Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's All In The Details

   What was your Christmas like as a child? Does it bring up good memories or bad memories? I don't know, aside from a visit to the North Pole, how mine could be topped. My parents went through such elaborate Santa antics, that both of my sisters were devastated when they found out the truth about Santa. I don't know why I wasn't, but I don't even remember how I heard or was told!  
     We always got about eight packages from Mom and Dad, so our real tree was always overflowing with packages and Mom decorated everything and anything. The Saturday before Christmas, the Regis theater in Stanley, would have a free movie and when you came out of the movie Santa would be there, fake beard and all! With a ho, ho, ho he handed all of us kids a brown paper lunch sack with peanuts, chocolate drops and hard candy. I always looked forward to that! Kerry, my husband, was probably at those same Santa days as me but I didn't recognize him for good reason. Kerry had a jacket when he was about six that was reversible. He wore the checked side and got a bag of candy, then went back with the solid blue side and got another bag. He called it his "recognize jacket", because he didn't think Santa would know he was the same boy. Must have worked because I didn't recognize him either(Kerry trying to beat the system at six!).

      My Dad's birthday was the twenty third of December so he would always put Kathy and I up to asking "mummy" if we can all open one package from under the tree. She would always act a little exasperated, but give in to it. He was like a kid himself, very fun loving and she had to be the adult when it came to Christmas! She always did alot of baking cookies and lefse( a Norwegian potato tortilla of sorts, that I still make with my children every year). 
        A day or so before Christmas Eve we exchanged gifts with Thelma and George Olson and Trygve and LaVina Stave. My Dads sister and brother that lived close by. It was so fun taking out the packages they'd packed in a brown paper bag or two, finding our name on a package, and placing it under the tree! We spent holidays when Dad was living with George and Thelma and their family.  
        On Christmas Eve we never went to Church when my Dad was alive. He wasn't a big church goer in the first place, and the roads to Coulee where we were members of Hope Lutheran Church were always full of snow drifts. Short drifts across the road you can make it through with some speed. However long drifts without any tracks where someone else had blazed through, were scary and iffy as to whether you'd make it through.

