Christmas past is past, or so it says in the intro to the holiday song, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” I guess that means I should stop being so melancholy for the years when my kids were little and when my parents were still alive. Perhaps a lighter look at Christmas past will help cheer me up!
I REMEMBER WHEN:
My mom could never seem to get the right name tags on the right presents. I was forever opening my brother’s presents and they always acted shocked when they opened their box and found a doll baby. After a while it just became part of the family tradition.
Our childhood Christmas tree had blue lights – the real screw-in kind. The effect was so calming and serene. I’ve wanted to re-create that tree ever since I’ve been married, but my family says “NO!”
The array of sweets my mom baked never varied: butter cookies, thumbprints (you weren’t allowed to fill them with anything but cherry jelly), pineapple bars, and fruit cake cookies which were pretty but tasted awful. The one thing Mom never fudged on was…. the fudge. She made trays of it, always with walnuts, in fact her hand-written recipe says in big letters, “ONLY USE WALNUTS!”
Remember Mister Jingeling? If you grew up near Cleveland, Ohio you know that Mister Jingeling was an elf who came from the North Pole. He was Santa Claus’s helper and “Keeper of the Keys” to Toyland’s treasure house at Halle’s department store. His theme song began, “Mis-ter Jing-a-ling, how you ting-a-ling, keeper of the keys. On Halle’s seventh floor, we’ll be looking for you to turn the key.”
There was the year that we had moved cross-country and were low on funds for Christmas presents – so with three kids under the age of four we were very resourceful. We gathered up old class rings, some tarnished silverware of my grandmother’s and headed to the pawn shop. Voila – Christmas! What fun we had shopping for them that year. Funny how the difficult things become the most precious memories. I think that was the year for the Strawberry Shortcake doll.
While living in Tampa, FL, the Christmas tree saga began. First year there, we waited till middle of December as usual to buy our live tree, not realizing that the trees were so dry you could breathe on them and they’d go up in flames. Enter artificial tree which I swore I’d never buy. Also enter the first of a string of years where every string of lights lasted about five minutes before they fizzled out. AFTER the decoration were on the tree. New lights – same problem, over and over. Next year we couldn’t keep the tree standing, finally had to tie it to the wall. Last year we heard a crashing sound in the middle of the night, to which my husband mumbled, “It’s nothing – I’ll check in the morning.” I investigate and find our beautiful six foot tree lying on the floor – all my precious glass ornaments broken. So far, nothing unusual this year, but we’ve got a couple of weeks to go.
Once driving from Tampa to North Carolina for the holidays, our large plastic clamshell thingy on the top of the car flew off and presents were scattered everywhere. And the windshield wipers stopped working in the middle of a storm. Joy, joy, joy!
One year my in-laws gave my husband a brown furry vibrating pillow as a present……um, why?
My favorite memory is the last year my Dad was with us. During one of our Ely Unplugged concerts we begged him to get out his clarinet and play for us. He played a real jazzy tune and then asked if we’d like to hear some Mozart. We said sure and he proceeded to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Applause. He bowed and asked if we’d like to hear him play it backwards. Of course! He promptly turned his back to us and played it again. That’s my Dad!
Then there was the food: Italian feasts at my grandmother’s, and the smell of cigar smoke wafting in from the living room later in the day. Later as a young mother, there was the cookie baking, gingerbread houses, chocolate mousse cakes decorated with chocolate stars, cranana daiquiris, and a dessert party, complete with chocolate marzipan mice running around the table. If I’m not mistaken, a boy mouse found a girl mouse and let’s just say it’s a good thing there weren’t any children at the party! My husband was the culprit!
It was crazy and hectic, stressful and wonderful and magical all at the same time and the memories keep it all alive! “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…”
THE LAST COURSE:
Take some time this year to sit back and remember “Christmas Past.” Share your memories with your children – write them down. Treasure them.