As I disclosed in earlier blogs, my Norwegian immigrant mother, baptized and raised a Lutheran, converted and became a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) in the U.S. a few years after I was born. Many know JWs do not celebrate the usual Christian holidays, but because my American father was not a JW, from time to time he set down his formidable foot and insisted we celebrate a holiday with his (non-JW) family. It was always strange.
First, I was never allowed to even so much as hum a Christmas song, and if my mother ever caught me singing one … (Let’s just say that my mother was an enthusiastic follower of the “spare the rod, spoil the child” mode of child rearing.) Thus, while my cousins gleefully bellowed out holiday songs around the piano, I tried my best to look disinterested while staring glumly into the fire.
Just like Thanksgiving (see my 11/23/12 post), my mother had a list of holiday foods that, she claimed, if we didn’t eat would protect us from god’s wrath from attending such a pagan event. So once again, I sat desultory at the table, playing with my potatoes and brussel sprouts while my cousins gorged on ham, turkey, and sparkling cider. After dinner was worse; while they stuffed themselves full with holiday-themed cookies, candy, cakes and pies, I primly ate a bowl of vanilla ice cream. (Yup, fun times.)
But every now and then something would happen that brought a little excitement into these torturous (for me) dinners.
The folks in my American family were the kind who viewed the Depression and adversity as personal challenges. They were tough to the core, and they raised their children to be that way. A oft-quoted family motto (literally), was “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Introduced to guns while young, the adults owned and/or carried. Even Greatgrandmother Gentry (born to German immigrants in 1886) had a handgun, and a big one at that – .45.
At one Christmas family gathering burned into my mind, Greatgrandfather Gentry displayed signs of a cardiac event, and my father called for an ambulance. Greatgrandmother Gentry was very angry at my father, because she did not want to spend Christmas without her husband. While my father kept greatgrandfather prone and warm, greatgrandmother started waving her .45. No one in the family seemed surprised, and my father calmly stood up, took her .45, removed the bullets, and gave it back to her. I remember she kept waving it wildly claiming no one was going to ruin her holiday.
Finally we heard the tires of the ambulance on the gravel road leading up to the farmhouse. (In those days, the ambulances were pretty much nothing more than long cars driven fast by two men dressed in white. Pic source) My father opened the door and helped the two men put greatgrandfather on a stretcher.
Greatgrandmother held up her .45 (barely – it was heavy and so her arm and hand were shaking), and said she would shoot them if they moved her husband. While the men froze in fear, my father rolled his eyes and said, “No worry, boys. There are no bullets in the gun. Get a move on.” The men looked nervous, but they obeyed my father.
As the ambulance drove away, Greatgrandmother Gentry stood on the porch, one arm around a pillar, the other one holding her .45 (which was now part way in her apron pocket), wailing, “Come back! It’s Christmas!”
Ahhhh, my childhood holiday memories …
Now, however, my daughter and son-in-law host very nice holiday dinners … No guns AND I can eat those once forbidden foods!