I Remember… (Part Four)

Ann Swanson

This last portion of my memories is about our Christmases after the children moved back home. It was great to have them at home for the holidays. It was also a blessing that they got to spend that time with their father since he passed young.

Here I include a poem that helped me put things into perspective after my husband passed. I hope that it helps those of you who mourn this Christmas, too.

I’m Spending Christmas with Jesus Christ This Year

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below

With tiny lights, like Heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular; please wipe away the tears

For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear

But the sound of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no world to tell you, the joy their voices bring,

For it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me; I see the pain inside your heart

But I am not far away; we really aren’t apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear,

And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above

I sent you each a memory of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift more precious that pure gold.

It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do.

For I can’t count the blessings or love He has for each of you.

So, have a merry Christmas and wipe away that tear

Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

Our habit of attending church on Christmas Eve started when the children moved home. It is church then back to Hickory Heights for our family Christmas. Many times, we have had others here for Christmas as well.

My husband was around for the first couple Christmases with grandchildren. The first year we gave our granddaughter a wooden sled with a seat. Later she shared it with her brother. When the next grandson arrived, we, too, got him a wooden sled with a seat. Now they are stored away awaiting yet another generation.

It was really fun when the grandchildren were small. They were so excited when they opened all of the wrapped gifts. There always had to be something for the pets, too. Now Micah plays with a cloth octopus that was given to Hannah by the grandchildren.

There were also Sunday school programs. At one Carly washed baby Jesus while she was with her mom. All of the grandchildren took part. Sometimes there were songs, sometimes plays, sometimes poems. One year the whole congregation got into the act showing off their talents.

I really do not remember many of the gifts we got for the children. Usually, I picked out some clothes that I knew they needed. One year I knit sweaters for all of them.

As we got ready for Christmas, we always made Christmas cookies. The boys stayed with us for a while, but Carly and I usually finished up. She became very good at cutting the cookies as well as making the dough. That tradition continues even now. Last year she brought some friends here to help us. Each of them ate what they wanted as we worked, then took a plate of cookies home. When I am talking about cookies, I mean the cutout kind that you decorate. They were always the favorites.

My daughter recently looked through her children’s scrapbooks. She noted all of the Christmas cookies we made and the pictures that we took while doing it.

I have a little village as well as a country scene. My husband and children bought me pieces for this each Christmas. The year the oldest grandson helped me set up the scene he noticed that I did not have a Santa Claus. He told his mother that is what he wanted to get for me. She looked everywhere but they were gone for the year. She ended up letting him give me the Santa from her scene. He was so happy to add him to my village.

When the children were in school, they always attended the Santa Sale. Often, they found something for me. I have a cardinal and a blue jay that came from that sale. The little boy had his mother paint the beak because it was not the right color.

Two years in a row I took the grandchildren to New York City. It was a joy to watch as they looked at the sights. We attended a play and did some shopping. It was a time to relate and enjoy being together.

We started a custom a few years ago that we would draw a name and buy only for that person. It really was a lot of fun. We had to buy by categories such as something used, something to eat, something to wear. As we opened our gifts, we laughed a lot

I led off with the poem about spending Christmas with Jesus. That poem has helped us through many occasions. Our family has experienced many deaths during the holiday season. My own mother died a few days before Christmas. My mother-in-law and her sister, Evie, both died days before Christmas. My grandmother died the day after Christmas as did my step-father. Even a great-grandmother that I never knew died on the 24th.

In spite of all of these deaths, it just makes us more aware of how fragile life is. We have to cherish each and every moment that we can spend with family.

Christmas Eve continues to be at my house. Now we invite the neighbors to celebrate with us if they are able. Some years my daughter-in-law’s parents were with us.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas with your family!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.