Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Past . . . Hope for the Future

In the days when seat belts were recommended, but not required—and then, they were lap belts rather than those shoulder straps that tend to not fit correctly—I’d find myself sandwiched between my two older brothers in the back seat of my dad’s dodge dart for an eternity and a half (three hours) as our family traveled across Michigan.

Our mission? To visit family.

It was Christmas time and my parents had settled their little family on the southeast corner of the state, leaving my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins strewn across mid – west Michigan.

We’d first stop in Flint, where my dad’s parents lived. I’d bunk with Grandma for the night and wake to her shuffling about in the kitchen preparing for her day.

On one particular Christmas morning, I rose to greet the day with her. I’d considered her old and uninteresting until that day.

The sun spilled into the kitchen casting a golden glow over the table. I could have sworn angels had spread their wings across the window to make the gold seem more like it rested on a transparent veil.
Grandma walked into the room, her zip-up bathrobe dusting her feet, salt-and-pepper hair taking on an interesting shade of purple, and a smile that showed she still had all her teeth. She reached into her cupboard and took down a cup. “Would you like some coffee?”

I glanced around, thinking she must be talking to someone else. I was only about twelve or thirteen. She set a cup of steamy black liquid in front of me, and then a dark brown cookie. “These are best when dunked.” She said.

Until then, I’d never had a molasses cookie, and certainly not coffee. That morning, I found I liked two things . . . a lot: Grandma, and molasses cookies dunked in coffee, especially when it looks like liquid gold has spilled out of heaven into my kitchen.

From Grandma and Grandpa Clouse’s home, we strapped ourselves into the Dodge and headed for Grand Rapids . . . Alaska, really, where Grandma Bertran (Mom’s mom) lived.

I’d always had the most fun telling the kids at school I was heading to Alaska for Christmas. They never believed me until I brought back a snap shot of my little brother standing beneath the Alaska sign by the bridge that crossed the Thornapple River.

Those days snow knew how to blanket the ground by Christmas and we could go sledding down the little hill at the park resting next to the river. The afternoon at Grandma’s house would break out into chaos when my mom’s sisters, brother-in-law, and my cousins converged upon the house with food and presents.

Grandma could be found sitting on her sofa while we tore into the packages beneath the tree. She’d lean a little forward, rest her elbows on her knees and her toothless grin could shine brighter than the lights on the tree. I loved sitting on the floor next to her. Somehow, I felt being close to her meant I was special. Sure, she’d poke my wool letter jacket and ask, “Is it felt?”

To which I’d answer, “No.”

She would poke the jacket again, ask the question . . . again . . . and again, until I’d turn to face her and say, “No, Grandma. It’s wool.”

But she, in her wisdom, would answer, “Oh, but I say it’s felt. I felt it myself.”

And once I was onto that little game, she’d find another. It was her way.

Both Grandmas have made their journey into eternity many years ago. But I still think about them. I long for my own children to have memories, a legacy that they will look back on my part in it with a twinkle in their eye, a little nostalgia perhaps, and a lot of wonder at how God could place them in a family that adored them from the first moment they existed.

May your Christmas find you in awe of God’s plan and wondrous power.


  1. What lovely, FUN memories! Praying for delightful ones for your kids as well. Merry Christmas, sweetie.

  2. Thanks, Jo. Merry Christmas to you, too.

  3. Extremely vivid, Karlene, and I agree with Joanne, just lovely.

  4. What beautiful sentiments! I have spent every Christmas in my life in this beautiful old home that my grandfather built here in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 1920s. The memories are like treasures. This will be the first Christmas my children will not be here to celebrate until the Saturday following. Busy schedules have taken over their lives, and "Mom" has to respect their decisions, although I know that on Christmas day this house will feel empty compared to all Christmases leading up to this one. Thank you for the trip down memory lane! Have a Blessed & Merry Christmas!

    1. I can't imagine that part of growing up, though I know it's headed my way faster than I want to think about.

      Thank you for stopping.


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