A Christmas memory that never fades
By Marian Setterfield
Carson City resident
The scene and the magic are still vivid in my mind from several Christmas adventures our family was fortunate to experience quite a few years before moving to our home in Carson City.
This was in Kitzbuhl, Austria. We were living in Munich, Germany, not so far from Kitzbuhl, where we had learned to ski. My husband, Bob, was based in Berlin with Pan Am for the IGS.
Bob was able to arrange his flight schedule for several years so that we could go to Austria for three ski days before Christmas while the lift tickets were less expensive and the slopes not so crowded.
We stayed in a wonderful place with great charm and very nice owners who always were happy to see the Pan Am group come to stay.
On Christmas eve we walked in the snow to the ancient village church for the Midnight Mass. It was always crowded, which was good as the church was barely heated and sitting closer kept us all warm.
The service was short and with that typical quiet, constant good feeling. The choir was exquisite with clear voices and included the song, “silent night, holy night,” written in Salzburg, Austria, not far away and many years ago. We all joined in to sing. The priest had a short Christmas message recited in eight languages.
After Mass, we all walked out silently to the church yard to see the side where village folk who have left this world are buried, and candles were lighted at each gravestone, giving an electrifying effect. Then the music started from the high bell tower Ð trumpets and horns playing in the clear, cold air the Christmas songs which are heard ’round the world.
It was time to walk slowly, silently back to our pension and hurry into our beds for warmth under the featherbeds lying there still listening to the music of Christmas. It was a feeling of contentment and thanks for the birth of Christ so long ago. Next day, Christmas morning, we headed back to Munich, where our decorated tree with wrapped gifts underneath awaited us. We always had several of our five children with us, two of whom lived in Munich with us at the time, but never were all there as some could not make it there from the United States.
The peace and magic is pervasive and I still see this scene every year at Christmas time. It is all I need. We have a framed painting in our home of the village church flame-domed tower rising above the deep snow, and the music is there.
A small way of thanking the troops
By George Gussak
Carson City resident
A young woman placed parcel after parcel on the counter, bringing more in from her car. I could hear the grumbling, but an older woman, not steady on her feet and with a canister of oxygen periodically offering life’s breath waited and watched with interest. After a moment she asked where the parcels were going. “For the soldiers in Iraq,” the young woman replied. The grumbling stopped, replaced by sheepish smiles. The young woman finished her postal business and was about to leave when the elderly lady stopped her. Her shaking hand went into her purse and asked if she could pay for some of the postage. The young woman thanked her, but refused. This was her husband’s and her small way of thanking the troops after her son, who was stationed overseas, told her in his company more than 125 soldiers had no one back home.
The gift of a special grandmother
By Bonnie Martinkus
Carson City resident
My Dad always told me, “If you want something, Bonnie, you will have to earn the money to buy it!”
My family lived within walking distance of a lake. Consequently in the summer I picked up worms, dumped them in coffee grounds and sold them to fishermen in our little town.
As winter showed its cold windy face, I had to find a new source of income. Christmas was coming soon. How would I buy a gift for Grandma Alice?
Each Sunday as we sat in worship, I would have time to contemplate my dilemma. The elderly man who always sat in front of us slept through the sermon. I needed something to occupy my mind. I decided to talk with Grandma Alice. When you are 10 and 11, Grandmas are the people to go to for serious decision making! She had a great idea. As we sat in her un-insulated tool shed at the back door making ice cream, she asked me if I remembered helping her make Christmas wreaths. Daddy and I were off to the woods and it wasn’t anything like trudging the road to “Happy Destiny” or “Oz.” It was trudging through the snow with burlap bags to pick “Princess Pine” sprigs. It takes a lot of sprigs to make a beautiful wreath or 20.
When I was not trudging the woods, I was pounding the pavement of our tiny town knocking on doors. With a hesitant smile on my face, I gave my pitch. After all, this was about a Christmas gift for my Grandma Alice. I was successful in locating 20 or so customers, promising each on a firm delivery date before Christmas. Now it was time to go back to the tool shed and get busy with Daddy.
He would bend a coat hanger into a circle, get out the brown twine that hurt his hands and we were off! I would hand him three or four springs at a time as he continually turned the hanger back and forth. Would we ever be done?
