Voices of Christmas 2020 Supplement

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Voices of Christmas

Julien s ’ Journal This year has been like no other. Many of us have seen challenges within our country, community, and family. Traditions this holiday will also change. One tradition that remains is our Voices of Christmas. Local grade school students share their thoughts on what Christmas means to them. Also, each year readers from around the country contribute holiday stories and poems for your enjoyment.

So relax by a fire or with a cup of hot cocoa and share our Voices of Christmas! Editors note: Though we hoped to include all contributed stories, poems, and pictures of the letters from our grade school children, the number of pages we can devote to you is limited. However, all will be posted on our website and social media. Thank you all for sharing your wishes of Christmas with us.


Mrs. Funke’s St. Columbkille 4th graders






Mrs. Funke’s St. Columbkille 4th graders




Mrs. Funke’s St. Columbkille 4th graders






Mrs. Funke’s St. Columbkille 4th graders



Mrs. Funke’s St. Columbkille 4th graders





Mrs. Hosch St. Columbkille 3rd graders





Mrs. Hosch St. Columbkille 3rd graders





Mrs. Hosch St. Columbkille 3rd graders






Mrs. Willman St. Columbkille 3rd graders





Mrs. Willman St. Columbkille 3rd graders





Mrs. Willman St. Columbkille 3rd graders





Mrs. Willman St. Columbkille 3rd graders



CHARLIE Christmas to me means a time to gather and have a family dinner. We open presents and play with cousins. We play in the snow with friends and family and go sledding. We go snowboarding, and we set up Christmas decorations with family. We celebrate Jesus¡ birthday and go to church and pray to Jesus. That is what Christmas means to me.

Mrs. Koppes St. Columbkille 3rd graders


BO What Christmas means to me: It means tradition so I get together with my family. When I get together with my family it is around Thanksgiving and Christmas so we eat turkey dinner. Also my grandparents rent a really big house usually with a hot tub.We also exchange gifts with our cousins. It is really fun to get good presents. But I don’t know what we are going to do this year with the pandemic. Christmas is a special time of the year.



What Christmas means to me is people being happy and joyful. Especially kids like me getting presents from Santa and feeling. the Holy Spirit. It’s Jesus’ birthday so we have the stable, all the animals, Mary, Joseph, the three shepherd men, and Jesus. We also go to my Grandmas and pray. We have breakfast with my cousins. Once we get home we open our presents and play with them. Christmas is a special time!

Mrs. Koppes St. Columbkille 3rd graders JACKSON



What Christmas means to me is not just about getting presents, it also means Jesus, love, kindness, giving, family and learning about Jesus’ birth. But, when it comes to other things, it makes me think that people forget that Christmas is about Jesus and all the important things about Him. I’m not saying that you should forget about Santa because if he wasn’t a thing people would never learn to give and Jesus taught all of us to love others and give to others. This is why I don’t think you should never forget about Jesus Christ because He really is the reason for the season. I also think Christmas is about family and love. In my family, we always go to Mass together on Christmas Eve and then spend time with family at my Nana and Papa’s house. Then on Christmas morning, my Nana, Papa, Aunt and Uncle come to our house for a special breakfast. After we eat, we open presents and then watch movies and play games as a whole, big family. The presents are great, but being together and having fun is the best pat Then we have a gigantic Christmas dinner together. It is a very special day for us and we all have so much fun being together. These are all things that show what Christmas means to me.



Christmas means to me: I know that Jesus is with me all the time. So I can also spend a lot of time with my family. Santa is watching me so I am good all the time. lts time to have fun and play in the snow and have hot coco. So Christmas means to me that I get to have fun with family and friends.

Mrs. Koppes St. Columbkille 3rd graders



Seeing Spots

Stories & poems of Christmas

by Tracey Ryan Rush


hristmas 1990 was strange. Just three weeks before, Dad had been one of three men in Milwaukee who had suffered fatal heart attacks while shoveling snow during the blizzard of December 3. Since we had just been back home for his funeral, my husband and two young boys decided to stay home in Dubuque for the holidays.

