Loyal readers of DotMom’s Mixing & Musing column over the years will recall her Christmas tradition of writing a letter to her granddaughters, beginning with eldest Gretchen, then adding Ingrid and Alexis as they joined the family.
Well, those three are now beautiful grown-up women of whom DotMom would be so very proud, and there’s a new generation of great-grands — Mason, 3, and Millie, 2 months — son and daughter of Gretchen and husband Steve. And so, today I start a new tradition, a letter to Dorthy’s great-grandchildren — my great-nephew and great-niece.
Dear Mason and Millie,
Before Mason arrived on the scene a while back, it had been quite a few years since our family had little ones underfoot during the holiday season — your cousin Alexis is now a sophomore in college — and we’d forgotten how amazing it is to take in the wonderment of the season through the eyes of a child.
We are looking forward to spending some time with you at Christmas, but really already celebrated the holidays at Thanksgiving, when much of the Rickers clan came to visit you in Baxter and be there for Millie’s baptism.
Mason, at 3 years of age, you are an exuberant ball of energy, delighting — and exhausting at times— your older relatives. The spitting image of your mother at the same age — a male version, of course — with a riot of blonde curls on top of your head, sparking blue eyes and an infectious smile that hints at a bit of devilment, you keep us all on our toes.
What fun we had at the huge indoor waterpark at the hotel! Do you remember when I couldn’t get my shoulders through the hole in the raft, and you valiantly tried to pull me through? I was laughing so hard I think I swallowed a gallon of water. You were a social tadpole, paddling from one group of relatives from another as we shamelessly vied for your attention. Later in the day, when all the excitement of the festivities became overwhelming, you curled up in my lap, put your head on my shoulder and melted my heart.
Millie, you won’t remember your first Christmas, but you have also stolen our hearts — already bestowing beautiful smiles and wide-eyed gazes upon whoever is holding you. You are such a happy and mellow baby, a stark contrast to your spitfire toddler brother at this point in time, although we realize that a year or two down the road you will likely be wearing us out, too.
The only time I’ve seen you truly unhappy is when we tried to stuff you into the pink felt Christmas stocking that I made for you — a quirky tradition we started with Mason. For you, it was a tight fit, and you scrunched up your face in preparation for a loud beller. But with a bit of toodling (Grandma Dot’s word for the light bouncing of a baby), that frown quickly turned back into a smile.
In just a few short days, you will make the trip to Worthington with your Mom and Dad. One of these years, we need to continue the cookie-baking tradition that Great-Grandma Dorthy started with your mom, but I don’t think there will be time this time around, and even you, Mason, are perhaps a bit too young to undertake such an endeavor.
But there are many other traditions that will be carried out this Christmas season, including the longstanding Rickers tradition of photographic Christmas cards. We’ve already received your family’s annual photograph and missive, done up in the form of a newspaper complete with a Mixing & Musing column in honor of Great-Grandma Dot. Mom Gretchen writes, “This French Hamburger is a meal that is enjoyed by children and adults alike,” so we assume it must be a regular on the menu at your house.
Brown 1 pound ground beef with some onion. Drain well and add salt and pepper to taste.
Slice a loaf of French bread lengthwise, leaving one side hinged. Pull out the soft bread, leaving a crust shell.
Crumble the soft bread crumbs into the hamburger and add 1 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup and 1½ cups cubed Velveeta cheese.
Spread hamburger mixture inside the bread shell. Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Slice and serve.
In that family newsletter, you, Mason and Millie, shared top billing in the headlines, and we rejoice in your presence in our lives. But as Christmas Day approaches, we reflect on the meaning of the season and another front-page story: The Christ child is born this day; Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Merry Christmas from GAB — Great Aunt Beth.