Sharing Nostalgia for Childhood at Christmas Time With Linda Gartz

Nostalgia. Comes from two Greek words meaning a longing for home. Probably Christmas brings out more nostalgia than any other time of the year. According to the New York Times, nostalgia is good for us.

I’ve been sharing nostalgic photos of vintage decorations and ornaments with those of you who subscribe to my weekly Magical Memoir Moments (just enter your email address in the box on the right if you want to join us).  Linda Gartz, an online friend, shared a story so delightful that I’ve asked her to share it with all of you. Linda was kind enough to review Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World recently. Here’s the link.

Linda Gartz, family archaeologist

First, a little background on Linda. She’s a documentary film producer and freelance writer turned memoirist. After she found an amazing cache of letters, a translator for the ancient German script, and an audience through her blog, she became a “family archaeologist.” Isn’t that a great phrase?

Today Linda is sharing on her blog the story she told me in response to my Magical Memoir Moments question two weeks ago: “What do you remember?”

Here’s her answer:

Linda Gartz waiting for Santa with her brothers, ca. 1957

Seeing Santa

On Christmas Eve, Dad pulled out the sleigh bells from the closet. “When Santa finishes putting out all the gifts, he’ll shake these sleigh bells as a signal that he’s done. Then, we have to give him a few minutes to leave. It we see Santa, we destroy the magic, and he won’t come back.”

I had two brothers, one three years older, Paul,  and one almost five years younger, Billy. We watched Dad lay out the leather strap, festooned with fat brass bells, festively jingling, and exchanged gleeful smiles.

No going to bed for us to wait for Santa! When he arrived, we would be right here, ears pricked for the jingle of sleigh bells. We weren’t like those dumb kids who had to wake up in the morning to find piles of gifts. No wonder they had no faith and didn’t believe in Santa!

It was obvious that while they slept, their parents just pulled stashes of gifts out of hiding to place under the tree. Santa would come while every relative and close friend was right in front of our eyes.

But now the tree was empty beneath. Closing my eyes, I imagined the brightly colored packages piled at its base. I grabbed Dad’s hand and skipped across the room at his side, twirling and babbling about Santa.

We passed through the doorway that separated our living room from the long hallway leading into the dining room. Dad closed the door to the living room, shutting out Christmas behind us. He then bent over to talk to us quietly, his tone impishly serious. “We can’t open that door until ten minutes after the sleigh bells ring. If we see Santa, he might not come back.”

Read the rest at Linda’s blog. And while you are there, wish her a Merry Christmas and check out the amazing collection of stories and letters at her site.

Stuart and I are off to New Jersey in twenty-four hours. Then we’ll visit Mother in Pennsylvania and then host all our children and grandchildren at our house. The Santa hat and boots will get a good workout.

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Shirley Showalter


  1. Laurie Buchanan on December 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Shirley – Oh how fun! I’m going to follow the trail of breadcrumbs snow…

  2. shirleyhs on December 17, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Laurie, I hit publish before I intended to and before Linda’s blog was published. Oops. The link should work tomorrow. I’ll share it with you again. 🙂

  3. Laurie Buchanan on December 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Shirley – The word “snow” in my previous comment is supposed to be “now.” That said, I went over to Linda’s blog (clicked on “here’s the link”) to continue reading “Seeing Santa” the and I couldn’t find it, but I did discover a lot of other great information. I also see that Linda’s a member of “She Writes” (so am I), so I sent her a “friend” invitation.

    • shirleyhs on December 17, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Wonderful, Laurie. I’m confident that the two of you will enjoy each other’s work. Thanks for exploring.

  4. Linda Gartz on December 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Hi Shirley,
    Thank you for this lovely introduction to my Christmas story. It’s up and published now, so I hope all your friends can join me in seeing what a special event it was to “wait up” for Santa. And Laurie, I’ll look forward to beginning an online friendship with you as well!

    • shirleyhs on December 18, 2013 at 9:11 am

      Thanks, Linda, I think the link is working now. So glad you have found Laurie, too. You will love what she writes every Tuesday. Short. Profound. Beautiful. No wonder she has over 4,000 people on her mailing list!

      And now, thank you for your own work with family archaeology, your own willingness to share memories and artifacts of the past, and your own sacrifices in order to make them beautiful.

      Quick! I hear bells! Merry Christmas.

  5. Tina Fariss Barbour on December 18, 2013 at 12:48 am

    What a lovely story! I could feel the excitement and fear all wrapped up together. Thank you for sharing Linda’s story, Shirley. I have WWII letters, too, that my father wrote and his own written life story. This inspires me to do some digging, too.

    I enjoy your Magical Memoir emails. They prompt me to remember many things. Your recent one that featured the carousel powered by a candle brought back forgotten memories. We have one of those.:-)

    Enjoy your trip and your Christmas with your family! Blessings to you, Shirley.

    • shirleyhs on December 18, 2013 at 9:07 am

      Tina, thanks for sharing your own nostalgia. It was the picture of that Swedish Carousel that ignited Linda’s memory of her creative Santa father with his bells.

      So glad to know you enjoy MMMs. I’m going to make them more of a focus in 2014. Stay tuned!

      And stay well and warm this Christmas! Thank you for your presence here for so long. You are part of my online “family.”

  6. Tina Fariss Barbour on December 18, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Or I should say, we *had* one of those, when I was growing up.

  7. Laurie Buchanan on December 18, 2013 at 11:13 am

    The link works now and I was able to finish reading Linda’s magical story. Oh the thrill of seeing Santa’s boots from under the door — head pressed to the floor with butt sticking up in the air.

    • shirleyhs on December 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Great image, Laurie! And I’ll bet you were the kind of child that would do just that. Glad the link is working now. I’ve been trying to leave a comment on Linda’s site but WordPress doesn’t want me to check in for some reason. Ah the joys of technology. . .

      • Laurie Buchanan on December 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

        Shirley – I wasn’t able to leave a comment either. I just sent Linda an email with the same message. It appears that WordPress wants us to check in as Linda. Which, of course, we can’t do.

  8. shirleyhs on December 18, 2013 at 11:33 am

    That’s good to know, Laurie. Thanks!

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