The following Spring, my mother dealt with her grief by redecorating the house. A fresh coat of “Williamsburg Blue” paint brightened up the living room and dining room, as did the floral valances, which replaced the ugly-as-sin pea green drapes that had hung at those windows forever. When Mom called and updated me on her progress I was happy for her, UNTIL <insert doom and gloom music here> she added, almost as an afterthought (like if she said it like it wasn’t important, I wouldn’t be crushed?), “Sally and I removed the hallway ceiling paper, too. It has a new coat of paint and looks wonderful.” WHAT? My childhood flashed before my eyes. “You what??? You didn’t really, did you? But…but… Mom how could you?” She must have known that was coming because she was ready with, “It was old and faded and starting to peel off. There were spiders living underneath. It had to go.” Sigh.

Let me explain. The house I grew up in was a 1948 brick duplex designed by my grandparents, who lived on the second floor. My parents and two older sisters, Mary Lee and Sally, had been living in the first floor for several years before I was born. In addition to the usual living room, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms, a full bath, a powder room (that’s a half bath for you young whippersnappers), and unfinished basement, the house had some wonderful perks: a screened in porch where we would eat as often as we could during three seasons; a laundry chute that was fun to drop non-clothing items down; a couple of root cellars in the unfinished basement; a built-in wall heater in the bathroom where one could thaw out after walking home from school, five miles, barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways; a milk chute close enough to the back door that if I jiggled the inside door just right, I could reach through and unlock the back door when this latch-key kid would forget my key; and la piéce de résistance: black wallpaper with green, pink, orange, and white polka dots on the ceiling of the hallway.

It was a regular pastime for us girls to lie on our backs on the pea green carpet that matched the drapes and stare up at the dots, trying to find shapes, as if they were clouds. Why we kept hoping a breeze would blow down the hallway and make the dots around to change the design, I’m not sure. Life was simpler then. That ceiling paper was in some strange way a constant comfort growing up. It survived the drama of three daughters and our various boyfriends, the Beatles vs Elvis arguments, the Civil Rights marches just a few blocks away, music lessons, our first color television, Watergate, the Vietnam war, various pets, and the eventual cycles of each of us three girls graduating and moving out, my wedding, and eventually our children who would also lie on the worn-but-still-ugly pea green carpet and watch the dots that never moved. It was the one constant, the “welcome home, some things never change” security blanket of my formative years. Until it wasn’t. While Mary Lee and I mourned its loss, Sally, the middle sister, was now the enemy because she aided and abetted its demise. Which brings us to Christmas 1991. We went to Milwaukee that year, and on Christmas morning Mom, Mary Lee, John, our boys, and I sat opening presents. Sally and her family would be along for dinner. After most of the gifts had been opened, Mom handed Mary Lee and me identically wrapped shirt boxes. “Open these at the same time,” code for “these are identical.” We ripped open the wrapping paper to find… sweaters? Black, crocheted sweaters with little colored yarn balls all over. Mom was grinning, but Mary Lee and I sat there for a few awkward seconds wondering what was so special, until the lightbulb went off in my sister’s head. “It’s the ceiling paper!!!” Of course! We laughed and laughed. Then we discovered underneath the sweaters we each had a 5 x 7 framed piece of ripped wallpaper Mom had salvaged from the wreckage, and we realized this was her way of apologizing for breaking our hearts with her remodel. “Don’t show them to Sally; I didn’t get her one.” Which, of course, is the first thing we did when she arrived, because that is what sisters do.

Thus started the Ryan Girls Tradition: whenever we see something black with colored dots, we have to get one not only for ourselves but for each other. Throughout the years, I have owned pillows, socks, scarves, earrings, trinket boxes, multiple clothing items, travel containers, etc., all black with colored dots. It was the dress code for Mom’s funeral a few years ago, too. She would have loved it.

