Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kerkhoff Christmas Tradition--As Told by Joanne Kerkhoff Schunder

My aunt and godmother, Joanne Kerkhoff Schunder, wrote this wonderful memory of the Joe and Ada Kerkhoff Christmas tradition.  What makes this story even more wonderful, spectacular and poignant for me is knowing that they both lost their fathers at Christmastime.  Ada Meyer was only 6 1/2 years old when her father died on December 29, 1903.  And Joe Kerkhoff was 8 1/2 when his daddy died on Christmas Day, 1905.  And even with these tragedies and heartaches, they still made sure that their children's Christmases were magical.


TIME-DEPRESSION YEARS-1931-1940 (before we moved from Covington.]

PLACE- A beutiful home on Hawthorn Avenue in Covington, Kentucky.-two blocks  from St. Augustine's Church and School.

PEOPLE-Mother Ada, Father Joe and seven little Kerkhoffs


     Our home had a small back porch off of the kitchen. On December 5, we hung our empty school stockings on the line with a note to Sana pinned on each.
     We girls put our dolls on the pantry window sill.
     The next morning--Saint Nicholas feast day--we found our stockings hanging on the line, bulging with fruit, nuts , candy and little toys and the Santa notes were GONE.
     I always received a little china doll, about 4 inches tall, in a little, fragile cardboard box containing a tiny baby bottle with a tiny rubber nipple, tiny bar of soap, wash cloth,etc.
     When we looked for our dolls, they were GONE.

Now we watched the radio listings in the newspaper for Santa programs and Christmas music on the radio.  No T.V.

Sometime between Saint Nicholas and Christ's birth we had an adventure.  Mother planned a day to see Santa.
We rode on the street car (or maybe a bus) over the Ohio River on the Roebling Bridge (the precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge), up the ramps and into the Dixie Terminal, probably the only trip to Cincinnati all year.
Mother knew exactly which stores had the best Christmas displays in the store windows, merry-go-rounds, big peppermint sticks--at least an inch in diameter and the best Santas.  It was very exciting.

By the time Christmas Eve came around the anticipation was electric.  All of the ground work leading to the BIG day didn't cost money only love and unselfish thoughtfulness.  Mother was a brilliant Stage Manager.

                                        CHRISTMAS EVE

Sheets were hung over the arch from the entry hall and over the French doors from the dining room.
We were honor bound not to peek. We knew the tree was in there, though.

My memory is vague concerning dinner.  It was a strict fast and abstinence day. I remember having Oyster stew and little crackers once.  We ate in the kitchen, so I guess the dining room was being prepared for the big day.
I remember getting a little wine--probably the only time that happened--and off to early bed time.

                                      CHRISTMAS MORNING

We always went to first Mass--6:00 a.m.  When we dressed and came down stairs into the kitchen we found new mittens, caps, etc. that could be worn and we left for Mass.  Trooping off, the whole family together, maybe it was snowing and it was DARK.

When Mass was over, Daddy left before us.  We left the church and walked the two blocks--getting more and more excited. You need to appreciate the fact that due to the Depression, we did not receive anything that wasn't a necessity.

As we turned the corner of Euclid St. and Hawthorn, we could see the tree lights on our tree shining through the shining windows and lace curtains. WOW!!!

We hurried into the house by the back door, took off our coats, went into the dining room and lined up in front of the double doors, littlest ones first.

THEN the sheet came down, the doors were opened and it was like the best department store window any where in the world-no boxes, wrapping paper or ribbon-everything on display.  And the train was going around and around.

Everyone had their own personal space under the tree.  My doll was back, all cleaned up and a whole new wardrobe in a doll trunk.  One year she was standing all by herself--Mr. Claus made a wonderful stand to hold her.

I still have my Deanna Durban (movie star) doll and the trunk full of the wonderful clothes made by Mrs. Claus. There are evening gowns, skirts, blouses, robes,a little velvet purse, etc. All of this sewing was done while we weren't around.  I never saw a thread, cloth or anything and the sewing machine was next to my bed.  It was a treadle machine--no motor, just your feet.

