Every year, my mom’s family gets together to celebrate Christmas as a family. Of course, it isn’t on Christmas, but rather a couple of weeks ahead of Christmas. They get together to stay close to each other and to honor their parents’ wishes that they not drift apart. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer, like her sisters looked forward to that party every year. She planned the little gift that she would make for each of her sisters. She worked on them with great care, planning every detail, so they were just perfect for each of her siblings. There was always that special moment when the siblings would gather at one of the tables and exchange those precious little gifts that showed how much they loved each other. It was always such a sweet thing to watch. It was never about the gift they received, but about the love they all had for each other. I felt a sting of sadness, because Mom and Aunt Evelyn weren’t there at that precious moment of sisterly love. Nevertheless, I was happy for Aunt Virginia Beadle, Aunt Bonnie McDaniels, Aunt Dixie Richards, and Aunt Sandy Pattan, because they still had that precious time together.
As the years have passed, fewer and fewer of the siblings remain, and this year, we lost two more of the sisters, my mom and my aunt, Evelyn Byer Hushman. Everyone felt the sting of those new absences, and my aunts tried to console us and we them too, but it really didn’t do much good. We simply cried together, because we missed them so much. Sometimes, when we are caught up in our own grief, we can forget that there are others who loved our loved one too. I somehow hadn’t grasped that thought before, but while talking to my aunts, I realized that they are grieving as much as we are. These were their sisters, who they had known all of their lives, and they missed them too…very much.
This Byer Family Christmas Party was different in several ways, but it was also the same in many ways too. The same people that usually come, were mostly there this time too. These are the family members who have embraced Grandma and Grandpa’s dream of a continuing close family. These are the ones who have strived to keep the future generations of the family close too. We have a wonderful heritage in our family. Our grandparents left us a legacy of love. Those connections warm our hearts with every party or picnic. We are all busy, and seeing each other every day…other than on Facebook…is very hard to do, but these precious family gatherings will always keep the legacy of our grandparents alive.
As I walked around the room, talking to the different family members and taking too many pictures to possible show here, I could hear the echoes of those aunts and uncles who are in Heaven this year…Aunt Evelyn Hushman, Uncle Elmer and Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my mom and dad, Collene and Allen Spencer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and of course of Grandma and Grandpa Byer. It was as if they were there in spirit, celebrating the family with us. I could hear some of the things each one had said over the years. I was thankful that many of their family members were there at the party, because even though they are in Heaven now, we are all still part of this wonderful family, and we belong together celebrating this family and the legacy our precious grandparents left behind.
Christmas has become so commercialized that we stress for weeks and even months over what gift to buy this one or that one, not to mention all the planning for dinner and places we need to go. Christmas wasn’t always this commercialized, but it still could have been pretty stressful in days gone by. People didn’t necessarily run out and crazily shop all over town, but if money was tight, they tried their best to figure out a way to give a gift of some kind. Even if money was not tight, some people came up with ideas all year long…because some gifts take a little bit of time. Those are the homemade gifts, and usually some of the most awesome gifts a person will ever get. Some people think that a gift that is homemade isn’t as good as a gift that is store bought, but I say they are very wrong.
When my Great Uncle Dennis Dunahee, who always went by Burt, and his son, my cousin Raymon, decided to make Christmas gifts, they did it in grand style. The gifts they made reminded me of the kind of gifts you might see the people on “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” make. Were the Dunahee gifts homemade with love…absolutely!! Were they stunning…absolutely!! It occurs to me that there are a number of carpenters in the Spencer family who are capable of making beautiful furniture. It’s strange the things you never knew about your family. It turns out that one of this family’s best kept secrets is something quite beautiful indeed.
Christmas in times past was not only less focused on time spent in the mall, it was more focused on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not that we don’t think about the real meaning of Christmas in today’s world, because we do, but sometimes it is easier to get distracted, by the rush to get our shopping done, gifts wrapped, and dinner planned. By the time the day arrives, we can easily be too exhausted to give thought to what this day is all about…the birth of our Saviour!! The reason we give gifts is to remind us of the greatest gift ever given, but in all our giving, we need to remember that the greatest gift ever given…Jesus, is far more important on this day that the gifts we give and receive. Today, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and I pray that you take time to be thankful to God for the gift of His precious Son…Jesus!!
