As I get older I can't help but think of times past. At Christmas this means Decembers with our very own Santa.
My dad loved being Santa. As I wrote in other columns, he started being the jolly old man when he was young and had to add padding. Dad grew into the role though and played the jolly old man for the rest of his life.
I found old photographs from 1977 of Dad visiting us wearing his red suit. There was no crying from our toddlers Robby and Becky back then, only smiles — it takes a lot to be a mall Santa when children are crying. Good thing our family Santa never had that happen to him.
I remember when Dad and Mom drove to Wisconsin just so he could continue being Santa for his youngest grandchildren. By this time our first two were older and beyond believing, but our two younger children were ready for a visit from Santa.
That was the year we ran into a problem. Robby and Becky recognized Grandpa and their laughter almost ruined the event for Russell and Rachel. I had to step in and stop them from unmasking Santa. Our little ones would have been wounded if they found out the truth about who was in that red suit, and Grandpa would have been hurt too. He believed in the magic, and I do too.
As I searched for photos of past Christmases I couldn't find any of my sister and me, which was disappointing — maybe some will show up in the future, but my parents lost many photos years ago after having a roof leak where they had photos stored — so many of the snapshots gone, but I have the memories.
One of my favorite Christmas gifts as a child was a Tiny Tear Doll. It had curly red hair the color like mine — I'm sure that's why she was given to me.
My sister got a doll too, but her's didn't have hair she could comb. Her baby doll had plastic hair that was just part of its molded head — Karen was jealous of my doll. I felt sorry for her, because mine was just so much cuter — I still have my doll though her body has suffered over the years, she still looks pretty sitting in the china cabinet.
Some Manzke family photos from past Christmases were given to us last year. One photo is of Bob and Ginny sitting by their Christmas tree with wrapped packages waiting to be opened. Of course, Bob remembers little of his childhood though he does recall the shirt he's wearing in the photo. It was a western shirt, like the ones worn by cowboys on television.
Another photo is of the gift the Manzke family got that year, a new television. They were one of the first families to have a television in Mokena, IL — of course, it was black and white.
The neighborhood kids couldn't wait to come on Saturdays to watch their television. Everyone wanted a front row seat, but Bob said there were rules for watching. If it was night, a light had to be on in the room, and no one could sit close to the set or risk hurting their eyes. Early shows included the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy.
Ginny remembers letting their goat into the house one day while the kids were watching television. For some reason when their mother came in and found the goat she kind of got upset. A new rule about not letting the goat into the house to watch television was instantly created.
So that's a little from our Christmases past. Things sure have changed, except for Santa. In one incarnation or another that man continues to share the Christmas spirit with all of us.
Merry Christmas to all from Susan and Bob on Sunnybook Farm!
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.