A HUGE shoutout to all those wonderful people who contacted me privately to tell me how much they appreciated my sharing the things i did in my post “BookEnds”, many of whom appreciated the parallel in their own lives, especially in these times. So now, I am moving on. Sorta. Remembering Christmas during my childhood. It was a happy time for many post-war years. Also, few cameras, no television, so most of the memories are “in my head”. So you will have to “imagine”. Haha. Try it! You might like it! Haha. Beautiful trees, Santa Claus and coca cola! Haha.
We had a lot of traditions at Christmas. Mother would spend the entire month of December shopping, ordering items, finding out what people wanted, buying and wrapping presents and decorating the house. The house would be a winter wonderland. She had Christmas decorations that lived in boxes in closets somewhere in the house. Out they would come at Christmas. Santa’s, reindeer, holly, arrangements wreaths for all doors. She spent a LOT of money on Christmas decorations. Wonderful handmade stockings for the mantle. And always a gorgeous tree, decorated with gorgeous ornaments.
On Christmas Eve, Mother and Daddy would give presents to LOTS of people. They had a lot of friends. Daddy had a lot of people in his company and he gave presents to most of the families and all of his employees. He would have special gifts made to give something to everyone who worked for him – mugs, ash trays, books, booklets, plaques. They both LOVED Christmases and were generous givers. I don’t remember Church being part of Christmas Eve or Christmas day, but we were all members of the First Baptist Church and went to all their Christmas services and events. There were lots of parties and gatherings. And, usually, there was a Christmas pageant in which my sisters and I would be some part of the Nativity characters.
On Christmas Eve, Mother would load Daddy’s car with gifts for his family, her family, our (the children’s) friends and their friends. Then, Daddy and I would deliver them to all recipients. It took most of the day. Daddy would drive up to the house, and it was my job to find it and take it to the front door. Then, after all presents were delivered, we went home for egg nogs and supper.
Mother would cook for days, making boiled custard, fruit cake, cakes, pies, cornbread for the dressing, homemade rolls and whatever else need to be cooked beforehand.
On Christmas morning, the family would gather in the living room to see what Santa had brought. Each child (Patricia, Barbara, Janet) would have a spread of beautiful things in a display. And there were would be lots of presents wrapped under the tree. So, after we gathered to “find” what Santa left, we would open presents – one at a time (so everyone could see who got what. Presents were from family, friends, and some businesspeople for Mother and Daddy. Then, we had to display our gifts for everyone to see what each person “got.”. The children took a turn being “Santa” and delivering a present to the recipient. The goal was to make a person feel part of the celebration. That would take most of the morning. All of this went on for YEARS!
Then, late morning, family from Atlanta (Mama Dorough, Lillian, Rose and Clarence, JoAnn) And Daddy’s family from Gainesville (his family had died young, and his brother Uncle Beamus) arrived for the day. Everyone came with more presents and special homemade foods. Nuts were everywhere as well as compotes of candies. Homemade fudge, homemade divinity with walnuts. More gifts, visiting, by everyone. The house and table were gorgeous with silver and candles and all the “good dishes”. I especially like the silver goblets (used for ice water). The aromas were divine.
We all ate and visited for hours. And the children could NOT be “excused” to go back to their rooms. I had to stay until the bitter end until everyone left the table.
And Christmas Dinner at 2:00 p.m. A HUGE meal with the same favorites every year – turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, white rice, sweet potato soufflé with toasted marshmallows on top, petit (canned) English peas with butter, homemade rolls with butter and homemade jelly, celery, olives, carrots, cranberry sauce, Lillian’s handmade cranberry relish. I was always glad when I could leave the table, and everyone went home. And each year, Mother did everything she could to help everyone feel included and “special”. Brava, Mother!
Over the years, I tried to make this happen for my children, as best I could. And I did, a lot of years. I hope they remember. And, most times, Darrell enjoyed it without ruining it for everyone. I always held my breath and prayed he would not ruin it for the children. And, often, he didn’t. That was great!
And wonderful memories. I was lucky without realizing it. And, to close, we have Emily’s monologue from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town that expresses a lot that is in my heart. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
“I can’t bear it. They’re so young and beautiful. Why did they ever have to get old? Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all, everything. – I cant look at everything hard enough. (pause, talking to her mother who does not hear her. She speaks with mounting urgency) Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead.
You’re a grandmother, Mama. I married George Gibbs, Mama. Wally’s dead, too. Mama, his appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it – don’t you remember? But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another. (pause, looking desperate because she has received no answer. She speaks in a loud voice, forcing herself to not look at her mother) I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast.
We don’t have time to look at one another. (she breaks down sobbing, she looks around) I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Goodby, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners? Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking? and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths? and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. (she asks abruptly through her tears)
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute? (she sighs) I’m ready to go back. I should have listened to you. That’s all human beings are! Just blind people.”
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