To Grandmother’s House We Go
by Pam R Selthun
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, my childhood Christmases were a little different from most. When I was young, we lived in Chicago where my dad was pastor of a small urban church called “The Church of the Good News.” We only had one Christmas Eve service in our converted bar church, and my dad was preacher, secretary and church administrator all rolled into one. Every Christmas Eve, after the church service was over and the parishioners had gone home, I remember my mom and dad packing up the station wagon, sometimes in the pre-dawn hours of Christmas Day, and driving in the dark of night to Grandma’s house. We had blankets and gifts and food packed in around us, and my brother and I tried not to kick each other. Our little sister wisely fell asleep and stayed out of any squabbles we had.
My grandparents, my dad’s mom and dad, lived in the tiny town of Forreston, IL, on the Ratmeyer family farm. It was about a two-hour drive from Chicago, and about as far from my city life as it could be. I never slept in the car — I was far too excited — and think I probably chatted away the entire time and kept my dad awake as he drove. He must have been exhausted, but I never noticed. His eyes were on the road, and he was quiet most of the way, smiling from time to time. My mom was either sleeping, knitting or reading. We had the radio turned to a classical station, playing Christmas music. We drove no matter what the weather. Sometimes it was snowing, other times, icy, but we always arrived in one piece, praise God.
I remember getting to Hollywood Road, and passing the one-room schoolhouse where my dad had gone to school up through sixth grade or longer. It was a pink house, and no longer a school. We were on country roads, and it was dark, but if it was clear, the stars were shining bright. When we got to the road and house, I knew we were almost there.
I don’t remember having a lot of presents at grandma’s and grandpa’s, but I do remember them greeting us at the door of their farm kitchen, and feeling the warmth of the house after being in the cold, uncomfortable car for so long. The fact that we had a place to go and family to see was the important part of Christmas, along with celebrating Jesus’ birth. The next day, we went to church, again. My grandparents were very religious and skipping church was not an option. It’s a tradition that was part of my immediate family too, and still is today. Singing “Joy to the World” and seeing the baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Day made Christmas real.