Lorna Marquardt: Christmastime brings up memories of past holidays

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Lorna Marquardt

We live in the present and look forward to the future, but we hold our memories from the past dear. Sometimes I sit quietly and allow my mind to reminisce.

Earlier this week, I decided to spend some time thinking about Christmases past. I have many to remember.

The memories of a variety of Christmas trees float through my mind. I fondly remember the Robenhagen family tree of the late ’40s and early ’50s. The tree was only lit for short periods of time. Grandma’s tree had real candles on it. It had pine cones hanging on it too. There were also some candle lights that bubbled. Grandma tied frosted gingerbread cookies on the tree. Grandpa always had the honor of placing the star on top.

My mother loved to decorate our tree when I was a child. She had beautiful ornaments; I have them now. Our trees always had multi-colored lights. Dad’s cut-out cookies were amazing. He did them all freehand. I loved watching him. We tied the cookies and popcorn balls wrapped in colorful paper on the tree. Mother hung the tinsel. No one else could help. It took her hours to hang the icicles just right; she was so fussy.

Through the years, I’ve decorated our trees in a variety of ways. I remember in 1976 I made a patriotic red, white and blue tree. My daughter didn’t think it looked like a Christmas tree; she preferred a traditional one. “Next year,” I promised.

Sometimes I decorated our tree with Raggedy Ann and Andy ornaments and small dolls, along with red/white striped candy canes that represented their striped legs. Raggedy Arthur, their dog, also adorned the tree. I was delighted to find some Raggedy Ann garland at a doll show. Dressed in her beautiful red and green Christmas dress, what a delightful tree top she was. A variety of Raggedy collectibles surrounded the tree. I simply loved my Raggedy trees!

For several years, I made a Christmas Grinch tree. What fun it was playing Grinch music as I placed the Grinch and Maxx and adorable ornaments on the branches. Everyone received a Grinch gift wrapped in ugly green paper. It was such fun. Being a bit of a prankster, I delighted in giving some “humorous” Grinch gifts. I’ve passed my Grinches on to my granddaughter, Morgan. I hope she has as much fun with them as I did.

This year’s tree will be trimmed with my mom’s precious old ornaments. When the tree is decorated, I will hear my hubby say, “Lorna, that has to be the prettiest tree we ever had.” Of course, he says that every year.

The very first Christmas I can remember is when I was 4, but soon to be 5. It was the last Christmas my family spent in Shawano before moving to Marion. We lived in a house on the corner of Lieg and Evergreen Streets. Memories of that Christmas morning are, I’ll just say, “memorable.”

I received two gifts. I remember how excited I was seeing my new dolly buggy. It was not wrapped but had a big bow on it. There was also a wrapped present from Santa for me. I opened it and quickly put it back in the box. I remember crying uncontrollably.

Children were warned, if you were naughty you would get coal from Santa. Well in that box was a baby doll, a black doll. I was a very little girl and I didn’t know people and dolls come in many colors. I thought Santa had given me a doll “made black like coal” because I was naughty. I was devastated.

My mother and I talked about that Christmas when I was older. She told me how terrible she felt. She thought the doll was adorable with her curly hair and pink pajamas. She didn’t think about the fact that I had never seen anyone with a skin color other than white — I was too young for school. Sometimes the best intentions can go awry.

I wish I still had that doll, but my black Raggedy Ann is a treasured part of my collection. She has a prominent spot in my cabinet where she sits smiling back at me. All is forgiven.

While both sets of our parents were living, we spent Christmas Eve at my folks in Marion and Christmas Day at my in-laws. We always went to Christmas Eve candlelight service as a family. The Rev. Fred Ohlrogge’s sermons were so special.

Lorna Marquardt is a former Shawano mayor.