Baggenstoss family created simple celebration of the heart
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
For the family members of sisters Yona (pronounced ‘why’ – ona) Scholl and Ruth Heisick, the Christmas of 1979 is a precious time that they continue to hold in their hearts.
“We had been together at a family gathering that summer and someone brought Christmas up,” said Yona’s daughter, Cyndi Stanek. “They said we should go up to the cabin for Christmas.”
People liked the idea, and they drew names for gifts that day.
“We decided that all the gifts had to be handmade, wrapped in newspaper and tied with twine,” said Cyndi.
She drew the name of her grandfather, Fred Baggenstoss. She wrote a poem for him.
“I just envisioned how (our celebration) was going to be, and it really was exactly like that,” she said.
The family gathering included Fred and his wife, Tillie, John and Ruth Heisick and their children, Joe and Annie. Warren and Yona Scholl came along with their four grown children: Jim and Cyndi Stanek and 5-year-old Tara; Wayne and Robin Scholl; Brad and Peggy Bellamy and Chris Scholl.
The cabin near Akeley was a snug fit for 16 people, no bigger than 24 feet square. It belonged to the elder Heisicks then, and now belongs to Joe.
The family arrived on Dec. 22 and fired up the pot-bellied stove. Light was provided by gas lanterns. An outhouse was the only “plumbing.”
“We roughed it,” Cyndi said. “It was meant to be a Christmas like years ago.”
There was a day bed, a twin bed and a double bed. Most slept in sleeping bags on the floor.
“Everybody brought food,” said Yona. “There were a lot of hotdishes. We had to heat water in the tea kettle to wash dishes”
A tree stand was made from a spare tire set on the floor, and a small tree cut in the woods was set inside.
“The boys cut a ‘Charlie Brown’ tree,” Yona said.
“We strung popcorn and cranberries on it,” said Cyndi.
Brad provided a manger and Tara’s doll was used for the baby Jesus.
The gifts were opened that night and included hand-crocheted slippers and a lap robe made from fabric scraps.
Yona and Ruth’s brother had made a cradle for Ruth when she was small, and Ruth used the opportunity to pass that on to little Tara.
The next day, the family held an ice fishing contest. Cyndi took a photo of her daughter fishing which Peg later used to fashion a figurine.
Before packing up that day, someone said, “We should do it again next year,” said Cyndi. “But almost everyone agreed that it couldn’t be duplicated.”
The family continues to hold that special Christmas in their hearts.
“It was a precious time to remember,” Cyndi said. “It is so much more precious because we only did it that one time. All the warm, fuzzy feelings you could have were wrapped up in that day.”
The Christmas of ’79
At a family gathering we drew a name
Knowing no two gifts would be the same
Grandpa’s name is the one I drew
What can I make, what should I do?
After months of wondering what gift would be right
I finally decided, I saw the light
The words of a poem is the gift I’ll give
To someone I will love as long as I live.
As the temperature drops and the north winds blow
The children are waiting and watching for snow.
For snow means Christmas is almost here
That joyous and loving season of the year.
It’s time to leave our cozy home
For that cabin in the woods, secluded and alone
To celebrate Christmas much different than the rest
A Christmas we are certain will be the best.
As we near the cabin we look around
For that special tree we are soon to cut down.
It must be perfect, it must be tall
It will soon be decorated by one and all.
As the cabin gets warm and toasty inside
We hang the trimmings we have made with pride.
Trimmings much similar to those years ago
Some we hang high, some we hang low.
The gifts are placed beneath the tree
For all to admire, for all to see.
They are wrapped with paper of print and twine
This one is yours, that must be mine.
Before we begin let us stop to pray
Thanking God for a wonderful day
For being together, a family of love
Truly a gift from the Lord above.
How precious the memory and beautiful the sight
Sharing our love on this special night.
Opening gifts all made by hand
In a cabin in the woods, on a piece of God’s land.
As the seasons pass with the hands of time
May you never forget the Christmas of ‘79
The laughter, the song, the joy, the sharing
The gift of love, the gift of caring.
(Note: Cyndi’s poem, “The Christmas of 1979,” was published in the Morrison County Record, Dec. 24, 1979.)