The stockings were hung – part one

The stockings were hung – part one

. . .by the chimney with care –
in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

The mystery of Santa Claus and the anticipation of what surprises would fill my Christmas stocking were huge contributors to the mood of excited, noisy chaos that filled our home on Christmas Eve.  I felt something almost magical when I carefully positioned my empty and flat Christmas stocking in its place on the couch – in line with those of my brothers and sisters –  knowing that in the morning I would find it lumpy, bumpy and filled with presents, candy and an orange in the toe.  Settling down to go to sleep was almost impossible for all of us.  We could hardly wait for morning!

Berrett family Christmas - 1959
Berrett family Christmas - 1959

I think it was 1959 when my mother made Christmas stockings for each of us six children.  After cutting them from red felt – with pinking shears, of course – she decorated each stocking the same.  Shapes of a Christmas tree, snowman, and star were carefully sewn to the front of the stocking and then further trimmed with sequins and beads.  On a strip of white felt at the top of the stocking she wrote each of our names in glue and then sprinkled red glitter over that so that individual ownership was sparkling clear to Santa.  The jingle bell sewn to the toe of the stocking was just the right finishing touch, and we sometimes imagined we heard those bells jingle when Santa was at work. . .

Vintage Christmas stocking - 1959
Vintage Christmas stocking - 1959

I have put out that same stocking every Christmas since then.  The snowman no longer has a mouth, the hanging loop has been torn off, and the bell went missing years ago.  The glitter is patchy, but the name is still readable – Santa still fills it every Christmas Eve.

Freshman creation
My freshman creation - 1972

In December of 1972 I was a freshman at BYU dating Don Butler and wondering what would be an appropriate Christmas gift for my new boyfriend.  Deciding to go the “not too serious, but still casually personal route,” I made a red felt stocking, filled it with a variety of little gifts and treats, and then gave it to him somewhat nervously.   That stocking was a success that year, and has been hung every Christmas during our 37 year marriage.  His name, spelled out in bold blue letters (no glitter here), leaves no question about ownership.  Like my 51 year old stocking, Don’s is also showing its age, but Santa makes sure that it is never neglected.

Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.
~Carrie Latet, poet

Picture me laughing!

Picture me laughing!

Family group - Cyprus 1980
Family group - Cyprus 1980

I’m drowning in a sea of pictures this week.  I’ve assigned myself the job of gathering, sorting, and organizing by year all of the pictures we have taken/acquired since we married in 1973.  No small task.  I do have a system in place, and it’s working well, but the sheer volume of pictures is still daunting – even on my third day of this project.

Easter Bunny extraordinaire - 1986
Easter Bunny extraordinaire - 1986

But on the bright side, I’m finding some great shots and reliving a lot of fun times as I wade through almost four decades of our family’s history.

Christmas Eve play at David and Terry's- 1989
Christmas Eve play at David and Terry's- 1989

And just when I thought I couldn’t look at another picture, I discovered this treasure  – and I laughed out loud.  Really loud.  And for a long time.

Father and sons - 1995
Father and sons - 1995

I’m excited to see what else is waiting for discovery!

Loving my work

Loving my work

I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to spend my days in projects that are dear to my heart.   Family history in all its forms  – genealogy research, written histories, preserving pictures – can keep my interest for hours and days on end.  And although I quit a part time job to pursue this unpaid work, it doesn’t feel like my JOB.  If it’s fun and fulfilling, it doesn’t really count as work, right?

Sometimes I find my self almost apologetic when stumbling through a response to the question, “Do you work?”

“Well, sort of, but not really.  I do family history.  My husband and I feel that preserving our family history is really important. . . ”  Even to my own ears, my wandering explanations of family history, genealogy and scrapbooks don’t seem convincing.  My job is to scrapbook?

And the casual conversation really turns awkward when the questioner struggles to make sense of what I’ve just said.  I imagine her thoughts, “Your job is to scrapbook?”

