These are my memories I hold dear.
It’s Christmas Morning, 1960 or 70 something. We are awakened to breakfast cooking in the air, bacon eggs coffee sometimes biscuits and gravy, grandma asking how we want our eggs this morning. The excitement and sudden knowledge of knowing what, is just a room or two away startles us from our sleep.
Breakfast first, as we try to stay calm to eat, grandpa comes in from the chores, you can smell the cold on his coat. Grandma putters in the kitchen touching up the last of breakfast, grandpa fills his pipe. You hear Christmas music on grandma’s kitchen radio as she hums to the music.
The big day, no, the biggest day of the year has started as we head to the front room and see the gifts that appeared overnight. The tree is lit, something that only happened at night till now. Grandma’s tree all of four feet tall and pretty white branches with the old ornaments and lights. You look and yes, your favorite lights are on the tree, the bubble lights much older than you are but still they are there. Maybe the fireplace has been lit too.
The smells of food in the oven are drifting into the front room, mixing with the pungent aroma of grandpa’s pipe the smell of home. There is almost an electric crackle in the air from the anticipation. Hopes and dreams about to be answered. “Did I get what I wanted?” “Did I pick the right gift?” “Will they like it?”
I know our parents and grandparents alike thrill at the look in our eyes, it may have been only a couple of gifts in reality, but at that moment it was a room chock full of gifts and memories. However, until all the gifts are handed out no one opens a gift, then it begins the tearing of paper, the smiles, the “oh mys” the “wows” the “you shouldn’t haves.” In moments, the enduring wait, the unwrapping is done, and everybody looks over their gifts thanking one another and giving hugs. The asking “well, did you get what you wanted?” The smiles and eyes have already given that answer away. The “well, try it on, make sure it fits” questions come. And you show off the new shirt or coat or even the green pull-on mud boots.
The aromas of food cooking and the smell of grandpa’s pipe help bring us back to the here and now and we start to clear away the wrappings from the gifts.
Grandma says, “well I had better get to work on the pies” and grandpa picks up his paper to read while we play with our gotten gains. Knowing that in a couple short hours the house will begin to fill with cousins and a big family dinner as usual for the holiday will happen and if it’s not too terribly cold, we will play outside in a rough and tumble kind of kid way.
As they arrive the adults will gather in a couple of places, the aunts and older female cousins in the kitchen to help grandma where they can with dinner, the uncles, and older male cousins to the living room to visit with grandpa and dad. Us kids wherever we can, and compare our gifts.
Then grandma announces that lunch is ready, Christmas lunch, turkey, ham sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, relishes, celery with cheese and peanut butter, olives and on and on and of course everybody’s favorite, grandma’s light rolls, big and fluffy and most important still warm.
Desserts of all kinds, mostly pies and cobblers, but also Jell-O’s, and fruit bowls. There is also loads of homemade goodies candies, molasses, peanut butter, chocolate chip and sugar cookies, nut-breads pumpkin brads and if you know where to look in the dishes is homemade peanut brittle. If you left this table hungry it was your own fault.
There seemed to be no end to the food. People at the breakfast table, the dining room table, even the card table set up in the sunroom maybe a few even in the front room. Family everywhere, even guests were family at this point there was no stranger in the house.
After lunch, we kids would go play, the ladies would clean up and the men would visit till the ladies were done cleaning, then the card games started, Pitch, dirty on your neighbor etc. this would go on till supper time, laughing, telling / swapping stories. Kids in and out all afternoon till we were told to make up our minds, inside or out, just quit fanning the door.
Then we would all grab a plate for a leftover supper, which in some cases was better than lunch itself because this time you only had to get what you wanted on your plate. Then shortly after the cleaning was done, maybe a few more rounds of cards, things would start to slow down.
Then everyone would start to leave, heading home, back to their own places and it would get really quiet. The excitement would start to dwindle. We would piddle with our gifts a bit. Or just sit quietly in the front room and relax for a bit. Then it was off to bed.
These are the memories I miss so much. Our family has grown and gone multiple, multiple ways. I do remember and hope to never forget those times. Now it seems nearly impossible to even get our children together at one time on one holiday, but I know they have their lives now and I have to accept it.
So, for today I will dwell in my memories of times past and smile inwardly at my memories.
God bless. Merry Christmas.