(Column 47 – Published in the January 3rd Warroad Pioneer)
We had all joined hands in a huge family circle before our Christmas dinner, waiting for the last few to straggle in from the various parts of the house. When almost everyone had found a place in the circle, my younger brother Ward stopped the show holding up a piece of paper.
“Ellie wrote this story for school,” he said. “And this would be the perfect time to share it.”
Ellie is his wife’s 12-year old daughter and we welcomed them both as part of our family well before the wedding took place. Ward walked across the big circle. “She’s too embarrassed to read it, but here…,” he handed it to Kristal, our oldest sibling. Kristal is always good at on-the-spottedness.
She found her new reading glasses and within the first paragraph, Ellie, through Kristal, had most of us in tears.
We laughed and we cried, and at the end of this young girls’ story, we all held hands a little bit tighter before letting go for applause and whooping hollers of appreciation. My dad’s voice cracked as he said the blessing and looked around the circle at all of us. “You have no idea how much this means,” he said quietly, referring to the family as he held up both of his linked hands. “Just wait until you get older.” A single tear slipped down.
“You mean like Tony?” Ward guffawed. Everyone laughed. Several more wise cracks floated through the sentimental wrinkles of our tough facades. But for everyone standing in that circle, and for the few on opposite sides of the country who couldn’t make it, nothing means more to us than this great big and growing-bigger family.
Here is Ellie’s story. It touched my heart to hear about our family’s celebration through her young eyes and tender position. It is one small but hugely important perspective of the amazing big-family experience I’ve been blessed with my whole life. And my dad is right; it only gets more precious as the years go by.
I’ve left her story as it was originally written, without correcting one word or punctuation mark. It comes from where she’s at in the world and it’s exactly perfect as is. Enjoy. And Happy New Year!
The Knight’s Christmas
(By Ellie Sabourin, Age 12)
Every other year the whole Knight family gathers at Grandma Linda’s and Grandpa Bill’s HUGE log cabin, named “The Big House.” The house looks like those beautiful log houses you see in the magazines. It doesn’t sound like much, but when your grandparents had 8 children, all of them are married, and they all have about 3 children, and not to mention the half dozen dogs that try to eat every scrap that hits the floor. We should have our own movie, like the Griswold’s. Just imagine the chaos and excitement in that house, and the amount of cookies baked.
Since Grandpa has a band, we have a party and the whole Northwest Angle (population 150) comes. It’s so much fun! The Knight Lighters play until 3 in the morning while us kids get thrown into the snowbank by Casy, or for entertainment we put Iris’s Barbie on a remote control snowmobile. Other memorable activities include the 12 days of Christmas puppet theater. We each got to design our homemade sock puppet character with a cartoon singing voice. We also enjoy racing up and down the driveway barefoot in the snow. I’m pretty sure we could be youtube stars.
Grandpa Bill added a swing inside the house hanging from a log beam and we push each other just high enough to touch the delicate and massive moose antler chandelier. One year we put out all the mattresses from the 23 beds into the great room and it was like a trampoline park. When we are all worn out from countless games and running non stop Auntie Kellie spoils us with a big screen projected movie and Grampa’s amazing popcorn with just the right amount of butter (about 2 sticks) and salt.
All the women and girls enjoy baking in the kitchen around the island handbuilt by Grampa. Our family is so big we have a calendar that tells us whose turn it is to cook. We all get a turn to make a mess and taste test our creations. My favorite is the ice cream that Layla and I made from snow. I also enjoy decorating sugar cookies with Oma and Auntie Kristal except the little boys eat them faster than we bake them.
Last year in particular was one of my favorites. We had a expedition to get Grandma a real Christmas tree to add to the 6 artificial ones. Here’s the challenge….we had to get 22 children round up, dressed up and loaded up into sleds and snowmobiles. Talk about being squished like sardines into sleds! Plus the tree had to come back with us, after much disagreement on choosing the perfect tree. As children were dozing off in the snow we finally agreed to disagree on the perfect tree, did a headcount and headed off back home. Every little kid on the way back were saying “my hands are cold, i have to pee, don’t touch me, are we there yet?” A 45 minute deal turns into an 2 hour deal.
Then Nolan, Layla and I went snowmobiling with a sled. It was freedom from the little kids and a opportunity to start a new game. We called it Whiplash were one crazy driving cousin pulls someone on the sled behind them whipping them off the sled into the field. The person with the least amount of falls win. After all that pain we are rewarded with delicious hot chocolate.
Another favorite activity is we got to make gingerbread houses with Auntie Kristal who bought every kind of candy in the world. Most candies were eaten before houses were assembled. The most talked about and debated tradition would have to be the girls against boys ice fishing competition. We spend the whole day on the ice. One year the boys cheated when someone in a nearby fish house offered the boys there extra fish. Of course they added that to their total, winning by 1 fish or something like that. But details don’t matter and we all had a great time.
I can’t wait for this upcoming Christmas. No matter what we do, we always have fun because we are together. With all the chaos and excitement you are never bored! I love being a grandchild in the Knight family even if I have to wait in line to use a bathroom (there’s 3).