Believe it or not, I still wear that first sweater from 30 years ago. A few of the yarn pom poms have fallen off over the years, but I still get compliments from friends and gasps of delight from the young students I teach. Every single time. The framed piece of ceiling paper still hangs in my house, too, as a reminder of the joys of my childhood home, ugly drapes and all. ❖


Sears and Roebuck Christmas

Sitting on Santa’s Knee

Our son Johnny born a boomer

The department store Santa tugged his beard tighter, Hoping the next child would be a bit lighter Pretty young Emma climbed high on his knee. He guessed she was four, perhaps only three.

by Louie Winslow

Birthed when most singers were crooners

In 1964 prior to some rockers Before we knew anything about Dockers

We ordered from Sears & Roebuck Gifts delivered to home by truck Johnny a bright, brilliant boy

At sixth Christmas brought pure joy He’d learned to read that year

Catalog descriptions now clear He’d watch for delivered items Dart out and snatch them when sighted

Using mommy’s scale to weigh all For comparing and to recall

Exact weights of toy’s read about When matched he’d give a shout We thought our son oh so clever To indulge in this endeavor

Christmas made a whole lot better Because he could read his letters ❖

by Bill Dall

A red winter coat matched the bow in her hairThe spitting image of her Mom standing there. “And what would you like?” Santa gazed down. Emma smiled, but then flashed a slight frown. “That scary hospital I go there tomorrow. I’m terribly afraid; my Mom’s full of sorrow. The hole in my heart, when I run I turn blue. Can Santa make Christmas wishes come true?” “I’ve got a favorite dolly and plenty of toys. But I want to be brave,” she said with much poise. “If I can get healthy, that’s enough for me.” She looked straight at Santa, her expression a plea. He whispered, “Already you’re brave, mightily so. You have great courage, that I just know.” Emma cried out to Mom, “I’m strong, not weak!” And a tear trickled down the bearded man’s cheek. ❖

Happiness Out of Sadness at Christmas by Rob Gomoll

Death never takes a holiday During the Christmas season, my father passed away. I was taking care of an executor’s obligation On my Christmas vacation.

Looking in his dresser drawers I saw stacks of greeting cards I had never seen before. Each stack was dated and tied with a ribbon. It was clear that some care had been given. What I saw made me cry. Some stacks were nearly as old as I.

I found one that I had proudly bought with my own money On the front, a cowboy sat on Santa’s knee. I remember picking it out all by myself, Reaching high on the department store’s shelf. “Merry Christmas, Pardner!” the caption read. I sat down on his bed. Now my eyes filled with tears. He had kept these cards all these years!

More and more old cards I did find, And Happy memories now came to mind. My sadness was beguiled, And I broadly smiled.

Dad had no boyhood that he could enjoy Because his father died when Dad was just a boy. He always displayed a tough façade, And this soft emotion struck me as very odd. I saw a side of him I had never seen before. He kept his “heart” in that dresser drawer.

He feigned he was tough, but he had deep affection, And these cards helped me make that connection. Christmas cards aren’t just idle seasonal trappings To be tossed out with the old Christmas wrappings. Now a new knowledge is cast Upon my memories of Christmases past.

These cards are now archived on my bookshelf They gave me insight to my father’s true self ! ❖


Still Christmas by Katherine Fischer


t had been a granite-hard year. 115,000 Iowans were shipped out to serve in the armed forces, attempting to loosen Germany’s choke-hold on Europe. Four-thousand would never return. But World War I is only part of the 1918 Christmas story. Iowans enthusiastically embraced self-sacrifice through creating “liberty gardens” so more food could be shipped overseas. They accepted rationing gas, clothing, flour, milk, tea, sugar, butter, meat, and eggs. Housewives and teenage boys worked in factories, making bombs and buoying up the economy by farming. Complaining was considered unpatriotic. In addition to war worries, Dubuque suffered a polio outbreak in July, resulting in quarantine.

By the time fall arrived that year, Iowans, like all Americans, were war fatigued. They longed for Normal. School resumed. People began planning for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. But Normal wasn’t in the cards.

Ironically the “Spanish flu” actually originated in Kansas and was spread nationally and internationally by the deployment of infected American troops in spring 1918. Soldiers returning stateside in the fall reintroduced the virus which became more ferocious. As influenza reached fever pitch during September and October, many Iowa schools shut down.

Peppered among newspaper columns like “Adventures in Home-Making” were stories of the plague. Although flu claimed at least twice as many lives, the war garnered more inches in the press.

