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Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Story #2...let your light shine...someplace else!

Good afternoon!

Okay, so this Christmas story thing isn't moving quite as quickly as I'd hoped, BUT  I dug one out of my memory banks that (And I should tell you that story #1 was deemed "Best Story EVER" by my Sunday School class!) I think you might enjoy.  So here we are:

Christmas with my mom's side of the family was always a sort of chaotic wild ride.  When I was older, I would come to realize that all sorts of mental and emotional issues ran amok in my family, but when I was 11, all that mattered was spending a wild time with my 8 cousins in my grandparents' sprawling old parsonage.

Most of the time the adults would stay in the big dining room while the children, ranging in ages from Cal, the oldest at 14 to Kimmie, the youngest at about 2 would command the upstairs, the attic  (when it wasn't FREEZING) and the cavernous basement.  Except for being moderately polite when we crossed from the upstairs to the basement through the dining room, we children had nearly no adult supervision, provided we didn't do actual bodily harm to each other.

The other thing you should know about these Christmas Gatherings is that my grandmother bought each grandchild exactly the same gift each year.  From eldest to youngest, we all got the same thing.  Be it the year of Scarves and hats, or the year we all got Mc Donald's coupons, it didn't matter.  All nine of us got the same thing.

Which brings me to the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER at my grandparents' gigantic house:  The year of the flashlight.

My mother's family always celebrated Christmas the day after Christmas.  This was so that those who were ministers in the family would be able to join the rest of the family.  This tradition lived on until only very recently, sometime after my grandmother passed and my uncles and mother became the heads of their own families with their own traditions.  December 26th was a date set in stone as any other high festival day in my family.

The tradition was as simple:  Go to grandma's house for dinner on the 26th.  Eat a large dinner, open gifts, then, children, disappear so that the adults could talk.

In the days before Game boys, computers, cable TV  (or more than one TV in a house) CD players, or texting, the nine of us had only each other in a massive house to amuse ourselves.  We often played outside, in the dark and cold because there we could play endless games of 7 steps around the house, or burrow deep in the piles of snow left by the county plow trucks in the church parking lot behind the house.  Often we would spend hours in the second story of the garage, a hidden place where we pretended to be (usually) Jews hiding from the Germans.  (Not sure how 9 German Lutherans came up with that, but we all wound up becoming students of history in one way or another, so I guess it was a natural thing.  That, and the "Diary of Anne Frank" was always assigned in school so someone in the family was always reading it over Christmas Break.)  Sometimes we pretended to be the Ingalls family, too, facing a hard winter. 

Ah, the things we did before Computers!

Anyway, gift opening was something that came between dinner and playing for hours without having to answer to adults.  We enjoyed it well enough, certainly, but since this wasn't the BIG CHRISTMAS, we really were more eager to just go and play.

So one year my grandmother decided that the gift of the year would be flashlights.  Nine children ages 3 to 14, all with a flashlight.

In normal years, we'd bundle up and go outside to terrorize the countryside with these amazing lights.  But that year, the year of the Flashlight, it was far too cold to go out.  So, gift opening over, the children were sent upstairs.

Normally this would not have been a problem.  We were just as capable of playing upstairs as we were out doors or in the garage.  But nine children, all with flashlights, have only one purpose:

MAKE IT AS DARK AS POSSIBLE AND CHASE EACH OTHER.

Of course, we could play such a game in complete and total silence so as not to disturb our elders.

Right.

The upstairs had a long hallway that reached from the front all the way to the back of the house.  A perfect runway for a game of "CHASE IN THE DARK WITH FLASHLIGHTS."

I'm not saying we were loud...That would be a gross understatement.  I will say that the windows shook with the shrieks of the middle children (I'm one of the older kids)  and the howls of the younger ones. 

One cousin, the tattle tale  (and isn't there always one in the bunch?) informed the parents of our game.  (Seriously, like they didn't know?)  One parent came upstairs and told us to settle down and be more quiet.

Yeah, that lasted about four minutes.  And then...ooops! All the lights upstairs went off again and the chasing and yelling and shrieking continued.

Seriously, was there another result from giving 9 children flashlights?

But, this fantastic noisy game came to an end, as all good things do.  I believe no tattle tale was needed.  A few of the younger cousins ran up and down the main stairs, a cardinal sin, and that was the end of that.  Flashlights were taken and packed in parental suitcases to be returned later.

Still, when I hold a flashlight in my hand, I can't help but remember that night in my grandparents' house with my beloved cousins, racing around the upstairs of that glorious home, screaming in the dark.

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