December 22nd…“TELL ABOUT CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AT A RELATIVE’S HOME DURING YOUR CHILDHOOD.”
Quiet heroes live among us all. They gently live out their daily lives in an elegant, soft-spoken manner that befits the tender soul they are, yet each of those quiet heroes has seen and endured much for the sake of survival of their own life in combat and for the betterment of this great nation we live in called America. One of my many heroes, in this realm of honor, was my mother’s brother, Marcus Delmaine (“Del”) Sletten. Of course, on both maternal and paternal sides of our family, I hold other uncles who also are treasured as heroes to this little boy’s memory, but for this story, we’re going to hold up Uncle Del. Delmaine Sletten served gallantly, during World War II, with Company A of the 351st Infantry Regiment of the 88th Division of the United States Army. With distinction, he and his fellow warriors fought tenaciously against the entrenched German invaders in the mountainous areas of Italy. Uncle Del, and his fellow soldiers, fought so fiercely, that their German enemies labeled this American fighting unit as “The Blue Devils”…..and the name stuck, like the badge of honor it was. Uncle Del’s Regiment fought so courageously, that they earned a coveted “Unit Citation” for bravery from our President, at that time, The Honorable Franklin Delano Roosevelt for “fearlessness, heroic determination and aggressive fighting spirit that brings honor to the armed forces of the United States”. So, when it came to Christmas at Uncle Del’s, little did this tiny guy realize, back then, what our gracious host had gone through to keep America free and by that sacrifice, entitled us to celebrate Jesus’s birth in a world of peace and tranquility and with an aluminum tree, even 😉
Once home from the War, Uncle Del found love, marriage and the opportunity to build a very handsome home for his new family to be born into and grow up enjoying. From stories my mother told us, her brother was a very talented man in many ways. Even building a quaint cottage for his parents to comfortably spend the rest of their lives within, just down the road from him, in the city of Albert Lea, Minnesota.
At Christmas, or any other time of the year, for that matter……..whenever you put Norwegians and Germans together, add lots of coffee with sugar-laden desserts, it’s the recipe for fun and laughter.
Our father, Russell, had a vein in his body made just for teasing, tricking and causing laughter to whoever was nearest him. Anything might pop out of his mouth (or other places) to create a moment of convivial joy and raucous laughter. Such as, telling our prepubescent girl cousins to, “Awww, eat that burnt toast, it’ll put hair on your chest!!” 🙂 To, passing gas at the dinner table and then swing around in his seat as he’s blaming it on the dog…..“Darn dogs, how’d they get in here??!!!”
Without a doubt, one of the effervescent moments for me was to step into Uncle Del Sletten’s lovely home and behold his sparkling, modern, aluminum Christmas tree that was ablaze in an ever-changing rainbow show of color from a spotlight showing through a primary-colored plastic wheel that went round and round by the power of a little electric motor. First, the tree would be aflame in RED, then fading to a GREEN, then fading to a BLUE and then a golden YELLOW in wonderful repetition that had me frozen in happy wonderment for what seemed hours as I saw the aluminum branches catch and reflect sparkling hues of spectacular Christmas prisms of joy.
Like all happy families, we treasured our times of laughter, food, colorfully wrapped Christmas gifts, Bible story time and singing of Christmas carols. What usually captured this boy’s attention, though, was the cornucopia of a veritable “toyland” that existed in my cousin’s bedroom. It was a boy toy “heaven” to me. I’d often just lose track of time itself when we’d come visit as I’d ride their spring-loaded plastic pony, or play with any myriad of toy choices within that boy’s lair.
Eventually, though, when our daddy pulled on his great coat over his handsome Christmas outfit of shirt and tie, we kids knew it was time to put away our cousin’s toys and prepare for our trip across the snowy roads and back to our dear farm. There’d be hearty handshakes among the men and our ladies would be giving season’s greeting kisses to each other on the cheeks as we climbed into our modest, motorized chariot for the trip home. For, as a farmer, Christmas or no Christmas, those Holstein cows back at the farm needed to be milked and were getting hungry for their Christmas “dinner”, as well. Such is just a taste of one of the Christmas joys, in the past, for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.