Darling Dimple Doll–And Christmas In Bethlehem!

Like any child, I loved Christmas!  A favorite memory was pouring over the Christmas binder my mom set out during the holiday.  It was an eclectic assortment of articles and stories that she had collected over the years about Christmas celebrations and traditions that have been enjoyed through the ages and passed down from one generation to another.  I never tired of reading the newspaper article entitled “Dear Virgina” based on a letter written by an 8 year year old girl to the editor of the New York Sun, asking if Santa really did exist!  “The Gift of the Magi” was another favorite!  I always wondered if I could have been as selfless as the couple portrayed in this timeless story.  There is a certain awe and wonder to Christmas that I treasure to this day!    I think it has evolved from the fact that my parents embraced a variety of ways to enjoy the Christmas season; they seemed to readily know how to strike a good balance between all the wonderful aspects of the Savior and Santa that each child loves most about Christmas!

mckena and nativity

My dad and mom were great story tellers, and the special details described in some of their Christmas celebrations in years past always captured my attention, and now make for my most cherished memories!

Darling Dimple Doll

“Merry Christmas to all! I heard Mama singing, and I hastened excitedly to explore the enchanted region round the shining tree that filled the room with the pungent odor of pine.”

“My heart pounded expectantly; then it seemed to halt when I saw smiling up at me from an adorable buggy, the darling Dimple Doll with arms reacing for me.  How could I resist?  I clasped her to me and with inexpressible delight and awe, I displayed my treasures to Mama and Daddy.  Many other Christmas surprises awaited me, but Dolly Dimples became my constant care.  Each morning, as soon as I was dressed, I brought her out to be bathed and dressed.  I took her for daily rides, undressed her for bed each evening, wheeled her buggy to the foot of my bed and kissed her for the night!”

–as told by Merle M. Jorgensen in her autobiography

My mom often described Christmas time with such phrases as happy children, toys, treats, relatives and proud parents.  I love that!

Christmas in Bethlehem-1937

My dad was privileged to travel abroad in 1937 for several months with his father.  They traveled with large trunks aboard big steamer ships.  They met interesting people of varied nationalities and from all walks of life.  His stories read like adventure novels!  Along the way he and his father, Nicholi Jorgensen, spent two weeks in Palestine at Christmas time.  This is how he shared his memories of that special Christmas in Bethlehem.

“On Christmas Eve, my father and I made our way with hundreds of others to Bethlehem.  It fit so well our expectations…the shepherd’s fields, the narrow streets, people in the New Testament clothing.  The full moon hung so low in the sky that it gave enough light so all was very visible.  We stood with the others in the Nativity Church courtyard and sang carols which were broadcast by radio to the world.  The mood of the occasion was inspiring.  It seemed as though our group was joined by the heavenly hosts, for the singing was beautiful.  Yes, then as now, the Arabs and the Jews were in discord with each other.  Many in our group were British soldiers with rifles at the ready to keep the peace.  After singing, we entered the Church of the Nativity and descended into the grotto which tradition marks as the birth place of the Savior.  A young Catholic friend, a Rhodes scholar from England, was traveling with us.  As he entered the birth room, he fell flat on the floor and then inched his way to the great star which he kissed–tears streamng down his cheeks.  Dad and I didn’t follow his example, for we were not raised in his traditions.  But we were very quiet for we knew we stood on holy ground.”

Beautiful Bethlehem: The Birth City of Christ

My father continues his account by saying,  “…for a few minutes I invite you to catch a glimpse of this city of Bethlehem…”

“Bethlehem is located in the top of the Judean mountains, and is one of the most rocky districts I have ever seen.  With the exception of a few meager sprinklings of olive, cypress, palm and a few other trees, Palestine is almost without forest or trees over it’s hills and valleys.  Probably this is the reason why Bethlehem and nearby cities are constructed almost entirely of rock.  The narrow streets, as well as the buildings of the city, are made with the same limestone rock.  The ancient habits and style of dress so common among Palestine Arabs and Jews impressed us greatly and we realized this country hadn’t changed as much as it might have since the birth of Jesus.”

