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Revised 23 April 2011

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CHRISTMAS 1998

I had planned to do this part last, but the creative spirit is upon me and I feel the need to share, so this is your Christmas present from me to you.

I grew up in a tiny town in the Midwest. We had about 500 people residing there if everyone was home when the census taker went through. You could say it was a typical country village. We had two stores, two churches, two gas stations, two cafes, two chicken hatcheries and five taverns.

At Christmas, they decorated the entire down town area for the holidays--all two blocks of it. Carol and I loved sleigh riding in the winter. We usually rode the sleigh together when we were younger and our favorite place to slide was the alleyway behind the locker, but later, the town instituted the sleigh riding hill. Occasionally, Carol, being the larger, rode on the board flat on her stomach and steered the sleigh and I rode lieing on her back and hanging on for dear life. Occasionally, the sleigh would stick in a bank of snow. With that, Carol would abruptly sail over the front of the sleigh with me still hanging on and we would continue with Carol as the sleigh until we came to an abrupt halt with me laughing for joy and Carol with her face shoved deep in the snow. I suspect Carol did not enjoy that ride half as much as I did.

The town did something better for its children. They blocked off both ends of schoolhouse hill and put gravel across the bottom of the hill to keep us from going on to main street and no one was allowed to drive on this street during sleigh riding hours. (The name of the street was almost as obvious as how the town got its name. The school was located at the top of the street. The town, Elk Horn, got its name many years ago when the train still ran through the town. A passenger got off the train and said, "Oh look, an elk horn lying on the ground over there. . ." and thus the town got its name.

For the first few years, we lived in a two room apartment off my fathers business. He was a butcher. We had a real ice box that you had to empty at the end of the day or you got to clean up the melt mess. We had crank phones with an operator at the other end, who usually tattled on us and told our mother when we went to play somewhere we didn't belong. The front of our store was the second grocery store. We used to have a general store, but the owner died and the rest of the family didn't want to continue it so they tore it down. Just to show you that one person's loss is another person's gain, we found an old pair of high button plow shoes in the attic of the old general store when they tore it down. I used them for years to play dress up. They were really neat--steel toed and weighed a ton.

At Christmas, the town Better Elk Horn Club made it a special point to include all of the children in town in a special party, no matter what their financial standing or social status. They would close the school and we would all walk down to the town hall. Once there, we sang Christmas carols and the men of the town put on a little show for us and finally, one of the men would come out in a Santa suit and we all went up to tell Santa what we wanted. Afterwards, we were each given a Christmas sack, with memories I treasure to today. Each sack contained an apple and an orange (hard to get in those days and a real treat), hard ribbon candy and an assortment of nuts in the shell. The old town hall was awash with the smell of love, dust of age and the feelings of great love for mankind. I cannot think of a memory that stands out stronger in my memory or had such a profound influence in how I perceive the true spirit of Christmas. These people gave us a gift of love I shall never forget...and they gave it without question as to who we were, our needs, or our connections.

I wish each and every one of you the gift of the spirit of Christmas. May love and kindness visit your homes and carry you throughout the holiday season.

Love,

Katie


Oh Holy Star of Bethlehem
Shine down on us this night
Bring peace and joy to each of us
Help make our burden light
Teach us to feel another's needs
To do the things we ought
Judge not our petty acts and deeds
Direct our every thought
Amen