      We always did a little extra chores Christmas eve night. Dad would have us bundle up and come outside. He always helped us carry a small bucket of whole oats and dump it in a pile by the house. It was of course feed for the reindeer when Santa made his stop. It was always really cold and the snow crunched under your feet like it does up there, in the North. Mom made ham and lutefisk or meatballs and lutefisk( cod fish soaked in lye a Norwegian tradition)and scalloped potatoes. 
       After supper, she cleaned up and we went to bed early, like seven thirty. It was always freezing cold up stairs where we slept.Jack frost was on the all windows, and frosty nail heads all around your room. A "nippy" place to wait for Santa to come to say the least. But bundled up under about six big thick wool quilts and blankets, it wasn't so bad after the initial shock wore off!  We HAD TO SLEEP too, or Santa wouldn't come,(he knows when you are sleeping he knows if you're awake, darn that song)! Being an insomniac by nature was bad enough, but I shared a room with Marcy and she was determined I WAS going to sleep. One Christmas eve, I remember she pinched my arm... hard too, and I wanted to tattle and cry to Mom but she wouldn't let me out of bed. In her defense, I'm sure I tossed,turned and whined for an hour or so before I got pinched! I'm persistant by nature! I don't remember a lot of Christmas's with the big kids but I do remember that one!  
      The tradition on Christmas eve after we finally fell asleep was about midnight, we would awaken to sleigh bells ringing outside(same ones Dad used to take us on sleigh rides over the holidays... we know that now). Mom's yelling up the stairs, "kkkiiiidddds, Santa's been here"! Hearing that, our feet would hit the cold floor and we'd thunder down the same steps that I creep around on these days, because they are narrow, no... beyond narrow, those steps are more like splinters of wood and steep too! 
       Mom sewed all my Dads pajamas. He was short, a little stocky guy, not fat, just stocky and only 5'2.05". The tops of the pajamas always came down to just above his knees. He never wore the bottoms except at Christmas. So he'd usually come out of the bedroom in his nice new bottoms with a washed out top of the same flannel print! Of course we couldn't wait to go out and see if the reindeer ate the oats we left! Dad put his boots(careful not to wear overshoes because those would look like Santas), coat and cap on over his pajamas. We'd go out to check. Sure enough, there were reindeer hoof prints all around the mostly eaten pile of oats! ( took us years to learn that deer hunting season is in Nov. in ND and he'd always save a leg or two for this Christmas ritual). 
       After Santa had been there the tree looked the same, but we each had one package standing against the door in the living room and a stocking bulging with nuts, peanuts and the biggest delicious apple you'd ever seen! The package and the sock had been stored outside because it had to be cold like it just came off Santa's sleigh(details Syd). Our freezing fingers, opening our cold stiff dolls( I almost always got a doll, or a sled) just added to the excitement.        
       Once the thrill of Santa died down a little, Mom would make Cocoa and we'd eat Christmas cookies and calmly take turns opening our packages showing each other everything we got! After having a chance to play a little we'd go to bed at two or three in the morning and wake up to a house filled with the smell of turkey roasting. That was the day relatives were coming! Usually George and Thelmas family, my Dad's sister. After a huge meal, the adults always played Whist and the kids played feather dust or rummy.
      Later after my Dad passed away, Christmas was spent with Grandpa and Grandma Bruhn and Juluis Bruhn and Sonny and Phyllis and the kids, Kathy and I and eventually our husbands and kids. Sometimes Florence and Chester came too, depending on their kids and how they all got together that year. Marcy lived a long ways away so there was only a couple times they came back for a frigid Christmas!
      When my kids were small and the big kids teens even, we had our Christmas at our own house on what ever night Kerry was going to be around for sure. Working on the railroad is a 24 hr seven day a week, on call job. So we had a special supper and opened our gifts on the twenty second or twenty third. Christmas Eve was always celebrated at Mom/ Grandmas then and if Kerry was home he went along, or if he was on the road he didn't go. 
       Our tradition then was to go to church with Kathy and her family in Berthold. Klinton Hanson always sang Oh Holy Night, and we loved it. It was only fourteen miles to Moms farm. Wasn't so far but sometimes the weather was downright perilous, but come hell or high water we were getting there! One time Brendon drove and I had my head out the window the whole way just trying to guide us along the yellow line in a complete whiteout blizzard. I think prayed the whole way. I still get teased about it from the kids. One year we got stuck in a snow drift and Mike had to pull us out!

         Whenever we arrived Mom was cheerful,dressed up in a dress, nylons and a Christmas apron. Table was set beautifully,with her white china with the silver rims on a lace tablecloth.  All the holiday candles lit and the tree dwarfed by all the packages. Leslie and Shannon would be waiting at Grandma's door to grab the younger kids and unbundle them to reveal their new Christmas dress of the year or Brendon's new sweater and pants.
        Mom got an artificial tree soon after Dad wasn't there to put up a real one. She had the same tree with the same multicolored lights the rest of her life. The stuffed Rudolph(we got him when Kathy and I were small) held his stance amongst the packages, waiting for his photo op with the kids. 
         Mom still made that icky Lutefisk for pretty much Sonny and herself, maybe Mike and Kerry ate a little I'm not sure. The rest of us let our German side( we were half Norwegian and half German) take over and turned our noses up at it! I tried it again this year at the Hostfest, a huge Norwegian celebration in Minot, ND and didn't like it any better. Marcy liked hers and all I can say to that is... oofda! 
         We had many, many wonderful Christmas's at the farm with our families together and Mom at her best. When I think of my Mom that's the way I want to remember her. I miss my parents, but its something you just push back most of the time, but Christmas time I always thank God for such good parents. Christmas was made so special due to their effort. All of our families are really close still today, bound by the memories of those wonderful days. I try to make Christmas a wonderful time for my kids too. When I'm messing with some time consuming thing and Syd says why are you doing that just for the day? I say it's all in the details Syd, it's all in the details.   


  1. Love it love it I don't think I have been to your blog before. Looks like I hyave missed a lot of things.Brought back so many wonderful memories. And the pictures are just precious=== Phyllis

  2. Thank you Phyllis...we had lots of wonderful Christmas's ... matter of fact you and SOnny always went to town for Tom and Jerrys earlier in the day so I made some and was like what the heck?? Tasted like diesal fuel..i dunno if I didnt know how to do it right or you guys like diesal fuel ha...