First Christmas in America
Christmas 1997 was like no other Christmas for the Anson family, because instead of numbering our usual five, that year we were six. Nozomu Ishimaru, a 16-year-old from Japan , had joined our family for a year. Everyone had been enthusiastic about his coming except Carla, our nine-year-old . She had reservations.
Nonbo (Nozomu’s nickname) participated in all our activities with wide-eyed interest. We made our Advent wreath with nuts, pine cones, and pine sprigs. The first Sunday in December Nonbo got caught up in the excitement of lighting the first candle in the beautiful wreath that now occupied the center of our kitchen table.
The six of us drove to the mountains where we tramped through the forest trying to choose the most appealing tree out of the hundreds growing there. We spent family nights making ornaments for our gorgeous tree. We transformed clothespins into soldiers, sailors, cooks, skiers, dancing girls, and angels. We strung cranberries and popcorn. Tiny lights sparkled from the tree limbs symbolizing the coming of the Light of the World. The children set up our Christmas barn, manger and hand-carved wooden figures of Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and the animals.
After Grandpa arrived on Christas Eve, we all went to church to sing carols and to hear the Christmas story. Then we gathered around the tree to put an end to the mystery of closed doors and whispered conspiracies as each colorful Christmas package was opened. Nonbo’s eyes sparkled like the tree lights as each of his thoughtful gifts was opened. He had made a desk organizer for me, a tool chest for Everett, a doll-house for Carla and a magician’s top hat for Eric. He and Carla had gone together to get Janee’ a hamster. Nonbo had built a cage for it.
In our family, after a gift is opened, the receiver runs to the giver and gives him a big hug and thank you. For Nonbo this was a very new experience. Carla’s hug was genuine. Christmas had melted whatever resistance she had felt toward Nonbo. He had become a member of our family.