As a result of my skewed perspective that work cannot be enjoyable, I put off starting projects that I want to do and need to do, because I keep thinking I should be doing something IMPORTANT.  I have to fill my days with WORK.  Fun activities come after the work is done.

In years past, I have compiled scrapbooks for Emily, Nathan and Peter.  I’ve found the time between obligations of work and family to organize and display their histories.

I started Emily’s book just before she was married, and completed it about a year later.  This month I’ve scanned each page, so I have a digital copy of all that hard work.

7th Birthday - 1982
7th Birthday - 1982

It’s been fun to study those pictures again and laugh at fashion, style, and personality from days gone by.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I’ve been working on Peter’s pictures for years.  When I first started, an experienced scrapbooker suggested that I start with the youngest child so I wouldn’t have so much catching up to do.

First job at Toddy's
First job at Toddy's

So Pete’s has been a work in progress, and with a couple more pages to document his post high school years, it will be ready for the scanner.  I know Brittney’s anxious to have the finished product.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Nate’s albums went home at Thanksgiving, 2009.

1981 was a great year for Nate
1981 was a great year for Nate

Nikki’s excitement was very rewarding for me, and I got excited to keep going on this project.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Mark (but mostly Kate) is still patiently waiting for his personal record to take its place on their bookshelf.  But this week I’m moving forward with the idea that it’s okay to spend my day in activities that I love.  I’ve finally started his albums, and I’m doing it in the middle of the day during prime work time.  Imagine that!

1979 - our third in the series
1979 - the third Butler baby

I love my work!

With love . . . creatively

With love . . . creatively

A man of few words!
A man of few words!

On our first Valentine’s Day together, before we were even engaged, Don started a tradition that he has continued throughout our marriage.  He often presents me with some sort of creative card, carefully thought out and tailored just for me.

The first year after we’d only been dating a few months, he bought a card that looked like this:

Oh, no!
Oh, no!

But because it would never have been proper to give an innocent BYU coed a card featuring naked people, he “dressed it up” like this:

That's better
That's better

And then finished the process with the picket fence with our initials carefully carved in the heart shaped handle.

Valentine's Day - 1973
Valentine's Day - 1973

And he still warms my heart!

Christmas Prelude

Christmas Prelude

Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old
Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old

By 7 p.m. on that Saturday night, the hospital room was quiet, dimly lit, and very peaceful.  Dad was napping on the extra bed, and I had pulled a chair close beside Mom’s bed.  Her breathing was slightly labored, but she was resting peacefully and stirred only occasionally.  I knew her time was short, and I wondered how much longer she would be with us.  The lights of the Christmas tree on the table cast a soft glow on the room.  Christmas carols playing from the bedside CD player provided my favorite kind of background music.  I hummed along with “O, Holy Night,” remembering how Mom would often break into song with the Tabernacle Choir at her favorite parts!  How Mother loved Christmas!

I looked at her in the bed, her physical body tired and worn out, and my mind and heart were filled with memories of so many good times.  My mother was one of my best friends, and I felt so grateful for the relationship we shared.  She was strong – yet sentimental, outspoken  – but sensitive, and exacting  – while at the same time gentle.  She had supported and encouraged me throughout my life, even if she did think I was crazy to take up skiing when I was almost 50!  She had given me a lot of guidance – some asked for, some not – and I knew that her passing was going to leave a void.

But more than what we had shared and what all of us would miss, I wondered about her next step.  She was going where none of us had yet been, nor could now.   What was it like to die?  I wasn’t concerned so much about physical pain or discomfort, but particularly curious about the transition from this life to the next.  Where was she going?  How would it feel?  Who would she see?

I picked up a copy of The Book of Mormon that was lying on the bedside table and began to read where the pages fell open:

“Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection — Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
– Alma 40: 11-12

The room seemed sacred, my heart felt peace, and the Christmas carols were as a prelude . . .

