My First Article

Jeanette Berry, December 1973

"...There is something extra special in our family.  I guess I'm really soft-hearted...but I would regret not speaking my thoughts.  I love you all."  This is taken from a letter I just received from my sister, Barbie.  It started a torrent of memories of family traditions that linger after the family has grown up and now have lives apart from us.

Through the years our family has developed many traditions, the little things that spark tender feelings.  The coming of Christmas is the height of them all.

Our first Christmas tradition began as we celebrated our first Christmas as man and wife.  We had a little tree on a table in our bedroom, the only place large enough for it.  Later our little tree tradition evolved.  Each December, at the first big snow, Tom would come home from the office early.  The children would be bundled up in snowsuits, mittens, scarves and boots and Tom would take them to a neighbor's tree farm or a near by woods to cut our Christmas tree.  They each took turns sawing and soon would arrive home tired, frozen, but very proud of their beautiful tree.  Tom would get me aside and explain how we could turn that side to the wall, or cover that bad area with decorations, but to the children it was a beautiful tree.

Another tradition was shopping with the children.  I would supervise their shopping for their daddy, and (though he dreaded it) he would take the three of them shopping for me.  I insisted they be very practical, but Tom let them make their own choices and use their imagination.  As a result, one Christmas their gift for me was a gerbil,---one of those fat, stubby little animals that look like rats without tails.  They also bought gerbils for one another.  The only exception was Danny's gift.  Richard and Dianne had forgotten and the money was all gone, so they "borrowed" enough and bought Dan just what he always wanted, a gerbil cage!

I don't regret to say, the gerbils did not last too long.  For whatever reason, one by one they died.  Richard and Dianne insisted they were not dead, but only hibernating, because the book said they did.  I don't know if all gerbils smell that awful when they hibernate, but after a few days I insisted they let them hibernate underground in the back yard.

It's fun to try to please the people we love and to top it off by writing that special note or message to put with the gift.  The children can't wait to give their gifts and often privately come to me and say, "Can I give it to you early?" or "Con you guess what it is?" The children know there is one special tradition regarding gift-giving,---our first gift goes to the One Who first gave...Our Lord Jesus Christ.  We make it a point to give the most expensive gift to Him and to present it before we ourselves exchange gifts.

One Christmas we had a nativity scene with lighted, life-sized figures and taped music.  It was so inspiring you could almost imagine you were back in time with the real people.  At sunrise on Christmas morning we got the children out of bed, drove to the church.  We took our offering of love and as a family knelt there at the altar, giving not only our offering but renewing our love and rededicating our family to Him.  We drove home, shared our gifts with one another and then had a wonderful breakfast.  That's one of the best of our traditions.

I could go on and on about the little traditions of our family, but there is one last one concerning Christmas.  That is the reading of the Christmas story from the book of Luke each year.  It brings our minds once again to what it is all about.  Christ is the center of our Christmas.

This year may be different; the first Christmas that our family will not be together.  Dan is in the Air Force and can not be here.  But, I know what he will be thinking.  We'll be joined in spirit by those many years of sharing; the tree; the buying of gifts; tokens of love; our gift of love to Him first; the reading of the Christmas story.  These are the "something extra special in our family" about which Barbie wrote in her letter.

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