For many Christmases, my brother Gary was always the first one to wake up. He would run into our bedroom and wake Charmaine and I up. The three of us would run to the living room where Santa had many toys wrapped for us under the tree. We would rip open all our gifts before our parents even woke up. It was so much fun.
Later we would visit our Grandpa Walt and Grandma Louise, who also had nice presents for us. Sometimes we played with the boxes more than the toys, pretending they were cars. Our grandparents there had a staircase with a nice, thick carpet on it in the living room. We used to love to sit on a blanket, hold it in front and slide down the stairs. If I did that nowadays I'd be visiting a chiropractor.
After this we would visit Busia on the farm, and grandpa Harry. Busia is how you say grandma in Polish. Busia (Katherine) couldn't afford to buy us gifts but we had a different gift money can't buy. It was a gift just to be able to visit all our beautiful aunts, uncles and cousins - and there were a lot of them.
Writes Brenda Butler: “Here is a picture of the ‘good, old days.’ I believe Santa Claus — my mother, Mary — took the picture. In the photo is my grandma Louise Mauthe with my sister Charmaine on her lap. My great grandma Jennie Boleski with my brother Gary on her lap and me sitting next to them. Standing in the back is my dad Richard Butler. I’m not sure why our grandpa (Walt) isn’t in the picture. This picture was taken in 1961 before Gary could walk and years before our other sister Rhonda was born.”
Busia spoke little English. We could hear our mother, aunts and uncles speaking Polish. Mom would often have to translate what Busia said to us.
I have a cousin Dave who used to love to tease me about my middle name, which is Lee. As a child, I felt Lee was a boy's name, so I disliked it. So Dave made up this song which was similar to the limbo tune. I heard this song all year. "Brenda Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee. Brenda Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee." He even got his sister Darcy to sing it to me. I would get mad and yell, "Shut up!" The more I yelled "Shut up," the more they sang that song.
As I got older, when they sang that song I just laughed, so they stopped singing it. They said it wasn't fun anymore because I didn't get mad anymore.
Christmas has changed, of course. My sisters and I are Santa to our own children. My brother actually dresses occasionally as Santa for children's parties and old folks homes. All our grandparents have passed away. We still have a few uncles, an aunt and a cousin. We visit our parents now. We no longer see our aunts, uncles and cousins on Christmas Day.
Every year I get a Christmas card from California, addressed to "Brenda Lee Lee Lee Lee Butler" from cousin Dave. It makes me smile - and I now like my middle name.
Brenda L. Butler