Over the last few weeks, I have been sorting through pictures. Not just a few albums or a couple boxes of photographs, but thousands and thousands of pictures that my grandparents took over the last century. My spare bedroom is full of albums and film. My grandpa moved out of his house that he has been in for almost seven decades, and with that, comes a lot of stuff. Being the organizer that I am, I volunteered to sort and scan the pictures.
I thought I knew a lot about my family, but it turns out, I am just beginning to understand the complexity of everyone’s life. When you look through a lifetime of photos, you see a lot. Some things that you never understood finally make a little more sense. You begin to piece the snapshots together and see a bigger picture. You start to realize how incredibly blessed you are to have the family that you have.
My Grandpa Fred was born in 1919 and my Grandma Charlotte was born in 1921. My grandparents met, fell in love, and married at a young age. They lived a great life together.
They had five children, 18 grandchildren, and presently, 20 great grandchildren and counting.
Memories flood my mind of Christmases spent at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. There would be an abundance of food, including Grandma’s Norwegian favorite, Krumkake. After we ate and sang carols by the organ, my cousins and I would act out the Nativity story, while an adult narrated.
We would dress in tinsel, blankets and sheets, riding on each other’s backs, pretending to be donkey and wise men. Each year, one of the cousins would get to be Mary. She would ride in on a donkey's back, holding a swaddled baby. All of the girls wanted to be Mary, and somehow each year, we peacefully picked the lucky actress without too many tears shed. Eventually, we would all have our turn of being the mother of God.
After we acted out the Nativity scene, the big guy would show up. Yes, I am talking about Santa Claus. One of the uncles, older cousins or boyfriends would be summoned into the basement to be dressed up in the red and white suit, complete with a white beard and jingly bells. (It was almost like a right of passage for any man who wanted to date a Hass granddaughter. Seth has had his turn a few times and apparently, he made the cut.)
“Santa” would then enter through the front door and find a seat in the living room, while everyone gathered close by. All of the dads would be filming with camcorders on their shoulders, mothers would be holding onto scared babies, Grandma would be snapping the hundreds of photos I would have to sort, and Grandpa would be laughing behind his highball.
All 18 grand kids would be called up to sit on Santa’s lap. After a few questions like, “Have you been a good little girl?” you would get a present and find a spot on the floor to rip it open. I am sure it was always a mass ripping fest of paper and bows. Grandma must have loved it.
Like Bob Dylan said, “the times they are a-changin.” Now that Grandpa has moved out of his house, Christmas will never be the same again. I am sure we will still see my cousins, aunts and uncles, but the family is growing and eventually, we will begin to make new Christmas memories and traditions of our own. I hope that one day, my children’s Christmases can be as special as mine were.
Looking through all of these photos brings me back to the good old days. It also brings me back to a time in which I didn’t even exist. (I am still in shock seeing what my dad looked like without a beard!)
My Grandma Charlotte had a saying that everyone in my family could repeat. Looking through these photos has emphasized the truth of her favorite line.
We are so lucky.