Christmas memories

Christmas came and went almost too quickly, as it does every year. We had a houseful of memories made. Every year the eyes of the children shine just as bright and there is thick anticipation in the air. And the old pictures below prove that the eyes of children have always shone at Christmas.

This year, a few days before Christmas I sent an email to Gramma and Grampa and asked about their childhood Christmases. I thought I would share their stories. Instead of retelling them, they are here in original form so that you can hear their voice.

Gramma Darlene and Grampa Jim from a few years back
Mark and Charlie Brown, 1960

Gramma Darlene grew up on a rented dairy farm that had about twenty cows near Kasson, Minnesota. Later when the dairy farm was no longer functioning there was a country store on the property. The drive to southern Minnesota is full of beautiful green rolling hills. As a child she attended a one room country schoolhouse. Her heritage is Norwegian and English with a little Danish mixed in.

Darlene

Dear ones,
I grew up living on a farm until I was 18, moved to Minneapolis and the rest of life happened and is still happening.  Christmas was an anticipated time even though in the early 1940’s there wasn’t the hype we see today.  The biggest thing was receiving the Sears Christmas catalog in the mail.  Lots of wishes in those catalogs…probably my earliest memories are from about age 6.  The tree being brought in and decorated.  Remember, no electricity in those times, on a farm…special small candles were put on the tree in little holders only to be lit on Christmas Eve.  Such excitement waiting for that lighting, Mother standing ready with water and a wet cloth in case hot wax might drip and start a fire in the tree.  Hold your breath moments, but it was so beautiful…can’t we leave it a bit longer?  If all went well we may have another lighting on Christmas night but not for as long as the candles got shorter…and more danger was involved.  It cost money to buy the candles so we didn’t have too many to use.   
We were renters on that farm.  The Jewish man that owned the farm lived in Illinois.  He didn’t have family, he always sent gifts for me and later my sisters also.  One year there was a doll with real hair and a cradle with a music box to play a lullaby.  Surely something my parents wouldn’t be able to buy.  Another year new dresses and finally he sent money that Mother could buy something for us.   She saved it and bought a gold locket for each of us to remember Mr. Bennett.  Maybe the farm had a specially good year because large baby dolls were under the tree for each of us 3.  One criteria was those dolls had to have brown eyes, Mother evidently thought it important to find ones with brown eyes because we each do.   
The year Dad made us a desk and 2 chairs was a really big deal.  We liked to play school and this was just what we needed. (The third sister had not yet arrived.  There is a bit more than 4 years between each of us.)  I went to school so of course I needed to be the teacher for Carole.  We might also line up the dolls to round things out a bit.  I must have been a good teacher, Carole started 1st grade before she was 6 (January birthday) and just kept going till she became a teacher herself, as a grown woman.
There were also some Christmas season times spent with my Mother’s family at her Father’s home.  I shall never forget going there.  You could smell the rutabaga cooking before you got in the door.  Such an impression, never did like rutabaga…Merry Christmas to all of you gathered so far away and making your memories.  A special time.

Lots of love and hugs, Gramma  

Christmas 1939 Ellen, Reino and Jim

Grampa Jim grew up in a large family in the Finn town area of Minneapolis. As a young boy, his parents started the Wuollet Bakery in 1944, and this family business became an important part of all of their lives. Jim’s heritage is from Finland.

Christmas with the Anderson & Wuollet’s

The Anderson Christmas party was held at different aunties homes each year. One year itwas held at Elma’s (a single lady) in her small apt. upstairs from the Anderson Grocery Store. It was a crowd in a small space, our family was the largest that attended. However, it could include assorted Wuollets or someone else needing a place to share theChristmas cheer. Open house! It was pretty exciting when the Redman’s came from CA. Then we had the Polish Catholic Uncle, Frank Watkins with Mother’s sister Jean. Sometimes some of his relatives came also, a very assorted group. One year Gramma Renie and Grampa Wayne came with us. It was an experience for them. She was taken aback by the freedom of sarcasm between the sibling (my aunties and uncles) It was always sooo much fun!

Sometimes we went to Grandpa Wuollet’s house at 417 Humbolt. His single daughters played hostess and Aunt Helen played the piano, there was always singing. That was the place to be if you liked to sing. It was so beautiful. Aunt Mabel was in the kitchen making sure the coffee pot was always full. It was always full Christmas or any time. You could find people stopping by to visit and have a cuppa, then go on their way. Aunt Mabel made lutefisk for Christmas Eve. Something not found at the other homes. I liked the singing. Christmas Day was the big excitement. Up early morning to find presents under the tree, ones that weren’t there before! Mother made a big dinner for our family. Probably spent the time playing with those presents, taking naps etc. Dad would have needed some rest after the extra busy time at the bakery, maybe some of the rest of us too… The Bakery, with the smells of anise, ginger and mint in the air besides all the usual goodbakery smells of fresh baked items. We all had jobs we could do at the bakery for small children to large. Memories….

1964, Mark and David and Jim

Since I have last written, we’ve experienced sickness and health and a pair of twins that celebrated their first Christmas this year. At some point I’ll share more about it all, but for now the post will become way too long if I venture to tell a year’s worth of happenings. Perhaps 2020 will be less eventful!

Joose and Claudia

Just like in the past, we are creating our own memories, but perhaps the memories of our childhood have an effect in the types of memories we would like to create for our children.

Santa’s helpers
Midnight coffee on Christmas Eve, a tradition from my childhood
After all of the excitement, a Christmas day walk

8 Comments

  1. Good thing I didn’t know how these memories would be handled, I would have been a bit nervous not being a writer…it is fun to remember those times. How nervous Mother was with the candles, Dad enjoying the time calmly sitting in his chair. Now, having an opportunity to see your family memories come to life even tho there is an ocean and more between. No electricity to this technology is quite amazing making all this possible. Happy New Year dear ones…

  2. Your Grandpa Jim’s Aunt Helen was my mother. I have fond memories of playing with Mark, David and Lisa when I was a kid. It’s always fun to read what you post, thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s