I was in England from 1977 to 1979 serving an LDS mission. I missed those two Christmases. Thankfully, Mom sent a few pictures to take the edge off the homesicknesses. In today's digital family album I give those pictures back, plus one I took from the Christmas of 1976.
Christmas Eve 1976 at 2214 38th Street, Rapid City, South Dakota. I'm behind the camera of course then comes from left to right, Luella (Mom), Grandma Mattson (Mom's mom), Janice, Grandpa Leissman (Dad's stepdad), Jilane, Jon, Lisa, Grandma Leissman (Dad's mom), and finally Charles (Dad) with 9 month old Annette on his lap. Absent from the picture are Kim and Kevin. Kim was married; and Kevin, most likely hogging the one and only furnace vent in the living room to the right of the TV. The tree looked pretty good when compared to the Charlie Brown trees we normally had delivered by the Boy Scouts (their Christmas time fund raiser). And yes, who can forget the Santa Claus overlooking the happy event from his perch atop the tree. That Santa was as much a part of the family as any of us. It topped our tree as far back as I can remember - and looked the part when inspected up close.
Christmas was the happiest time in the Williamson house. The presents were modest by today's standards. I believe we each had a $50 limit in the late 1970's. We spent many a long, dark winter's evening leading up to Christmas examining the store catalogs page by page looking for the best gift or gifts we could squeeze out of Santa's limit.
Taking the presents out of the calculation, I would say having our grandmas together was the second best thing about the holiday. Only a blizzard closing the roads out of North Dakota would stop Grandma and Grandpa Leissman from coming. Grandma Mattson lived in Rapid City. We got to see her all the time, but having them together was the best!
Grandma Mattson was fun to tease. She took it well and gave it right back. Grandma Leissman, on the other hand, lit the room with her stories. A prompt from one of us was all it took to get her going. Sure, we all knew the stories from multiple tellings over the years. It wasn't the story, it was the telling of the story that lit up the room. We'd listen as she'd start the story and take great delight when she'd pause to laugh long and hard as she relived the event in her mind. Sometimes the laughing was so hard, Grandma had to quickly make a dash for the bathroom.
Christmas was the best time of the year for us. Dad wasn't much of a fan of the holiday. Large family gatherings unnerved him, but he'd soldier through without too much complaining (except when we'd all leave him alone in the living room with Grandpa Leissman and retreat to the safety of the kitchen. Saying Grandpa Leissman was long winded was an understatement).
Christmas 1977. Kim was by herself, a single mother of two and only twenty years old. Forest is on the left and Brandon is on her lap. You see what I meant about our Charlie Brown Christmas Trees?
This was one of the two Christmases I missed. Forest was three and Brandon was two. You gotta love Brandon's little boots! What a chubby little guy when compared to that adorable, yet scrawny Forest :)
Christmas 1977. Ice skating was the event of the day. Look at Jon's curly hair! Jon had a perm at the time. Not sure why a 14 year old boy would subject himself to that, but that's what he did. Twelve year old Jilane is with him.
The siblings taking a breather. Janice, Lisa, Jilane, and Shirley Temple Jon.
And finally, to top off tonight's album, a snapshot taken in our LDS meeting house's gym on Canyon Lake Drive. Lisa is standing next to the ADHD boy in the red shirt. She's looking all Ukrainian with the skirt and scarf. The only other people I recognize in this photo are Dan Weyland standing next to the woman with the long strands of limp spaghetti drooped over her head, and the Nally girl next to the pink dressed Swiss Miss. Lisa will have to fill us in on this photo.