I have spent the month reading and researching family history on my Grandma Velma’s side (my mom’s mother). My Aunt Jan, before she passed away, compiled a few books of interviews with my Grandma filled with stories from Grandma’s childhood, stories she remembered hearing of her mother and grandparents growing up, and stories of her own season of motherhood.
These memories are remarkable and true. They tell of all sorts of rough seasons in a lifetime, challenging times that called for belief in a loving God, hard work from each member of the family, and community bonds that were strong and absolutely necessary.
There is one story of how my great Uncle Floyd spent a harvest picking corn and earning cents for every row or wagon-full. He earned enough money to be able to buy his sister Velma (younger than him by 2 years) a brand new winter coat.
The story unto itself is darling. But you know what I love about it most? In the books I have poured over that Aunt Jan compiled, this story comes up multiple times. Velma told about it, her husband Philip told the same story in his interview and another member of the family brought it up. This simple act of generosity became family-lore.
This thoughtful act by brother Floyd, some 90 years ago, was the very best use of his money. He was in his teens when he decided to use his money this way and I’m sure there were plenty of things he could have spent that money on. But he was generous in heart, right in the middle of the great depression, and here I am writing about his gift, once again because that story of goodness shines right through all the hardships of that slice of history.
Our Christmas season of 2020 was very different than our usual Christmastime. But I have a feeling these stories will be told and retold. Especially because they are filled with generosity of understanding and respecting everyone’s varying comfort with gathering during this pandemic. We had an outdoor celebration with the Harrington’s complete with snow pants, a campfire, hot chocolate and presents opened on the picnic table. My dad read Luke 2 and we sang carols with blankets on our laps and stocking caps on our heads.
I don’t imagine we’ll ever open presents outside again in Minnesota in December. But we’ll never forget that’s what we did in 2020! And how out of this hard time came some very special and unique memories.
A few nights later, a car pulled up our lane and Rory’s brother Troy and family from Saint Paul piled out to sing us carols by the flickering candles on their iphones. They left us cookies and our hearts were utterly full because simply seeing our family was the most precious gift.
Minutes after they left, another car pulled up and it was Rory’s other brother Kyle and Lisa with jingle bells, songs to sing and more goodies. We commented how fun it was that they planned this with Troy and Sara, but they had no idea. In fact, Troy and Sara were heading that moment to Kyle and Lisa’s house. They both had the fun and generous idea to drive all the way out to the country and we felt so loved.
The next day we had planned another outdoor celebration with Mimi and Papa, but as they arrived it began to sleet and the super exciting pre-Christmas blizzard was just whipping up. So we met in the upstairs of the barn for hot cocoa, Luke 2, singing, presents and a sweet time to be together under these most unusual circumstances of a worldwide pandemic.
All throughout the week of Christmas I have thought of Great Uncle Floyd buying that coat for his sister Velma right in the middle of the Great Depression. It was a personal act, given in love, during a hard time. What I felt in the midst of our family caroling, sitting in lawn chairs around a fire, and up in the barn, was that same generosity of personal acts, given in love, during a hard time. And it made me very grateful.
I hope that is part of the story that is retold in 90 years.