I shared my growing-up years with 32 cousins, the offspring of the children of Alf and Emily Cramer. All of the families lived within a 20-mile radius of each other in southeast Idaho. We celebrated birthdays and holidays together at our grandparents’ house, which happened to be next door to my own family home. We got our hair cuts from one aunt and uncle, eggs and milk from another; when my band instrument disappeared from the music room at Bonneville High School my police detective uncle solved the mystery of the stolen clarinet. When one aunt’s health was too fragile for her to care for her newborn baby, one of her sisters took the baby girl home for several weeks. My mother and her siblings helped each other any way they could. Our families worked and played, laughed and cried, together.
Last weekend we had a cousin reunion at my home in Idaho Falls. Since my book Long Journeys is filled with family stories it seemed fitting that the cousins be among the first to get copies of the book and I had promised to distribute them at our reunion. I ordered them the first day the book was available for purchase through Amazon. Days passed and the message on the Amazon page never changed – Your order has not been processed. I knew several people who had ordered EBooks or individual print books and already received them but my larger order was sitting somewhere in limbo. My sisters and I had several discussions. Should we postpone the reunion or go ahead and hold it with the possibility of no books? The reunion was scheduled to start at noon on Saturday. Since we had family here from Iowa, Arizona, and Utah, and more arriving from across the state of Idaho it was a huge relief to see the boxes of books stacked on my front porch at 5:00 Friday evening. Nothing like cutting it close!
I think it’s safe to say that everyone who came had a good time. Some cousins hadn’t seen each other since we were children. We had some fun discussions based on our memories of those early years in our lives. Someone asked, what are some life lessons you learned from your parents? One answer: Work hard, use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. That fit our hardworking, frugal families perfectly.
One cousin brought several family treasures to share including Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus suits made by our grandmother for our Christmas Eve celebrations. This prompted another discussion my sisters and brother and I have already had on numerous occasions. Who played the part of Santa at our parties?
Excerpt from Long Journeys:
Each year after Thanksgiving dinner was finished and the dishes cleared away, names were drawn for Christmas gift exchanges, one for the adults and another for all the cousins. Christmas Eve together was the highlight of the holiday season for the entire family. There was always a program by the grandchildren, the opening of gifts and a visit from Santa Claus. In my immediate family we have different recollections of who Santa was in his everyday life. I was quite sure it was a friend of the family – a rather rotund farmer who lived a few miles away. Reta was equally sure it was Grandpa himself and our brother Lynn is certain it was someone who lived behind the blacksmith shop and drove a rust colored pickup. Lonna doesn’t remember Santa attending our parties.
Conclusions from the reunion discussion: We all got it right – the answer changed from year to year. The Santa suits seem to prove that Grandpa and Grandma were indeed Mr. and Mrs. Santa. But some years they lent the suits to others who didn’t mind spending their Christmas Eve with the Cramer family, including the rotund farmer and the man who lived behind the blacksmith shop and drove an old rust colored pickup.
Even Lonna’s assertion that Santa didn’t attend the parties she attended is likely true. Several of the other younger cousins don’t remember him being there either.
The family history part of Long Journeys show that our present is also our past. Our ancestors before us shaped the people we are today. Everyone should be so fortunate as to know their history.
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