cooks

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.

CCI06282012_00038_editedfWar is never pretty, and yet somehow, I had a picture in my head of the time my grandfather, George Byer spent in World War I that made it seem very benign. I never pictured him being in any danger. You see, my grandfather was a cook in the Army during the war, and somehow I pictured him working in a safe place where the war was a very distant reality, and not something to be faced or dealt with. The cooks in World War I didn’t even get a gun, so they must not be in danger…right? Wrong…very wrong!! The men on the front couldn’t drive home to the safety zone every night after work, like I had pictured in my head. The kitchen was very close to the front. In Grandpa’s case, that kitchen was a commandeered kitchen in the lowest floor of a French castle. As far as anyone knows, the residents of the castle still lived there, although I’m not sure how their meals were handled. Perhaps, their own cooks were allowed a little time in the kitchen, or maybe their meals were served along with the men in the Army. I don’t suppose we will know the full answer to that question in this lifetime.

For a very long time…until just a few months ago, in fact, I carried the impression in my head that Grandpa’s job was really uneventful, other than the pressure of getting the meals to a large group of hungry men on time. Then, I came across a picture that I had seen several times over the past five years, but this time I was also Grandpa Byer's Military Photolooking at the list my aunts had made about what the pictures were about. In that moment, my idea of my grandfather’s service was changed forever. On the list they had written, that the man on the right, or the man in uniform, was Grandpa. The second picture was tagged with, “Castle in France. Owner of castle died in Daddy’s kitchen” and “cooks, who worked under Daddy.” I was instantly intrigued. I spoke to my aunt, Sandy Pattan about it, and found out that indeed, the kitchen was commandeered for the Army’s use, and the owner had been wounded and ran into the kitchen for help. Grandpa tried to save him, but the wounds were too bad, and the owner died right there. The man’s injuries told me that the front was not far from the castle. I suppose you might think I was reaching a little on that thought, but you would be wrong, because as I talked with Aunt Sandy, she told me something else that really clarified the danger my grandfather lived with every day of his time in the service.

It was another day in the castle kitchen, the men were working on the next meal. Suddenly an American soldier ran in and told the cooks to run for the woods. It seemed strange to me that running would be the order they would receive, but remember that Aunt Sandy told me that the cooks had no guns. If they stayed in the castle, they would be sitting ducks, because cooks or not, they were in the American Army, and that made them enemies of the Germans. The reason the men were told to run for the woods…the Germans were coming CCI06282012_00038_editedgand they couldn’t stop them. The soldier didn’t have to tell the cooks twice. They dropped everything and ran. One of the cooks, while running into the woods, stepped on a dead man. The man had been dead a few days, because the cook’s foot went right into the man’s chest. Aunt Sandy told me that the smell was so bad and so permanent that when they couldn’t get the smell out of the man’s clothes, they had to be burned. I had no idea of the things Grandpa saw, nor of the danger he faced. It gave me a whole new picture of Grandpa Byer’s time in World War I. And I came to clearly realize that no job in the service is less dangerous than another…and least not on the front. It’s no wonder that most men don’t want to talk about the war.

IMG_4815IMG_4812aThe annual Byer Family Christmas party took place last night, and it was nice to see so many family members, who I normally get to see only on Facebook. The Christmas party is always a joyous time, when we can catch up with other family members to see what they have been up to. The snowbirds like Susie and Clyde Young were back in town for the holidays, and kindly managed to bring the warm Nevada weather with them. Most of our grandparents children were there, like Aunt Virginia Beadle; my mom, Collene Spencer; Aunt Jeanette Byer; Aunt Bonnie McDaniels; Aunt Dixie Richards; and Aunt Sandy Pattan. For their presence, we are always thankful. The younger generations don’t always come to the party. I wish they would, because while this party and the summer picnic are great times to get together with the family, these gatherings are more importantly, the dream of our IMG_4844aIMG_4825agrandparents. The parties are our grandparents’ way of trying to keep the glue in place, that holds the family together.

The regular groups are there…the ones we can always count on. There were too many to name them all, but there were members of the families of Aunt Evelyn, Aunt Virginia, Aunt Delores, Uncle Larry, my mom, Collene, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, and Aunt Sandy represented. It was so good to see everyone. We got to meet Aunt Virginia’s newest little great grandson, Kasen. And we got to see and be shocked at how much all the little kids have grown. The food was delicious, as always, because we are a family of really good cooks. We all ate to our heart’s content, and as usual, it was more than we needed to eat. But in realty, it isn’t the food we come for so much, but rather the company. Since connecting with so many family members on Facebook, I really feel comfortable visiting with them in person, because I truly know them now, where I basically knew they were family before.

