Families have been coming home for Christmas ever since that first Christmas, when they were sent to their home town for the census (or, as the old King James Version of the Bible puts it, to tax the people). This Christmas, my side of the family was together for the first time in many years – no small feat with seven siblings!
The first of us met at the Christmas Eve Candlelight service in Fort St. John, B.C. – Margrit and Alex from Los Angeles, Barb down from Fort Nelson, we’re up from Westlock and Mom and Dad from the farm. As we sang the familiar Christmas carols I shed a few tears for my friend Joanne who is ‘home’ for Christmas in her own way – we buried her the Monday before. It will be a difficult season for her family, and some others we know too.
I think I have a crazy family – forgive me, guys, for saying so! But I love them all. We’re a loud, chaotic bunch, and Christmas dinner seems an unorganized affair until it is finally ready. Our original family of nine has grown into 31 now, with the first great granddaughter. I’m always thrilled that even the grown grandchildren, some home from college, join us. It makes for a full house! Mom loves it when we’re all there, but I think she is secretly glad when we leave again.
Margrit came expressly to see Dad open the box with his first published book: Kanada, Dein Neues Heimatland. We’d asked him to write the story of coming to Canada and building up a pioneer farm in Cecil Lake. I typed his notes on computer, edited, found and placed pictures. A cousin in Switzerland edited the German grammar, and Margrit formatted the whole thing for print, with cover picture. Only I had seen the finished product.
It was a grand moment. Dad signed copies for each family. In every corner family members poured over the books, laughing at the early pictures of aunties and their uncle. Even though this first version is in German, pictures are a universal language. We hope to get an English version ready for next Christmas.
This book contains my heritage, my roots. I’ve often thought that it is easier for me to relate to small scale farmers in Africa who live with very little because I grew up on a small farm with very little. As much as possible we lived off the land. Dad wrote often of how we relied on neighbours for help, and sometimes it was a Swiss aunt who sent the money to tide us over for another bit. It was a long hard ten years until Dad was finally a dairy farmer with quota and the money began to flow more freely.
I am very privileged to have such a heritage, to have such a wonderful crazy family to come home to.