Christmas Day

A Christmas tree in our
Augusta, WI home.
Many years passed in the farm country east of Davenport and Rock Island, Illinois.  Horse and wagons were replaced by horseless carriages and railroads brought the world to their farms.

Jean's last Christmas in her last year of high school came as a shock and expectation at the same time.  She was the only kid in her family yet to graduate; Ken and Tom were serving in Europe in what everyone called "the war to end all wars."

This Christmas was pretty quiet.

Mary was married now, with a husband and a baby boy. She only lived a few miles away, so Jean saw her often and sometimes helped care for little Jacob.

This morning, though, Jean was helping mom preparing the dough for Christmas dinner rolls.

As her hands kneaded the bread into shape, she thought about long-ago trips to her grandparent's house by wagon and the games she played with her sister and brothers.

She missed her grandfather and grandmother very much.  They died eight and ten years ago, leaving the farm to their son, her father.  Dad spent a lot of time at the new family farm in the summer, but mom stayed behind with Jean until she finished high school.

As she dropped each roll on the baking sheet, her thoughts focused on the future.  

Her parents told her they would find the $25 semester tuition for the University, if she continued working for the family each summer until earning her teaching degree.

Jean quickly agreed.  

She wanted to be a teacher ever since her 4th grade teacher, Miss Marberg was wonderful. She was kind and firm; gentle and strong; exacting and fun - in Jean's mind she was everything a teacher could and should be, and what she hoped to be herself someday.

Mary and her family arrived for dinner about 1.  

Two bachelor uncles showed up ten minutes later carrying bottles of beer and small wheels of cheese for the evening.  

Five cousins and their families walked in with baskets full of pies and vegetables for dinner, then rolled up their sleeves to help Jean and her mom put the final touches on dinner.

At precisely 4:30, Dad asked everyone to be quiet for a brief word of prayer,  He started with the first chapter of Matthew, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

"Dear Father in Heaven, we thank you for this gathering of family and friends and we thank you for your greatest gift, your son Jesus, to save us from our sins.  We humbly ask your continued blessing on this meal, on this farm, and on our community.  We are mindful of those not with us tonight and thankful for those who are with us.  In Your Son's name we pray. Amen"
Before he sat down, he took the knife and serving fork from his wife of 35 years, and began to carve the bird.
Jean's mind focused on the scene before her while thinking of Christmases past and wondering about Christmases to come... where might she be, where might she go, and what future changes await.
As the plates started to pass around the table, her mind was a whirl of images and dreams. It was, she decided a Christmas gift she would never forget. 

Note - the Green Bay Packers they needed yesterday - I'll have my post-game Packers memo up 12/26/2016 at 7:30am cst.