Pondering the reality of Christmas

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” — Luke 2:19

Luke touches on what were Mary’s thoughts after the birth of the baby Jesus. The time was after the shepherds had come and gone with their excitement in telling the heavenly message they had received announcing her newborn son the long-promised Messiah. Mary, of course, knew not the future as none of us do but pondering what had just happened is what we too can keep in our hearts.

Grannie Annie and your old columnist were home alone together on this Christmas morning just past. It was the first time in some 58 years of marriage that we recalled ever being just the two of us together at Christmas.

We enjoyed each other and reflected on the fine evening Christmas Eve church service we had experienced a few hours previous. Then all afternoon we enjoyed a feast and a time of visiting in the home of dear friends.

Grannie Annie gave thanks that she avoided the week or so she had spent in the hospital in Omaha last year. When her family came to visit and the nurses, aids and doctors treated her with loving compassion but it just wasn’t what we envision Christmas should be. Thankfully, her malady has not repeated and we pray that it won’t ever again.

A memorable Christmas for me was one spent in Alaska away from my family. That Christmas morning we helicoptered Santa to the village of Ruby along the Yukon River. A bright clear morning it was 18 below zero, yet on the first pass over that Indian village, every little kid streamed out into the street all dressed in their parkas, boots and mittens.

They ran down to the river where we landed on the ice and Santa passed out gifts for each child who eagerly came.

I, too, had several Christmases pulling SAC nuclear alert in a facility close by the runway. On the best of those Christmases, my wife and three young children were able to join me as we dined there in the alert facility. Ham and fresh-roasted turkey was the fare I remembered. The turkey stuffed with a cornbread dressing that always had a distinctive green tint in color. Good tasting, though.

One Christmas, I spent at Sondrestrom, AB, on the southwest coast of Greenland. The land where the northern lights appeared to the south, and the white ice sheet formed the horizon to the north.

Contract Danish civilian personnel cooked in the mess and their preparation of the traditional ham and turkey was somewhat different from home but mighty delicious. I remember a clear sauce laden with giblets and various fruits that was ladled over the slabs of meat to make for a wonderful treat. Real Danish pastry — they knew how.

Still, being away from family, especially young children back home with their mom away from her family and home was a bit poignant. I always knew they were safe, but missed forever that time together on what is always a special day.

One Christmas involved a fighter drag, we in the tanker providing navigation and fuel top-off for F-4s heading across the Pacific to the hot war in Vietnam. We hopped to Hawaii for the night and then on westward past Midway and Guam to a base in Okinawa.

There is something incongruous about seeing palm trees on Hickam AFB all decorated with Christmas wreaths and colored lights. At Kadena AB, Okinawa, we left our tanker. My crew hopped on another KC-135 manned by one of our home squadron crews and we made it back home to Oklahoma on Christmas Eve.

A l-o-n-g day! We, as a family, had already had Christmas together before we left Oklahoma, not expecting to be back for the special day. That second Christmas morning with packages already opened was quite different. Family, especially with young children is truly special.

Grannie Annie and I were comparing special childhood memories of Christmas. Hers was remembering finding a brand new Schwinn girl’s bicycle under the tree. For me, it was a Whizzer motorbike shared with my brother. Christmas Eve services in the Old Stone Church and Santa giving a sock filled with peanuts, candy and a fresh orange almost unattainable during that time of WWII.

Christmas morning 2017, our daughter Nancy awakened beside her husband in Omaha where they live. She scurried to the airport and flew to Chicago and then on to South Bend, Indiana. There she was met by her Marine son-in-law, Brant, and 21⁄2-year-old grandson Elijah.

A joyous reunion that. Best of all then on to the home of her daughter Monique and “Nana” Nancy’s first chance to hold her new, four-week-old grandson, Josiah. Her heart melted as did ours as we shared through the miracle of social media.

These things I ponder in my heart and those wonderful memories are what makes this best day of the year joyous, happy and merry. May it be the same in your heart and home. Mary holding her new-born baby Jesus and pondering the glorious events of the night of his birth showed us the way.

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail

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