Childhood Christmas Memories

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 WAB_Gentrygoing.” 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.

FloydGentryAt 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.

ambulance_oldFinally 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! 🙂

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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26 Responses to Childhood Christmas Memories

  1. Yup, she was a pistol (in addition to being pistol-packing!).

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  2. I like that! I was just chatting with my daughter, an excellent mother – and I told her she will have to wait until her children are adults before she finds out all the things she “did wrong” (in their eyes). 🙂

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  3. Or a “Twilight Zone” episode!

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  4. Oh, I’ve got lots of ’em … (sadly). :/ I try to find the humerous side of them though — much easier when you’re not in the process of living them!

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  5. … a tv special that could only be shown after the children are in bed! 🙂

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  6. I have only one picture of ” Christmas In Moama” it features the men without their shoes (cos it was hot) but still wearing their out door working hats. There is a wall of guns on one side of the room and a bible on the other. Ah good times! (NOT!!!!)
    Smiles and wry laughs.

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  7. I cried an ocean of tears as a youth – now (no small thanks to wonderful therapists) I can wryly laugh! 🙂

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  8. I did – as I hope you did yours! 🙂

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  9. Wow! Sounds like your great grandmother was a hoot!

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  10. We all knew not to wander around the farm house at night – she was known to shoot at sounds in the night. !

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  11. Thank you … They’re lovely nowadays !

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  12. And true, too! 🙂

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  13. Oh yes, though I am not a jultid traditionalist, I get to enjoy a lovely holiday with my daughter and her family. My daughter has become quite the holiday diva.

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  14. My American family was, ummm, a bit eccentric. 🙂

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  15. salpal1 says:

    I am so glad you have risen past your upbringing and enjoy yummy food (in moderation, of course!) I think every family has its disfunctional aspects… which I guess means that we are all from completely normal families. The trick is to overcome it and become disfunctional in a new and different way. 🙂

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  16. I love your family holiday stories! Sounds like the makings of good memoir.

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  17. Wow, if you made up a story like yours no one would call it believable! I wonder how many other amazing stories like this America is sitting on…

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  18. psalmboxkey says:

    great story . . . one that could be woven into a tv holiday special. ; )

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  19. Ya gotta laugh or ya will cry. My family would fit splendidly in your family. LOL. Isnt it amazing and an absolute miracle that we are so well adjusted? Living breathing miracles we are!Have a fab Christmas you clever thing!

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  20. Northern Narratives says:

    Enjoy your Christmas 🙂 Judy

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  21. Curls & Q says:

    Q – LMAO! I can see your g-grandmother now! Thanks for sharing.

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  22. Tracey says:

    That is both hysterical and terrible. Here’s to better Christmases!

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  23. Great story! Merry Christmas!

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  24. What an amazing story! I am so glad you can enjoy your Christmas and all that forbidden foods! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Regards from a cold and snowy Oslo! Linda

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  25. textileshed says:

    Wow, what a story, nobody could invent anything like this for a film script…

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