“The center of the Christmas festivities in Bethlehem is in the Church of the Nativity, which according to tradition, shelters the spot where the old inn and stable stood.  A holy room marks, as nearly as possible, the location of the place where Christ was born and laid in the manger.  It is richly adorned with velvet hangings, oil paintings and lamps made from precious metals which throw a soft light to all parts of the room.  Needless to say, entering the small, sacred room was one of the most thrilling and impressive experiences of our lives.  It would be difficult to attempt a description of the feelings my father and I had when we realized we were really in Bethlehem and actually at the place where the old stable stood.  The reality of it sort of numbed our senses and we stood gazing in wonder, partaking of the Lord’s spirit which is so abundantly present there.”

NovemberThanksgiving 2012 216_v1

Singing Carols in the Nativity Church Courtyard

These were my dad’s final thoughts about his experience in Bethlehem at Christmas time… “After staying as long as we liked in this holy room, we ascended the steps to the main floor of the church.  We attended some of the services that commemorated the Savior’s birth, to which we were welcome visitors.  But of all these services, undoubtedly, the carol singing in the Natvity Church courtyard impressed us the most.  The words were in English and at least some of the music was familiar to us.  As we stood singing those Christmas carols in th clear, crisp air, with the quiet little town of Bethlehem all around us, we could almost imagine a star brightening in the sky.  A deep sense of appreciation crept into our hearts and we caught the spirit of unity in that great congregation.  Somehow we seem to have placed the same hope, faith and gratitude in Christ for the  gift of the resurrection and the chance of eternal salvation which He has given to us all.”

–quoted from LeRoy I Jorgensen’s autobiography

A most wonderful addition to this beautiful recollection of my father’s visit to the Holy Land, is that in December of 1979, shortly after I was married, my husband and I visited these same sacred places in Bethlehem during Christmas time with my parents.  At dusk, we sat in the hills that overlooked the little town of the Savior’s birth on Christmas eve, and just like my father had many years earlier, I was able to envision the beautiful events that took place in the little town of Bethlehem many hundreds of years before!

What I’m learning now is…

Christmas is always a magical time of year.  Christmas celebrations can be enjoyed in a variety of wonderful ways.  What I’m learning now is that children quickly sense the attitude and affection that their parent’s may have for making fun family traditions.  I feel it’s integral if we want to keep our families close, especially as children grow and go their separate ways, that we try and keep some form of the traditions established when they were young; then all hearts will indeed come home for Christmas!

I’d love to hear about the Christmas traditions in your families.



My husband says that love for Santa Claus is most assuredly an “aquired affection”!  Ha!

However, once established–the bond is deep and strong!

Merry Christmas!


The Perfect Parenting Coup After Trick Or Treating Sabotage!

This time of year, we like to share stories about Halloween!  As children, it seemed especially intriquing to huddle under blankets in the dark and tell exaggerated stories about Halloween, making sure to include haunting sound effects and raspy voice impressions!  I’d like to share my own, real life Halloween story…  

Long before the term “stranger danger”  became common vernacular, and an unlimited assortment of pre-made costumes on hangers could be found at your local drug store; and before climate controlled trick or treating was done at the mall, I remember rummaging around the house for the perfect mix of eclectic items to come up with my own festive, one-of-a-kind, Halloween attire.  (To be sure, each self-made garb was usually a funny Halloween story in and of itself!)  I often had to pile on extra layers underneath my costume to withstand the chill of the changing fall season that invariably saw a nose-dive in the thermometer right before Halloween night.

