Mama cherished the holidays each year, because it meant we would all be together once again. Of course, there were other times throughout the year that the family gathered in one place, but the holidays were special. First, there was the Thanksgiving feast and just a few weeks later…Christmas.
Sometime during the week or so before Christmas, we would go to a small grocery store on Jackson Avenue that sold cut Christmas trees looking for that special tree. As I recall, it was usually a fragrant Cedar. Compared to our next door neighbor’s tree, which looked like Martha Stewart would have decorated it, our tree looked a bit like a Charlie Brown tree. There were only the large colored lights, a little red or green garland roping, a few ornaments and icicles, but Sharon and I thought it was beautiful.
As I recall, there weren’t a lot of presents each year, but I do recall one special gift. I must have been about fourteen that year. I had wanted my very own shoe skates and had actually found them hidden away a week or so before Christmas. Unfortunately, Mama forgot about them. She forgot to give them to me, and all the time, I knew where they were. I don’t remember now when she finally remembered them, but I did, finally, get them that Christmas.
Looking at the elaborate felt stockings I have now, I remember our Christmas stockings all those years ago…nylon hosiery stockings filled with oranges, apples, walnuts, pecans and candy. I remember all those little stockings filled and arranged in front of our Santa gifts under the tree. Looking back now, it seems we opened our gifts to one another on Christmas eve, and then Santa arrived on Christmas morning. Santa didn’t bring very much, but it was special all the same.
Our Christmas eve tradition was to have our evening meal, open gifts to one another and then drive around looking at all the spectacular displays of Christmas lights. There was one particular wealthy neighborhood that put up amazing displays of lighted Christmas decorations each year…all across their front lawns, trees and houses. My nieces, nephew and I could hardly wait for our meal to be over and gifts to be opened so we could go see the lights. It seems so simple with the telling, but it was a special time and a treasured memory.
As the years passed and we all grew up and had our own families, the traditions evolved. We took turns hosting the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. Eventually, the next generations arrived, families grew larger and distances separated us…as it does now. Even so, the memories of those special times live on.