As The Regulars schedule plays out this year, I find my column smack dab in the middle of Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s fine with me. It gives me the opportunity to hit both holidays with memories that make this time of the year special.
I won the lottery this past Thanksgiving. Not only was it my 66th birthday, it also was the day my newest grandchild was baptized. Her name is Lou Elizabeth Giese. She’s four months old and was baptized with water from the Jordan River by Father Dan Rupp. Sweet Lou is by far the best birthday present I’ve ever received. What an incredible blessing.
My Thanksgiving memories are not the typical memories most families would have. Our Thanksgiving dinner was very different. Turkey was banned from our home as was any other fowl. That was my dad’s order. He said he ate so much diseased chicken during WWII that he would never eat poultry again. We honored that promise. Mom never cooked chicken or turkey. If I wanted fried chicken, I had to order it on the very rare occasion we went out to a restaurant. Thanksgiving was the one day a year mom would make oyster stew. Dad and my brother Butch were the only ones who ate it. The rest of the family enjoyed a roast while the whole house reeked of oysters. To this day, no oyster has passed my lips.
Christmas was a big deal at our house. Mom and dad always bought a skinny balsam fir tree that was so dry it looked like it had been cut down in July. They put those big bubble lights on the tree and gads of silver tinsel. It looked like mom and dad stood back 10 feet and chucked a handful of tinsel and let it stay where it landed. It amazes me to this day how we avoided turning our house on Miller Street into a blazing inferno. OSHA would have had a field day at our house.
We never opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. That could only happen on Christmas morning. Our holiday schedule was set in stone. Midnight mass (and yes, the mass really started at midnight), back home about 1:30 a.m. and off to bed. My brother Butch was adept at unwrapping his gifts and wrapping them back up before the rest of the family arose around 7 a.m. Other than Butch, my sisters Marilyn and Judy, and I were all surprised with the gifts Santa brought us. Mom and dad never knew of Butch’s expertise in gift wrapping.
As this is my last column in 2018, allow me to share some random thoughts.
I was saddened to read of the recent passing of Michael Furlich. You might remember a column I wrote a year or so ago about Mr. Furlich. He had read the story about my dad and the 7th Armored Division at the Battle of the Bulge. He was in the same unit as my dad and I couldn’t wait to meet him. I visited Mr. Furlich three times in his South Sioux City nursing home and he was gracious to answer every question I had about the conditions my dad faced during that historic battle in the Ardennes Forest. Thank you to the Furlich family for inviting me to the memorial service. He was 99 years old. He was a hero. A grateful nation mourns his loss.
On a lighter note, my September kindergarten column went viral. I can’t count the number of people who told me they did the following: 1) laughed out loud. 2) posted the column to Facebook and Twitter. 3) forwarded it to family members outside Siouxland. 4) sent it out to teacher email lists across the country. At last count, at least two dozen people have told me their child had the same issue in kindergarten, i.e. pooped their pants. Here’s the problem: All of them were boys.
In closing, this Christmas will be special to our family for many reasons. In October, Bev and I were fortunate to take a trip to the Holy Land. We persevered the Bethlehem crowds and were able to make it down to the grotto where Jesus was born. That was one of those events that I will never forget. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" takes on a whole new meaning for me.
For unto us a Child is born.
Next week: Steve Warnstadt
Jim Wharton, of Sioux City, is a former member of the Sioux City Council and a former mayor of Sioux City. He and his wife, Beverly, have one daughter, Dr. Laura Giese, and four grandchildren.