Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Greetings from David and Kathryn Gunderson

     Merry Christmas 2013

     Kathryn & I hope this Christmas will be a special time of year for each of you and your families.

     As I think back over the many Christmases of
my life, many of them are especially memorable. Mostly, memorable because we spent them with you our treasured family and friends.

     I can remember some details of most of my early Christmases, there was a windup tractor, a glass washing machine (there is a story about that but I’ll save it for another time), my tricycle, the tinker toys, etc. But the Christmas of 1942 stands out as one of the most memorable, and I owe much of that to my “teasie” Uncle Bruce. who never missed an opportunity to make things “interesting” for his nieces & nephews.   
December of 1942 found our family staying with Aunt Hilda and her nephew, my mother’s brother, Uncle Bruce in Mt. Pleasant. A fire at the site of the Duchesne Tunnel[1], where my father was working as an engineer, had destroyed the generator and compressor plant. Because of WWII, the damaged equipment couldn’t be replaced and work on the tunnel had to be postponed.
As we left our home in the mountains a heavy snow storm moved in, effectively cutting of all access to our former home until spring. My father was reassigned to the Salt Lake office, but from Thanksgiving to New Years, while my parents were searching for a place to live in Salt Lake, (not an easy thing to do in those wartime years)  our family stayed in Mt. Pleasant.
As Christmas approached, Uncle Bruce repeatedly cautioned me that since we had moved so late in the year, I shouldn’t be prepared to have Santa miss me at our new address.  
On about the 15th of December, Dad asked me if I wanted to go with him and Uncle Bruce to the Mountains east of Mt. Pleasant to find a Christmas tree and I readily agreed.  But as I remember it, I just stood, cold to the bone, at the bottom of a steep hillside in mud not quite deep enough to cover my boots, listening to Dad and Uncle Bruce argue the virtues of various tree. (I really don’t know why Dad worried about the shape of our trees. He always remade them when we were decorating them anyway, adding branches or taking them out as he felt necessary.) I did, however, take the opportunity to learn some of the great sounding new expletives I was hearing.
When I got home, I was anxious to show off my new vocabulary and got my mouth washed out with soap for my efforts.  Dad and Uncle Bruce got scolded but they didn’t get the soap treatment. I remember of thinking that maybe Mom and Aunt Hilda had just given up on them.
A few days before Christmas, Uncle Bruce really started to give me the business, he explained that I had probably waited too long to let Santa know that we had moved so he could re-arrange his pack to deliver my presents in Mt. Pleasant, and that my presents would probably be left in our old snowbound house and worse yet, before we could get there in the spring to pick them up, skiers or snowshoe hikers would get there and find my presents. Thinking them abandoned, they would naturally take them home for their own children, who, unlike the children for whom they were intended, would appreciate them.
Well that really got my attention. Uncle Bruce promised to do what he could to “help” me in my desperate situation and he did. Mom and Aunt Hilda didn’t say much but they did assure me that Santa would find me as he had found other children through the centuries.
To understand the rest of the story, you need to understand that, like other families, my mothers family used to have a cutter, complete with a set of sleigh bells.
In those early years of my life I didn’t know about the cutter or the sleigh bells, but Uncle Bruce did.
Early on Christmas Eve day, Uncle Bruce came back home with great news. He had seen Santa and explained my situation. Santa had agreed that my situation was desperate and that he would try to work me in to his busy schedule, but that I should remember that he might have to come by a bit early and that the strict roles could not be changed. Before he could come I must be in bed and asleep.
In the late afternoon of Christmas Eve, thing really started to happen. Just before dinner, I suddenly heard the sound of sleigh bells, but running to the window, I saw nothing. Soon afterward, Uncle Bruce came into the Kitchen and asked if we had heard the bells. We told him we had and he warned that I should probably have been in bed and asleep because Santa may not be able to make another run.
During dinner, Uncle Bruce suddenly remembered some important chore and needed to be excused for a few minutes. While he was out we again heard sleigh bells.
After coming back, Uncle Bruce asked if we had the bells and again warned that I should have been in bed and asleep, because Santa had already made two tries and may not be able to make another run for me. Aunt Hilda reassuringly said that I should just leave it to Santa. We heard sleigh bells again several times that afternoon and each time Uncle Bruce (after coming back into the house) would warn me that I should already have been in bed and asleep, because Santa could not just keep trying.
After Dinner, we held a family Christmas Eve Devotional in the parlor, where the Christmas tree was located and where I was to sleep. I was just frantic, but Aunt Hilda casually read from the Gospel of St. Luke and set out a tray of goodies for Santa. We all heard bells once or twice more during the evening, but soon, excited as I was, I became so sleepy that I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.

When I awoke on Christmas morning, I found that Santa had been right there in our parlor where I had slept, eaten the snack we had left him and just as Uncle Bruce had arranged, built a “Toyland Town all around our Christmas tree”.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that every time the sleigh bells rang, Uncle Bruce was away on some important errand.
Uncle Bruce went to great of effort to make sure that we had a great Christmas that year and I love him for it. But, I think he had just as much fun as I did.
I don’t remember what Santa brought that Christmas, but I do remember that he made the effort to find me. Over the years I have come to see the symbolism in this and recognize how grateful I am that the Prince of Peace has made the effort to come to find each of us, regardless of race, religion or status just as Santa found me

  With Much Love, We Wish Each of You a Very Merry Christmas
                  David & Kathryn Gunderson

[1]  The Duchesne Tunnel is part of an irrigation project. It is located 18 mi east of Kamas, Utah. We returned to it in 1949

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