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  • Paula Wesselmann

My Childhood Christmases

When I was a child growing up, I was fortunate to experience three types of Christmases that still warm my heart with fond memories. In St. Paul, Minnesota I experienced the beauty and fear of blizzards, strong winds, and heavy snow. I remember the long icicles hanging like sharp daggers from the edge of the roof, ice skating with my sisters, and warming our feet and hands by a pot belly stove inside a hut by the edge of the ice. I smile today at the snowball fights, the delightful snowmen we built, and the beauty of a snow angel when we rose from the ground. As a little girl, I loved pressing my nose against a cold window and watch fleeting, misty clouds appear as I drew a heart or face that soon vanished. On Anna Maria Island in Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico side, there was one main street, one church, one school, and beautiful white beaches to explore for a child of six. I was in the first grade, and the island spoke of bare feet and braids, running about freely and safely. While on the island, my father had his own column in two newspapers, and my mother taught the Ringling Brother’s children. We had street dances at Christmas time, and special activities at the church and school that the whole family participated in. My mother created the most beautiful Christmas trees and was a master at making festive meals that looked like they were featured in a magazine. My father had an endless imagination and his words and how he used his voice made Christmas stories alive in our hearts and minds. When I entered the fourth grade the family moved to Tucson, Arizona, a city surrounded by four mountain ranges and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The first year of our life in the desert was living on a ranch close to the Catalina Mountains, outside of Tucson. My mother home-schooled us and our new life in the desert was filled with rattlesnakes, spiders, mountain lions, and coyotes running along the outside of the patio wall when the sun went down. There I learned to ride a donkey named Chula and live among the desert creatures. Christmas took on the most wonderous time when we moved to Winterhaven, a lovely community outside the city limits of Tucson, where green lawns and huge pine trees lined the streets. It was here that every house decorated for Christmas, and for two weeks the streets were flooded with carolers, walkers, hayrides, or bumper-to-bumper cars on the designated nights. When I got married, fate would have it that my husband and I would purchase a home in Winterhaven, where my sons grew up with its Christmas magic. Now as a grandmother I have the privilege of creating the beauty of Christmas for my little James in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Once, he outgrows Santa Claus, which I hope he never does, I know he will grow to value family, love, and friendships, for they are the best Christmas gifts of all. His relationship with God and Mother Nature, touches my heart each day, for his soul carries a pearl of divine wisdom beyond his years.


This Christmas, after a year of unexpected difficulties, may kindness fill your holiday spirit with love and blessings, and for those who are lonely and vulnerable, may you find peace, hope, and comfort in the days ahead.


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