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- The many faces of memoir (and poetry) (4/1/14)
- April is memoir month (3/18/14)
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Ninety years of Christmas memories
To celebrate the season of giving, the Village Writing School is helping residents of Peachtree Village and Green Acres retirement communities preserve their holiday memories. I will be devoting my column space to this project in the month of December. Stories #1 and #2 appeared in the Dec. 5 Lovely County Citizen.
In Holiday Story #3, Village Writer Nancy Harris, of Holiday Island, finds that Larry Seig, of Peachtree Village, has not only had 90, quite diverse, Christmases, but that he and his wife made Christmas wonderful for many Carroll County children.
When asked to share a story or favorite Christmas memory, Larry Seig, 90 years young, shakes his head and chuckles. He finds it hard to believe this will be his 90th Christmas and tells me he can't pick just one favorite. Instead, he shares Christmas memories from several points in his long life.
Born and raised in Indiana, Seig recalls family celebrations that included good food and presents. Each year Seig and his family cut a Christmas tree from property near their home.
On Christmas morning, they opened presents. He remembers receiving mostly clothing, but there were some toys too.
During World War II, Seig served as a First Lieutenant in the Air Force and was stationed in the Pacific on the island of Guam. As a B29 navigator, he took part on many reconnaissance flights to Japan some 1,550 miles away to observe weather conditions. Seig's crew made the round trip every fourth day.
Soldiers stationed on Guam lived in Quonset huts. Seig recalls the jungle had been "pushed back" just beyond their huts and bringing food into the hut resulted in visits from big rats.
When not flying, the solders attended to their assigned duties on base. In their free time, they often gathered at the outdoor court for a game of basketball.
Christmas for the soldiers on Guam was low key. The war effort and duty came first, but they found time to celebrate.
The tropical climate of Guam provided warm weather for Christmas, very different for soldiers from northern parts of the U.S. Seig remembers eating fresh grapes from New Zealand and lots of Spam. Soldiers who received Christmas cards or packages from home shared them with others. Seig recalls that around midnight on Christmas Eve 1945, as a special Christmas greeting to fellow soldiers, his flight crew buzzed the air field before landing.
After the war, Seig attended Purdue University on the GI Bill. While a student, he met his future wife, Elna. They were married in 1950.
Upon graduating, Seig began a long career as a science, math and PE teacher. He also coached basketball, baseball and track. The Seigs raised three children, two boys and a girl.
When they retired in the 1980s, the Seigs moved to Arkansas. One Christmas soon after their move, they entered a drawing at Acords Home Center in Eureka Springs and won a stocking full of toys. At the time, they had no grandchildren, so they donated the stocking and toys to the Carroll County Learning Center in Berryville.
This donation was just the start. The Seigs wanted to do more. Through the Elks Lodge, they invited others to donate gifts and toys for children in need.
Donations grew and over the years came to include Christmas parties for children. Seig's eyes light up when he recalls the goody bags he and his wife made for the Christmas parties.
"We'd go all over town buying candy and items to put in the bags. We'd take it home, put it in the bags and tie them with a ribbon. The bags were given out at the party. We made dozens of those bags," he recalled, chuckling.
"I've had a lot of good Christmases," Seig told me. "A lot of good Christmases."
Over the years, thanks to his generosity, many children in Carroll County also enjoyed a good Christmas.
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Alison Taylor-Brown has an MFA in Fiction and a lifetime of teaching experience. She directs the Village Writing School (villagewritingschool.com) to foster the development of area writers through workshops, writing circles, coaching, and special events. Her column, The Village View, appears weekly. To talk to Alison about your writing goals and dreams, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-292-3665.