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The Christmas That Almost Wasn't

A photo of Nancy NemecChristmas of 2009 will be a “Christmas to Remember,” and maybe not for the right reasons.

I was so excited that for the first time in more than 20 years I could have Christmas at my house for my family, and actually have time to enjoy getting ready and decorating and cooking! My mind was spinning with ideas for meals and lists for activities. I was getting up in the night and writing things down so I didn’t forget.

Many phone calls were made to see what special foods my children were wishing for: Salted Nut Roll Cookies, Ogallala Enchiladas, Fried Chicken with “pudding gravy,” Peanut Clusters, Caramel Corn Puffs, and Original TV Snack Mix.

I was looking for foods that could be made ahead and frozen: Grace Church Mashed Potatoes, Dawn’s Breakfast Casserole, Frozen Cabbage Slaw, Madeline’s Frozen Fruit Salad. And dishes that could be made the day before and refrigerated: 7 Layer Salad, Hash Brown Casserole, Chili. Talk about Comfort Foods – this was the ultimate list!

House surrounded by snow drifts

But – then came the weather reports! Snow, Snow and more Snow. First, Son #2 and wife and Grand-dog arrived safely from St. Louis with just some nasty roads at the end of the trip. Son #1, wife and 3 grandsons arrived between the snows for Christmas Eve noon instead of Christmas Eve supper. They had a wild time getting here from 30 miles away and were anxious to return home immediately after 5 p.m. church. Daughter was scheduled to arrive from Kansas on Christmas Day, and she was watching weather sites and calling often. Things were not looking great, but we planned to wait to “do the presents” until she arrived. We so wanted to all be together.

Christmas tree in snow

The Christmas Eve Chili and Chili Dogs were a real hit, and we got to church on time. Sons #1 and #2 had volunteered to fill in for two handbell ringers in the handbell choir that I direct, so we went to run through the two numbers at 4 p.m. Grandpa and the grandsons were planning to usher and hand out bulletins and candleholders. But when we got to church (in the 4-wheel drive), Pastor said the Special Music person was unable to be there and the organist was yet to arrive. He talked the grandsons into singing a duet of “Away in a Manger” with a few run throughs, and the organist arrived in the nick of time. The service was beautiful, the handbells sounded great with a Fanfare on Joy to the World and a lovely song featuring Silent Night, and the grandsons did a great job on their duet. Sons #1 and #2 filled in for some choir members who couldn’t make it. (Grandpa thought maybe people would think that our family had arrived on tour from our theater in Branson to take over the service.) I am always touched by the light that flows from the Christ candle to all the worshippers in the pews on Christmas Eve. It is truly a special moment.

Daughter was still planning to come on December 26th, but it just wasn’t safe. We talked on the phone, emailed, and took lots of pictures so she could be with us in spirit. (We went to Kansas to see her the next week.)

Many friends and neighbors had similar experiences. It seemed that NOBODY had EVERYBODY there that planned to celebrate Christmas. Yes, Christmas 2009 was definitely “The Christmas that Wasn’t.” But the Light of Christ will still shine through 2010.

Dawn’s Egg Casserole

7 eggs
1 cup milk
4 cup shredded cheese
1 pound browned sausage or ham cubes
8 frozen hash brown patties
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

Grease 9-by-13 pan. Line bottom of pan with hash brown patties. Sprinkle with cheese and top with meat of choice. Beat eggs and milk with salt and ground mustard. Pour over. Cover and bake at 350°F. Original recipe says to bake one hour, then uncover and bake 15 minutes more. This is tooooooo long. Bake until center is cooked (knife comes out clean). If you bake eggs too hot or too long, they get rubbery. I just baked 60 minutes at 325°.