My Gram

My Gram

February, 1966
February, 1966

Alpha Madalene Roberts Pratt
November 10, 1906 – August 14, 1975

It was a late summer evening in Flint, Michigan, and already dark as Mom and I got in the car for a last minute trip to the store for diapers.  It had been a long and exhausting day, and my emotions were extremely fragile.  As Mom pulled out onto the very familiar road in front of Gram and Pop’s house, we began to talk about the day’s activities.  Suddenly I couldn’t cope with the inevitable, and I began to sob.  “But I don’t want her to die.  What will we do without her?  My children will never know my Gram.”  My adored Gram was dying.  She was losing her battle against cancer, and her life was quickly slipping away.  My sense of loss was overwhelming.

That August of 1975 I was a young mother, just 21 years old.  I was delighted to have a darling baby daughter and anxious to show her off to my extended family.  Unfortunately, this reunion had come as a result of very difficult circumstances.  My Grandmother Pratt was dying of cancer.  Knowing that her time was very short, Yvonne and I had taken our new babies – Matthew and Emily – for a visit.  We had been to the hospital that day to introduce these newest descendants to their great-grandmother.  She was very weak, but had been able to hold each of the babies for a short time.  Although she was thrilled at meeting the youngest members of the family, it was probably more important to me for Gram to see my baby, than it was to her.  Gram had played a very important part in my life, and my growing up was full of wonderful memories of Gram and Poppie.  Because Emily was only three months old, I hadn’t had time to emotionally put my mother in the grandmother role.  The grandmother in our family was Gram, and I was devastated to think that my children were going to grow up without her.  How would they have special grandparent memories?

May, 1972
May, 1972

l-r:  Pop – Lynnette – Gram – Michelle – Mom – Dad – Carolyn

Gram and Pop with grandchildren - 1963
Gram and Pop with grandchildren - 1963

Back:  Yvonne – Mike (Peterson) – Gram – Carolyn
Middle:  Tom – Poppie – Bryan – Greg (Burgess)
Front:  David – Mark (Peterson) – Jeff – Lynnette

Yvonne - Lynnette (behind doll) - Gram
Lynnette - Yvonne (behind doll) - Gram -- Christmas 1955

Gram died shortly after that trip to Michigan, and none of my children know her except through pictures and stories.  But they haven’t missed out on grandparent time.  They know “Gram” as my mother, and their lives have been enriched by happy experiences with all of their grandparents.  Now it’s my turn to create happy grandmother memories with the next generation – and I gladly accept!

Thanks for all the wonderful memories, Gram.

I hope that I can be the kind of grandmother you were.

Happy 103!


Eighty

Eighty

October 2, 1992
October 2, 1992

Happy Birthday, Mom!

This picture was taken while you were on a mission in Manila.  In the background I see some things that make me think your fellow MTC-ers had a little celebration for you that day.  I’m assuming that Dad came through with the roses for you, even as a missionary.  He’s good that way.  And I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting some red roses today as well.

This year we had a big party for you in August.  Remember – the one you helped plan to celebrate this milestone?  Almost all the family came to the festivities at Reid Ranch.  I think we had 90 rowdy revelers on Monday night.  We reminisced . . . cried. . . laughed a lot . . .  and had a great time.  You taught us how to have a good time.

We remembered you with this DVD created by Todd.  Although it was difficult to see you back in that hospital bed, you looked good, and it was great to hear your voice.  Did you ever imagine that you’d star in your own movie? Some things just take time, I guess!

. . . starring Joyce!
. . . starring Joyce!

We also remembered you with chocolate that Michelle wrapped up as party favors.  Because really, what could have been more appropriate than Hershey’s?  I suppose Godiva or See’s or even Dove might have been tastier, but we had 90 guests to favor.  And most of them were too little to really appreciate good chocolate.  They just melted it into s’mores and ate it as fast as their mothers would allow.  But I think I’ll savor some of the really good stuff today in your honor.

Thoughtful party favors
Thoughtful party favors

This is the second time we’ve recognized your birthday since you’ve been gone.  It’s easier, but we still miss you.  Do you celebrate birthdays in heaven?  I hope you’re having a bang up party today!

Love, Lynnette