Mom's Sweater000_0007A few days ago, our family held the first annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. It was a little bittersweet, and at times very sad, because things were very different from what they had been just 10 months earlier. Our holidays are all in the process of being redefined. With our mother’s passing, on February 22nd, we knew that everything would naturally change, and everything has. Nevertheless, like the Byer family…which is our mother’s family…we knew that our parents would not want their daughters to drift apart after their passing, so our youngest sister, Allyn Hadlock, and her husband Chris decided to host the first annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. This first year was filled with some special gift exchanges which included home made jerky, reproductions of special pictures of Jesus that had been in Mom and Dad’s home, special Bible verse plaques, and flash drives that held old family pictures from our childhood. This was an emotional gift exchange, filled with sisterly love and sharing…and yet lacking in the one thing we wanted there more than ever…our parents. Since that was not to be, we had to settle for a Christmas party they would have absolutely loved…and on that note, we succeeded is a very spectacular way.

Having gone through most of our parents things, we knew which things were precious, and which things brought back sweet memories. One of the things that brought back sweet memories of Christmases past, was 1426135_10153151378577237_3060145788597431175_n6042_10153151378082237_5880498802184847998_nthe Christmas sweater that Mom always wore that day. Your really couldn’t call it Christmas until you saw Mom in that sweater. She also wore a goofy necklace with Christmas lights on it. Our sister, Alena Stevens got that sweater, and decided to wear it to that Christmas party. It was almost like having Mom there, or at least like the echo of Christmas past. It really was a special treat to see that sweater. The necklace went to my niece Jessi Sawdon, and while she didn’t think of wearing it to the party, she wore it to church the next morning, so the echo of Mom at Christmases in our past was complete. I don’t think that we could celebrate this particular Christmas without the Christmas Sweater. That’s what kept Mom close to us.

There were of course, some new faces at this year’s party, but it seems there always are. We had several boyfriends or girlfriends who joined us. The grandchildren are getting so grown up now, that we are almost to the point of another growth spurt in the family. In fact at the time of the party, my grand nephew, Jake Harman and his fiancé, Melanie Price were expecting a baby, but at the time of this writing, she has already arrived. Little Miss Izabella Siara Harman made her grand entrance at 12:55pm on December 21, 2015, weighing in at 5 pounds 11 ounces. This year seems to be a year of firsts…some good some not so good. 12370712_10153151379212237_3161729108663980941_o12391807_1668040590133092_7724041499587443344_nIzabella’s arrival was definitely a good first. She is the first great great granddaughter of my parents, Collene and Al Spencer, the first great granddaughter of my sister Cheryl Masterson, the first grandchild of my niece Chantel Balcerzak, and the first child of my grand nephew Jake Harman…as well as the first sibling of Melanie’s daughter Alice. She has turned some of us into great grand aunts and uncles, and others into aunts and uncles. She joins a huge family, with more to come in the future. We are all so very blessed and I know that our parents would be so proud and happy too.

Sharing SecretsSisters are a unique beings. They can fight, literally like cats and dogs, and everyone would do well to stay out of the way. Still, your sister is always your sister, and you love her no matter what. During some of those peaceful times, when you are getting along, many sisters find that they are able to have some of the most memorable and wonderful times of their lives. It’s in those times that you find yourself sharing your secrets with your sister, because she will always understand what you are going through. In fact, nobody cares more about what you are going through than your sister.

I have always loved those pictures with two little girls, sitting there with their heads together, whispering their secrets to each other. You know they are talking about some little boy that they really like, or even possibly about how funny someone looked in their ridiculous outfit today…I know, gossip. We can think we don’t like gossip all we want to, but the reality is that most of us like to hear the latest gossip. We want to know if that guy in school is about to break up with his girlfriend and hopefully that he likes us. It’s funny how many grade school romances took three or four people to get them off the ground. A friend knows a boy their friend likes, and the friend asks if he said anything about them. Or a friend has to tell that guy that their friend likes him, because obviously he is not observant enough to see those looks she keeps shooting his way…or at least that is the way it seems.

Our quest for secrets often starts as little kids, but it carries on into adulthood. We all seem to want to be the first and only one to know about something exciting. Secrets make us feel important. To be esteemed important enough to know someone’s secrets, is a place of value indeed, and it’s a place we want to be. Of course, to be in that place, we must be able to keep a secret. In the area of gossip, that is a rather odd thing, because someone had to tell the secret first in order for it to be gossip, so I guess that if we are to be a good secret keeper, we will have to put ourselves in a place of not being a gossip. Of course, in the area of keeping secrets, your sister can be a good one for that, because she must remember those cat and dog fights, and might not want to repeat them for not keeping the secret.

Spencer FamilyGrowing up, I recall that my sisters and I were often called, with a degree of surprise, the Spencer girls. I know that a lot of people would say that was simply our last name, but that didn’t really seem to be the reason. Even our boyfriends got that. People would say, “You are going out with one of the Spencer girls?” like they were shocked about it…or like they wondered how they had managed to live through meeting our dad…which couldn’t have been further from the truth about how our dad was. I know that some dads are the kind of guy who practically threatens any guy who wants to take out their daughters, with bodily harm if they break her heart. Now, don’t get me wrong, because our dad would have done whatever he needed to do to protect his daughters, but he was a man who would give a guy the benefit of the doubt…until they proved that they were trouble. Nevertheless, every guy we went out with was a Knot Head!! I suppose that was Dad’s way of saying that, in his opinion, no guy was good enough for his little girls…and believe me, most of them weren’t. The keepers were the ones who showed Dad that they weren’t Knot Heads.

We used to get…almost annoyed with Dad when he called guys Knot Heads, but deep inside, we knew that it was really his way of telling us that he wanted the very best for us, and this guy would have to prove himself before he would believe that he was worthy of our love. He wanted us to have men in our lives who would be good to us, treat us like ladies, protect us, and most of all, love us…until death we do part. How could we ever really be mad at him about that? It simply showed the love our dad had for his daughters…and down the road, granddaughters and grandsons, although the girlfriends weren’t Knot Heads.

Dad always had a way about him. He was able to tease us about boyfriends and yet, really mean that he wasn’t sure this guy was any good. Even while we protested at the name he gave them, we knew that it was more about us than the guy. He wanted us to know that his love for his daughters made him doubt most of the guys we went out with. He knew what most teenaged boys and even young men in their twenties were really like. Marriage and respect weren’t what they had in mind…unless they were the right guy, and that guy would endure the scrutiny and the doubt, and go on to prove to Dad and his daughters that they were the kind of men Dad wanted for his daughters…and not the Knot Head that he had thought them to be.

Looking back now, I am thankful for the scrutiny my dad used to view the men we dated, because it was through that scrutiny that I ended up with my husband, Bob. Yes, Bob was a Knot Head when we first started dating, just like every other guy I dated, but in later years, after he endured the scrutiny and passed the test, Dad often told me how proud he was of Bob. He liked him a lot, and respected him very much. Dad knew he could count on Bob to help out when anyone in the family needed help, but more importantly, he knew that Bob would be there for me throughout our lives. And he was right. Bob had proved himself, and in the last days of Dad’s life, Dad knew that he could count on Bob to help with the caregiving work that was needed in our family as well as in Bob’s, because Bob was definitely no longer a Knot Head.

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