When my nephew, Barry was a little boy, I used to get such a kick out of watching him open presents. Whether it was his birthday or Christmas made no difference, because Barry got excited!! I know, most kids do, but the looks on Barry’s face were just classic, and when his eyes lit up with pure excitement, it was impossible not to smile. For Barry, the best gifts were always trucks, but that didn’t mean that all the rest weren’t super cool too. I suppose that he initially thought that gifts were going to happen every couple of weeks, since his birthday is just two weeks before Christmas. For a little kid, that second dose of presents in such a short time could make it seem like this was going to be the new normal.
Of course, as time went by, Barry understood how it all worked, but he still got as excited as any other kid when his special day came along, or when Christmas finally arrived. The one thing he decided that he didn’t like too much was having that birthday so close to Christmas. That put all the excitement of receiving gifts in one short little time frame and then left a whole year until he got gifts again. In a way, that was a disappointment to the rest of us too, because we didn’t get to see how excited he got for a whole year either.
I can’t say that Barry still gets so excited about gifts on his birthday or Christmas, after all, he is a grown man now. Maybe he just holds that excitement inside…like we all do at one time or another. And he doesn’t have that little baby face anymore or his little boys ways, and in many ways, I miss both of those things sometimes, because like all kids, Barry grew up too fast. He has grown into a wonderful man, who is always there to lend a helping hand. He is someone you can always count on when you need something done. He still likes his trucks and other toys, but these days they are just bigger and more expensive. Today is Barry’s birthday. Happy birthday Barry!! Have a great day, and try to contain your excitement, ok!! We love you!!
When Bob and I go on trips, we usually bring back something for the kids, and now grandkids. When the grandkids were little the gift we got them was often a t-shirt with a cute saying. Through the years, we have come up with some really funny shirts. Things like “When your parents are grouchy…Call 1-800-Grandma” and “If you think I’m cute, you should see my Grandpa” just to name a couple. At first the kids were too little to read, so it was their parents who got to laugh about what the t-shirts said, but later on, when they could read, they thought the shirts were funny.
With some t-shirts, like this one, we were actually surprised that her dad allowed her to wear, but then I guess he figured she was too little for it to matter. As for me, I simply couldn’t resist a t-shirt that said “Too Sexy for my Diaper” because it was such a funny spin off of the song, “Too Sexy for my Shirt.” It’s funny how as grandparents we see things so differently than we might have for our own kids. I don’t know how I would have felt about that shirt then, but I like to think I would have felt the same way had it been given to my girls.
It was so fun to bring home those silly little t-shirts for the kids. The grandma shirts were some of my favorites, and of course the too sexy shirt. My grandchildren are such a great blessing to me, and I can’t imagine life without them. I was so blessed with my girls, and then they blessed me with 4 beautiful grandchildren. They are a pleasure to be around, and they keep me young. In fact, I suppose you could say I’m having my second childhood. I don’t think I’m nearly as uptight with the grandkids as I was with my girls. Nope…we just look at things through different eyes, and I’m having the time of my life!!
In our family, turning 50 will get you one thing for sure…an Over The Hill party. Of course, that is our way of teasing that person about their age, especially those of us who have already been there. In fact, for us it is our way to get back at the ones who got us first. My sister, Allyn’s Over The Hill party was yesterday. We all had a great time. Allyn is the youngest of my 4 sisters, and so the last of our parents’ kids to hit this milestone. Now the grandchildren are starting to hit it too…and the next one of those hits it in 4 years. That’s kind of a bummer, because we like these parties. It’s always fun to pick on the poor new oldie, after all.
The gifts of choice, are always a big deal. Things like hugely over-sized playing cards, a cane (with a horn, magnifying glass, pill bottle, and dentures on a string), trophies, goofy hats, geezer glasses, and…well you get the idea. It’s all designed to make the newest oldie look as goofy as possible, and we are very good at making people look goofy, if I do say so myself.
All goofiness aside, what Over The Hill party would be complete without the trip down memory lane. Allyn’s family did a wonderful job putting together a 50th birthday collage of pictures from her past in the shape of 50, to commemorate the day. Everyone had a great time re-living the past. We couldn’t believe the changes in all of us. Allyn and Chris looked like babies when they got married, but then I guess we all did. Those old pictures sure give you a sense of who you are, and where you come from.
It’s all done in good fun, and Allyn was a great sport. I guess when it’s a family tradition, you get to where you expect this day to come, and almost look forward to it. Today is your day Allyn. You’re over the hill now, but as a card I saw said, now you have a great view!! Say goodbye to the 40’s, and hello to the 50’s. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The rush is over, the gifts given, dinner is over, and for most of us…it’s back to work. In many ways, that comes as a relief to me because there are just times that you need to go back to work to rest up. And some holidays are worse than others, some years worse than others. There are some times when you feel like everything went so smoothly that you wish the day would not end so quickly. Then, there are those when you think, “Are we done yet?” The headache won’t go away, and you are so tired you can’t walk another step. Holidays when you think to yourself, “Why am I doing this again? Oh, that’s right, It’s for the kids.” And that is really is true, I think…or is it still that kid inside us all.
