“Last year it was Ian’s turn to share some excerpts from his book, From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada, about his “non-Christmases” as a child as well as a very special New Year’s Eve in Scotland when his prematurely-born daughter’s life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky.
This year it is Gayle’s turn to share some of her holiday writings. She has been super-busy these last months putting the final touches on our next-to-be-published book, Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie, plus rehearsing for the various musical groups she belongs to and then singing in their concerts or caroling at seniors’ or nursing homes and at Silver Star Mountain Village. Those duties are winding down now and so she has found time to offer her special holiday gift to readers, a play entitled “The Christmas Story According to Gwynne.”
This play originated in 1981 when Gayle, her late husband Gus and daughter Gwynne were living in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Gus was serving as a Lutheran pastor to a German parish and Gayle was enjoying her role as homemaker and mother. Their daughter Gwynne was a precocious four-year-old who kept her mother hopping. She talked almost non-stop in what her parents called “Gerglish,” a unique combination of German and English. Mama usually spoke English with her and Papa almost always spoke German with her; thus Gwynne understood both languages, spoke pretty good German but found it hard to express herself totally in English. She loved to have books read to her in either language and soaked up knowledge like a sponge. When the spontaneous play that follows began, Gayle realized that Gwynne had grasped the main aspects of the Christmas story but had added some unique twists to relate them to her own life and understanding. That evening, when Gayle related the story in great detail to Gus, he encouraged her to write it all down before the nuances of the story faded from her memory. She did so that very evening. To aid in the reader’s understanding, however, she “translated” everything into English. Other than that, however, the story is as exact to how it actually played out as Gayle’s memory could make it. The drawings we include with this story are Gwynne’s, drawn at her mother’s urging in the days following the play’s inception. We are also including a photo of Gwynne at age 4 dressed as St. Lucia, prepared to make the rounds of our apartment house to bring Saffronsbrod and Pepparkakor (Swedish treats) to our neighbours on the morning of St. Lucia Day, December 13th. That date is the start of the Swedish Christmas season and Gayle’s family heritage on her mother’s side is Swedish. (Yes, those are real lighted candles on the Lucia crown she is wearing! Because of that, Gwynne did this duty rather reluctantly.)
Now, many years later, Gwynne lives in Norway, with her Norwegian husband, their three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. She is employed as a teacher/librarian in a British International School, where they also celebrate St. Lucia Day. As an adult, Gwynne continues to nurture her unique imagination, teaches Sunday School, loves to play with and read to her children and has a house full of more books, toys and craft projects than one can imagine.
The Christmas Story According to Gwynne
By Gayle and Gwynne Johannesson, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Reprinted from a 1981 Johannesson Christmas letter and later from Esprit, the magazine of Evangelical Lutheran Women, November/December 1993 issue. Copyright © 1981 Gayle Johannesson; 2014 © Gayle Moore-Morrans.
Gwynne (G) who also plays the Angel, Joseph, Pastor, and King Herod (in turn)
Mama (M) who also plays Mary, Joseph, Innkeeper (in turn)
Gwynne, age 4, a budding actor, plays while Mama sews. Since early in Advent she has become fascinated with the Christmas story, has had it read and told to her, has seen it in pictures and manger scenes, has sung of it and heard it sung—at home, in church, in kindergarten, on television and at the Frankfurt Christmas Market. Now she wants to act it out—in her own unique way.
G: Mama, let’s play “When Jesus was a Little Baby.” I’ll be the angel and you be Mary. (Exits the room in which Mama is sewing; re-enters, flapping arms.)
SCENE 1 – Mary’s garden, Nazareth
G: Fly, fly, fly. (pause) Hi, Mary!
M: Hello! Who are you?
G: I’m the angel. I have good news for you. God sent me to tell you you’re going to have a baby in your tummy and he’s going to be the Messiah and save everyone from their sins. I think you better name him Jesus.
M: What wonderful news! You tell God I’m very happy to be chosen to be Jesus’ mother and I’m ready to do whatever God says.
G: Okay. ‘Bye now. Fly, fly, fly. (Exits, flapping arms.) (aside) Now you be Jofes. I’m still the angel.
SCENE 2 – Joseph’s home, Nazareth
G: (Enters, flapping arms.) Fly, fly, fly. Hey, Jofes, wake up! I’ve got good news for you. God is giving Mary a baby in her tummy and then you have to both go to Bethlehem to be counted. The baby’s name is Jesus and he’s going to be the Messiah and save you from your sins.
M: That’s great! I’ll get ready to travel right away.
G: Bye. Fly, fly, fly. (Exits) (aside) Now you’re Mary and I’m Jofes.