Editor’s note: The late Janet Jenkins could always spin a wonderful Christmas story. This is a piece she wrote in 2013.

My very first memories of Santa’s visits were from a home without a fireplace. Even as a pre-schooler, I knew that Santa arrived at homes through a fireplace chimney. And I fretted.

My resourceful mother fashioned a “fireplace,” using orange crates and brick-patterned crepe paper. Santa never knew the difference, and delivered his Christmas load on time.

Our next home did have a fireplace, site of Sunday night suppers of popcorn, apples and fudge. And at Christmas, the tree was placed right next to it.

Our Christmas trees were always short-needled and bushy. Each year, we looked over the ornaments and reminisced, while Daddy wrestled with the Christmas tree. It sometimes was a chore, determining which bulb was the dead one, short-circuiting the entire string.

Lastly, we carefully placed the silvery metal tinsel. These were the Depression and wartime years, so we as carefully removed the tinsel after Christmas, saving it for the next year. And the next, and the next.

Grandma Janet and Grandpa Elmer arrived for Christmas by train from Wisconsin. He was a Soo Line depot agent, and had a lifetime free railroad pass. He never owned an automobile and walked everywhere else.

Honoring Grandpa Elmer’s Norwegian past, Christmas Eve supper was often lutefisk, or “lye fish.” For the uninitiated, lutefisk tastes like hot fish Jell-O, but it was traditional.

After supper, Daddy invited us for a carried to see the Christmas lights around town. We leaped at the idea, and kids and grandparents piled into the 1936 Plymouth. Unfortunately, Mother always seemed to have a headache. Or upset stomach, or some other minor ailment that required that she stay home for a nap.

Returning an hour later, we were surprised to see that Santa had already made his visit. (Mother admitted that she’d slept through it.)

We’d hung Daddy’s heavy woolen hunting socks on the fireplace, and found them filled with an orange, candy canes, and trinkets like barrettes. The main part of Santa’s delivery was arranged around the Christmas tree. One year, he brought ice skates, another, a toboggan (how ever did he get that down the chimney?) And one time, Santa must have been experiencing a budget pinch, like the rest of the country. Mrs. Santa fashioned tiny clothes for our dolls.

Gretchen and I must have been very good little girls, because Santa always seemed to know exactly what we most wanted. Christmas was a magical time.

And it still is for me, even in an Empty Next. The Mister puts on Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music; we get newsy Christmas cards or phone calls from extended family and longtime friends. Our Christmas tree is still short-needled, but it’s artificial and light by optic fiber. The Gospel accounts are still fresh and good news. And there’s a glow around these holy days.

Merry Christmas—may it be one of the best!

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