Church services and Sunday schools were closed. Streetcar capacities were severely restricted. The Women’s Exchange for War Relief collected grape juice for those hospitalized with the flu or resulting pneumonia. The Iowa State Agricultural Convention moved to a larger venue to avoid mass contagion and the Iowa Grain Dealers Association postponed its annual meeting. Having listed the names of local soldiers who died overseas, now newspapers also identified those that inflluenza had wrestled to the mat: six men at Grinnell College, dead; the former dean of the college of dentistry at the University of Iowa, dead; six women ill in YWCA housing, two of them dead; Nurse S. Mary Regina at Memorial Hall ER in Waterloo, dead; a mother, her 11-month old son, and two more children, dead.

When someone died, a common practice was to hang crepe on a home’s door to mark death. By September’s end, crepe banners were draped over hundreds of thousands of doors throughout the nation – white for youth, black for middle-aged, gray for elderly. As infection and death counts burgeoned, doctors and nurses pleaded for mask-wearing, proper ventilation, and daily disinfection.

Hospital wards and clinics sounded alarms. One Iowa Red Cross nurse noted, “The situation is critical. We are unable to fill one-half of the calls because the supply is so absolutely inadequate.” Students in army training at Morningside were required to wear masks inside and outside. Webster City even regulated against extended family Thanksgiving gatherings.

From the warfront came stories like Iowan Sargeant Harry Fay’s of the 404th telegraph battalion who wrote, “I have seen enough of the flu. It is all over here. Paris has quite a bit of it.”

Concerns of any locale are revealed nowhere better than in its advertisements. Sprinkled across the pages of the Des Moines Register and Dubuque’s Telegraph Herald were ads for shoes that would “bring peace to your feet” just as armistice would. “Why have the flu? Open your windows! Keep your home warm yet well-ventilated” claimed an ad for cloth filters for windows. “During and after influenza” Horlicks malted milk tablets touted itself as “very nutritious and digestible.” The Wolk store’s reduction sale of men’s clothing cited reasons for its overstock: flu quarantining and the uncertainty of young men returning from war. Just as Americans had joined one another for the war effort, they worked as a team against the flu. As seven-year old Eugene Scott waxed poetic, Iowans would pull together by staying apart: Be suspicious of your neighbor, Be suspicious of your friend; Be suspicious of the ice man, And to these world attend.

Be suspicious of the laughter, Be suspicious of the sneeze;

Be suspicious of the coughing, Be suspicious of the fleas.

Put a five foot pole between you, Hang a curtain neath your eyes; Or the Spanish flu got you, As it flies.

Because of ventilation efforts airing out houses (even though heating costs rose), mask-wearing, and city-wide closings, by December 6 it appeared as though influenza had flown. Des Moines, Webster City, Dubuque, Eagle Grove, and many other Iowa towns reported fewer cases than they’d seen in months. City councils across the state rescinded mask mandates. Schools re-opened. A Red Cross Iowa hospital, which had recently opened up fifty more beds, claimed, “It will not take long now to handle the flu situation.” Certainly the Christmas holiday ahead would be back to Normal.

November 11, 1918, brought Armistice Day. Although fears that Germany may retaliate against the peace tiptoed across their minds, Americans celebrated the official end of World War I and eagerly called “to bring the boys home by Christmas.” Within weeks, they also began heralding the end of the Kansas-Spanish Flu. Iowans were jubilant, believing happy days would return again. This is nowhere clearer than in eight-year old Iowan Carol Petersen’s poem: There was a little germ Called the flu It made people sick Spite of all they could do It closed up our schools And made us feel blue


But we’re back again now And glad the germs thru.

Exhausted by World War I and an international pandemic that claimed more lives than the Bubonic Plague – the good citizens of Iowa let down their guard in early December.

While the Germans never retaliated after the Armistice, this Kansas-Spanish virus again reared its ugly head in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana, and a few other hot spots in mid-December – just one week after declaring victory over virus. A third surge stormed across much of the state for one last battle.

Des Moines, like many Iowa cities and towns, went back into strict quarantine. Public school was suspended. Masks were required. Nevada, Iowa City, Boone, Atlantic, Cherokee, Belmond, Sioux City, and others locked down again after a sharp rise in cases. Deaths tripled in Webster City and the school board announced there would be no graduation in June 1919. It had taken over a year for American troops by the ten-thousands to be shipped to Europe during the war. It would take another year until nearly all soldiers could be shipped back home. So soldiers were not home for Christmas in 1918 after all. Reeling from a third onslaught of influenza, distant relatives were less likely to travel home for the holidays. Yet this was a Christmas of a gentler digging in.

