It is a week before Christmas, and watching all the Christmas movies, have made me think a lot about the Christmas holidays. I think back to some of the memorable ones and not so much what I got for Christmas, but the events of the night before and then how those little silly things seemed to turn into a Christmas Tradition.
One of my earliest remembrances was of Christmas Eve in 1966. My mom and I started off the day by making Christmas Cookies. I don’t remember if the dough was made from scratch. Why do I say that? Because when we moved to Iowa and needed cookies for our class, my mom would simply go and buy the roll of cookies that you sliced and baked. Only we would never slice and bake them, we would roll out the sugar cookie dough and cut out pumpkins, or stockings, Christmas trees, Easter eggs, or what ever the holiday called for. (Side Note: I was 18 years old, and moved to Utah when I first learned that you could make your own cookie dough, and they did come from the rolls of cookie dough we bought in the store). So when I say I don’t remember how we made the dough that is why.
But I do remember cutting out all the different shapes of trees, bells, Santas, stockings etc. The next step was to bake them……BORING!!! Next was the frosting and decoration and that is when the fun started! There were bowls filled with different color frostings, and we would decorate all the cookies. When you have three little kids putting their creativity to work, there were some awesome creations made. I also remember not having all the cool sprinkles and candies we have today, but there were the silver bead that were cool but so hard to eat, so most of the decorations did end up on the cookies and not in our tummies. The frosting, now that was probably a different story.
The next step was to prepare cookie plates, and then we would take them to neighbors and friends to wish them a Merry Christmas. This would take the good part of the day on Christmas Eve. Next came dinner, hotdogs. Yep, plain ole hotdogs. I remember my mom telling us to hurry and eat so we could get to bed or Santa would not come. So of course we snarfed them down. Now you are saying what is so memorable about this Laura? Did I fail to tell you that we were in bed by 6 pm on Christmas Eve? Well for me it was a tad bit later, because of all the cookies and eating the hotdogs so fast, got sick. But somehow I managed to sleep a few hours before Santa came.
Yes I did say a few hours. Christmas morning we were up at 1 a.m. peeking under the tree to see what Santa brought us. Now I now what you are all saying, “If my kids did that they wouldn’t see another Christmas”, or some threat like that. Well parents may threaten us a lot, but we lived to talk about it. And it happened for many many years. An hour after getting up and scoping out the loot, all our toys were packed and loaded in the Rambler Station Wagon and off we’d go to Granny and Poppy’s house. It was always quite funny, looking back on it now, we could only take ONE PRESENT, but of course we never did. Kids have a way of being able to condense their loot. Santa seemed a bit off that night though, because my baby buggy fell apart shortly after rolling it around at Granny’s house. I was told I made a comment on how Santa didn’t do a very good job on my baby buggy!
Besides the baby buggy and probably a doll, I don’t remember what I really got that year for Christmas……oh wait MEMORY ALERT! MEMORY ALERT! Part of my presents were socks, underwear and Santa puzzles. A fun gift from Santa huh? And how could I possibly remember something like this? My neighbor Headabell (who I so loved) brought me a toy stove that belonged to her when she was little. She was a high school student and was like a big sister to me. With this stove, you could plug it in and the oven really worked. Because of all the festivities of Christmas Eve, I had not had a chance to try out my new oven. It was Christmas night, and after returning home from Granny and Poppy’s, we were sitting in the kitchen chatting with some friends of my parents. All of a sudden SMOKE! We smelled smoke!!! Checking the burners on the stove nothing in the kitchen was cooking, so we began to follow the smell. Right to my room! Up till then I has not realized my brothers had mysteriously had disappeared and then all of a sudden reappeared snickering. Opening the door to my room, was smoke pouring from my new oven. Well the oven worked! Then my Dad did the unthinkable. He not only unplugged the stove, he cut the plug. Just snipped it off. I cried, I was a little girl and I was allowed the tears. Opening the oven we found charred remains of the Santa puzzle, underwear and socks. My dad was mad, and rightly so. I cried, some more. My brothers snickered some more. And my precious oven I never even got to use, but the memory of the oven lives on in my heart.
But through it all you know what lasted forever? Every Christmas morning we were up at 1 a.m. Christmas morning peeking under the tree. Even in high school. One year we were up and my mom yelling at us to go back to bed. Again we were in high school. Then the phone rang, it was Grandma. “Where are you guys she asked?” “Are you opening presents yet?” So that morning before any presents could be opened we had to get Grandma and give her an official escort to our house. In the early hours of Christmas morning, we got Grandma, loaded her and the presents in the car and headed back to our house to She was calling to ask where we were. She thought we would be up by now opening presents. So that morning Grandma had an official escort to our house. We laughed, because on our way out of her apartment building, someone else was coming to get their Grandma, and told us “I see you are getting an official escort too.”
It’s funny thinking back to the memories, how again it was not what was under the tree as it was the events that led up to the day. In my later years, with no family to spend Christmas with, I relied very heavily on friends. And each Christmas I hoped that somewhere I would be invited for Christmas. Many times I was. One year though, I spent Christmas with a family, where we thought it would probably be my friend’s last Christmas. I had watched the family struggle for the few years I knew them, and decided that year they were going to have a good Christmas. I had the means to do so, and it was something I wanted to do. I bought the tree, dinner and presents for all of the family including the grandkids. Yep I was invited that Christmas, and under the tree for me was an ice scraper for my car and a chocolate orange. I was a bit surprised and I admit disappointed, but gulped it down and accepted the gift. My friend told me she was sorry she could not do more, she just did not have the money that year. I accepted that. When it was all done and over, I added up the damage, and let’s just say it was not cheap. There were 13 children and 9 adults with all the trimmings. I was glad to be able to do it. Shortly afterwards, it seemed as though I was no longer part of the family. It made me sad, as I was told my friend only wanted to be around family. I was not included.
When Christmas came the next year, I looked at my budget, and decided Christmases were going to be different. I buy very few presents any more, and try to focus on making my gifts. Each Christmas there is a touch of “Laura Love” with the gifts I give.
One of the things I love to do is to tell a story as you can see. Telling a story, usually involves making a book or writing somewhere or somehow. So often times somehow my presents involves books. One Christmas I made a cookbook. I have created Family Histories for my aunts and cousins, a photo book for a teenager, and one day will have my children’s story and my own book published.
What I learned about giving at Christmas, is most of the time it is not the gift that will be remembered but the antics that have led up to it, the story behind it, that is what makes Christmas memorable. The tradition that was spoken of earlier, of getting up at 1 a.m. Christmas morning, it may be a bit strange in most eyes, but for us that was our “tradition”. It was the joke at our house. Up at 1 a.m., dinner at 10 a.m. and we were snoozing by 1 p.m. in the afternoon. A full day like everyone else, just at different times of the day.
You are probably asking what has this got to do with Texas History? It is important to remember that each name of your ancestors that is found on a census, or vital record, or where ever you find them, they were a real person. They laughed, and joked, and had special times in their lives as we do. I am hoping that 100 years from now if a descendant goes poking around for history on me or my ancestors, they will be able to get a glimpse into my life and how our family celebrated Christmas. Thee were many more memories that stand out, but definitely getting up at 1 a.m. was tops.
So now that I have let you in on one of my Christmas memories, please share one of yours. So what is your favorite memory of Christmas? Do you have a favorite tradition? A memorable Christmas? A secret project that went off without a hitch? Or one that completely flopped? Please do tell and share!
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!