The Patriarchs: Aunt Jeannette and Uncle Elmer
To this day, I LOVE to say “Aunt Jeannette and Uncle Elmer,” and always in that order; just saying their names brings a smile to my face.
When I was growing up in the Chicago area, Aunt Jeannette (1906-1975) and Uncle Elmer (1904-1974) were the Patriarchs of the family. Jeannette was the last surviving Herpich of her family, with no male Herpichs from this branch, with offspring, to carry on the name; she was a sister to my grandmother, Marie Herpich Minnes. The Goltermann’s are truly my grand-aunt and uncle, and parents of my Aunt Dolores, who was really my cousin. ;)
Aunt Jeannette and Uncle Elmer hold the keys to one of my fondest childhood memories, and that for many of my cousins: Christmas Eve at their home, located west, northwest of downtown Chicago. The home was originally the home of Jeannette’s parents, Peter and Bertha Herpich, so when I was visiting the home in the 70′s, it had already been in the family for over forty years. Just the journey to their home was often special, especially on snowy nights; white covered everything, beautiful, mature trees, and glowing lights abound! Although in a residential area of the city, it was truly an “Over the River and Through the Woods” feeling when we were headed there, and a tune, I must admit, that would be sung in our car during our journey.
When the time came to exchange gifts for the children, we would literally take up every inch of their living room with bodies, all focused on the Christmas Tree. But my favorite memory in the living room was the fireplace mantle where my aunt would display a tiny, lighted German village. It was the first thing I would check out, and I was mesmerized by it; my young imagination would take me away into this little village’s streets.
Christmas Eve at Aunt Jeannette and Uncle Elmer’s was such a tradition, that after their deaths (less than a year apart), the rotation of Christmas Eve at family member’s homes never felt the same, and sadly, with passing time, and families moving to other cities, and states, the descendants rarely came together again. New Christmas Eve traditions have been born to our families, but there was something special about Christmas Eve at the Goltermann’s that, for me, has never been replaced; a nostalgia of a simpler time and place, together with family.
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