From the desk : Christmas travels and tales

December 21, 2001

I finally caught her in the act! Last week I spotted a petite Hispanic woman in red slacks decorating the tree on the north side of Interstate 8.

For several years the sturdy cedar, about a mile east of Dogwood Road, has been decked out in colorful garlands and assorted ornaments at Christmas. The dispenser of holiday cheer was driving a white compact car. I smiled the rest of the day when I thought about her and it set a cheerful tone for my shopping that day.

Recently people have complained about poor service received at some businesses around the county. I am happy to report the opposite has been true for me this season. I purchased every single gift and gift certificate in Imperial County.

Carla from Kmart was unbelievably pleasant and helpful while I shopped for sweatshirts for a men's home in Holtville. The sizes ranged from XXXL to medium and she did her utmost to help find them. Monty, a checker, deserves a medal for his patience when my sister, Louise, and I decided to triple check the sizes at his check-out stand. There is more, but I am a bit embarrassed to share the generosity of the manager.


A local pharmacist and dentist filled my arms with toothbrushes and toothpaste for the men when I mentioned the gifts for the home. Church members, family and friends gave generously so these men who are trying to change their lives can have a brighter Christmas.

Dale and Martha Stuhr of Holtville got an early Christmas present. Their son, Arthur Taylor, 24, appeared on the "Today" show on Thanksgiving. As a recent honor graduate of the U.S. Navy boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill., he was selected to visit a family for Thanksgiving dinner. He was interviewed by "Today" show staffer Ann Curry.

I ended up with a beautifully shaped Christmas tree even though I was one of the last people to pick up my pre-ordered tree from the Holtville High School FFA.

The happiest part of this is that my daughter Gina and grandson Eric decorated the tree.

Last week Eric asked me: "Is Santa Claus fat because he doesn't eat right or because he doesn't exercise?"

Eric must be getting the message from his kindergarten teacher, Ellen Underwood, on the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.

To start the month I got to visit the lovely Pioneers' Museum "Holidays Around the World." At this annual event various ethnic groups represented at the museum offer delicious refreshments and help visitors get into the Christmas spirit.

One night I hosted the ladies of our church at our secret pal revealing party. Again Nathalie Heckenberg, 87, responded to our need for a pianist for our Christmas caroling. Each woman brought a dozen delicious cookies to share.

Saturday night I was able to attend the high school all-star football game in Brawley. Top players from Blythe to Calexico participated in this north/south event. My late husband was one of the former football players honored during half-time activities, and I got to visit with some of the old guys he played against.

It was a chilly night. By half time I couldn't feel my feet anymore.

A few days earlier I had a few people over for a simple supper of beans and salad, along with tamales from the kitchen of Helen Hurtado of Holtville. This is entertaining at its easiest.

Sunday afternoon our church had a wonderful home tour. We visited the beautifully decorated homes of Emil and Terry Schaffner, Kelly and Cheryl Keithly and Rick and DeAnn Hilfiker, and ate lots of tasty things.

My daughter Debbie in South Carolina organized an outdoor living nativity for the neighborhood children. One neighbor, a radiologist, contributed white examination gowns for the occasion. Debbie dyed the costumes and her husband, Phil, built a manger and stable.

The nativity display was scheduled for the same night as the annual toy collection. Debbie said Mary and Joseph and the wise men and the shepherds abandoned their posts when the Harley-Davidson riders drove down the street in front of the horse-drawn wagon carrying Santa.

Santa threw candy to the kids while elves in black leather went door to door for the toy collection. When the Hawgs passed the kids got back into their roles.

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