Memories of Christmas in Marion

Editor’s note: Karen Burk Watts is a granddaughter of longtime Marion County Record columnist Norma Hannaford, who passed away July 8, 2010.

“Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go!”

We sang that song in the car every Christmas while we were driving to Marion. The excitement I felt was almost unbearable, and I’m sure it was a little unbearable for my family. I remember sitting in the backseat, in the middle, leaning over the front seat (before seatbelts) between Dad and Mom, singing at the top of my lungs.

Oh, and then there was the old bridge on the west side of town, before it was torn down and before the road was re-routed. It was a contest each time to see the bridge first, all of us shouting, “I see the bridge, I see the bridge!” Next we took the drive down Christmas-lit Main Street, turned left on Elm Street, up the hill and we were there.

I can still hear the sound of the tires rolling on the brick and smell the local fireplaces. Just past the charming and loved Presbyterian Church … we finally arrived at Gaga’s house! We jumped out of the car before it even stopped, racing up the sidewalk and up the front porch, running through the (never locked) front door. There were so many hugs and kisses from everyone in that house. Aunts and uncles and cousins were everywhere ... Hannafords, Exlines, and Burks. And of course, there was the grand dame — Gaga!

I remember stockings hanging all the way across the fireplace. What seemed like hundreds of gifts under the tree spilled out into the entire living room. There was so much joy and laughter in that house on Elm Street.

Where did we all sleep? I am sure some were at Bud and Lavonne’s! I know all the cousins were together — Kenny, Kris, Kathy, Karen, Roger, Gayle, Rob, David, and Jean. We could not sleep at all, we giggled and giggled with anticipation of what was to come on Christmas morning. Mother had her kids in matching pajamas, or at least two of us!

We all ate together, it seemed the dining room table extended from the kitchen to the front door! We loved Gaga’s delicious pecan rolls, her tasty Chex mix, Uncle Bud’s peppernuts, Hershey’s candy bars from Edna Shahan, and decorated sugar cookies from Mrs. Mullen.

Oh, and if there was snow, Elm Street would be blocked off and opened for sledding! What fun! We never tired from walking back up the hill and sledding down again and again! I remember Uncle Bud being just as excited as we were! His enthusiasm was so contagious and he loved to see us have fun!

This Christmas, like all the others, brings back special memories of what seemed like simpler and more innocent times, of family and what lengths they went to make Christmas magical for the children. I treasure memories of Gaga, who made everything so special. Every year, we couldn’t wait to get to this little town called Marion, in the middle of Kansas.

Merry Christmas, Marion! Gaga and Uncle Bud, we all miss you!

Karen Burk Watts
Colorado Springs, Colo.

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