My hitch in the Navy was up in March of 1961, and Pat and I were happy to be staying in San Diego. We had purchased a home there in 1960 and thought we were there to stay. By 1964, our twin boys, Russ and Doug, were almost six, and our daughter, Terri, was almost three. The boys were continually suffering with colds and respiratory problems, and our pediatrician suggested that they might do better if we lived farther inland, away from the ocean breezes. We decided to try our luck in the city of El Cajon. It was probably 10 miles east, as the crow flies, and located in an inland valley that was normally 10-20 degrees warmer than coastal San Diego. We decided to rent for a year and try out the location before buying. We made the move in July of 1964. We found a nearly new 3 bedroom home on 1/3 acre that was on the eastern edge of town, and it even had a horse shed and small corral in back. They came in handy later.
It didn’t take Pat and the kids long to meet our new neighbors. The favorites were the Trivetts who lived on the corner, 3 houses away. Norm and Margaret Trivett had three daughters- Karen, Lori, and Susan. Susan was the same age as Terri, and the other girls were about the same age as Russ and Doug. Pat and Margaret became good friends, and the women and kids did a lot of things together. The Trivetts had a swimming pool, so our gang was over at their place almost every day.
When it got close to Christmas, Margaret mentioned the large family gatherings they hosted every Christmas Eve. She asked Pat what we would be doing that night, and Pat explained that our families were back in Kansas, so it would just be the five of us for the holidays. Margaret said that they had plenty of room for us, so we should spend Christmas Eve with them. Thus began a tradition that lasted for over 50 years.
The Christmas Eve parties were always a lot of fun. We enjoyed meeting and getting to know the extended families of both Norm and Margaret. We met their parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins, and all of their spouses. As time passed, we got acquainted with kids and grandkids as they arrived. Our own kids and grandkids have attended throughout the years.
Lives changed over the years. When Norm retired, he and Margaret moved up to the four corners country in Colorado. They bought one of those log cabin kits, and Norm erected it using the construction skills he had learned as an ironworker foreman. He was an extraordinary craftsman, and had the eye of an artist. I think they made it back to California for Christmas most years. Pat and I moved to Texas for seven years, but we made it back for the holidays several times.
The hosting job got passed around some over the years. Margaret’s sister, Liz, held the party at her home in La Mesa for four years. Liz’s son, Brad, and his wife, Liz, hosted at their home in Escondido, CA for 2 years. Margaret and Norm’s daughter, Susan, and her husband, Chris, then took over. Susan lost Chris to cancer, but she has carried on the tradition since.
The last year we were able to be with Norm and Margaret was 2019. 2020 was the COVID year, and we weren’t feeling too spry anyhow, so we decided not to attend the party on Christmas Eve. Pat, Terri, and Terri’s husband, Steve, had gone over on Christmas Eve day just to say hello to Susan and Margaret and the family as a nod to our long-standing tradition. We lost Margaret in January of 2021, and lost Norm a few months later. It’s hard to believe they are gone. It’s also hard to believe we shared Christmas Eve for 55 years. Merry Christmas, Norm and Margaret. Thanks for the memories.