What memories can your Ghost of Christmas Past dredge up? During my driving time lately I’ve been pulling up some of mine from long ago. Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel better for not filling out Aunt Pat’s Christmas Memories book for the last 20 years. In any event, most of my recollections are pretty good ones. Some are just odd.
As a child, I hated going to see Santa. I liked the idea of Santa, the whole bringing me presents thing seemed like a good deal. But he knew if I was sleeping or awake, and if I’d been bad or good? And he came down our chimney and left presents in our house while we slept? That was kind of creepy. Then, after standing in line FOREVER, I was told to go and sit on his lap. Seriously? Stalker and B&E Santa? This was way before political correctness, but somewhere in the back of my mind I just knew this was not right.
Nevertheless, come Christmas Eve, I was SO EXCITED FOR HIM TO COME that I could barely stand it. Fortunately, my family had a tradition of going to the Greenfield Village and/or Henry Ford Museum (depending on how cold it was) on Christmas Eve before heading to my Grandparent’s house for dinner. It was a great way to get a child’s mind off of things for a little while. My grandmother was step-mother to my dad and things at their house were always just a little bit stiff, shall we say. We would gather with aunts and uncles and cousins and have dinner. We were not allowed until later to venture into the living room, which was where the tree and the presents were, and really where all of the action would happen. We couldn’t touch ANYTHING (or at least I couldn’t, at the time I was the youngest and I suspect I was under an extremely watchful mother’s eye) because things in there could break, like those multi-colored glass grapes in the centerpiece bowl on the coffee table. <sigh> The drive home was long and one year the snow flew at the headlights so thick we could barely see. As my dad drove slowly, white-knuckeled I’m sure, I sat wide awake on my mother’s lap, searching through the snow for Santa’s sled somewhere up there in the sky. (Ah, yes, those were the days, when children bounced around from front seat to back, happily unencumbered and unconcerned about car seats and crash tests.)
Christmas mornings, I, the youngest, dutifully woke everyone before the sun came up. My brother loved me for this, I’m sure. It was the one time of the year when Dad took home movies of us. Horrifically bright white lights flooded our little family room, sending off an astonishing amount of heat as we held up our treasures with giant smiles. My retinas never recovered.
The reason for the season was always alive in our house, and the Christmas story was told and retold. I was infatuated with the nativity scene, in particular Mary adoringly looking down at Baby Jesus. So, I would grab a blanket and drape it over my head. I knelt (because Mary is always kneeling, right?) on the family room floor and looked lovingly at my baby doll, wrapped tightly in “swaddling clothes,” a/k/a a towel. That was it. Nothing else. After a few minutes, my knees would hurt and I’d go back to being a cowboy (or maybe it was a horse, I recall a lot of clomping around on hands and knees, naying from time to time).
As I got older, Christmases got a little weirder. One year, my mother decided to buy fluffy white “snow” to spread on the tree. We backed up to ensure even coverage and realized it looked like a giant spider had cocooned the whole thing in its web, ornaments and all. My brother’s tarantula, Charlotte, had recently molted and he placed her abandoned exoskeleton gently on top. The Addam’s Family had nothing on us.
We were lucky we didn’t burn the house down with our dried out “live” trees. By Christmas morning, needles showered down onto the carpet as we slid the presents out to open them. To address this problem, my mother and I decided to buy a “living” tree one year. As an added bonus, we could plant it in the yard come spring. The little tree did well enough through Christmas, but we kept it inside a little too long and didn’t think to water it once we moved it to the deck. Yet another life cut short.
My mother the science teacher collected eggs from the quails her class had hatched, tucking them into the shelves of our fridge for a couple of months. She then served them, deviled, with our Christmas dinner of Cornish hens. Delicacies, I know, but none of my friends’ moms did stuff like that.
And so it is. Oddities, snippets, bits and pieces of time shared. Many of my memories are glommed together experiences from several years. Like all that time spent snuggled on the couch watching the Grinch (with his little dog Max, wonderful thing), Charlie Brown, Rudolf and A Year Without a Santa Claus: “I’m mister heat miser, I’m mister snow . . .” The shows were on just once, so if you missed them you’d have to wait until next year. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never failed to scare the pants off me.