Success at last! Time to get the sled out, pile the wreaths on and into the snow I go on my delivery route, list in hand.
I don’t remember what I brought Grandma for Christmas. I do remember that there was never a gift from me that was not very special to her. She was such a happy person, always singing in the kitchen, teaching me to cook and learn a new song.
Grandma Alice and I started days ahead to prepare for Christmas dinner, the pumpkin pie always tasted a bit different. Grandma grew squash in her fall garden, but told us we were imagining things. I am a connoisseur of pumpkin. We were eating squash pie! When I questioned she just smiled and continued to whip the cream.
Grandma Alice had tiny white candles on her Christmas tree, whoa! When I think of her, I smile. She was my gift. I am so grateful to have been blessed with a grandmother who made me feel special.
Love from Grandma’s kitchen
By Donna Batis-Wungnema
Carson City resident
One of my fondest memories was when Grandma Batis would start making her Christmas goodies. As I close my eyes and think of her it all comes back to me. I remember walking up the steps to her house. Then as soon as you reach for the doorknob you can smell the sweet essence of vanilla and butter in the air. You know right away that grandma is baking sugar cookies. As you open the door grandma looks up at you. Her white hair glistens in the morning light and her eyes have a certain sparkle to them.
As soon as the first batch of sugar cookies is cooled off you then get to taste. The flavor is rich and buttery. So rich it just melts in your mouth.
After, grandma finishes baking the cookies she starts on making the caramel apples. Grandma picks the finest apples. She uses granny smith for its tartness and the golden delicious for its sweetness. She uses the best caramel. The aroma in the air gives you a good feeling inside. This feeling touches your heart and soul.
As you leave grandma’s kitchen and close the door the sweet fragrance lingers in the corner of your mind. The memory is etched with “LOVE” from grandma’s kitchen.
God sent a message
By Mary Santomauro
My husband, Vince, who passed away 4 years ago told me this story about his very good friend, Bill, who passed away this past summer.
Bill and Vince had met while attending Loyola High School in Los Angeles.
Vince’s father, Guitano, who died when Vince was a young boy, was a local barber, who had a shop in Hollywood in the Crossroads of the World Center a couple doors from Blessed Sacrament Church. Some of Guitano’s clients, who also were his weekly card-playing friends, included Jack Dempsey and Hopalong Cassidy, who Vince’s mother used to call “Hopalong que se dice.” His mother and father had emigrated from Italy in the early 20th century. They had three other sons. The oldest son had died young. When Vince was 12, his mother was widowed.
Bill had a brother, a step-brother and step-mother. His father was a bartender in a local pub.
One night, Bill’s father was hit over the head by a drunken customer, and was never the same. He could no longer fend for himself nor support a family. Eventually, he was placed in a mental home.
Under these circumstances, Bill’s step-mother could not afford to continue sending him to a Catholic school, so he dropped out and went to a local public high school.
Sometimes, Bill and Vince spent Friday nights cruising Hollywood Boulevard and spraying seltzer water at passersby from the car.
Right after high school, Bill joined the Navy. A few years later, Vince went into the Army and ended up in Korea. While he was in the service, Bill, who had been discharged from service, boarded with Vince’s widowed mother. He needed a place to live and she needed some company because her other 2 sons had married and moved out.
A year after Vince got out of the service, we met and a couple years later married and Vince got involved in computer manufacturing. Bill continued working as a mechanic in the Los Angeles area. The two remained close friends throughout the years.
Eventually, Vince and I had five children. Bill married and had a little girl. Then, his wife divorced him. He later married a woman, pregnant with another man’s child, whom he immediately adopted.
During this time, Bill began drinking heavily which caused many problems in his marriage. After some time, Bill’s second wife divorced him but they remained friends, and Bill still had a close relationship with his stepson.
Some time after the divorce, Bill told Vince that once when he had been drinking heavily, he became so depressed he decided to take his own life. He went to the garage, closed the door, started the engine and lay down near the tailpipes.
While he was lying there coughing and waiting for the inevitable, for some reason, he had the sense to say to God, “If I’m not supposed to do this, don’t let me.”
The engine died.