Monday, December 10, 2012

A Colorado Christmas

From Dec. 25, 2004

My earliest memories of Christmas include time spent at the “Farm,” my grandparents’ home on a former dairy farm nestled between two hills. The driveway is long and steep, and sometimes hard to drive up in the winter. The fields surrounding the house were ideal for sledding, and so was the front yard. Snow would fall off the roof in front of the kitchen window and pile up high enough to give us a great start for sledding through the yard, across the driveway and into the raspberry patch. Wet hats and mittens were left to dry on a radiator at the bottom of the stairs and the fireplace was always going to warm us up.
The back hill was home to antennas and towers for the local cable company. The tallest tower had a blinking red light. When I was very small, I believed it to be Rudolph’s nose.
While living in Colorado, my family made a few trips back to the U.P. for Christmas at the Farm. For two holiday seasons, though, we tried to bring the magic of a Christmas spent as a family to the mountains of Colorado.
And we succeeded.
Rather than spending the holiday cooped up in our apartment, my parents rented a cabin in Marble, Colorado. Once a prosperous community home to the workers of the nearby marble quarry that gave the town its name, in the late 1980s, Marble was practically a ghost town. Marble from the quarry was used to make the Lincoln Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and many other buildings and monuments.
The cabin was big enough to sleep twelve, so my parents invited other members of the family to join us. Aunt Laura came from Denver with her family and Uncle John from Colorado Springs with his daughter. During our first year there, Aunt Mary from Spokane joined us; and on our second visit, Aunt Carol flew in from Germany.
The cabin had electricity, a telephone, running water and a full kitchen. What it did not have was a television.
And we didn’t miss it. We brought all of our Christmas presents, a live tree, decorations and food with us. We even brought our cat, Riley, who kept us up one night as she chased a mole through the cabin.
Days were spent hiking, skiing at a nearby resort, sledding, shopping expeditions and exploring. Evenings were spent talking, playing games, reading next to the fireplace, cooking and eating.
That part of Colorado has many natural hot springs. One bubbles up along the banks of the Crystal River, down the road from Marble. Locals build up a pile of rocks around the springs to make a pool, with a little river water allowed in to make it a comfortable temperature. Many bathe there in nothing at all, but we opted to wear swimsuits when we tried it.
Being outside at night, surrounded by snow-covered mountains, is an experience I will never forget. The warm water may make you drowsy, but the dash back to the car in winter air wakes you up in a hurry.
On Christmas Eve, we attended a nondenominational midnight service, complete with candlelight and singing many of our favorite carols.
To be able to get away from it all for the holiday, and share the experience with those you love in such beautiful surroundings makes for a magical Christmas.
May yours be as blessed.

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