Children were home for the rest of the month. People didn’t venture out much. They made do. Like the quietude of armistice contrasted to the conflagration of war, Christmas that year was softer. Ever afterward, December 25, 1918 has been known as “Peace Christmas.”

Note: References are derived from 1918 editions of the Telegraph Herald and the Des Moines Register, Iowa PBS “Pathways” by Tom Morain and Loren Horten, and The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. ❖

The Stories Behind Ornaments by R’becca Groff


removed the lid from the red and green plaid tin box that holds several special ornaments, and began laying out the ones I’ll use on this year’s tree. As I untwist their small chords and ribbons, or straighten a feather on the amber-glass bird, it’s like I’m greeting old friends once again, and I love remembering what each ornament represents. There’s the yellow Labrador curled up on a braided rug ornament. We had red oval braided rug like the one on that ornament, and our Ginger used to lie alongside our family during meal times. She was a loyal family member for 16 years, so when I saw that ornament in a store the year after her death, it had to become part of my collection. We adopted a yellow tabby cat eight months after Ginger died and she, too, received her own ornament. She was still alive when I bought that one. Her ornament, with its angel wings, has all the more meaning this year, as she died two weeks ago, leaving 15 years of loving companionship indelibly marked on our hearts.

I purchased a hollow silver ball ornament filled with angel hair from some stranger’s estate sale one time because it was exactly like the one my mother used to hang on our tree. She’d had a set of them – pink, silver and blue, and hung them on the tree every year. I have a sense of her when I hang it on my tree. She was the only one to deal with the touchy spun glass materials decorating our trees. My ornament boxes are loaded with the likes of salt dough ornaments made by my kids in Sunday School class. There are intricate tatted snowflake ornaments given me by a talented co-worker, as well as counted cross stitch ornaments, dated and initialed by yet another crafting friend. There’s the hand-carved and painted wooden Christmas stocking ornament, a gift of a professor from my first office job. He’d brought back ornaments from his native Philippines for every secretary in our department that year. The two red plastic bells wired together with a dark green pipe cleaner with our wedding date outlined in silver glitter adorned a wedding gift to us nearly 50 years ago. The glitter could use a bit of a refresh. I see Kenny and Dorothy, the grocery-store owning couple, who gave it to us. I don’t think I ever saw a cross look on his face, and she was soft-spoken and always wore rouge on her cheeks – not unlike Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

A more recent addition is the purple Alzheimer’s glass ball ornament, given to me during a Christmas meal served at the care facility where my husband now resides. This, too, is another part of our family history story included in the holiday ornaments collection I keep. When our grandchildren began arriving eight years ago, I knew I wanted to do something at Christmas that would let them know how important they were to us, and I knew it needed to involve our tree. It’s been my experience that grandchildren love and expect beautiful Christmas trees at their grandparent’s home when they come to visit. On a trip through a local Michael’s Store one day I came across some miniature picture frame tree ornaments that had the year on them. My plan took shape. I’d buy these dated frames every year and insert a picture of each grandchild taken at some point during that year. These would adorn the Christmas tree every year going forward. I’ve done this for all five grandchildren since birth. You do the math: we have two 8-year-olds, a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. My intent from the beginning was to continue this until they graduate high school, Lord willing I be allowed to see that through. And if not, I have given it an honorable run.

With so many ornaments to be incorporated into my decorating scheme nowadays, it’s become necessary to have two Christmas trees so I can hang all these framed faces, and my grans love to


search the tree for their pictures each year.

My daughters know these ornaments will be theirs one day, whether they keep them for their own trees or present each child with their personalized collection. The grandchildren will know they came from a grandmother who loved spending the holidays with them. Christmas is about anticipation, on many levels, but the anticipation of the Christmas Story itself leads the way, I feel. I think the story of the Christ child born on a cold night, lying among hay and farm animals garners the attention of a great many at Christmas time, whether they want to admit it or not. It’s an innocent story that possesses the power to quiet much, if even for a short time.