Even if the actual holiday or even the days leading up to it are hectic, we still find ourselves excited for it’s arrival. The gifts have been bought, and it is our hope that the person we bought them for will be very excited about our choices. We have planned the meal and with our mouth watering, we anticipate meal time’s arrival. After the meal, we are almost…or maybe we just are…too tired to even think of the cleanup, and secretly we hope that someone else will clean it up for us…but of course, they don’t. There is no cleaning fairy to do it. It’s up to you.
We drag ourselves to bed that night and think, “I’ll clean up tomorrow.” Then tomorrow arrives, and we wish that we had cleaned up last night, because we don’t feel any more like doing it today than we did yesterday. In fact, the looming cleanup job makes us tired all over. So we head off to work and hope that with enough coffee, we can somehow find the energy to get the job done when we get home. I don’t know about you, but, that day after a holiday is one tough day to swallow, so I’m sure glad that I have lots of help with it these days, and that there is very little clean up left for that day after.
For most people, Christmas is a time of family, friends, and gifts. It’s about showing our loved ones how we feel about them. We gather together and make a big meal, open our gifts, laugh and talk, and in general, enjoy a day off, and all that is great, but sometimes we let ourselves get too caught up in all that, and we forget what Christmas really is about. This day is the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. So many people have politicized this. You aren’t supposed to say Merry Christmas even, because someone might be upset…it might offend them and their religion. But, the reality is that my faith has nothing to do with their religion. I believe in the God of Israel, Jehovah God, because I have seen His grace, mercy, and power at work in my life. It isn’t about my God is bigger than yours, it is about me and my family, and what He has done for us.
As a kid, growing up, I had heard of Christians being persecuted. I thought that must have been something that happened many years ago, because I never experienced anything like that…until the past few years. Suddenly, almost as if I just woke up one day, and found out that Christians and Jews are public enemy number 1. I didn’t change anything. I didn’t throw my faith in anyone’s face, but suddenly they are trying their best to force me out. That is something I just don’t understand. The Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and even the Atheists are allowed to display their symbols, just not people of Christian or Jewish faiths. I don’t understand that. Don’t we have freedom of religion here? Don’t we have the right to practice our faith as we see fit? It is still our Constitutional right…like it or not.
So, today, Christmas Day, I will not give in to political correctness, but I will use my Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion to practice my faith and celebrate Christmas both with my family and the giving and receiving of gifts, but more importantly with a grateful heart. Grateful to my wonderful God, who saw that I would need a Savior, Jesus, because the wages of sin is death and a price had to be paid. Jesus came to Earth, lived a sinless life, and paid that price on the cross, so that I could be saved and have eternal life. There was nothing I had to do but believe in Jesus as my Savior, and there was nothing I could do to get to Heaven on my own. The cross was enough. The debt was paid. How can I not celebrate Christmas, and how can I call it anything but Christmas? I simply can’t. It is not about politics, or whether or not others believe as I do. It is what I believe. Merry Christmas to All, and thank you Jesus, for coming to Earth to save us.
The closer we get to Christmas, the more my mind begins to reflect on the Christmases of my childhood…My Christmas Past. In those early years, an artificial tree was unheard of. We would go to the tree lots and get a tree, usually shortly after Thanksgiving. Dad would bring the tree in and decide how much would need to be trimmed off. Then he would begin to cut on the trunk of the tree. The smell of pine was everywhere.
Once the tree was set, the decorating would begin. We would sing Christmas carols as we decorated the tree, and we would have candy and hot chocolate or some other treats to munch on while we worked. Soon the tree was finished and the house was filled with festive, twinkling lights. I couldn’t wait for evening to come each day, so the tree lights could be turned on again. It was my favorite time of year.
It was the time of year for buying gifts for my sisters and my parents, hopefully without disclosing what I bought. A time to try our best to keep the secrets for the days and weeks until Christmas finally arrived. Gifts were hidden around the house or better yet wrapped right away so they could not be found, but that brought it’s own set of problems. As kids, it is so hard not to peek. We would shake and squeeze our packages hoping to be able to figure out what we were getting, and stopping short of opening the packages and re-wrapping them…mostly because I would be sure to be caught.
