26 December 2006

One Christmas Tradition

I like to refer to my home as the "Ole Manse."
It's the place my family has always come home to.
When I was growing up, I would sing, "Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go," and I would picture this place: the driveway lined with tall pines, the quiet brook at the bottom of the hill, the smell of ivy growing on the walls. This was it.
Of course no time of the year brings back memories of my own childhood like Christmas. The Christmas decorations put up by the town of Portland don't seem to have changed in the 30 years since I first began to celebrate them. Our family always visited my Grandma & Grandpa Dittes right here at Christmas time (our summer vacation took us to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to visit my Grandpa Mooney). The city Christmas lights invariably emerged out of the gloom that followed the long, seven-hour drive from our home in the Magical Land of Ohio. By this time, Julie and I had exhausted ever known diversion from our places in the back seat of our Plymouth Satellite. The lights meant that Grandma's house was not far away--Christmas presents were waiting with our names on them!
When we entered Grandma's kitchen, I always noticed the cabinet doors (pictured above). She hung the Christmas cards she received there, and I always marveled at the names, the pictures, the artwork, the greetings--everything. My grandpa was a doctor, so they were on the mailing list of every Adventist charity known to mankind (and they sent them all donations no larger than $20 every year). Looking back, I think these made up half of the cards, probably.
This is one tradition that Jenny and I have proudly kept alive. Every year our Christmas card list gets bigger. We sent out 55 Christmas letters this year, and about 70 cards. Members of our new church in Bethpage overwhelmed us with Christmas cards (more than we had received in the previous five years combined at our old church at Highland).
I have treasured every one of them, and I'm posting this picture to share them with you--to say thank you (to those who sent them), and to wish everyone a very merry and sentimental Christmas.
(I got three more cards and letters in the mail today after I took this picture. I'll tape them up on the cabinets right after I'm done writing tonight.)

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