There is one small ornament in my collection I would never have anticipated adding. It’s a sweet small Christ child lying in his manger. A red cardinal perches above him, while a young deer and a small squirrel stand close by watching him sleep. I doubt the Middle East had such animals, but I like the feel of this peaceful, frosted little scene and it seemed appropriate for my needs at the time. My youngest daughter was expecting her second child. It was a boy and we were excited to welcome him into the family come early summer. The pregnancy was not a strong one, however, and only made it to the end of the first trimester. He left twelve days before Christmas and it was a sad, difficult time we’d never experienced before.

For a little while through the anticipation of him, he’d been ours, and I felt he belonged on the tree. I noted the date on the bottom of the ornament, simply calling him Baby Boy, and I hung that small ornament back in among the branches. As I reminisce with each Christmas ornament I unpack, my hope for others is that they might enjoy similar fond memories for themselves as they open their ornament boxes this year.

It’s our memories that cushion us from our worries and concerns in current times. Those memories remind us of all we’ve had and that even in the harder times, we do come through them, and continue on.

Cairn Creche by Louis Winslow

Balanced rocks make a cairn

Represent wise men who visit a barn Seeking the one born to be king

Rich presents they offer and bring Followed a bright star during the night Leading them to this holy birth site Stopping to see Herod on the way Had something he wanted to say Bring me news of the birth site

So that I too can experience delight

On seeing the holy one who will lead

Perform miracles and many good deeds But a dream warned them to take care

Of King Herod’s bad intentions beware

I don’t want a generic Christmas tree pre-decorated by someone else. I need a Christmas tree that reflects all the living and people and stories that have taken place for me and mine through the years – the good, as well as the bad. ❖

To him do not tell this marvelous tale

Child’s Play

Today it is said the cairns still exist

by Linda Dolphin (2019 submission)

Snow crystals prick the frozen winter air, Gently laying a cold bedspread of white On the valley below.

Firelight flickers from cozy cottage windows, Scattering golden gem-light Onto glistening snowdrifts.

A horse-drawn sleigh, carrying a family of four

Stops by a stand of fir trees, while white rabbits Stare warily from their tree hollow.

The countryside has gone silent and motionless. Suddenly, all is topsy-turvy

As small hands make it snow again

In the wonderland of the magical snow globe. ❖

Return home taking a different trail

Many do surely emphatically insist

They lead the way to a spiritual life

Filled with joy and able to deal with its strife. ❖


What’s In Store

A Christmas Eve

Ike and Mike took a hike that wintery day into Pike, the town closest to their woodworking business in the country. Their aim was to find just the right Christmas gifts for their girlfriends. The General Store was the destination of the two husky young fellows.

photo of Dave had been placed next to the Christmas stockings dangling from the fireplace. A stack of carefully read letters with military postmarks was piled on an end-table. The fireplace was silent and dark. It would be another Christmas without him… but the phone call would come… tomorrow perhaps.

by Ed Pahnke

Upon entering the holiday decorated store, Ike and Mike browsed about, looking for a perfect gift, but one within their budget. What did the two girls do when at leisure away from Mike and Ike, and how much do their hobbies cost, they wondered.

Ike saw a gift – an electronic riddle kit. Yes. He motioned Mike over. Then he saw the price. However he still showed Mike.

“Wow, a riddle kit, great choice,” said Mike. Then he saw the price. He snapped his fingers and smiled. “Maybe we can make a deal, putting up some of the wooden holiday figurines we whittle at our shop?” Mike’s and Ike’s smiles showed that the deal for their whittled art works worked out. Mike brightly said, “Give a whittle, get a riddle.” ❖

by Wynn Crombie


Tommy’s slipper came off his foot in his haste to get down the stairs. He bent to pick it up. His sister Suzie was peering out the window looking for any sign of reindeer prints on the light snow. Not yet.

After a quick glance at “Santa’s landing” pad”, (as Dave had always called it), Tommy and Suzie ran into the kitchen where Cathy, their mom, was laying out juice and cookies on a Christmas tray. Three-year-old Mikey had a cookie already crunched between his teeth. “Santa can eat lots, I bet!” Miley blurted out between bites. He grabbed a handful of cookies and ran to the fireplace “I’m helping mom,” he announced. Suzie and Tommy followed Cathy out of the kitchen with a plateful of chocolate chip cookies and a tumbler full of orange juice. “Ooh, he’s going to love it! Santa ‘s gonna love it,” squealed Suzie.

