Reinhardt Family History
Memories of Eggs and Chickens
Stories from Neil Reinhardt
A Christmas to Remember
The Christmas I remember most was when I was nine years old. We had been told ahead of time that we were not going to get much for Christmas because of the shortage of money in the Reinhardt household.
It was the custom of the Reinhardt kids to hang a stocking on Christmas Eve. Normally, the 'bad' kid found a potato or carrot in their stocking in the morning, and their presents were then hidden in some easy to find place. This way they had to think of their bad behavior for a while.
But on this particular morning the only thing we found was an orange in each stocking. There was a Christmas Tree decorated with tinsel and ornaments that were saved from the years before. The only new decoration on the tree was a string of popcorn. There were no presents under that tree that year.
The reason there was no money for Christmas that year was because the dairy herd had become infected with brucellosis1. But a Christmas without presents did not dampen the Christmas Spirit. We had one another.
[Note: Brucellosis infected cattle must be slaughtered immediately, and the Reinhardt milking herd, (and therefore their milk income), was drastically reduced. It takes years to recover from this disaster. Fewer cows mean less milk to sell, and a reduced income means there is no money for purchasing replacement cows. Newborn calves can be innoculated against brucellosis, but it takes a minimum of two years for a calf to enter the milking herd and begin producing milk.}
Christmas of 1975 is another one I will long remember. Our youngest daughter Sarah lived in El Paso at the time, where she had been attending the University of Texas. At this time she was teaching a kindergarten class at a local school to earn money to continue her education. She and her friend Letty shared an apartment. Letty was from Montana and was in El Paso to attend the University also. When her mom and dad decided on a vacation, they drove their motor home from Montana to visit Letty. As she would be staying with them in the motor home during their visit, Sarah invited Em, John and I to spend Christmas with her.
Several days before Christmas Day she met us at the El Paso Airport. What a surprise to step from the plane into the warm sunny weather! It was quite crowded in her Volkswagen Bug with the four of us and our luggage. She had rented a Santa Claus costume, and the next day I was to play Santa Claus to her kindergartners. As very few of them could speak English, I was in big trouble! The only Spanish I knew was 'Si Si'. Sarah would translate for me. I would cup my hand behind my ear pretending I was hard of hearing, and ask them their names, just saying 'Jose?, Pedro? or Jesus? (Hay-soos). However, they knew who Santa was, and smiles and hugs made up for words. As word got around that Santa was indeed in the school, other teachers begged Sarah to 'borrow' me for their classes. I obliged and judging from my reception, I carried off hilariously with my 'Si Si's'!
The best part of our Holiday was Christmas Eve. Letty had an aunt and uncle living in Juarez. We were all invited to their home for the evening. We were greeted with mugs of hot fruit punch, shown their indoor arborium, and given small gifts from their Christmas tree. Letty's young nephews knew no English, but were soon playing on the living room floor with our son John. The late evening meal was not unlike our Thanksgiving dinner, turkey and all the trimmings plus many Mexican dishes. It was a memorable evening, with twenty people talking Spanish, interspersed with translations by Letty and Sarah. There was much happiness radiating throughout their home, much laughing and smiling. We were made to feel welcome, as it was our first Christmas away from our home
A custom among the Mexicans at this time of the year is to line the roadside with luminaries. These are paper bags with sand in the bottom, and a lighted candle imbedded in the sand to mark the way for travelers. Sarah took us for a tour of the area one evening to see the beautiful sight of the luminaries stretching for miles up the mountainsides.
On New Years Day we attended a football fame at the University of Texas, El Paso Sun Bowl. It is surrounded by mountains, and it is easy to see why they named it the Sun Bowl. I don't believe the sun ever shown that bright in Wisconsin. During our stay we made several trips into Mexico off the tourist beaten path. Now I can understand the uproar in the U.S. about large companies moving to Mexico to take advantage of the impoverished Mexican people, paying them very low wages for their labor. The weather had been fine throughout our stay, with only one snow shower which brightened up the season, reminding us of the climate we were heading back to in Wisconsin.