We had, through every fault of our own, gotten away from sending Christmas cards. Stamps were expensive, and the process time consuming.
The tradition, rooted in simpler and former times when Mother wrote in perfect penmanship responses to every card received, has been renewed in our household.
Kathy types and runs off the year’s highlights and lowlights. Some people pooh-pooh the summary, but others say it is a great way to keep updated in pandemic-forced isolation.
Mother, despite being swamped during the Christmas season, cherished writing and receiving cards. Each was taped on string that stretched from one living room wall to the other. One card might be from a cousin she had not seen in 20 years and another a childhood friend who moved out of state.
One involved a woman who lived in South Dakota. When she was in her last teenage years, she became pregnant. It was scandalous, and the parish priest asked Mother if she would take the girl in until after the baby arrived. The baby and the girl (who would soon marry her boyfriend) returned to South Dakota.
Decades afterward, the women wrote Christmas cards back and forth, though Mother declined offers to drive to see her for an in-person visit. It amazed me that she was willing to take the teenager in at a time when the house was already overcrowded with her own children and money was scarce.
It was an act that God expected from a faith-filled person who trusted in a divine plan although she did not with any certainty know what the plan ultimately would be.
Dad, who shared his wife’s faith, did what he could to see that his children had good Christmases. A tree, imperfect enough that it could be bought at a reduced price, was made perfect with ornaments, lights and tinsel, and was surrounded by presents to be opened Christmas morning.
Not that everybody received what they had asked Santa for. I had neither asked for nor wanted the unwrapped small rocker that appeared beneath the tree. The rocker, with a fresh coat of paint save for one unpainted runner, was a far cry from a Hula Hoop, tricycle or coonskin cap worn by Daniel Boone.
A 6-year-old child is incapable of hiding disappointment.
Mother said Dad had worked for hours restoring the rocker and that it would be nice to use while watching her bake bread, fold clothes and make supper. The rocker has been with me since, and my intention is to pass it on to my son when his family includes a child.
It is odd that the greatest gifts — be it good health, family, friends, or a little rocker — are not as cherished as they ought to be.
I recently received a Christmas card from a farmer. He wrote that “We have had a very good crop year again … no storms and excellent weather … No snow yet and warm weather every day … unbelievable, really.’’
Amen to that and the higher commodity prices seen since harvest. The fields await the rebirth of spring and the promise each planting season brings.
I bought a duck from the local grocery. It is about the right size for two people who will be by themselves on Christmas morning. Although true in a physical sense, the empty chairs around the table will be filled with children excited about the many gifts received.
Places of honor will be reserved for Mom and Dad. The smell of her pumpkin and apple pie quickens appetites. She will demur when others at the table say that the pie, dressing and duck are the best tasting ever.
Dad, wearing new bib overalls gotten as a Christmas gift, will say the mealtime prayer and add that it has been such a great year for the crops and livestock.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.