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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Wonderful Christmas


My memories of visits with Great Aunt Ree and Uncle Bill on Christmas are filled with the images of a Norman Rockwell painting. A trip to their farm on the mountain just above Martins Creek, PA was just like riding through a Currier and Ives Christmas Card. Traveling along the Delaware River, and then crisscrossing Martins Creek, while driving down Creek Road, and up Rasely Hill Road through the small secluded wooded valley blanketed with fluffy white snow was a wondrous sight on Christmas Day.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the smell of the wood burning stove in the big room, combined with the scent of a roasting turkey and a freshly cut cedar tree decorated with antique German family heirloom blown glass ornaments.

The laughing eyes, and the sparkling gold tooth in the welcoming smile of Great Uncle Bill met us at the side porch door. He was wearing a red and black plaid flannel shirt, and overalls held up with a pair of suspenders. Right behind him was Great Aunt Ree whose soft round features, azure blue eyes, and silky silver hair completely defined her as the perfect grandmother image.

Great Aunt Ree and Uncle Bill were our God parents, and she took her responsibility seriously, and preached a sermon at each visit. She was devoted to her faith, and loved to quote the Bible. The true meaning of Christmas was defined by her deep love for Christ, and shared with all who came into her home.

They always seemed to be delighted to see us, and made us feel so special to be there in their warm cozy farmhouse. It was the most perfect setting for a family to gather on Christmas Day. When I first saw The Waltons on television I experienced an immediate connection to their extended family Christmas gathering.

Each year Uncle Bill would cut down a fresh cedar tree from their farm. Each of the ornaments were very old and passed down through generations of the Eck/Hinkle family. On the top was an angel with a composition face. Underneath the tree in the putz was a family of bears, a fuzzy Santa in a sleigh, and another Santa standing there with his pack on his back. I so loved standing near their tree and staring at them. I still love looking at antique decorations.

We always knew what our gift from them would be before we even opened it. Aunt Ree always bought us flannel night gowns from Woolworth's. We made a fuss, and thanked them for such a great gift that would keep us warm on cold winter nights.

Our entire family sat down to dinner around a large pink table, surrounded by pink chairs. After we finished eating everyone sat around the same table and talked. I can remember the lighting to be dim, and the room was toasty warm from the wood burning stove. The feeling of love and acceptance permeated the atmosphere of that quaint, comfortable room of that pleasantly peaceful farmhouse.

Soon, Dad would announce that it was time to start our journey back to Phillipsburg, NJ. We gathered all our things together and kissed them good-bye. During the winter months they always stood at the side porch door waving good-bye. I have this vivid image of their wonderfully loving faces, while they stood there in the doorway.

I praise God that I have these memories, I have inherited the bear family, Santas, and few of the blown glass ornaments. When I place them out for the Christmas season, they are a tangible connection to those wonderful memories.

If I could have one Christmas wish come true, it would be to have all those same participants gather in that same big room for one more wonderful Christmas together.

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