“And some cookies for the elves too,” pointed out Tommy. “There,” he said as he put the treats down on the hearth. He craned his neck again and looked up the chimney, where he was met with darkness and silence. Outside, the moon was casting playful shadows on the landscape “Nope not yet,” he sighed. “Mommy,” he queried, “How can Santa eat if he has a mask on?”

“Oh, he’ll figure out a way,” winked Cathy. “He’ll take it off, just like we do, when we eat.” “Where will he put my tricycle and Suzie’s dollhouse?” “Hmmm. He’ll find a place,” Cathy assured him. Daddy. The word was left unspoken

“Okay guys, up to bed!” Cathy said when everything was in place. “Tomorrow morning. will be coming soon! Santa doesn’t come unless he knows you’re asleep.”

“Does Santa have to wear a mask?” Suzie asked, “Of course,” smiled Mom. “We can’t have him getting sick. Santa and the deer, both, wear masks.” “Santa is coming, Santa is coming!” chanted Tommy, as he trudged up the stairs. Mikey stumped his feet up and down, echoing Tommy. It was difficult for the family to leave the fireplace with memories of last Christmas when Dave had been home. He had yet to be deployed. No one knew it would be Afghanistan. “Will Daddy be okay this Christmas?” Suzie looked up at her mom.

It was their father’s first Christmas away and they missed him terribly. He was finishing up a year’s assignment in Afghanistan. “Maybe we can talk to him on the phone, like we did before Thanksgiving,” said Tommy. It had been through lots of static, but it was so good to hear their daddy’s voice A phone call from Daddy!

“Daddy! Daddy,” chimed in Mikey

Mom smiled. “Okay, up the stairs.”

“Couldn’t we wait here for Santa?” Suzie pleaded.


The kids reluctantly followed her up the stairs to their bedroom, its railing had been embraced with their homemade decorations. Christmas music wafted softly up to them as the sun started peeking through the curtains.

Through the Frosted Window by Bill Dall (2019 submission)

The three were awakened by the song and hopped out of their beds and ran to the top of the stairs. They started to run down, but… was that Mommy with Santa? She was taking Santa’s mask off ! And giving him a big kiss! The large figure wore a Santa hat… but, the rest was a khaki uniform.

Then tip-toes downstairs toward the lamplight’s glow,

It was then the children realized that the figure was not Santa. They ran down the rest of the stairs and into his lap. Daddy was home.

A magic scene greets her, snow glistening and deep.

“Sorry to wake them,” Santa mumbled, “but, I couldn’t wait.”

It wasn’t until later that the children noticed a tricycle standing next to a dollhouse. Just waiting to be discovered. ❖

Confessions of a Year-Round Christmas Shopper by Susan Lynn Lemon (2019 submission)


ong before the holiday fliers go to press, I confess to checking my shopping list more than twice. When it comes to Christmas giving, I am a serious EARLY BIRD shopper. I try to make my gift selections months in advance of the appearance of holiday advertising. For me, the hunt is much more pleasant at a leisurely pace, over time, and without pressure. The gifts tucked under the boughs of my evergreen are required to meet two rigid criteria. Each package must 1) be an especially appropriate gift for the receiver and 2) be a real steal deal! I love Christmas. As a child, I couldn’t wait to find just the right gift for each member of our family. Early in the Christmas season, my mother would lead me up and down the aisles of Woolworths, until we found something unique and within my means. I couldn’t afford much on a meager allowance, but I was proud to save for Dad’s favorite candy bar, or a small dime store trinket for my siblings. I guess I have never outgrown the delight of the hunt!

Some folks I know practice a different sort of “ho, ho, ho.” They wait until the “Nth” hour, which calls for a shopping marathon. By then, the retail shelves are showing signs of barrenness. The stores are crowded with anxious people and weary, short-tempered clerks. By later December, the bank account shows an all-time low. These conditions may bring on a “bah-humbug” headache. My SHOP EARLY logic is simple and fun.

