A gentle snow has been falling all evening. The world outside the front window has taken on the appearance of a snow globe, with the dusting of snow providing a white blanket.
I’m happy for the kids… I can distinctly recall the excitement of waking on Christmas morning to the glow of Christmas lights bouncing of the snow throughout the neighborhood. It was a magical sight, emphasized by the magic of Santa’s visit.
My family celebrated Christmas on Christmas morning. The night before, we’d attend Midnight Mass at Sacred Heart. I will never forget the many masses where we hustled through the bitter cold (like tonight), braving the frigid temps, dressed in our Christmas ‘best’. We’d leave well before 11pm since we had to stop by Aunt Elaine’s and pick her up. The church, every pew filled, was cold despite the crowd. The burning incense hung in the air. And the constant struggle with my eyelids to avoid falling asleep. Afterwards, wired on the pending excitement of Christmas morning (or, perhaps, just a ‘second wind’), we’d stop by Aunt Elaine’s for some coffee (for the adults), milk and cookies. This was our family tradition.
Unlike so many families of the time, my family wasn’t “in” to recording every event with either a still or motion camera. This is perhaps one of the greatest regrets that I have from my childhood – the actual proof that a family unlike any other family once existed. Instead, I am forced to unearth the recorded memories that hide within the folds of my now-41 year old brain… Sadly, like the Kodachrome color film from the 60’s, my memories are fading.
If I close my eyes, I can see snippets of Christmas’ past… Dad taking his position on the foot stool from the ‘big chair’, Mom on the couch, my brother and I on the floor divvying the gifts out. Charlie, our orange Persian-tabby mix, sitting on the back of a chair or under the tree, watching us wearily, aware that a bow would soon be placed upon her head.
Only a few of the many gifts from my childhood come to the forefront… The doll (with her freakish eyes that popped open when her arms were forced outwards and the giggle that was a cross between a pig squeal and the spawn of the devil – I seem to recall her name as “Giggles”). My first record player – a model from Montgomery Ward – that included the first records that I would own – various Christmas classics, and some pop songs from the era – my all-time favorite Elvis song, “Suspicious Minds”, Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue”, and a song (which I’ve never been able to locate on Google), “Bake me a Woman (who is strong)”…. The big yellow slot machine with the plastic chips from Aunt Elaine. The red guitar that I wanted with all my heart (and the subsequent hours that I played the same three chords over and over – but never seemed to notice that I wasn’t really making music). My first (and only) pair of downhill skis – K2’s – along with boots and poles. The X-country skis that required waxing. The mood ring. The Trivial Pursuit game, that year’s “hot” game, that Mom searched high and low for…
After opening the gifts, there was the obligatory phone call to Aunt Elaine to thank her for her gift(s). Then we’d have a nice family breakfast. The yeast smell from the rolls (served warm along with the sunny-side up eggs) still lingers in my memory to this day.
Later in the day, we’d all gather for a wonderful feast, followed by games and laughter.
My strongest memories revolve around the ornaments on the tree (so many of them lovingly made by my Mom, others that I helped to assemble from kits), the plastic window hangings (a Christmas tree and a candy cane which were hung each year on the sliding glass door in the back), the imitation garland that adorned the railing of our split entry home, the table centerpiece (figurines propelled by the heat of burning candles), the red table cloth with the “best” china and fine silverware… A dining room table filled with delicious foods, lovingly prepared by Mom. Each chair filled with the most special people in the world – Mom, Dad, Kevin and Aunt Elaine. My family. These are my most precious and cherished memories.