Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Friday, December 25, 2015

Santa's Report Card 2015

A guest post by Kris Kringle

I told you last year that I thought Kris Kringle had a great thing going, and that I fully intended on encroaching on his territory.  And I have to admit that I do it willfully and intentionally, and, to some degree, selfishly.  I find that I get soooo much out of being Santa Claus, I often feel like I am taking more out than I am putting into the real purpose of Christmas.  Notwithstanding my own misgivings, I still maintain it is the best job going.
My Beloved and I have been recreating Santa and Mrs. Rebecca Claus (there – you heard her first name here first!) for some years now, and each year it is a special treat. We sincerely hope it also is for the people with whom we have the pleasure of visiting.
This year, for about the last five or six weeks, we have visited some 25 organized events and several spontaneous ones (disorganized events?), and they have each and every one been special to us.  We have sat over 1000 little ones on our collective knee this year, over 200 not-so-little ones, and we have had the great pleasure of visiting with some 450 seniors (who were not able to sit on our knees, so we bent ours to them.  As it should be.  And our knees are still working!  That in itself is a great Christmas blessing!).
During Christmas-time 2015, my beloved Rebecca and I have been fĂȘted by young Irish Dancers, world-class Figure Skaters, Madrigal Singers, Farmers’ Marketers, school children galore, hockey players, patients in the Sick Kids’ hospital, and many dental patients–all of whom knew the song “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” (and most of whom asked me ‘Please, PLEASE don’t sing it to me, Santa, you sound like my Dad!’.)
Amongst the middle-aged crowd were a myriad of parents who, without exception, wished only the best for their children and families.  It was good for Santa to see and hear that.
One very special young man, in his mid-20s, had never before encountered our western incarnation of the Santa Claus legend.  He was a large fellow, who asked if he could hug me; of course I replied it was expected!  He put his burly arms around me and literally lifted me off the floor – not an easy task in itself when you think of Santa’s size–all the while giving me the best bear-hug I have ever had!  After I regained my ability to breathe and speak, I asked a bit about himself.  Turns out he had only been in Canada two weeks, a Syrian refugee who after many months had found a new home with some wonderful caring people.  When I asked him what he would like for Christmas, he wished for peace and a new home for all of his family and friends still enmeshed in the war and strife in his homeland.  He wished me a Merry Christmas before I could even mutter the words to him.
On the campus of the local University, we had been invited to the home of a professor and his family who were hosting a Christmas party for his family and about 20 or so international graduate students studying with the professor–students from Iran, Turkey, India, Syria, Japan, Israel, China, and a couple of other far-flung lands.  To my knowledge none were Christian, but each insisted on visiting with Santa and Rebecca to learn more about what must have been strange western Christmas customs.  We spent more time that we probably should have with these bright young people. Each of them sported a huge smile and returned wishes of peace and success and prosperity–for us, for their hosts in a new country, and for their families and friends back home.  Not one of them hesitated wishing me a Merry Christmas, and I received with great gladness many wishes for a happy Hannukah, a good Ramadan, and several other upcoming holy-day festivals that I am still studying up on.  I will celebrate each of them with glee and gladness for new-found friends.
The most moving experience for Santa this year was a delightful young 9-year-old Irish dancer–Natalie.  She came to my knee with a little less than her usual smile or her usual brightness for the season.  When I got around to asking what she would like for Christmas, I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear: “I would like the bombing to stop.”  This was just a couple of days after the terrible events in Paris, and I could tell little Natalie was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders that night.  “Yes, Natalie, I would like the bombing to stop too. [Long pause].  I will see what I can do about that, okay? In the meantime, is there something that you would like for Christmas, something just for you?”
Natalie was not to be deterred.  “No, Santa, I just want the bombing to stop.  Is there something I can do to make it stop?”
Another long pause.  But then the words came into Santa’s mind.
“Yes, Natalie, there is something you can do to make the bombing stop.  In fact, there are two things you can do.  First, you can keep smiling!  You have such a beautiful smile!  Share your smile with everyone in the world, because that tells everyone that you love them—and the bombing will stop.  And second, dear Natalie, just keep on dancing!  I promise you that if you keep on dancing, and show the world that you love everyone like I know you do, the bombing will stop, one day.”
I had a great Christmas in 2015, my friends, thanks mostly to the Natalies of the world.  I hope and wish that yours has been a wonderful one too.
Peace on Earth, Good Will to Women, Men and Children, Always!
With much love,
Santa and Rebecca Claus
From all of us to all of you:
a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Resting up for the night ahead . . .
Christmas Eve and the family is gathering.

May all of your moments be bright this Christmas!
From all of us at the Tolley house . . .

