The Claus Family Christmas Show

Mere Festive Mortals

As a boy, I fondly remember hopping into the family car for a leisurely ramble over the Buckeye State’s roly-poly hills and through its verdant countryside.  Those weekend drives always felt loose, improvisational and carefree. They felt like freedom.  Mom and Dad were the happiest then – our entire family was.  I never knew where we were going exactly and the “where” never really mattered.  We were together and discovering new territories.  Those days held infinite possibilities and each second a bundle of surprise. 

Food became an important aspect of those spontaneous road trips.  My mouth still waters as I recall the small town “hole-in-the-wall” family restaurants we stopped at along the way.  They served up some of the best cooking on the planet – probably still do.  I hope they’re still there. 

I particularly remember an unusual smorgasbord restaurant located near the town square of a rural town named Belleville.  Appropriately translated to “beautiful village” in English, Bellville was and probably still is a picturesque little town just north of where I grew up.  That town always did a wonderful job of displaying its Christmas lights and wreaths on its light poles and above the merchants’ store windows.  I haven’t been back there for many years. 

We cleverly nicknamed the restaurant “The Smorgasbord” and created a special reason to annually return for an extraordinary family meal.  Housed in an early 1900’s era red brick home, the restaurant was ensconced on the second floor overlooking the square.  Going out to this restaurant became something of an event.  My brother Randy would fast through the “day before” to fully prepare and empty his tummy for this ultimate gastronomic experience.  I’m sure he ate himself sick. 

Besides the traditional helpings of meats, potatoes and the usual assorted vegetables, there was a separate room designated for the desserts.  As a youth, it looked to me like the treasure room, replete with deep dishes of pudding, fruit cobblers and some of the tallest spun lemon and butterscotch meringue pies a kid ever saw – “heaven” I thought.  I always felt like a kid who broke into a candy store when entering that room.  What made it even more special with a heightened air of solemnity was the restaurant’s guest book for recording one’s visit there.  Just around the other side of the dessert room’s doorjamb, the book was strategically located on an elegantly covered credenza.  It looked so impressive and important to me. 

As I stepped up to the book, I thumbed through its pages to discover that people from as far as Columbus (an hour away), Indiana (a few hours away), Kansas, New York, California, Florida, Canada, Germany and other exotic places I hadn’t heard of before had also visited “The Smorgasbord.” Their individual handwriting styles ranged from cursive to plain, from artistic to chicken scratch.  With the use of a faux, white plastic quill and a simple lined page, they scribbled down their names and addresses to join “The Smorgasbord” family club.  Barely ten years old, I earnestly pressed my name into that guest book too. 

I loved the idea that other people from far away places had also discovered our homey and sumptuous smorgasbord in Bellville.  It brought the world closer together for me.  Nowadays, when I’m out with my family, I’m still on the lookout for a new guest book to sign.  They still possess the strong allure of allowing me to join the ranks of an extended family and a way to say, “I was here too.”  No matter where I’m at, I simply can’t resist signing in – and I try to use my best handwriting like my teacher taught me.

Enjoy your travels and please sign in to join The Claus Family Christmas extended family!  Go easy on the sweets. 

Maintained By: Studio Vatis

Last Updated: October 6, 2009
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