Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
I wrote an entry about Thanksgiving gatherings a few weeks ago. The stories I shared were from my youth - nothing spectacular... just memories that have stuck in my mind over the years. As a youngster, the holiday traditions were consistent. Thanksgiving was with my Mom's family. Christmas was with my Mom's family too but with limitations.
Every Christmas Eve, our little family, Mom, Dad, Billy and I would have a light supper - homemade pizza and chicken noodle soup. We would open up presents as soon as the dishes were done.
Christmas morning we would go to Grandpa Joe and Grandma Lil's house. Dad would fry bacon and fix the eggs to everyone's specifications. Grandma would put in the bread for toasting but had rolls and pastry options. Coffee and a variety of juices were available and milk of course.
Grandma Lil's everyday china was the Franciscan Apple Pattern. I thought the food looked so nice nestled among the apples and leaves on the plate, while the juice or milk tasted so much better from the heavy patterned glasses. The smell of coffee and bacon was strong enough that I could smell the aromas even with my stuffed up nose. I always had a stuffed up nose at Christmas.
I wouldn't eat that much because my stomach was already full of excitement and anticipation of the gifts waiting to be opened. I didn't feel good but I was ready to tear into that wrapping paper.
When the adults had finally finished their meal and gotten a last cup of coffee, we kids were lined up in the kitchen. Sometimes in order of age or in order of height. Uncle Mel was the adult who made a big deal about opening the kitchen door and we kids (Billy, JoLynn, Me and Cindy) would rush down to the family room.
Grandpa Joe would hand out the presents and the opening frenzy began in earnest. The toys and clothes were revealed in minutes and we settled in to play while the adults began the clean-up process.
Dad would start getting antsy before the present opening phase of the morning. One of his rules for Christmas was he got to celebrate with his family. Before we ever went to Grandpa Joe's, he put the Ham into cook and the potatoes were peeled and sitting on the stove - ready to be boiled on our return.
We only lived 6 blocks from Grandpa's house, so we would pack up the car and get back to our place to finish setting the table and prepping the meal. I might help a bit but usually I just parked myself on the couch feeling ycky.
My Dad's family wasn't all that big. Many of his relatives lived out of state. His Mom and Dad had both died when I was too young to remember. Aunt Margaret (my Grandma Belle's sister) would come sometimes but mostly it was Dad's brother, Uncle Jack and his family who came for Christmas dinner.
My Dad made sure that my Mom's Aunt Rose (my great aunt) was invited to our Christmas dinner. She didn't drive and someone always went to pick her up. She lived in apartments around town, eventually settling in the Pathfinder Hotel.
One year Mom called Aunt Rose to tell her that she would be picking her up. Rose was crying - she told Mom no one had invited her. Dad wasn't one to put up with any bull shit so he went and picked her up. He emphatically told her that as long as both he and she were alive, she was invited to Christmas dinner. He also made it perfectly clear that he wouldn't tolerate that nonsense again.
Aunt Rose spent every Christmas with our family after that. Each Christmas she would sit with me and tell me about the time Dad set her straight on her Christmas invitation. Aunt Rose suffered from depression and you never knew what might make her sad... but from that Christmas forward she never pulled the invitation pity party card again.
This whole thing about being sick at Christmas was getting old after a few years. My Mom and Dad started wondering if I was allergic to pine. They would set up the tree a week before Christmas and a couple of days later, I was sick.
In the 1950's Grandpa Joe had started flocking Christmas trees and wreaths at the Greenhouse. One year we got a flocked tree and my symptoms were not as bad. Of course, Dad didn't remove the tree until right before the New Year, so I think that hurt too.
Eleven months later, just before Thanksgiving, I had my tonsils removed. I was tired of being sick all the time. It seemed like Dr. Wengert was always coming to the house with his little black bag to give me a shot. I went to a specialist (Dr. Waring) and he removed my tonsils and adenoids - I thought my troubles would be over but I was still getting colds and sore throats.
The next Christmas Dad went out to the country and found a plum thicket. He cut down a couple of nice branches and took it to the greenhouse. Grandpa Joe trimmed one of the larger branches, attached some lights and then flocked it. The branch ended up looking like it had been caught in an overnight fog. The branch was evenly and lightly glazed with the flocking and made to look like that early morning frost.
Grandpa had placed the branch in a weighted bucket so Mom just had to drape a tree skirt around the bottom. We kids decorated the Christmas Branch - it was lovely. From then on we had flocked trees or branches and I did pretty well in not getting completely sick.
I think I remember a few early Christmas days at our little cottage on Garfield - or maybe I remember because of some pictures I've seen. I've also seen some photos at Great Grandma Katie's house by the greenhouse. Billy, Jo Lynn, Cindy and I are pretty little but we are gathered around our Great Grandma.
Most of my Christmas memories from the 1950's are centered around our family home on Military Avenue. There were colonnades dividing the living room and dining room. Mom would place the tree behind the colonnade on the right or in front of the big picture window in the living room.
One year we got a Dalmatian puppy for Christmas. We named her Dotty. Eventually Mom started calling her "Dotty the Damn Dalmatian". She chewed up a favorite shoe and left little presents for us throughout the house. One of us - I don't know if it was me or Billy... left some crayons on the living room floor. Dotty escaped from the kitchen and drew all over the carpeting in the dining room and living room. As near as we could tell - she must have put the crayon in her mouth and then dragged the crayon along the rug in semi-straight lines and circles around the table.
There was a swinging door between the dining room and kitchen. Mom had folded up a towel and wedged it in the door to keep it from swinging open. Then she spread out newspapers on the kitchen floor to catch any puppy poopy or piddle.
I wasn't used to this new system and had to push the door with my shoulder to get into the kitchen. I was kinda catapulted forward once the towel loosened it's grip on the door. Quickly entering the kitchen, without looking down, my right foot landed squarely in the middle of a fresh, warm, squishy pile of poop. I still can remember the smell and the almost therapeutic feeling of my foot being gently enveloped in the soft clay like substance.
Another Christmas Eve, Billy and I had gone to bed and after a few minutes we heard stomping on the front porch. Mom and Dad yelled for us kids to come down quick, as Santa had dropped off something for us. Santa had disappeared by the time we got downstairs, but he had left us each a bike. That was pretty exciting. The next day Billy took right off and never looked back. I on the other hand would maybe get five feet before toppling over off of the sidewalk and into the grass. I got pretty good at not falling completely off the bike but I didn't get good at riding until the next Spring.
It was discouraging as the other kids in the neighborhood excelled at riding their bicycles from house to house - even skidding to a stop without wiping out in the gravel driveways. I remember riding my bike to school in the Spring to get it licensed. The City had a police officer who visited the school and taught us kids about bike safety and the rules of the road. I'm not sure I understood anything he said but I did like it that he put the license on my bike for me. If I recall correctly it was a little piece of metal attached to the bike frame with some wire. It's funny but I wish I had a picture of that license.
Well that's it for a few of the 1950 Christmas Memories. I will post this and then go look for some pictures. Hopefully my tech guy (Troy) will get the pictures posted on Monday.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, making memories for yourself, your kids and your grandkids as well as other family members and friends. If anyone would like to share a 50's era picture of your family Christmas, please feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org Make sure to include a brief description and I will include the picture in a photo gallery entitled "Friends of Oma Sue".
Happy New Year!