Holiday memories

Susan Manzke
Rachel Jo’s baptism in 1982 with siblings, Russell, Robby and Becky.

I’ve been going through old photos and columns lately. I can’t believe I’ve been writing little things about our lives for so long. Back when I had a crazy idea about writing a column a friend who was a writer/editor told me I’d never keep it up. Luckily I didn’t listen to Jack. He had a lot of good advice over the years, but this time he was wrong.

I just plunged in and kept going - I was young and had high hopes of being the next Erma Bombeck. Once she wrote: There's something wrong with a mother who washes out a measuring cup with soap and water after she's only measured water in it - I caught myself doing that the other day.

Anyway, since I’ve been reminiscing, I thought I would share a past Christmas column from the early years - a lot of my readers weren’t even born when I started. Heck, some of our family wasn’t born yet.

I heard from my first editor the day I arrived home with our brand new baby, Russell, January 1980. That note from Mr. Wood said he had the nerve to give my column a try.

Here’s one of my favorite columns from my first year.

December 11, 1980

The kids had their noses pressed to the picture window for days—looking for the first snowflake to fall. How they could see past their own smudges, I don't know, but they did all right because I finally heard a yell for me to come.

"Mommy, it's Christmas!" my three-year-old daughter Becky proclaimed. She looked past that lonely little flake and searched the sky for Santa, whom she was sure would be following.

I tried to explain to her that she had almost a month to wait for Christmas.

"It's snowing!" she cried, refusing to listen to me.

Then, in anticipation, she proceeded to tear about the house looking for stockings to hang for Santa to fill.

Manzke family Christmas photo 1982 - Susan and Bob, Rachel and Russell, Robby and Becky.

You may wonder how the kid got the impression Christmas was a roving holiday, which appeared with the advent of the first snow.

I don't wonder. I know. I'm the one who started the whole problem.

It all began one hot July day when Robby asked, "When's Christmas?"

I don't know how the subject came up, but I answered truthfully, "December 25."

"When?" five-year-old Robby asked.

"Five months from now." It was hard to concentrate on Christmas while wiping sweat out of my eyes.

"Five what?" Becky wanted to know.

Nothing I said satisfied them. I brought out a calendar, counted the days and holidays between July and December. I did everything I could to answer their questions.

"But Mommy, when is Santa coming?"

I thought again. What could I say?

"It's too hot for Santa to come to Wisconsin. He can't come until it snows. He needs snow for his sleigh."

That they understood. And the questions stopped. I forgot about Santa for a while. I put him out of my mind until the first snowflake found its way past our picture window.

"It's snowing. Santa is coming. How is he getting here?" The questions began again. “Will he bring us toys?”

I took out the calendar again and we counted the days until Christmas together, and I reminded them that grandma's birthday had to come before Christmas, and Santa couldn't come until all the toys were made.

What did all my trouble, get me this time? Another blank look from Becky and her brother, too.

"But when, Mommy?" they chorused. 

My columns are a bit longer these days and photos are usually included. Things have changed, like the kids now have kids of their own. They are the ones answering all the questions. Bob and I are the ones enjoying children, that’s grandchildren.

We wish you fun family gatherings all year long.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com