I admit I am a fair weather shopper. What becomes of the “wait-until-the-last-minute list” if Ole’ Man Winter decides to deliver a whopping Midwest ice storm on the appointed shopping day? Shop in skates? Or, how miserable it is if one was to contract the galloping crud just before Christmas! The places we make purchases are notorious germ-havens, especially in the winter months. I would much rather be out and about when the air and my head are clear.

What about internet shopping? Online perusing is a great way to shop at home if gifts are selected in time to allow for the likelihood of necessary returns, the probability of out-ofstock merchandise, and the potential of shipping delays. There is less mess and more time to address the unexpected if orders are placed ahead. Way ahead! Early shopping works for us. Here are a few examples of this year’s early-bird purchases…

As Christmas excitement swirls ‘round in her head, Little Annie steals out of her comfortable bed,

And scrapes a peek-hole in the frosted window.

She watches intently; Mom and Dad still asleep.

But what are those jingles? Whose voice does she hear?

A sleigh and eight reindeer in the yard do appear. And who is looking at her straight in the eyes?

He’s smiling and laughing; he’s brought her a prize.

Santa waves at Annie and then nods toward his sled. It’s holding her present, the ribbons bright red.

Then he wiggles his finger and shakes his old headA very clear signal she should return to her bed.

She runs from the window, creeps up the steep stairs, Pulls up her covers, and starts saying her prayers.

Santa’s back in his sleigh, and whisks high to the roof. Annie feels the vibrations of each reindeer hoof. Then down the chimney! He scoots to the tree.

Santa sets down the presents – one, two and three. In the morning she’s up, rubbing “sleep” from her eyes, With her dream of last eve under night’s snowy skies, About a merry old elf who threw her a kiss,

Making Annie’s fourth Christmas complete with sweet bliss. ❖


Confessions of a Year-Round Christmas Shopper (continued from previous page) continued on next page

I am “recycling” a plaid wool blanket (still in the original package) found in a quaint little secondhand shop on vacation to Ohio this August. It is the perfect Christmas prize for our daughter-in-law in Michigan. The price was right. It is a match made in heaven. I can imagine her and our granddaughter snuggling by the fireplace this winter. Warm thoughts!

For our son, who resides in Texas, I found a new, lightweight, Iowa Hawkeye jacket. A super-duper fall estate sale yielded this branded bargain, perfectly sized, in mint condition with tags. Score! I was proud of my husband’s (summer) Christmas gift find. He picked-up an extensive rock and fossil collection for our nature-loving grandson. (I have yet to hunt down a pocket field guide to accompany this one.) I think sixyear-old James will LOVE it.

With my Christmas 2019 checklist nearing completion, I anticipate having quality time to celebrate the One born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ. HE is the best Christmas gift ever, lent to us from our loving heavenly Father. I am thankful for His grace and the abundance of provision we enjoy, making caring and sharing a reality. Is your 2019 Christmas Shopping checklist lagging a bit behind? It’s not too late to get started. Believe it or not, it is not too early to be mindful of Christmas 2020!

Have a merry, meaningful holiday season. May your gift shopping experiences bless you and your selections bring joy to each loved one on your list! ❖

Through the Frosted Window by Bill Dall (2019 submission)

As Christmas excitement swirls ‘round in her head, Little Annie steals out of her comfortable bed,

Then tip-toes downstairs toward the lamplight’s glow, And scrapes a peek-hole in the frosted window.

A magic scene greets her, snow glistening and deep. She watches intently; Mom and Dad still asleep.

But what are those jingles? Whose voice does she hear? A sleigh and eight reindeer in the yard do appear. And who is looking at her straight in the eyes?

He’s smiling and laughing; he’s brought her a prize.

Santa waves at Annie and then nods toward his sled. It’s holding her present, the ribbons bright red.

Then he wiggles his finger and shakes his old headA very clear signal she should return to her bed.

She runs from the window, creeps up the steep stairs, Pulls up her covers, and starts saying her prayers.

Santa’s back in his sleigh, and whisks high to the roof. Annie feels the vibrations of each reindeer hoof. Then down the chimney! He scoots to the tree.

Santa sets down the presents – one, two and three. In the morning she’s up, rubbing “sleep” from her eyes, With her dream of last eve under night’s snowy skies, About a merry old elf who threw her a kiss,

Making Annie’s fourth Christmas complete with sweet bliss. ❖