Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas caroling

Dear Dan,

Remember when you, Mary Lou and I would go Christmas caroling in the neighborhood? Mom loved to open the front door and listen to our voices floating through an otherwise "silent night." We weren't allowed to go in to the houses. We could sing on the front steps and we were allowed to accept cookies if offered.

The only problem we ever had was Mary Lou! All she had to do was sing "5 gold rings" during the 12 Days of Christmas. She was so busy craining her neck looking at people's homes she would forget to sing. We'd have to nudge her for the "5 gold rings" - every friggin' time!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Past

Dear Dan.

I went past the old house today. Mom and I went there shortly before you died. The guy who bought it gutted the place and totally redid it. He wasn't quite finished when he showed us around.

 As I went past I had flashbacks of lovely Christmases past; back when our little family was safe; before things happened. I had flashes of visions of the Christmas present going on in the house now.

I had visions of us running down the stairs in the morning. I had visions of us sneaking out of bed at night to see if we could see Santa and his sleigh. I remember waking in the middle of the night and listening for the reindeer. I wonder if the kids in the house now did the same. I wonder if there are even kids in that family.

I think of Christmases past and I wonder where it all went wrong.

I love you Danny. And I miss you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Star of Bethlehem

Dear Dan,

I've been thinking about the Christmas dad took us out for a ride shortly before midnight. Astronomers were saying that there was an event in the night sky that could have been the star of Bethlehem. So dad took us around out in the country so we could look for it. We drove around for probably an hour. The night was pretty cloudy but we caught a couple glimpses of it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wave to Santa!

Dear Dan,

One year shortly after Thanksgiving you, mom dad and I went to have dinner at Howard Johnsons. I think you were already in high school and I was still in Jr. high. We both might still have been in Jr. high; I don't quite remember exactly. We were going past College Heights and the Alphas were driving around with Santa on the fire truck. Mom got all excited, started waving and yelling to us, "Wave to Santa! Wave to Santa!" She turned around and looked at us sitting in the back seat. We just sat there, looking at each other and at her. All of a sudden she realized SHE was Santa and WE had known that for quite a few years!

We all laughed so hard; the tears were running down our faces. I think dad even laughed out loud. THAT was unusual. His biggest laugh was usually a smile.

We got to Howard Johnson's and mom was laughing and staggering; she could hardly stand up straight. She had one of those purses that had one strap and a clasp on the top. The clasp wouldn't stay closed. As she brushed the tables, her open purse was knocking the silverware off the table and - of course - it was all landing in the purse. Mom kept digging the silverware out of the purse and resetting the tables. The hostess and the other customers were all slackjawed, looking at us. That made her laugh harder and stagger more. We just kept shaking our heads and laughing all the way to our table.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas at Camptown

Dear Dan,

Since it's the season I've been thinking about Christmases past.

One year we spent Christmas in Camptown with Grandmother and Granddad. Scott was in the Army in Germany and wasn't able to come home. All the presents were sent up to Camptown. Santa was going to deliver them there.

Uncle Don, Aunt Betty, Judy, David and Barb came to Christmas Eve dinner. There was a "children's table" where we sat and discussed the wrapped presents. You and Judy decided we should have a petition and all us kids should sign it. "We the undersigned are asking to be allowed to open one wrapped present this evening" or some such. I remember you signed nice and large like John Hancock - and then put your thumbprint like Cosa Nostra.''

The adults laughed and made comments but since we had all been pretty well behaved we were allowed to open a gift.

That night you slept in what had been Dad's room. It was next to Grandmother Snyder's room where I had always slept with mom. This year I got to sleep in Grandmother and Granddad's bed because they were downstairs.

Christmas morning we went downstairs. Scott had sent you a cuckoo clock for Germany. We thought that was so cool and couldn't wait to get back home to set it up.

Santa brought you a space helmet and a tape recorder. I think the space capsule mom built was at home because it was just too big to take with us in the car. You interviewed mom on the tape recorder. She was the first woman astronaut into outer space. There were some great "outtakes" that were never spliced out. I wish I still had that recording. You two were so funny!

Dan, you had a great voice for radio. I think you would have been brilliant as a DJ or newscaster.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas ornaments

Dear Dan,

Mom has a favorite Christmas story about you that she likes to tell. You were born with a stomach ulcer and cried for food all the time because of it. When you learned to crawl you hunted for food, eating  everything in sight - whether it was edible or not.

It was probably your second Christmas when mom went into the living room and found you sitting there with your mouth bleeding. On closer inspection she found the remains of some glass ornaments that had been hanging on the tree.

Mom decided then and there something had to be done or a) there would be no ornaments left and b) you would bleed to death. She took all the ornaments and put them away.

Mom enlisted Scott's aid in baking several dozen Christmas cookies. They then decorated all the cookies. They hung all the cookies and mom realized the tree was a little crooked. Scott was about six at the time and very tall for his age. Mom had Scott hold the tree while she loosened the screws in the tree basin. She stepped back to look at the tree and give direction to positioning the tree.

Standing there she made comment on how beautiful the tree looked. Scott said "Let me see" and stepped away from the tree.

Down goes the tree and smash go the cookies.

Once again they baked and decorated dozens of cookies. Once again they decorated the tree. This time mom made sure the tree was secure before anyone stepped away.

You, Dan, added your special touch. All the cookies on the bottom row had bites taken from them in your quest for food.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas cookies

Dear Dan,

I love the picture of you picking the cookies up off the floor. It makes me laugh to think I was talking to you on the phone at that time. It's almost like there was a connection and I didn't disappear from your life. It was a bit of a shock and yes, it hurt, that no one in KC even knew you had a sister.

I guess you kept all the different parts of your life separate from each other.

One year when I was in college I was so depressed one Christmas. I couldn't really have our usual tree because Scott had recently married Cathy and Nikki was a very young child. I was living upstairs and they were living downstairs.

You didn't want me to be depressed so you went out and bought me a tree that I could have in my room. I thought that was the most wonderful thing ever! I just wonder why you never let me try to help you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Dear Dan,

I was talking with mom about you and Sinbad. Sinner was a big, smelly, male cat. He started as a cute kitten and then it all went horribly wrong.

Not really. Sinner was a fun cat. He used to sleep on my feet but he often slept on top of your pillow, right against your head. Occasionally he would lay in such a way to give you the full effect of his smelly cat self.

Sinbad also liked to sleep at the edge of the stairs. You wore a knitted cap in the winter. As you would walk down the stairs and Sinner was sleeping on the edge, he'd reach out and snatch that cap right off your head. There you were - no cap. There he was - curled around it.

Remember how he used to jump up on the town layout? He'd jump up and lay down in the middle of a street, wiping out everything in his path. We made believe he was a monster like Godzilla or Koronus.

And the train layout? Sometimes the train would go into the tunnel and not come out until the tunnel was disconnected and upended. Then out came a cat, followed by a train!

One night Sinbad went out during a bad snowstorm and he never came home. I didn't find out until years later that you and Fifinella found him dead at the back of the house. I guess he tried to come home but got bogged down in the snow. You didn't want me to know. You could be so sweet at times.