grandma and grandpa
For most people the holidays are all about tradition. Of course, for all Christians, Christmas is about Jesus, but it’s also about family time, family traditions, parties, and gifts…with the greatest gift being Jesus. But, one tradition concerning those parties, for me and my family anyway, is the traditional Byer Family Christmas party. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer’s parents George and Hattie Byer started the tradition years and years ago, when their house really got too small to handle their large and ever growing family. The party was moved to the Mills Fire Hall, and on the day of the party, we literally filled it up!! Grandma and Grandpa Byer were surrounded by their loving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…and they were so happy. With a family as large as ours, well over 300 now, of course, you might not get to talk with each and every one, but you saw them, and they saw you, and it kept the family close. Grandma and Grandpa wanted that tradition to continue, even after their passing, and so they charged their children with the task of keeping the tradition alive, and the family close. And they did a good job of it.
Now, there are several of those kids who have, themselves, gone on to Heaven, and sadly, our numbers are dwindling, because we…the grandchildren have failed to take the reigns, and keep Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s dream alive. It is so easy to look at the aunts and assume that this is their duty, and not ours, but is it…really? Aren’t we, the grandchildren old enough now to also take up the simple task and honor our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles, in such a way. There are, of course, a number of the grandchildren who still come to the party every year, and we find ourselves very blessed by the evening. It is fun, and if we take a few minutes to walk around the room and visit with our aunts, uncles and cousins, we will find that we have a pretty wonderful family, and that the traditional Byer Family Christmas Party is a blessing that continues to grow…needing really just the watering of more loved ones to join in. It saddens me to think that the day might come, when it no longer makes sense to rent the facilities, because so few have shown up in past years, but it could come to that I suppose. We all think there is a lot of time to visit with our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but every time one of them goes to Heaven, we find out that there was so little time, and we wasted it, by thinking that our presence didn’t really matter. They could do without us. And yes, the party did go on, and we all had a great time, but the family members who were not there…who could have been, because they didn’t have to work, or have anyplace else to be, the ones who simply stayed at home…believe me…yes, you were missed, very much.
Grandma Byer was a great cook, and she taught her children well, and they taught their children well, and I can tell you that we are a family of great cooks. The food last night was delicious, everyone enjoyed it very much. The children were able to run and play without being in the way, and their parents could relax, because no one was going to think they should make their children sit still. The party is one where everyone’s feeling are treated with care, and oh my…did the children have a great time. No one got hurt, and they got to get their wiggles out, and probably eat far too many sweets, but hey, what is a party for anyway? I loved seeing all the precious little ones, whose eyes danced with glee as they got to spend time with other children that they hadn’t seen in quite a while, and as you know, kids don’t need an introduction. The see another kid their size, and it’s an instant friendship. Oh, that we adults could make friends so easily. All too soon, the party was over, and for many of us, it will be the last time we will see each other until the summer picnic…the other family tradition. We all lead busy lives, and daily visits are hard, but Grandma and Grandpa Byer wanted us to continue the tradition. So to all of you who came, thank you. It was great to see you and I really enjoyed our time together. And to all who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. Merry Christmas to all of you.
It’s hard for me to think of my Uncle Wayne Byer without thinking of my mom, Collene Byer Spencer, and my Uncle Larry Byer, because they were like the three musketeers of that generation. If one was getting in trouble, you could assume that the other two weren’t far behind. It’s not that they were troublemakers, because they weren’t. It was that these were the only boys in the family, and my mom was the one sister who fell between them in the family line. That meant that where the boys went, and what they did, my mom wasn’t far behind. She wanted to be right in the middle of everything they were doing.
Mom always thought the world of all her siblings, but her brothers were a combination of superheroes and partners in crime, though no crimes were ever committed…unless you count the antics that got all three into trouble with their mom. Grandma and Grandpa raise their kids to be responsible adults and good citizens. They taught them well. They all turned out to be amazing people, but no childhood is without mischief, and the Byer kids were no different. Anytime you have nine kids, you have nine imaginations to come up with something new to get into trouble with.
While boys can be mischievous, they can do some of the nicest things too. My mom has told me about several things her brothers did for her. Besides being her best friends, they did nice little things like buying her a set of salt and pepper shakers that she had admired…just because she liked them. That act was more than just doing something nice, it showed that they were listening to her. I think that has always endeared them to my mom. So often in life, we go through situations where we don’t feel like anyone is listening to us at all, but then when someone picks up on something we said and does something so nice with it, your realize that they really were listening to you, and that they wanted to show you how much they care about you. What better way for brothers to be toward their sister?
Uncle Wayne has always been one to pay attention to those around him. He loves entertaining the children that are around him, and especially loves making them laugh. He has a great laugh, and that makes everyone laugh. His sense of humor and ability to tell jokes is awesome. In all, he is a great guy to have around. I don’t get to see him as much these days, as in the past, but when I do see him, it is always a good time. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 78th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
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.
Bob and I used to make frequent trips to Montana to visit his grandparents, and sometimes there would be a special occasion in which the whole family would go, or at least a lot of them, for a reunion or some other bigger occasion. Often that would mean some of us staying at the homes of family in Forsyth, while others stayed at the ranch. But no matter where they had everyone stay, at some point, everyone would end up at Grandma’s…the ranch.
The times spent out at Grandma’s always meant big, delicious meals…all home cooked and fresh from their own cattle and garden. Everything tasted so much better there. The cream in the coffee is like nothing you have ever had, unless you got it right from the cow. It was not that tasteless stuff you get at the store, but rather, rich, creamy, thick cream that you had to spoon into your coffee. I’m partial to cream in my coffee, but I have never found anything to compare to that real cream. It just tastes heavenly. The Strawberry-Rhubarb jam that Grandma made from fruit grown in her garden. The beef that Butch raised on the ranch, and eggs right from the chickens. My goodness, I can still taste those things in my memories.
Then, ultimately, after dinner, while the women cleaned up the dishes and kitchen, the men would retire to the front yard, for a meeting of the minds. They would talk about the ranching business, and whether or not they would get a good price for their cattle that year. They would talk about how the mining business was going, since Uncle Eddie and my father-in-law both worked in mines. They might talk about the rain, or maybe the lack thereof, depending on the year, because the life blood of a rancher is the rain. They have to have it if at all possible. These were men who knew what they were talking about. They had watched the trends and made careful decisions based on what they knew of the business they were in.
It was always such a heart-warming thing to watch this father and his sons and step-son talking things out together…each one giving their input while the others listened intently, gleaning every bit of wisdom that the others had to give, and tucking it away in the innermost recesses of their minds, knowing that some day the information stored there would come in handy. These men knew their businesses and had the wisdom of many years behind them. And the memory of those little meetings warms my heart, and I wish with all my heart that those meetings were not just a memory, but since Grandpa has gone home to Heaven, that is what they must sadly remain. Memories of a different time and place.