls. Uncanny how he knew, but it happened year after year. Once the opening of packages began he was in a frenzy. He sat and waited until the top came off the tube. He was off and running with a new ball, chasing through the package wrappings with a grin on his face -- yes, he could grin. What fun. Have you ever seen a dog grin with happiness? We have!
David A. Dinneen
I believe I’ve sent other holiday memories in the past, one about our collection of santons from France and Spain. This is about the first Christmas that Nancy and I celebrated together. We had planned a June wedding long before I received orders in April to report in July for a special French assignment in the Counter Intelligence Corps. It wasn’t until May that our hopes of spending a long honeymoon in France were dashed by my learning I was to go to Saigon to serve as a translator and interpreter in MAAG-Vietnam. Nancy decided, despite misgivings voiced by my commanding officer, to join me on her own (I was a private, not eligible for transportation for my wife) and used her savings to fly into Tan Son Nhut airfield on a commercial flight. I had found a small apartment after receiving permission to live off base, usually only allowed to officers. Nancy taught at a school managed by Michigan State University, and I tutored a Vietnamese Colonel in English every weeknight to earn enough to pay for the apartment. Our one relaxed meal each week was at a French restaurant on Rue Catinat (shown often in the movie “The Quiet American”), and afterwards we would window shop in the expensive boutiques that still lined that street. One evening we both noticed a beautifully framed lacque painting that we assumed was very expensive, not in our budget. However, I intended to try to buy it as my first Christmas gift to her; I managed to do so and asked a good friend and fellow interpreter to keep it for me until Christmas day. As we were celebrating Christmas in our tiny, sparse apartment (more on that another time), looking at a tiny artificial tree sent to us by Nancy’s mother, my friend walked in with my gift. Nancy was completely surprised and overjoyed. That painting moved with us through many changes in address and always had a place of honor. It brings back many memories, one very special one: December 25, 1956.
In 1964 my husband and I went to the Christmas Eve service at church, and when we came home, we saw that our tree lights were on. We were shocked as we never left tree lights on when we were gone -- or at least we never had. As we got to the front door, it suddenly opened, and there was our son Ross, who got a surprise chance to come home from the Navy. He greeted us with a red bow on his white sailor cap and big hugs. We thought it was a wonderful gift!
As a child I lived on a farm in South Dakota, near the town where my Grandpa lived. On Christmas Eve we would have an early supper with him, featuring "rommegrot," Norwegian rice mush, and then to church for the Sunday School Christmas Program. Each of us seven siblings would have a "piece" to recite, or be in a singing group. Hurrying home, we lit the little candles on the decorated tree on the buffet with matches, as we had no electricity. We each had to swallow one tablespoon of cod liver oil, then we got a chocolate covered cherry, sang "Away in a Manger," and finally got to open the few gifts (mostly dime store items we bought for each other). Santa came overnight, and in our stockings we found an orange, candy and 50 cents -- a fortune to us! Duane's family (on an Iowa farm 100 miles away) had a similar Christmas Eve, except that their church gave each child a bag of candy and nuts and an apple! He does not recall getting any gifts other than that, but the five brothers really enjoyed the winter sports!
Each Christmas when I was small I looked forward to a visit from my grandparents. They made many family visits to their large family and our turn was Christmas breakfast each year. My mother would make Gramps’ favorite: broiled grapefruit with a sugar coating and maraschino cherry decoration along with hot cereal. My sister and I found the grapefruit rather sour but the sugar and cherry were delicious. However, finishing the offering was necessary before gifts could be opened, so I did my best to butcher the innards and make it look like I had eaten it all. Grandpa always raved over "his favorite" special breakfast, but I always wondered if he REALLY liked it.
Join us for holiday parties:
Independent Living – Tuesday, December 5 at Lawrence Country Club
Meadows Assisted Living/The Prairie House – Wednesday December 20
Wheatlands Health Care Center – Wednesday, December 13