Probably the most fun we had, however, was the shopping for our parents. As kids, we didn’t really have a lot of money, so the gifts we could get for our parents were usually small or even homemade, but as we got older, we schemed, scrimped, and saved so that we could buy them the kind of gift that would really knock their socks off. Those gifts brought the best memories. And there were a few times that our gifts were so surprising to them that it almost brought tears to their eyes…and usually did with my mom.
My Dad has been in Heaven now for the last 4 Christmases…this will be the 5th, and at times, I find myself…less than enthusiastic about the coming holiday. I miss him so much, but I know that he would want me to be excited about the holiday that he loved so much. So I’ll soon be ready, and the day will be great, but I think I’ll always wish we could, maybe just for a little while, relive…My Christmas Past.
When you first meet your daughter’s boyfriend, you feel uneasy. You don’t know what kind of a person he is, if he will treat your daughter like the princess you know she is, and ultimately, if he will break her heart in the end. It is real easy to just wish she was a little girl again, so you wouldn’t have to go through all this, but dating and marriage are a part of the growing up process, even if it is a hard part of it for parents.
When Corrie met Kevin, it was our first time in dealing with the whole dating thing, and I just wasn’t too sure about it all. Kevin seemed so much more a grown up than Corrie did, even though they were only a little less than 4 years different in age, but the Lord knew what He was doing when He brought these two kids together. I get to call them kids, even though they have kids of their own now, because that is a mother’s privilege.
Kevin is such a blessing to our family. He is loving and caring, and kind to people, but is able to pull off a joke with a straight face…something his boys inherited. I often find myself wondering if he is serious or not, and of course, once he reaches that point of knowing that he got me, he laughs and I know I’ve been had. I’m sure he takes great pleasure in getting the better of me, but it’s all in good fun. Kevin is just pulling off another good joke.
It isn’t all about jokes with Kevin though. He is a deep thinker. He works things out in his head…plans ways to make their lives better. He is great with design and creates beautiful rooms in their home, making the rooms unique and yet useful. Of course, Corrie helps too, but a lot of the design comes from Kevin’s artistic mind. When they have finished something, we get a call, wanting us to come and see. I always know it will look fantastic.
Kevin is also a hopeless romantic. He works very hard to find romantic gifts for Corrie…yes, I guess he does treat her like a princess. When he finds a gift that particularly excites him, and he can’t stand it any longer, he calls me up and says, “You have to see what I bought for Corrie.” It’s always something very special, from a very special guy…a hopeless romantic. That’s my son-in-law. Happy birthday Kevin!!
For my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary, my sisters and I decided to send them on an Alaskan cruise. They had always wanted to go to Alaska, and we decided to make that happen for them in 2003, a decision we were glad we made, especially in light of my dad’s passing in 2007. We presented the gift to them at their 50th Anniversary Party, and they were…well stunned doesn’t totally describe it, but it will do. They were not sure they wanted to go on a cruise without at least some of us kids for company, but we convinced them that they would have a wonderful time, and so finally they agreed to go.
They made all their plans for the tours they would take while on the cruise, and we researched all the places they would want to go on their free time. They felt ready and very excited. It was the kind of adventure they had never really considered for themselves, but as the reality of it sank in, I’m sure they wondered why they hadn’t thought of it themselves. Life on a cruise ship, for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to go, is amazing!! There is so much to do and see, tons of food to eat, and people to meet, and it’s already paid for, so you have very little financial things to think about.
That said, you would also have to know my mother to truly grasp the full meaning of the rest of my story. Mom can’t take a trip without bringing back some gift for her kids, and a trip like this one would mean souveniers for kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. It’s a good thing my dad always just let her have her way about this stuff…or maybe it came from years of fighting a losing battle, and finally giving up. On one of their stops, Ketchikan, I believe, they took the afternoon to go shopping for those souveniers. They had a great time strolling through the town, looking for novel items to bring back to their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.
It was getting late, and they really needed to head back to the boat, because as any experienced cruiser knows, the ship waits for no man…no matter what. The challenge my dad had was making my mom understand that the ship would not wait. She kept saying, “In a minute…just a minute…I’m almost done.” By the time Dad finally got Mom headed back to the ship, they had their hands full of bags, and their ship was the last one at the dock. And the worst part…they only had a few minutes to get there. It looked like it was going to be a lost cause as they walked as fast as they could to get to their ship…but a man operating a bike taxi cab came along and saved the day…bringing them to their ship with mere moments to spare, and avoiding an Alaskan Fiasco.