There all kinds of love in this world, and I think that what Mother and Dad gave us, year after year, was extraordinary!!!!!

Somewhere along the years, Daddy would recite a Xmas poem-where he got this I'll never know. It was recited on Charistmas Eve after dinner.

                         Twas Christmas eve in the work house,
                          The day of all the year
                          The beggers they were happy
                          Their bellies full of beer.

There is more but I have to look it up.

These are some of my memories of my wonderful Christmases.
Let me know what I left out.
Don't let me know about misspelled words, bad grammar or typos. I'm a long time out of school and typing class.

Piles of love to you all and to all a "Goodnight" 

Joanne, Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Aunt, Great Aunt and all other relatives and friends."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

You Didn't Know that St. Nick Vacations with Santa?

Let me get this out of the way right now.  St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are NOT the same guy.  They are completely separate, yet according to Mom, they're very good friends.  As a matter of fact, St. Nick vacations in the North Pole with Santa after Nick's feast day on December 6.  After all, he's exhausted from filling all those stockings/shoes with candy, nuts and fruit, and he needs a little break.  That's why we would put our Christmas lists to Santa inside our St. Nick stockings.  He'd hand them over to Santa during his vacation.

Weren't you also raised with this knowledge?  After all, it sounds completely logical, doesn't it?

I went to a public school and remember being the only student who knew about St. Nick.  And I was certainly the only one in my school who St. Nicholas visited.  I'm going to make a confession about that.  I completely loved it.  I adored that I had something that others didn't.  Somehow, it made the magic that much more magical.  It was also something wonderful to look forward to after Thanksgiving.  For a child, that month between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems like a year.  But the week and a half between Turkey Day and St. Nick Day didn't seem so bad.  And then the 19 days between getting our stockings filled and Christmas morning didn't seem like such a huge hurdle.  It was a great "mid way" point for the holidays.

I am the youngest of seven kids, and I only remember St. Nick Day with Eric and Anne.  Perhaps the older kids remember the Feast Day slightly different, but there are some things that I know stayed the same.

We would secure our tube socks (the thought was "the bigger the better" in the hopes that we'd get more candy from the saint--I don't think that ever panned out) on the chest of drawers in our dining room.  We'd jam the top of the sock in the drawer and make sure that it was secure.  My personal way of doing it was to test it to make sure that pressure wouldn't make it fall, and then I'd put my Christmas list in it.  Perhaps some of my siblings put their lists in the sock before they secured it.  Flexibility is always good.

And then I'd wake up, run out and see what I got.  I think we always had an orange at the bottom of the sock (I'm sure it was to weigh it down--Would a kid ever actually eat it?), and we always had a long candy cane.  St. Nick didn't bring those measly regular candy canes.  He brought us the serious stuff.  My brother Eric would work on it until it could actually be used as a weapon if he so chose.  We'd also get chocolate, other candies and a small gift.

But I think the best part of the entire experience was the magic sparkles left by St. Nick.  They would fall from his cape wherever he walked.  We could actually see where he walked in our house!  And if we were lucky, there would be snow outside.  Sometimes, just sometimes, Dad would find St. Nick's horse's hoof prints.

What is better than that to a kid?  Magic sparkles.  A saint's horse's hoof prints.  And candy!

St. Nick also comes to my kids.  My husband, who is of Irish ancestry, took a bit of time to come around to the St. Nicholas idea.  I think he finally realized that he had no choice; he's a smart man.

Today, letters to Santa may include website addresses (to make it easier for his elves).  But St. Nick is fine with that.  He's always up on the latest technologies and ideas.  It's part of what makes him special.

My kids' St. Nick stockings hanging over our fireplace.  Please notice the Nerds in the bottom right of the photo.  Proof positive that St. Nick knows what each child loves.