Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Blog

This blog has moved.  My new blog is Yak Yak Art.  Simply put, I love making art and talking, thus the name!  Click the link above or click here to go to it!
Thanks everyone!  D~~~~ 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas at Uncle Norman's House

In 1995, I wrote an article about a childhood Christmas memory of Uncle Norman's house in a newsletter that I created for family and friends entitled, Smiles For Miles. Every year, I reminisce about the few Christmases we enjoyed at Uncle Norman’s for they are fabulous memories! I wanted to share the 1995 story with you all on this wonderful 2008 Christmas eve.

A Heartfelt Remembrance

Turning into the long, blacktop driveway of Uncle Norman’s farm in the country means the end of our long drive. Traveling from Deptford, New Jersey to Glen Moore, Pennsylvania seemed to take ten years but it sure was worth it. Uncle Norman’s house was always an exciting destination!

The driveway ahead extends up the right side of the well-groomed front lawn, with a few slight curves along the way, and snow flurries begin to fall in our plentiful view. The size of two football fields, the front yard to our left gradually inclines until it ends at a wall about four-or-five feet tall, and built out of boulder-size rocks. When snow covered, this extensive front yard looks like a giant cotton blanket, and the wall is used as a launching pad for sleds.

Perched above the wall is Uncle Norman’s white ranch-style house with cool French doors and yellow shutters beside the windows. On the right side of the house are three full-length picture windows. They take up the front, side, and back of the house.

A thicket of active winter woodlands swishes and whirls with the wind along the opposite side of the front yard. Alive with the warm shades of winter, these woods ex­tend from the street to far beyond the back of the house.

It seems that our overloaded station wagon barely fits through the narrow driveway as we continue to climb to its end. After passing several gas lamps and nearing the driveway’s end, we slow down on the side of the house to observe the package-lined Christmas tree flashing brightly in the middle of the gigantic window. This is the last splendid attraction before finally coming to a halt next to the made-for-kids jalopy on the gray, gravel park­ing area in the back of the house.

We’re greeted by Aunt Edie and Uncle Norman while Honey, the Great Dane, is in the house barking her head off. Her husky roar competes with the whistling winds as it ricochets off the hard-wood floors and all around the countryside. Auntie Druck, Uncle Jim and Cousin Jimmy are already here and standing in the window watching Mom, Dad, four kids (or maybe five by then), Christmas packages, and a hoard of other terrorizing items slowly disem­bark. And Uncle Jiggs--well, he is somewhere, probably hiding from us!

In the field to the right is a large area where Aunt Edie grows a well-balanced garden in the summertime. Just past that, lies a pink and white stable, encased in a corral. Trigger, Belair, Missy, and Scooter, the four horses, hang their heads over the edge of the corral as if to say, “Hello!” For a moment, I wonder if Uncle Norman will take us for a ride around the farm in the made-for-kids jalopy, but the thought is quickly dismissed in favor of Christmas presents and snow.

Upon entering the house, a variety of heavenly aromas greet the nose. It is evident that Christmas dinner will undoubtedly be yummy. In the small, quaint, galley-style kitchen, the counters are lined with an assortment of foods undergoing different stages of preparation. It smells as if each dish is fighting to win the Blue Ribbon at a state fair by producing the strongest and most delectable scent.

The living room is almost as big as the out­doors! The many couches, chairs, and tables have been carefully arranged to provide a cozy atmosphere. The most interesting piece of furniture is the for­bidden chair, an ancient rocker which is the throne where 97-year-old Mom-Mom Strang sits whenever she is awake. The three over­sized picture windows keep every­one well acquainted with the events outside, particularly today’s snowy weather.

The remainder of the house consists of ordinary rooms with old-people furniture, except for an architect room where Uncle Norman draws using special pencils and giant pieces of multi-colored chalk. Of course, in an effort to torture us kids, this room is also forbidden!

After a whole two seconds in the house, it is our job as children to explore the packages under­neath the tree and see who they are for. Each one of us is secretly hoping that every package is for us, and of course, that is not the case. Rats!

Staring at the tree and the pack­ages, the day drags on... and on, and on, and on, and on. We worry that we will never get to open any packages. What if the grown ups have forgot­ten? We ask them often if it is almost time but they don’t seem to care. Frolicking in the conver­sation and laughter of their boring adult world, it is clear that they haven’t a clue about what is important in life!

At last, Christmas dinner is served and finished, and gifts are finally passed out. Once they are all opened, Uncle Norman emerges from the back of the house with one last package. It’s from Uncle Norman to the Richter kids (oh boy, that’s us)! The box is alive, and in moments... surprise! The cutest little beagle puppy emerges. Only a short time ago, our other beagle, Buster, died. In fact, we returned home from a trip to Uncle Norman’s to find him lying on the floor in the kitchen—dead! (He had been sick.) We decided to name our new puppy “Joy,” but Mom said her registered name would be “Richter’s Pride and Joy.”

By now, it’s dark and the world outside is blanketed with sev­eral inches of thick fresh snow, a signal that it’s time for a sled or toboggan ride. In moments, everyone is nested atop the snow-covered rocks anx­iously pleading for their turn to glide down the mas­sive front yard. Two on a sled and three on a tobog­gan, we take turns. One forceful push down the wall from Dad, Uncle Jim or Uncle Norman enables our vehicle to rapidly zip into the darkness and carry us non-stop all the way to the quiet country road. Auntie Druck’s contagious laughter is particularly joyful and memorable as it bounces up and down in the night, slowly fading as she zooms farther and farther into the dark. Aaaha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

At the end of this special Christmas day, one thing is for sure--wonderful lifelong memories have been created, and for me, they are memo­ries that will always be treasured, and never, ever forgotten!


Uncle Norman died in Huntsville, Alabama on March 27, 2003 at 92 years old. Sadly, I hadn’t seen him since I was a child, probably 1963 or '64. After moving from Pennsylvania, he lived in Key West, Florida for many years before settling in Hunstville. When I wrote this article, Auntie Druck called and asked me how I remembered such detail. I guess it was etched in my brain. Good times just seem to stick! My aunt decided to track down Uncle Norman because she wanted to send him the newsletter and she did. It warmed my heart BIG TIME! Uncle Norman and I had some communication after that for which I am very grateful, along with the many memories that he, Aunt Edie, Uncle Jiggs, Mom-Mom Strang and Honey provided!

A little background on Smiles For Miles if you're interested:
My first two Smiles For Miles newsletters were written when I was living in Florida and missing everyone in Texas in November and December 1988. It wasn’t until 1994 that I published again, and I published quarterly that year. In 1995, I wrote three SFM's, and in '96, two. They were quite random after that and often during the holidays. The last SFM newsletter that I printed and mailed was done in 2004.
Currently, my other blog, Smiles for Many Miles takes the place of the original newsletter. Not only does it save on paper, envelopes and stamps because the blog is free but I am able to keep up with events as they happen. Oh technology is sooooo wonderful!

George and I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas!