JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Remember who loves you the most

Most Christmas Eve church services for children years ago were held in front of standing room only crowds.

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Most Christmas Eve church services for children years ago were held in front of standing room only crowds. I remember marching down the aisle singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” The congregation joined in as we sat in the front row pews, which were reserved for the Sunday School kids.

One by one we stood in front of the congregation to recite our Christmas pieces taken from Biblical texts about the Christmas story. Our Sunday School teachers reminded us to talk loudly and clearly and slowly, which, of course, few kids did. It was Academy Award night for parents who always gave their kids Oscars regardless of what they said or how they said it.

After singing a few Christmas carols and after my grandfather, who was the pastor, delivered a short message reminding us again about the true meaning of Christmas, we returned down the aisle singing, “Joy To The World.” The church elders then handed out large bags of candy, nuts and fruit to each child. We said “thanks” and hung on tightly to our bag of goodies.

After the service, we went home to open our gifts. My grandmother on my mother’s side rode home with us and then we waited for my grandfather to close down the church, after which, he and my grandmother on my father’s side would join us.

Waiting for my grandfather to come before we could open our presents was a real challenge. My brother and I passed the time away by holding and shaking the gifts and eating my mother’s date-filled cookies. My mother would get the coffee and cookies ready and when my grandparents arrived we would gather around the Christmas tree and open the presents.


Like most people then, my parents were not by any means wealthy nor were they poor. They had enough to get by and for most families in those days, just a little meant a lot.

After the presents were opened, my parents and grandparents would share their thoughts about the Christmas Eve service, commenting on how nice it was to see the church filled to capacity. As it happened in previous years, each Christmas Eve around 10 p.m., there was a knock at our kitchen door.

“Go answer the door,” my mother told my brother. “I wonder who could be here at this hour?”

My brother opened the door and there stood someone dressed as Santa. My brother and I were a bit too old to still believe in Santa but, nevertheless, there was Santa, kind of rolly-polly with rosy cheeks and looking very much like a jolly old elf.

“Merry Christmas,” Santa said while giving each of us a big frosted cookie. “Have you been good boys this past year?” Santa asked. Naturally, we said we had been and then Santa said an interesting thing, “I want you to remember one very important thing.” “What’s that?” we asked. “Always remember who loves you the most,” Santa said with a wink and then left.

A few years later when I was about 13, I got a job working at the local Red Owl store carrying groceries. Like every small town, we had our share of colorful characters. There was Mr. Townsand who always purchased eight or nine large cans of sweet potatoes and six large loves of Red Owl bread. There was Alfred Miller who smelled like smoke and was rumored to sleep in a stock tank fearful of the rats in his house. And there was Mrs. Pischell who still drove to town in a Model A Ford.

I would carry out her groceries and after putting them in the car she would ask, “Johnny, would you go over to the Corner Bar and get me a half-pint of Apricot Brandy?”

I told her that I wasn’t allowed to go into bars, but she said, “Oh, it’s okay. Just tell them it’s for me.” So she gave me some money and I bought the brandy for her.


As I gave her the brandy she said, “Have you received any Christmas cookies lately?” I told her that my brother and I were probably too old and then I asked her, “How did you know about the cookies.” She said, “Oh, it’s a small town and word gets around.”

Just as she climbed into the car and after I gave the car a couple of cranks to get it started, she said, “Johnny, do you remember what the Christmas Santa reminded you never to forget?”

“Yes, I think so,” I said. “He reminded us never to forget who loved us the most.” “That’s right,” she said. “Don’t forget.” She then winked at me and drove away.

I can’t think of a better time of year to remember who loves each of us the most.

Merry Christmas.

Riddle: Where do you find the name of all Santa’s reindeer? (Answer: In Hooves Who. Remember who loves you the most.)


Thanks to the DAC of Northome and Northern Repair of Northome for being the most recent to support the 100% graduation rate initiative.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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