Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas In Kansas

When I was in elementary school, we lived in Northeastern Colorado and my grandparents lived in Central Kansas. It was a several hundred mile ride across windswept plains and iffy (sometimes) weather. Always bitter cold. (See map on the right.)

We would normally arrive at my grandparents in time for the Christmas Eve service at my grandma's Evangelical church. This church was originally founded by French Canadians who left their Catholic Church in Illinois due to a dust up with the bishop. First they were Episcopalians and then they became Baptists and when I was a child it was the First Evangelical church, a white frame building with room for a Sunday school. Ten years ago when we were last in town to bury my mother, the church was a nursery school. I was just happy it hadn't been torn down.

When I was in town I went to Sunday School there, and remember rousing chorus's of Onward Christian Soldiers. At Christmas, I was always stuffed into the Christmas pageant, which involved mostly carols, but sometimes a speaking part, only a sentence, which I was suppose to memorize that evening. My parents used to laugh about my mouthing carol lyrics which I didn't know. In my family, gentle teasing was a part of life.

My second cousins and their mother always played a few marimba solos. To me they were rock stars.

We would repair to my grandma's for cookies, always plentiful, and unwrap the gifts, which we did on Christmas Eve. My uncle always gave me a box of chocolate-covered cherries, which I adored, and except for a gray mechanical elephant, that's the only gift I remember. Paper dolls, perhaps. Christmas was not so elaborate then. My mom bought cigarettes and handkerchiefs for me to give my Dad. As a child, I couldn't imagine why he would want hankies.

This was a Mennonite town (my grandpa was a lapsed Mennonite) and everything was always kept low key and one had to be quiet and sedate on the Sabbath. To this day I am somewhat horrified if someone dances to Christmas music or applauds after sacred music. Childhood stays with us in so many unexpected ways. Hooray.

All the relatives (and there were many) came Christmas Day to a big feed. Turkey, I suppose or maybe a ham or a roast. Always potatoes and gravy and pie and cake. I was an indifferent eater except of fried chicken which I liked as much as chocolate-covered cherries but ate much more frequently.

One of my uncles had a dog, Tojo, which had come from Japan. He was a cool dog. Another uncle had a pointer, that pointed the parakeet, house flies, anything that moved.

Lovely memories of days long ago. Our family was less dysfunctional than many, although of course, every family is a little weird. My mom and her brothers argued politics in a heated but still friendly way, which made my grandma very nervous.

Me and three cousins are all that is left, and everyone is in the little cemetery that is full. The Inn is not the only spot with no room.

Merry Christmas,


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