NAPOLI - Louise Freeman and her husband, Bill, raised four sons in their very large home in Napoli. The home with its three staircases was built in 1828 by Mrs. Freeman's great-great-great-grandfather, Rueben Waite, and passed down each generation from father to son until it reached her father, who had no sons.
"I grew up in this house. Every Sunday there was a family dinner with my aunts and uncles. My Aunt Ruth would bring the spicy squash. I will never forget the first Sunday after we moved away. My husband was working, and I called my mother and bawled," she said.
Mrs. Freeman is a perfect person to be featured in the last column before Christmas because she has a myriad of Christmas traditions and enjoys cooking and decorating her home for the holidays.
Louise Freeman is shown with her traditional holiday food.
Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland
"Generally we would set up our tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and on Sunday we would string popcorn and cranberries and the kids would put on the ornaments," she said. "All of the ornaments the kids made are still hanging on my tree, and all of the paper plate wreathes they made are hanging on the doors. I still display a macaroni tree made by my youngest son. It goes in his bedroom, so when he comes home it is there.
"The lasagna has been a tradition for 35 years because we always came home to Napoli to mom and dad's for Christmas Eve. One year I was due to have my first baby on Christmas Eve, so my sister brought lasagna and everyone came to our house in Williamsville that year.
"After Christmas Eve dinner we always went to church. If the kids were good they could open one gift when we got home. When I was still a stay-at-home mom I sewed a tree skirt and made matching stockings for the whole family, and they still go up every year."
Mrs. Freeman tells how one of her sons would wake up very early, take everything out of his stocking, put it back and then wake everyone else. The family sat in the living room and each opened their stocking in rotation from the youngest to the oldest. After the stocking unveiling, everyone ate a breakfast consisting of omelets, English muffins and pink grapefruit.
"After breakfast we'd go back, and the youngest would pass out the gifts and we'd take turns opening a gift," Mrs. Freeman said.
Each boy bought for his brothers. Today the adults exchange names, and everyone buys for the children, still opening gifts one at a time.
In 2006, the couple took all of the boys to Williamsburg, Va., because it was their youngest son's last year in college, and they wondered if they would ever have their entire family home for Christmas again.
"We decided to have a family Christmas in Williamsburg," Mrs. Freeman said. "We took a tree, all of their homemade ornaments and the lasagna, spicy squash and overnight mashed potatoes."
They had always videotaped their Christmas mornings, beginning with the opening of the stockings. A few years ago, they put five years worth of the videos on DVDs and gave a copy to each son. Many laughs have been shared while looking back at these scenes, including the oversized bathrobe one of the younger boys received one year and the yellow sweatpants that seemed to show up each year on a different brother.
Mrs. Freeman teaches second grade at Gail N. Chapman Elementary School in Randolph.
"I was hired in 1975 by Gail Chapman to teach first grade. I resigned after two years, moved away and returned to the family homestead in 1988. I started subbing in 1990 and then taught kindergarten for 10 years and now have taught second grade for six years," she said.
Her husband retired as an engineer and supervisor with Conrail.
They enjoy traveling, and she loves singing, baking and time spent with her grandchildren and their families. They share their home with two golden retrievers and a cat. They are members of East Randolph United Methodist Church, where Mrs. Freeman is the worship leader. The couple has been active with Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown. Mrs. Freeman also does yoga.
Their son Nathan is married with two children and lives in Clifton Park. Matthew is married, has two children and lives in Napoli. Geoffrey recently married and lives with his wife in Jamestown. Andrew is an Air Force Captain stationed at Wright-Patterson in Dayton, Ohio.
The teacher has made the molasses roll-outs since she was a child. She and her sisters would frost and decorate the cookies. After the girls had children of their own, their children would decorate the same kind of cookies on Christmas Day when they were gathered together.
"I am now trying to carry through that tradition as my grandchildren grow older," Mrs. Freeman said.
She has also made the molasses roll-outs with her students for the last 16 years.
"We actually mix the dough, roll it out and decorate them," she said. "For 10 years we had a Grandparents' Cookie Frost Day and would have several stations of activities for the students and their grandparents.
"I read the 'Ginger Bears First Christmas' with all of the students and grandparents and still read it to my students every year."
Mrs. Freeman shares her Christmas Eve and Christmas Day recipes with you today.