Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Memories of Christmases long ago

I come from a family of women who loved/love to decorate for Christmas.  When I was a kid we lived with my grandparents in Baltimore, MD.  The main Christmas tree was in the living room and the other rooms all had decorations in one form or another.    It was common that row homes had their kitchens in the basement and that was the case with my grandparents’ home.  My little Christmas tree was in that kitchen….it was just for me!

I sometimes wonder if that is one reason I love to cook and also the reason to this day I put a small Christmas tree in the kitchen!  My husband also had his own Christmas tree when he was young.  So, to keep his tradition alive he has a small tree in his ‘man cave’.

In the city, back in those days store front windows were hand painted with various Christmas scenes.   That applied to homes also. The big plate glass front window was painted every year.  I don’t really remember who painted the window, but they were beautiful.  My mother had a fair amount of creativity so it seems that she may have painted our window.

Something else they did back then, a simple thing, but very festive – all the neighbors put a different colored light bulb in their front porch light.  For some people that was all the decorating they did so it added a nice touch.  Those with painted windows usually put a spotlight to highlight that window.  I remember my father putting up colored lights around the front door, those big heavy lights that got so hot you couldn’t touch them.

There was no fireplace so my stocking was hung from the railing on the stairway to the second floor.  I was so glad I didn’t have to worry about Santa getting stuck in the fireplace!  And as so many others I remember that in the bottom of the stocking was an orange and there was always hard candy. 

My father was in school at the University of Maryland, so my parents didn’t have money to buy me everything on my very extensive wish lists.  I received one ‘store-bought’ item from them, and one gift from Santa.  Of course there was always things my mother handmade, such as doll clothes or a hat and scarf for me.  My grandfather was my real Santa and I knew it.  I would tell him what I wanted and he usually got it for me.

One year I asked him for a Mickey Mouse watch.  Christmas Day I opened the gift and was in tears.  Instead of a Mickey Mouse watch he bought me a solid gold ‘grown-up’ watch.  To a 5-year-old that was not a good present!  Of course, as I grew up I realized he had given me a beautiful gift.  I am now 69 years old and that watch is still in my jewelry box.  It doesn’t run, but it holds many memories.

When I was about 9 years old I decided it was time to tell the kids on the block that Santa did not really exist. That it was their parents, grandparents, and other family members who bought the gifts that supposedly came from Santa.  Wow, when the kids told their parents my parents started getting lots of visitors – not happy ones….the parents of those kids didn’t appreciate me telling the truth about Santa!

Once we moved to New Jersey and my mother decorated the tree every year it was with antique ornaments that she had collected over the years.  I wish I had some of them, but there was an accident…a bad one. My father put up the tree and put the lights on and my mother decorated it.  That evening my father had to go to a meeting. I was sitting in the living room reading and all of a sudden, the tree fell over…it was in slow motion and pieces of ornaments flew all over.  It was, of course, my father’s fault.  My mother had told him to make sure the tree was secured to the wall, he didn’t think it was necessary. The tree went back up, minus all the beautiful old ornaments…..from then on my father always secured the tree to the wall!

It has been fun reminiscing about the old days.  Now I think I’ll go look at my tree because I have some lovely ornaments that my husband and I have collected over the last 20 years and they bring back beautiful memories.

PS:  Please say a prayer for those who have lost loved ones in the fires in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  So much destruction, so much loss.  

Photos belong to AbbyG

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