Of course, we understand that not everyone can make it to the party each year, but for me, the thing that IMG_4837aIMG_4840aadded a little bit of sadness this year is the ones who truly couldn’t come. These are the ones I really felt were missing. People like Grandma and Grandpa Byer, Aunt Delores and Uncle Elmer Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my dad, Allen Spencer, Uncle Jack McDaniels, Forrest Beadle, Alyssa Harman, Jonah Williams, and Laila Spethman…all of whom live in Heaven now. I also really missed Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, because Uncle George has a really hard time getting out. And the one that hit closest to home for me, my grandson, Chris Petersen, who hasn’t missed one of these in years, but he is away at college and won’t be home until Tuesday. That was a really hard thing for my kids, Corrie and Kevin Petersen…and I know it was hard for Chris too.

Every year, we are grateful for the family members who come to the party, because we love to see everyone. Corrie & KevinIMG_4845aThe Byer Family Christmas Party is a day to treasure. As more and more of them pass away, I realize that we may not have the chance to see some of these people again. I am reminded of Grandma and Grandpa’s desire for this yearly celebration, and I’m reminded that they are there in spirit. I’m thankful for the people who come to the party, and look forward to the next time I will see them. The Annual Byer Family Christmas Party was a great success, because so many people came…and yet sad, because some were missing.

Dustie and Audrianna My niece, Dustie has been a homemaker and she has worked outside the home in the 11 years that she has been married to my nephew, Rob. She is a great mom, and has done a wonderful job caring for her children, Raelynn, Matthew, Audrianna, and her step-daughter, Christina. Over the years, she has also been very helpful to my mom and my sister…doing some of the shopping and other errands they needed help with. That has been something that has endeared Dustie to our family for a long time.

Dustie has also worked at times during her marriage to my nephew. She has worked at several places, including McDonald’s Portabella Mushroom Saladand Outback Steakhouse, but she seems to have found her calling at Albertson’s. Dustie was recently hired to head up the Salad Bar at Albertson’s. I know there is more to it than that, but I don’t know all the details of her job yet. I do think she has a gift when it comes to salads though, and I think her co-workers would agree. They like to come to her when they are on their lunch break because she can create the coolest salads, and from what I hear, her guacamole is fabulous. We all have a niche in life, and I have to wonder if Dustie hasn’t found hers. Some people are just natural cooks, and their work is very creative and appealing. That is the way Dustie’s salads are. She puts a lot of work into them and takes pride in how much people love them. A good chef is like that. They  instinctively  know  what  people will like to eat, and how to make it all look amazing.
Salad Head
There is, however, another side to Dustie…a humorous side…maybe even a strange side. While most of what Dustie does is perfectly normal, it would seem that after work is over, she changes…becomes a totally different person…someone we simply don’t know. Maybe it is the influence of her co-workers, the hours she works, dealing with having a job and a household to take care of…I don’t know, but something has changed her, and it is very strange. After Dustie and her co-workers get off work, they become…Lettuce Heads. I think this whole salad thing might just be…affecting her!! What do you think? Today is Dustie’s birthday. Happy  birthday  Dustie!!   Have  a  great  day!!   We   love  you!!

Every year for as long as I can remember, my mom’s family has held a Christmas party for the entire family. There is no way all of us could even consider getting together on the holiday itself, because there are around 300 of us now. Of course, we don’t usually have that many who are able to make it to the party, but we always have a great turnout. One of the things my grandparents asked was that we not stop the tradition after they were gone, because they wanted their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to know each other. In their honor, the Christmas party continues.

Yesterday was the party for 2012. We had a good turnout, and as always the food was amazing. On thing I can say for our family…we are good cooks!! Many of the traditional dishes were there, but some had a new and modern twist. Family traditional dishes for many families, blended together to form a different type of tradition…but then, that is how traditions get started. Someone brings in a wonderful dish, and someone else gets the recipe, and uses it at their next gathering, and a new tradition begins. The family Christmas party has seen its share of recipes exchanged and passed along.

Every family or group of families who put on the Christmas party every year, always add their own touches. Centerpieces are one of the big attractions, and are often given out to those who attend. This year the centerpieces were made form candy canes and peppermint stars. They were very cleverly designed, and caught everyone’s eye. They were beautiful, as I’m sure you will agree.

For me and many others in our family, it just isn’t truly Christmas until we all gather together and celebrate together. Our thought drifting back to the ones who started it all, and hoped we would continue it through the years, both during and after their lifetimes. Merry Christmas to all my family, and to those in Heaven who are celebrating with Jesus this year. I love you all!!

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