A gathering of rich colored oranges, blueberries, concord grapes, pineapple, textured walnuts and other assorted fruits and nuts embellished the vintage Whitman's candy box top. This attractive sturdy one pound, basket-looking box was simply too nice to toss. The Whitman's specialties of dipped pineapple, orange rind, chocolate-covered Brazil nuts, stuffed dates and cordial cherries had vanished long ago. It was easy to perceive this candy's inviting temptation arriving in this handsome parcel.
As I raised this familiar lid, I recalled the times my mother had shared this box with me and its special contents. On the top of the cards was a beautiful elegant Christmas card featuring an inviting bay window showing a simple glowing Christmas tree, garland topped window and two red candles on the window sill.
Outside in monochromatic tones of warm brown we see the bones of a sturdy elm framing this inviting window. Mesmerizing are the snowflakes which dot the branches, window ledge and foreground. It is a mini masterpiece and finished off with a well-dressed tone on tone ivory line embossed border. No easel required here for this pastel sketch. This lovely card was sent to Mom and Dad from Dr. and Mrs. H. Kuplis and daughters.
Charles Repnow is a freelance writer who lives in Rugby. His column appears alternate Wednesdays in The Minot Daily News.
Another card has bright orange, blue, and red bells all tied with red ribbons and resting on a background of Christmas holly berries. Inside there is a cheery Christmas greeting and signed Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Home of Underwood.
Another one 2x3 in size has a full basket of poinsettias and holly on the front. It is wishing Mom and Dad a Christmas-tide with gladness and signed by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Grimsley and boys. The Grimsley's were our neighbors, and to their delight a few years later they added a daughter, Beverly to their family. All of these were from 1952.
Christmas of 1943 from my Grandma Lydia: "Marian, we think of you often and hope that your studies are going fine. We traded a sugar stamp for a rubber stamp with the neighbors and dad is now going to Butte to get a new tire for the car."
This is from a 1960 Christmas greeting from my Aunt Violet and family: "Marian, how is little Charles doing this Christ-mas. You have a busy home with four boys. Do Tommy, Neal and Oliver enjoy their new little brother?
Christmas of 1963 from Mrs. Lee, a former teacher of mom's at Minnehaha Academy writes: "Marian five boys my goodness you and TeRoy now have enough for a basketball team. They certainly are blessed to have a mother like you for I know you have their best interest at heart."
Christmas cards bring a historical timeline. I know that in 1954 my Uncle Burnell and Aunt Doris Repnow sent out their first Christmas card as husband and wife. In the spring of 1953 my Aunt Ellie and Uncle Emil Anderson delighted in the birth of their first daughter, Gwendolyn Julie.
There is always something to smile at and learn when reading Christmas cards from years past. Would you not agree? My mom was of the notion that Christmas cards not only were beautiful to look at but they often contain family information and history that was worth saving. I did not have the blessing of knowing my mother's mom, Lydia, because she had died at the age of 49 while my mom was in nursing training. I have, however, come to know my grandma Lydia through my mother and recently through the many letters and cards that Mom had saved. To see her letters in her handwriting about the family, daily events on the farm in Mercer, and even making note of the passing of FDR in the spring of 1945, are now treasures of family history.
As my parents have transitioned to the nursing home, the task of sorting through their home of 59 years is upon us sons. I have come to discover boxes of letters, cards and clippings filed in yearly folders which my mother had saved over the years. To reread these connections to my past is a wonderful privilege. Mothers often have meditative practices (which could be anything from embroidery, gardening, singing, knitting to yoga) which helped them balance their environments of spouse, family, and work. My mother discovered a gratifying contemplation in saving correspondence. It was perhaps because she lost her mother at an early age that made her realize she could relive moments with her mother by rereading her many letters. I discovered them in an upstairs bedroom in a wooden clothes basket nearly full and most of them tied with pink ribbons.
This is the beauty of the traditional Christmas greeting that comes once a year which we share with friends and family. Letting them know that at least once a year we take the time to have them in mind and heart. These greeting share our lives and they become a piece of history. In our world today when computers, satellites, faxes and e-mails rule our correspondence, let us take time to put effort into sending a traditional Christmas card with a family message. Down the road, it may be one of the avenues that connect the next generation.
Too often in our world we are detoured from writing letter and notes, which bring not only enjoyment, but information and comfort. In the task of writing, we place our signature not only physically but by our penmanship, selection of stationery, stamp and even return address label.
Keep in mind as 2011 comes to a close and as we stand on the threshold of 2012, may we take the time to seize the opportunity to send a few personal notes. By doing so, we can find fulfillment in sharing our lives with others. Take time to write a note -- you will be amazed at the feeling it gives you.
So on this fourth day of Christmas, if you haven't sent your Christ-mas greetings, do so. This is the one gift you should give yourself and others.
Who knows? It may end up in a beautiful candy box someday.
This is a recipe that will allow you a kitchen-free day, yet will produce a meal that is delicious. This should make available time to send out those important Christmas cards that inspire for years to come.
Busy Day Stew
2 pounds stew meat
2 cups carrots
1 cup onion
1 tablespoon instant tapioca
1 tablespoon salt
1 slice of bread cubed
2 cups potatoes
2 cups celery
1 pint canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups beef broth
Combine ingredients. Cover and cook in oven at 250 F for 5 hours. You may need to add more broth if desired.