The specific story about Halloween that I’m recalling, took place when I was in second grade.  I was so excited to be going door to door with my older sister for the coveted bit-sized goodies.  After we attended our school fall festival, we met up with our friends at the back of the school play yard.  The dusky dark of the evening had just started to settle in.  We weren’t adorned with glow-in-the-dark accessories, nor did we carry blinking goblin flashlights, rather, we just dashed about the streets with our large group of costumed misfits!  We would stop under street lights on occasion and take a brief inventory of our loot.  If we spied a full sized candy bar amid the mini versions that typically dominated our treat bag, screams of delight were loudly proclaimed!  To be sure, the events of the previous evening’s ventures did incite the telling of stories about our successful Halloween conquests the next day.

One such brief stop however, soon found my sister and I, and a few other stragglers separated from the majority of our group.  Since the cold was starting to seep into the thermal layers under our costumes, we decided to finish up the final block of houses nearby that led up the street to our home.  In the abandon and excitement of wrapping up another Halloween excursion, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the figure walking nearby with his face huddled deep in the collar of his coat.  I chatted away with my sister as we rounderd the final corner into our neighborhood.  I even offered a greeting to the man as we walked past him.  My sister, feeling a bit less gregarious, nudged my ribs with her elbow.  When I turned to face her with a bit of exasperation, I suddenly felt a forceful hand grab my candy bag with such brute strength that the handles broke away immediately!  I watched in disbelief, as the shadowy configuration of the person who had just been beside us, ran off into an open field in the opposite direction of our home!   By now, my sister had grabbed my other arm and was literally dragging me home with the tips of my boots barely touching the ground.  I was still lamenting about the prized candy stash of delectable treats I had lost, when my sister recited the events of the incident to my parents.  If they were alarmed, they certainly curbed their reaction.  I remember them being only moderately disgruntled!  It was a school night, so they just encouraged us to get ready for bed.  In fact, it seemed they showed the most concern when they reminded us to brush our teeth!

It was a hard call to be my usual jovial self at school the next day, while stories about Halloween candy abundance were indeed shared with relish!  I also observed my friends sneaking mouthfuls of their treats during class.  At home after school, my siblings were discreet as they poured the mounds of goodies from their bags, enjoying the cherished ritual of dividing the candy into piles of the most favorite to least liked.  They were good to share with me once in a while, but as you can surmise–it was usually from the least liked pile!  I obviously went to bed a little despondent!  Although I didn’t know it yet, one of my fondest memories of Halloween was yet to unfold!SPOOKTACULAR VINTAGE-1     

The next morning was Saturday, and since I was an early riser, the house was quiet when I tiptoed to the family room to watch morning cartoons.  I wasn’t very far into my first show, when I thought I heard muffled voices coming from the bedrooms of my siblings.  I started to sneak stealth-like back down the hall, when suddenly my dad came out of his bedroom dressed in his work clothes.  He greeted me with a little too much cheer for someone ready to check off the chore list.  Then he pulled a brand new trick or treat bag from behind his back, and as I took it from his outstretched hand, I looked around and took note of the crayon artwork that decorated the doors down the hall.   As my mom coaxed me to knock on each door, they were opened with great decorum and bowls of candy were then presented for me to choose from and fill my bag.  To my delight, these wondrous antics went on for several rounds, until my bag held a generous supply of my favorite treats!

In the beginning paragraph of his autobiography, my dad shares one of his earliest childhood recollections.

“I was standing with my little, four-year-old right hand in my father’s big left hand as we stood looking at our new home.  The feelings I had were of contentment and security–two emotions which have followed me pretty much throughout my life.”  He goes on to say, “I think these feelings must have come from the inner realization that my parents were very happy and proud to have me as a member of their family.”

Looking back, I realize that these two emotions have also defined my life.  What I learned from my own Halloween story, on that fall weekend morning-long ago, is that Halloween wasn’t so much about the candy that year.  It was about my dad and mom showing me, in a way that I could appreciate at the age of seven, that they were grateful I was safe and still with them and our family!  I also remember still having to do Saturday chores!

What I’m Learning now…

Contentment is such a great word; my favorite, I think.  What I’m learning now is that amid all the many things we seek after in this life, being more content is perhaps what we need to strive for the most!      

How do you define contentment in your life? 

Happy Halloween!