The smell of fresh cut Fir. Bing Crosby’s crooning on the turntable – probably his White Christmas LP special. At church, the story of baby Jesus retold. This is the nostalgia of Christmas past.
I spent hours at the kitchen table turning the pages of the Sears catalogue. Toys were circled with color crayon. The little frilly dresses were check marked and the page numbers memorized. It was an optimistic game, mom appreciated the quiet, and I never stopped dreaming… even though I knew that my small presents would never resemble anything close to these opulent choices.
The week of the “big day” I would tag along behind my dad as he searched our twenty-seven acres for a suitable evergreen to grace our modest home. Daddy was reluctant. It was a waste of potential firewood or fencing. To him Christmas was a nonsense holiday. Even in the 1950’s there was commercialism and unreasonable expectations…not that any of my siblings hoped for much.
The eldest kids propped up the tree and pulled the decorations down from somewhere. Maybe the attic? Mama helped some too. Other than that, she didn’t decorate our house for the season. That took money, time, and energy. With eight children, of which I was the youngest, all those things were scarce in Mama’s life.
Once the tree was trimmed and the delicate and ancient golden star was gently placed at the top, the lights were plugged in and off went the house lights. My brothers and sisters gathered on the Eve in the soft glow of the multi-colored bulbs. If we didn’t sing with the the carols on the record player or the radio, then we joined in around the piano. Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, and The First Noel. Our family harmonized beautifully. Singing was free entertainment and we participated with abandoned joy (to the world). Mama would often join in while Daddy secretly listened with great pride. I could see it in his face. The look was always on his face when he came to watch us sing in what seemed like a “grand” school Christmas program. Especially if we were chosen for solos. My two eldest brothers who are in their mid seventies still sing like they did when they were kids. Me, not so much.
In spite of his cynicism, daddy enjoyed the special meal that mama prepared Christmas day. Because it was less expensive, usually turkey. Sometimes roast beef. Fruit and vegetables from our fruit room or the “locker.” (The “locker” was our space in a walk in rental freezer storage in the small town nearby.) There was always pie. Apple and pumpkin and sour-cream raisin. The aroma was perfect. If mama had time she might make daddy his favorite. Lemon meringue. As best she could, Mama made sure the day was special. Daddy bent a bit here and there; we learned to live with that.
As I grew, I eventually recognized that our holiday “things” were humble. Yet, it still seemed splendid to me. I was filled with that Christmas delight and my day was abound with hope and love.
Even now, that feeling suddenly squeezes my heart – and catches me off guard.
So....Merry Christmas everyone!
(First Monday - the evolution of Fun Monday -- can be found today at Sayre Smiles.)
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