Farmhouse Christmas ….
Childhood memories of our farmhouse Christmas remain forever in my heart. It was so many years ago that the nine of us celebrated and kept generations of tradition, yet it seems like only yesterday, for the memories are vivid. If I close my eyes and go into the silence, I can hear the chatter of us kids, gleeful expressions and giggles from baby sister, Mom and Dad reminiscing and laughing, and see our home lit up with color and the warmth of love.
Nothing pleased Dad more than sitting in his stuffed armchair watching us kids play around the huge Christmas tree, trying to sneak peeks at name tags on presents. We thought we were so clever, looking sideways, pretending to fall down as close to the tree as possible, dropping something by a wrapped box so we could bend down and peek at the name, whisper to each other – oh, so sly were we. But, Dad was always one up on us. I swear that dear man was as magical and wise as Santa. He knew everything that was going on, never missed a trick. He could even read our minds and shock us into silence when he said things like, “I know what you are thinking and it ain’t going to get you anywhere.” Oh! Dear Father was truly magical.
When we would get too boisterous or antsy, Dad would tell us to sit down and listen to a story. That would pull us away from shenanigans and calm us down, for a story from Dad was always a gift. He would tell us the story of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus with such vivid imagery in words and actions that we could easily see the manger and see the animals gather near. The dark night with the Heavenly star shone brightly for us as its long tail guided the kings to see baby Jesus. Dad used his hands, arms and facial expression to empathize certain phrases in the story. We were enthralled.
Sometimes, Dad would take parts of many stories to come up with his own version of a delightful story. If Toby, our beloved German Shepherd, was on his best behavior he was allowed to lay in the middle of our circle on the floor. Often Toby became the donkey at the manger as Dad pointed to him and said, “The donkey lay quietly by the cradle, watching the three kings approach.” Yes, Toby was very much a part of our farmhouse Christmas. If he stood up to stretch, he became a king, bowing to baby Jesus.
The stories made us sleepy as we gazed at Dad, listening to every word. Mom was always in tune with Dad on timing. When he finished his last story she was there at the kitchen door, calling us in to the table where a plate of cookies and mugs of hot chocolate awaited us. Often, the youngest siblings would doze off at the table. When it was bedtime we all went back to the parlor to stand around the tree holding hands as Dad said prayers for us. Those Christmas tree lights and ornaments became shining stars that would follow us into dreamland. Little ones were carried to their beds and tucked in. The rest of us fell up the stairs to find our cozy beds. A visit from Mom and Dad to each of us sent us off to slumber with stories and stars running through our dreams.
Our farmhouse Christmas was always so special and lives on in beloved memories. I love you, Mom and Dad. I feel you so close in spirit, especially at this time of year.
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns