Christmas Memories: a Letter to My Mother
You are tucked away in your own world, perhaps I can reach your deep depths with a few Christmas memories from years ago when Suzanne and I were but young children.
Our December tradition was to go out to dinner and have a yummy dinner. We loved the scones with butter and honey! We were learning our manners; how to eat in public. Afterwards we would go to the 5 and 10 store and shop for family members. We tried to not accidently bump into one another and spoil the surprises. One of us would go with dad and one with you.
We had a huge fragrant pine tree in the middle of the window in our home on State Street. We made ornaments, paper chains, hung lights and lots of tinsel. I thought the tinsel part was a pain. I wanted to just throw it on, you and dad insisted it be put on one strand at a time.
There was a television, with a round screen sitting next to the tree and we would sit on the floor by the lights and watch our favorite show I Love Lucy.
This is where I first heard Amahl and the Night Visitors. It was televised and I was enthralled. I watched it every year that it showed. I didn't know such heavenly music existed...and the story touched my heart.
We had a small dining room and that is where we secretly wrapped our gifts. I remember crawling under the table so that no one would see what I was wrapping. I don't recall how we got the money to buy gifts, as I don't remember receiving an allowance.
We had lots of snow on State Street which made the out buildings, barns and leafless trees look barren and desolate, a cold and eerie ghost town.
The plot of land between our home and Grandma and Grandpa Sorensen was like a big vacant playground. Suzanne and I would bundle up, no hats then, just wool headscarves, and romp in the snow. We played Fox and Hen, making a huge circle to chase one another around. Then we would plop down in the pristine snow and make angels. It was total freedom. Sometimes Lois would join us. There was a slight slope next to Grandma's home and we would try sledding there. Not the biggest hill in the world.
Lois and Mary would take us to the Gibb's family Christmas party. Suzanne and I would get all dressed up, hair done and be told to mind our manners as we walked out the door. The Gibbs had a large Family and we didn't know many people. One time I played the piano at the party. I am sure I would have been very scared to do that.
Christmas Eve was our big celebration All we had to do was walk next door and we were in another world of aromas, smells, sounds and surrounded by the entire Sorensen family. We weren't very large in numbers in those days, Charlyn and Neil were yet to have more children. Grandma would cook the most delicious dinner and we all sat at the dining room table with beautiful table cloth and china dishes.
Raising our own turkeys gave us fresh turkey for dinner, mashed potatoes, cranberry salad, mustard pickles, pickled beets, all of them homemade by Grandma. But the best was the fig pudding with rum sauce. I can still taste it...and see the tiny fig seeds floating in the creamy vanilla-rum sauce. It was always my favorite.
Mom you were an excellent pie baker and you would have your pies to share. Everyone just enjoyed the dinner and tried hard to be polite.
We would gather afterwards in the living room, Grandpa Sorensen always in his rocker, dressed in clean overalls. He seemed grumpy but he wasn't. Under the tree Lois had a collection of mechanical toys, a Ferris wheel, tin ballerina that spun on her toes and the fabulous green Auerbach truck.
We shared gifts with one another. Neil would play the piano and some would sing. But I don't recall ever hearing Grandma Rhoda play the piano. I was always told she was a marvelous pianist, but I never heard her play not even when I lived with her during college.
The black cloud would be Uncle Clifford yelling at his children. I could never understand that and it would make my stomach lurch every time he yelled at someone.
Christmas morning Santa always managed to come bringing lovely gifts. As Suzanne and I got older, the gifts changed from Easy Bake Ovens and Betsy Wetsy dolls to sweaters and records. Christmas Day was very quiet. We stayed home and played with our gifts. We never seemed to spend time with your, the Johnson side of the family. I wonder why?
We will always love snow, because snow was a big deal on our farm. White sheets of snow lay across the fields, stark black fence posts stacked with white top hats of their own. The sheep would huddle in fluffy mash potato clumps. The chickens quieted their constant prattle. The cats snoozed high in the hay barn. I suppose the mice were nestled in their own cubby holes.
You and dad always provided a lovely Christmas holiday for us. We didn't go to church, but did have music playing. I'll Be Home for Christmas always made you sad. So today it makes me sad.
Maybe as someone reads you this letter today, your mind will slip back to the holidays we loved as a young family. You will remember dad wrapping up your old ski clothes and presenting them as a gift...your look of surprise, then the real present, a mink stole.
Dad loved to shower you with special presents of value and sentimentality. He gave you beautiful jewelry, furs, silk blouses, what ever you would like. He was so proud of you. He loved you very much. And he still does. He is waiting for you to return and spend Christmas with him. I can imagine he is probably getting a little impatient.
There is a newspaper photo taken after the war showing you and dad giving one another a huge hug and kiss...I think that is what he is waiting for.
I love you mom. I would give anything for you to be in another place now, where you can be as you were, the inner part of you, the soul of souls, enjoying the progression of life.