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If We Wrote A Christmas Letter

December 23, 2016


If we wrote a Christmas letter we would have to say this has been one of our more unusual years. Which is a big statement for us, because we have had some very unusual years.

What began for the Watkins as an eight week stay with us, has now stretched to almost a year and a half. As you already know, the most surprising part of their stay has been–to keep Johanna alive–the necessary cessation of all smelly activities in our house, which most notably include cooking and eating food.  Another unusual feature of their stay has been international attention in the form of news articles about Johanna’s rare allergies from sources including the BBC, the Daily Mail, and People Magazine, to name a few.  All of these articles give a nod to “Dan and Lucy Olson who eat out on the porch!”….all except the Washington Post, which gave a nod to “Scott and Lucy Olson who eat out on the porch!” Here is a link to our favorite article, and to a ten minute segment on our local news that explains her disease in more detail.

The kids were so excited to see our family interviewed on the news.  Or more accurately, Dan and I were interviewed.  The children sat quietly by like little owls that never blinked.  Charlie was pleased that the rest of the family has now joined mom in the category of famous people.  “You were already famous, Mom. Due to playing frisbee with a clown,” he explained.* (The clown and the frisbee, in the footnote below, were the low point of my year.)

This week, we have been busy getting ready for Christmas.  We decorated Christmas cookies (Which we baked at a neighbors house if you were wondering.)  Decorating Christmas cookies is a little like having a baby. Somehow every year I miraculously forget the pain and want to do it again. I still don’t understand why it is such a disaster.  Somehow the whole house looks ransacked by the end and it takes me two days to summon my strength to clean up the kitchen.  Then twelve months later I think, wouldn’t it be fun to decorate Christmas cookies?  I suppose it’s worth it for these appetizing dainties:


Last Monday we had our annual outing Christmas caroling at a nursing home. We visited a different nursing home this year.  Dan printed song sheets.  We took his guitar and a few violins.  We sang and played for a group of folks gathered in the lounge for the occasion. Dan did his best to engage the audience and get them to join us in singing.  Very slowly the realization dawned, as one person after another pointed at their ears and shook their heads:  we were singing to a group of deaf people.  That did not stop us.  We went right on singing to the end. Maybe we will sing to the deaf every year. We are Christmas Carolers, and we do not discriminate.

In addition to cookie baking and nursing home singing, Annie and Miss P have been organizing the presents under the Christmas tree.  Each morning, even before breakfast, all presents are removed from the tree, lined up, and sorted.  Some days by size.  Some days by weight.  Some days by giver or recipient.  It takes HOURS for the two of them to sort those presents. It is a big responsibility. They have to work together to move the big kahuna around every morning. In this big box is a present we cannot open too soon. It is a bathtub caddy that includes a book stand to keep your book out of your bath water. Bathtub reading runs in the family, but being still too short to reach the end of the tub, Elisabeth sort of floats and bobs around with her book half submerged.  She does this every night.  Most of our books have now been submerged.  Aunt Betsy suggested the caddy. The school librarian would like to thank her.

Today, December 23rd, we are taking a break from our busyness and heading over to the dollar theater, where Christmas movies will be playing all day!  I may have to forgo Miracle on 34th street at 2:00 for an emergency drive to Groth Music in Bloomington. I don’t understand what has gotten into me, but in the long tradition of my forebears, I am racing out at the last minute to make Charlie’s Christmas wish come true.  It is very hard not to give a child what they want for Christmas.  Especially when, being the musical bird that he is, his heart’s desire is not a toy, but an upright bass. Have you ever seen an upright bass? My friend Angie, whose husband is a professional bass player (and has agreed to get Charlie started with a few lessons) appropriately describes it as “a noble beast”. Thank the Lord we already own a large van.  Or we would have to visit Groth music as well as the van dealership to make this dream come true.  Last week, Charlie said he had a dream that he came down on Christmas morning and there was a cello under the tree.  Even in his dreams he didn’t envision a giant bass. And the girls thought the bathtub caddy was a large package!

We are leaving for our Birmingham Christmas on the 26th,  and so will be here in Minneapolis on Christmas day which is something we have never done before. When we made our plans months ago, we didn’t know that our house would still be Johanna’s makeshift hospital with various family members camping out here to help her and a long list of off-limits  Christmas activities such as: candle burning, fireplace lighting, hot drink drinking, and live tree trimming.**

But do you know what? Every time I start thinking about navigating the logistics of Christmas Day under such unusual circumstances, all my thoughts are drowned out by one voice: “I was sick and you visited me.”

Johanna is so so sick.  And although many people are working so hard to renovate a house with a special wing she can safely live in, right now she cannot be safely moved.  She really doesn’t have anywhere else to go.  And we love her so. To have the honor of giving her and her husband a little shelter in their storm feels to me like we’ve got baby Jesus himself up there in our master bedroom. I can’t think of anything more Christmasy than that. We are grateful to them for giving us this privilege… especially on Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all!


Dan, Lucy, Charlie, Elisabeth, Miss P, and Annie

*Footnote: You know what is not Christmasy?  Playing frisbee with a clown, I’m telling you. I found myself in this unfortunate situation last July in Amery, WI.  We were in Amery anyway, and seemed like such a good idea to take the kids to the little one-ring circus that had been set up in the vacant lot behind the fire station, right by the big recycling bins.  It was a big tent with at least 500 people crammed in there and a truly impressive little circus run by a circus family.  As I sat, pleased to be enjoying such affordable and family friendly entertainment, the lone clown called out for a volunteer.  His eyes scanned the crowd. Not only did I not raise my hand I attempted to disappear but there was no place to run. He made a beeline for me.  It all made sense when I learned the activity for which he needed me: throwing rings over my head from various distances. I have always been known for my very large head. Dan also comes from a family of genetically big heads.  Together, he and I produce little lollipops (as explained in this post). Clearly the clown thought a nice, tall,  lollipop shaped adult was his best bet. The worst part was the expectation that I would throw the rings back to him like frisbees.  I cannot throw a frisbee. They went all over the place. It was a nightmare. And the clown and I, the only act in the center ring, seemed to have one of the longer acts in the circus. It went on and on and on. I was covered in sweat.  It was just awful. The price of fame I guess.

**I must say it is probably for the best that we couldn’t have a live tree this year, as explained in this old post.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brenda permalink
    December 23, 2016 10:27 am

    I am WEEPING with laughter!!! Thanks for making my Christmas Merry. Aunt B.

  2. George permalink
    December 26, 2016 11:06 am

    You are so, so good at blogging. I teared up a little too, and i have a higher dew point that Aunt B.

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