The ease of making family memories

Some of my favorite childhood memories are wrapped around special family times—not when on vacation or having a birthday party, but during those occasions when each family member stepped out of the busyness of their world and truly connected with those who share the same home.

From the time I was eight until I entered high school, we lived in a rural part of Maryland. Losing electricity happened fairly often. We were well equipped to deal with the outages—potbelly stove for cold weather, plenty of goods my mother had canned from her garden, and several kerosene lamps. So we had warmth, food, and light. What more could a family need?

Games! Fast-paced, easy ones, where the goal is laughter, not winning.

During those times when the television was as dark as the night, we’d clear the kitchen table, set a lantern on it, and start a board game. Not having electricity caused everyone to naturally shift his or her normal routine.

The most fun part of those evenings was having our parents’ undivided attention. Parents are often so busy being parents that the children miss out on seeing their true personality—the one that shows up when Mom goes out to lunch with her girlfriends or when Dad and his buds are on the golf course.

My parents grew up during the Depression, so seriousness and responsibility was a huge part of who they were. I only caught rare glimpses of the person behind the busyness.

Game night, which only arrived when the electricity went out, helped shape my thoughts about life. It became a tiny seed that affected me so much it’s even seen throughout the Sisters of the Quilt series.

The Old Order Amish, like the ones I write about, live without electricity all the time.

Do I want to live like they do? With much respect to them, I say, “No, thank you.”

Do the Amish want to live as we do? With much respect to Englischers, the Amish I know say, “No, thank you.”

We’d each have to give up things we cherish. But there are common denominators within both traditions: like our determination to try to protect our family and keep them as a priority.

With that in mind, I’m going to post several entries over the next few weeks about how the Amish celebrate Christmas. (Is it too early to talk about celebrating Christmas?) Perhaps you’ll be reminded of things you did as a child and want to have a night or two of that with your own family. Or maybe you’ll find something new that you’d like to incorporate into your family traditions.

Here are some ways to keep Christmas simple:

A. Plan ahead. (In that sense, it is not too early to think about Christmas.)
B. Keep the plans simple.
C. Have a variety of easy-to-do choices.
D. Enjoy the fruits of your thoughtfulness.
E. Only snap a few photos for nostalgic purposes. (Sometimes parents ruin what should be relaxed family downtime by making everyone aware that they’re constantly “on stage.”)

Game suggestions:

Although I love a good game of Monopoly when there is time and the players are of a certain age, it isn’t for the easily distracted.

Spoons is played with just a deck of cards and a handful of spoons. For directions, go to

Go Fish
Dutch Blitz (The Amish love this one.)
Pictionary (There’s even a junior version!)
Chutes and Ladders
Game of Life

Those are just some of the games I could think of easily. I’d love to hear more, as well as special things you’ve done that have made a family memory.

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