Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas 2012

This is the first Christmas eve and morning we will spend alone together (assuming the Mayans weren’t right).  Though we miss our children and grandchildren very much, we are kind of excited to see what Christmas will be like with just the two of us.  What will we do Christmas Eve?  How late will we sleep in Christmas morning?      
I guess, I had better explain why the above questions are posed.  It all has to do with Martin family Christmas traditions.  We did not necessarily set out to create these traditions.  They seemed to just evolve over the years.  Here are a few of our Christmas traditions:
Let’s start with the Christmas Eve program.  Every Christmas Eve, Jerry (Sr.) would build a fire in the fireplace and we would read the account of the first Christmas story from Luke.  Starting around the time the older children were elementary school-aged, they began to put on a Christmas play.  Camie would act as producer.  Alyssa would write up the play (with Camie’s input), and together they would direct .  (The girls can correct me if I am wrong.)  I remember one year preschool aged Jerry played Santa.  He also was forced at one time to play the mother.  As the years went by, and some children developed musical talents,  those were utilized.  Eventually, the play was dropped and the program resembled a musical concert.  Camie played the violin and viola, Alyssa the clarinet.  Kindra played the flute, and Jenae the Cello.  Justin and Chris played the trumpet.  We all sang Christmas Hymns.  Always, we would end on a Spiritual note reading together the scriptural account of our Savior’s birth.
No gifts were placed under the tree before Christmas Eve because they would almost certainly be opened by whomever was the toddler at the time.  One year, when Adam was finally beyond toddler stage and I thought I could trust him not to open gifts,  I wrapped some and placed them under the tree to help provide decoration.  This was met by loud protests from the children.  “No,” one of them explained, “We always go to bed Christmas Eve with no presents under the tree, and when we wake up Santa has come to deliver them all!” 
I’m not sure when it started, but the children began sleeping together in one room on Christmas Eve.   It was wall-to-wall sleeping bags and air mattresses in one bedroom upstairs.   I guess they wanted to monitor each other and make sure no one got up and went downstairs  to peek.    At about 4:30 AM Christmas morning,  the upstairs toilets would start to flush.  (The plumbing from upstairs happens to run down the wall behind the bed in the master bedroom so repeated flushings would awaken us parents.)  This was the signal for Jerry to get up, build a fire in the fireplace, and start the Christmas music playing.  The children would line up on the stairs, in descending order with the eldest at the top and the youngest at the bottom to await my invitation.  They would then march into the living room and the gift opening would begin.  Gifts were distributed and everyone opened gifts simultaneously.  It was somewhat of a frenzy.  But delight was expressed and thank-yous were said to each giver as the gifts were opened. 
This Christmas there will be seven families in various places in the United States, creating their own family traditions or blending into the traditions of their spouses families.  Adam, the only child not married will spend his first Christmas away from home serving as a missionary in Brazil.  He gets to call home (we will Skype) and that will be our best Christmas gift!
We wish you and yours the Merriest Christmas ever, and a Happy and prosperous New Year!     

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Loren Hills Johnson 1928-2012

On March 30, 1928 in Moab, Utah, a young widow, Ruth Westwood Johnson, gave birth to her sixth child. Her husband, Joseph Hills Johnson, had been tragically killed in a freak horse back riding accident just three months earlier. That baby was my father, Loren Hills Johnson. Grandma would later say that because he was such a happy baby, he gave her the will to continue living.

The Johnson family lived on a farm and at the tender age of three years, dad was helping out by doing farm chores such as milking cows. His mother approached him hard at work milking one day. It was such a comical sight to see a tiny tot milking a big cow, that Grandma began to laugh. Little Loren stopped his work, and holding onto two teats peered under the cow and up at Grandma exclaiming, "You shut yo mouf (mouth)!"

When he was three years old his mother married her husband's widowed cousin, Milton Edwin Johnson who had 12 children of his own. The eldest two step siblings were out of the nest at the time of the marriage. A set of twins were step siblings younger than Dad and he had a step brother his same age. With Miltons' ten and Ruth's five (her eldest having passed away as a young child), the tiny house was bursting at the seams. It was not an easy childhood, but young Loren seemed to take everything in stride.

He grew up in Moab, attending Moab Schools. He was quite gifted as an athlete and played both football and basketball for Grand County High School.

After graduating, he served with the armed forces of the United States when they occupied Japan after WWII. He served as a mechanic in the motor pool. He also played football on an army team.

Dad served for two and a half years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Norway. He had saved the money so he could support himself on his mission. When he returned home from his mission, he continued doing missionary work. He loved teaching the Gospel and helping bring others to Christ. In later years he and his wife served for 18 months in the South Dakota Rapid City Mission.

Shortly after his mission his sister Martha talked him into taking her and a co-worker, another nurse who worked with her at the hospital, to a Christmas dance. On new Years day he proposed to that nurse and was married (and sealed) to Genevieve Holyoak on April 9, 1953 in the Manti, Utah Temple. To their union were born eight children. He an Genevieve raised their children mostly in Moab, Utah.

He was very creative. We had one-of-a-kind swing sets and playground toys mostly made from scrap metal. He would build play houses for us. Someone would offer him money (which always came in handy to supplement his construction worker's income), for those houses, so he would sell our playhouse and build us another.

Loren was a student of the scriptures. He was always studying them and sharing his insights with us even up to a few days before his passing. He loved the Gospel and his Savior, Jesus Christ.

When Genevieve passed away on November, 2, 2011 it seemed to take the wind out of his sails. Loren left this mortal phase of his life to be reunited with his sweetheart and eternal companion on March 9, 2012. I love you Daddy. "You're so precious."