Wishing you and yours the very best and brightest Christmas ever!
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Opening the Ski Chapter

Christmas Elf: Caught in the Act . . .
It started out ordinarily enough.
Dad waving from the driveway as he started the long drive to Lethbridge to begin his Christmas shopping.
I should point out, here, that Dad always began and ended his shopping on the same day.
Christmas Eve.
He had a thing about children sneaking into his closet to peek at presents.
Not that I ever did. Personally, I think it had something to do with his own childhood and his own childhood foibles and tendencies.
Let's not talk about this any more . . .
We waved happily to him, then went back to helping Mom with the Christmas baking.
Our duties were carefully delineated.
She mixed.
We watched/hovered.
She finished mixing and dug out cookie sheets and baking pans.
We tasted.
She shooed us away and began to spoon/scrape.
We watched/hovered.
She turned to put pans into the oven.
We tasted.
She shooed us away and finished spooning/scraping.
She turned to put pans into the oven.
We licked the bowl.
She shooed us away and started again.
She mixed.
We watched/hovered . . .
You get the picture.
But when pans started coming out of the oven, yet another duty was added to the roster.
Eating the now-baked deliciousness.
And so it went.
Everyone had their responsibilities clearly outlined and we did them whole-heartedly.
No slackers in this bunch.
Sometimes, though, baked goodies actually made their way past the ravening hordes children to the fancy Christmas platters set out to receive them.
Not often, I will admit, but frequently enough that we realized what those platters were for.
But I digress . . .
Other duties included:
  1. Hiding when the baking was finished and clean up was indicated.
  2. Giggling loudly during hide-age.
  3. Sitting under the tree and periodically shaking/squeezing packages.
  4. Teasing younger siblings that Santa Claus would never be able to find our ranch.
  5. Re-arranging Christmas ornaments.
  6. Breaking said ornaments.
  7. Hiding again.
It was a busy day.
Mostly for my Mom, but why haggle over details?
Finally, just as we were getting ready to climb into bed for the long, sleepless night, we heard Dad's car pull into the driveway.
And then began another whole round of children milling about excitedly.
Sleep was further away than ever.
But, finally, we were herded into our beds and the doors firmly shut against peekage/sneakiness.
The wait was on.
I shared a room with my younger brother, Blair and my younger sister, Anita.
Somehow, I managed to keep them bottled up until some of us (not me) were ready to fizz over.
About 5 AM.
We could wait no longer.
Now the rule in the Stringam household was 'Look, but don't touch until Mom and Dad's feet hit the living room floor'.
On this particular Christmas, looking was especially exciting.
Because Dad had strewn his gifts over the living room floor.
The entire living room floor.
From the soft light of the Christmas tree, we were able to make out strange, long objects arranged at intervals from the doorway all the way to the tree itself.
What could they be?
We knelt down in the doorway, trying to get a better view.
Had he opened a crate of something and left the boards flung about like flotsam?
Normally such behavior was reserved for the younger set.
Double weird.
Just when we were ready to burst with the excitement and curiosity, we heard our parents make their way up the hall towards us.
Dad reached around the corner and snapped on the light.
Our eyes were glued to the newly-revealed treasures.
The entire floor was littered with skis!
Beside each carefully arranged set of skis were a pair of poles and leather ski boots.
We hopped and skipped carefully around the room, checking name tags and finally settling beside the set that bore ours.
Mine were blue.
With long, silver poles.
And black leather ski boots.
I don't remember what else I got that year (sorry, Family).
Nothing could compare with my shiny new and wondrous skis.
Then I discovered that the excitement didn't end there.
The rest of Dad's gift included a week-long family skiing trip to The Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana.
The first of many such trips.
And the beginning of a whole new chapter for the Stringams.
Yup. The best Christmas ever.
Now, it's your turn. What was your best childhood Christmas ever?

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Oh sure. He's looks innocent here . . .
Christmas morning, the exciting, present-opening part, was inevitably on hold until the kids could get their father out of his bed.
It wasn't as easy as it sounds.
What began as a mainly physical feat when they were younger, soon progressed into a different sort of challenge as they grew older.
Their Dad got sneaky.
Case in point . . .
I was heading out to do the milking.
I turned to my Husby, who was still in bed and said, “Don't start till I get back.”
He grinned. Something I have learned to treat with respect over the years.
“Oh, I imagine I'll still be here when you get back!” He reached under the bed and pulled out the end of a long, heavy chain. “Could you please hand me the other end?”
Puzzled, I reached under my side of the bed.
Sure enough, there was the rest.
This man plans ahead . . .
I handed it to him and he lapped the two ends over himself and snapped a large combination lock shut through them.
He was right.
He would probably still be there when I got back.
Shaking my head, I left.
Milking was quickly accomplished and I was soon back at the house, pails brimming.
Just as I opened the door, I heard a cheer go up.
'Wow, everyone's sure happy that I'm home!' I thought.
It wasn't me.
They had just finished finding the final number for their father's combination lock.
And had succeeded in freeing him from his chains.
Quite literally.
I set the milk in the milk room and came upstairs just as everyone poured, happily, from our bedroom.
“Mom! We got Dad out of his chains and we're ready to open presents!”
Now there's something you don't hear every day.
“Wow! You kids are good!” Thoughts of future bank robbers and safe-crackers suddenly came to mind.
“Naw! He gave us the first two numbers. Then all we had to do was figure out the last one.”
“Yeah. We did it by the process of elimination.”
“Oh. Well . . . good.”
“It was fun!”
You have to know that these kids have been exposed to many different challenges over the years.
Duct tape.
Mustard. (Don't ask.)
Air horns.
And Speedos. (Told here.) If you want to read it, we'll wait . . .
I guess a small matter of freeing their father from some pesky heavy chains is child's play.
Well, at least for our child(s).

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