Friday, December 23, 2011

Footprints in the Snow by Ruth Heston (Amanda's daughter)

Footprints in the Snow

The Carlson's, Charles and Josephine and their children, Severin, Clara, Carl Adolf, Amanda, and Frank, lived comfortably in their first home on Ridge Street until a few years later when Charles purchased property on Park Street in the West part of the city of Keokuk. This proved to be their permanent home for them and three generations yet to be. It was a very nice location just across the street from Bluff Park, a most appropriate name given to the park, for it was situated high on a bluff that offered a scenic view of the Mississippi River. Bluff Park also offered a unique view of three states, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois.
Not unlike their former home on Ridge Street, Josephine used her gift of artistry to once again paint beautiful murals on the walls of each and every room in their home on Park Street. And the little wooden trunk that accompanied them on their recent voyage from their homeland in Sweden was placed at the foot of their bed. The treasures it once held during the voyage now held Josephine's beautiful hand made quilts.
Soon after the move to Park Street another member joined the family. There lay a big beautiful dog on their front porch one warm sunny afternoon possibly seeking a bit of shade from the bearing down summer sun. Josephine, in passing a front window, saw the dog lying there panting and went to the kitchen to find a suitable pan to fill with cool water. The dog was thirsty and after drinking the pan dry, he looked up into Josephine's loving eyes as she looked down into his, and at that moment a certain bond passed between them.
It was that day the ever grateful loving dog found an ever grateful loving family. They named him Shep. Soon he answered to Ol' Shep. Not that he was old by any means, young adult maybe, but not old. Perhaps Ol' was attached because of his loyalty, intelligence, and courage.
The summer passed and all too soon the leaves began showing their fall colors. If a leaf on a tree has any feelings at all, it isn't anxious for autumn, but autumn comes to all of creation and a time to let go. And the leaves did let go from the old oak tree in their front yard. Winter came early that particular year and brought with it lots of snow. Sleighbells rang out from the many horse drawn sleighs passing by.
It was nearing Christmastime and Josephine, Clara, and Amanda were busy in the kitchen baking and decorating cookies, baking fruitcakes, and other traditional goodies that went along with the season.
The day before Christmas the snow began falling. Lightly at first with flakes as big as siver dollars and then smaller flakes began falling the rest of the day and the wind picked up causing blizzard-like conditions. Charles reluctantly annonunced the family would not be venturning out to attend the customary early morning church service due to the weather conditions.
After relishing their traditional smorgasbord on Christmas Eve, everyone gathered around the Christmas tree and opened their long awaited gifts to one another. It had been a full day of excitement filled with anticipation and was soon a welcome bedtime. However before the little family turned in for the night Charles once again, as he did every Christmas Eve, read the Christmas story from Den Heliga Skrift (The Holy Scripture).
When all were asleep, Josephine slipped out of bed to look out the window to see the snow had drifted onto the front porch below and was very deep. Being of strong will, Josephine laid out her clothes for the trek to Julotta and crept back to bed. She lay there listening for the chime of the clock on the wall downstairs to strike four and when it did, she dressed in semidarkness. She donned her winter coat, wrapped a shawl around her head and shoulders, pulled on her galoshes and slipped out the door so as not to awaken the family. Nothing was going to keep her from going to Julotta. Julotta is a Swedish word meaning 'Chrismas service before dawn'.
As Josephine trudged along on her journey to the little Church on 12th and Morgan Street perhaps a mile and a half from their home, she found it to be a beautiful silent night, a Holy night, for all was calm and all was bright.
When she had walked perhaps three blocks in the deep snow, there suddenly appeared the figure of a man just ahead standing quite still who seemed to be waiting for her. As she drew near, he called her by name and said to her, "Josephine, you are going to Julotta". In a soft spoken voice he went on, "I am also going that way and it will be well for you if you walk in my footsteps." With that, he turned and began walking swiftly ahead of her leaving deep footprints in the snow. She was bewildered as to how he knew her name and where she was going at this early hour in the morning, but ever greatful for his offer and followed in his footsteps that indeed made walking much easier. However she pondered on this all along the way.
As Josephine neared the church she beheld a warm and welcoming sight to see candles had been placed inside at each window reflecting their flickering light to outside and onto the drifted snow. Upon entering the church she looked for the good man to thank him for his kindness in making the footprints in the snow for her to follow even up and to the door, and there they stopped.
It was still very early and the church was quite empty except for the Pastor who was standing in the pulpit looking over his message for the Julotta.
He greeted her, "Merry Christmas, Josephine, how good to see you and to think you are the first to come through the door on this joyous Christmas morning"!

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