Special remembrances of the season

Colleen Slater oe Visell with the giant snowman he helped his brother build. Photo courtesy Arlene Babbitt

Arlene Babbitt: “My brothers Gerry and Joe Visell built a giant snowman in 1955. The snow was 6 inches deep and school was closed. Joe said Gerry, 21, carved much of it with an ax. Mom couldn't believe what a cute guy he turned out to be, so had to take a picture of it.”

Ann Craven: “Christmas Eve day 1941, the Army was evacuating Kodiak, Alaska. Some longtime friends of ours were coming to Seattle on a Navy ship. We were living with relatives in West Seattle and were glad to have them with us. Since they got out with only layers of clothes on their backs, we had a lot of shopping and wrapping to do. It was the most exciting Christmas ever.”

Dorene Paterson: “My moms family was poor coming through the depression. My grandfather worked at many jobs, with only a third-grade education.

When we were kids, grandpa came over every Christmas with an old sock for each of us with whole walnuts and an orange (and such) in them.

We thought it was pretty weird since we grew up with chocolates and little toys for stocking stuffers. We always gave him big hugs and thanked him. We appreciated it and ate the treats even though we thought it was a strange thing to do. It was good. Not until I read ‘Little House on the Prairie’ to my kids did I realize how much of a sacrifice it must have been back in the Depression days to have those things to make Christmas special for your children.”

Kris Morrison: “As the girls were growing up, we put a wooden manger under the Christmas tree. At the end of each day, we talked about what we did for others, then put a piece of straw in the manger to represent that the good things done for our fellow man prepared the way for the baby Jesus.

As I worked odd shifts and many holidays as a nurse, my girls had years when ‘Santa came to our house first.’ Knowing it would be hard to rouse them from their beds at 4 a.m. to see what was under the tree, I tape recorded a male co-worker shouting, ’Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas’ and stomping around. My husband gathered the kids for their bath while I rushed to get everything set up for Santa. I popped in the tape and went to help with the baths. By the time they heard Santa, they were drying off and rushed out to try to catch him.”

Marianne McColley: “A growing-up tradition was the Christmas Eve lutefisk dinner at Grandma Holman's in Vaughn. There were those who fairly slurped the gelatinous fish with melted butter and white sauce (which gave it its flavor) and those who quailed at the thought of touching it to our lips. We asked to have the meatballs passed instead. The reward for the patience and forbearance of the younger set was that the dishes were done by moms, aunties and grandma. The presents were opened as soon after as possible. The lutefisk scent lingered in the air, definitely compatible with the evergreen aroma of Christmas.”

Kathy Ueland: “Our Christmas mornings are often taped and sent to family out of state to enjoy. Starting when the girls were really young, Mrs. Claus has come early and left each person new slippers and pajamas to open on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, we are each wearing our brand new night clothes and ready to be on camera.

For two weeks prior to Christmas, we make a list of people who are shut in, sick or who wed like to give a gift from our hearts too.

We make 13-17 different kinds of cookies and package them up in small gift bags to share. This tradition allows us many evenings of cookie baking while watching our favorite Christmas movies, sharing stories and laughs and thinking of the special people in our lives who will enjoy our small treats.

One highlight of Christmas morning was seeing the beautiful clothes my mom had sewn for us.

She always knew our favorite colors and styles. Now that I have children, it is amazing to watch her making special things for her nine grandchildren. That special surprise on Christmas morning is back and even better, watching that smile of joy light up my children's faces as they open their special handmade gifts.”

Ron Schillinger: “My father, Ron Schillinger, was 50 percent German and 50 percent Scottish.  His German-side tradition was to go out into the woods prior to Christmas and cut two live Christmas trees. One tree in the house was decorated with indoor lights, ornaments and tinsel.

The other tree was put up outside in the front yard and decorated with outdoor lights and ornaments.

In later years, dad moved the outside tree out onto our dock on Vaughn Bay. I will always remember that the outside tree needed at least four guide wires to keep it up in all the windy weather. I also remember how beautiful a reflection the dock tree made in the bay water. The outside tree decorating became a wonderful three-generation family event: parents, kids and grandkids.”

Jan Coen: I remember our family always trekking up to grandma's house on the hill and all the extended family gathering for a huge Norwegian dinner with lutefisk and all the trimmings. Of course, all we little ones were off at tables by ourselves with the usual tricks of ‘how many olives can you put on your fingers’ and how much lefse you could eat. It wasn't Christmas without the lefse.”

It was an uncomplicated time with far less expectation of loads of gifts, more excitement of being together for a time. I remember being taken to the ‘five and dime’ store and having a whole $3 to spend for gifts. I bought something for each of the family and had enough money. Wrapping each little token gift was so exciting, and presenting the tiny vase or other gift brought such pride. I wish for all families at Christmas that simple joy of family and sharing.”