Friday, December 12, 2014

Holidays in our house

Statement of fact:  Christmas is wonderful.
Way back in the early 50s. when my brother and I were mere children, Christmas was the biggest thing in our lives.  I don't know what Santa went through to bring us the assortment of great toys and stuff in our stockings, but the old elf was pretty busy and we were never discontent.  My mother often quotes that, after going through unwrapping all our stuff, one of us asked "is this all?" meaning, of course, having unwrapped so many presents, we didn't want to miss one.  But, taken as parents are wont to do, they considered it ungrateful and greedy in that we wanted more.  No.  We just didn't want to miss something.
The house was full of candles of choir boys and plastic poinsettias and red and green. I remember my father putting the lights on the live tree and cursing because back in the old days, if one light bulb was dead, the whole string didn't work and he'd have to go through the replacement bulbs one by one to fix things.  There never seemed to be the right bulbs and it took hours--or maybe it just seemed like that.  The radio that was part of our television played Christmas music.  Mom went nuts over the tinsel hanging.  We never did it right, but she fixed it.
Oh, the food!
There were cookies everywhere.  Thousands! In later years, she worked in the school cafeteria and the ladies baked their cookies there in the big trays, then would trade off.  It's called a cookie exchange now, back then it was just friends sharing cookie recipes and baked goods.  Mom liked her cookies on the small side.  One bite, she'd say.  We wanted something to munch on.  Never happened. Mom was pretty strict about her baked goods.  "Saving for company" was her watchword.  And we did have lots of company back then.
My parents weren't big party givers, but when they did, it was special.  I helped Mom make appetizers or hors d'ervors (please spell check fix this!) which meant putting a dab of cream cheese on a Ritz cracker and a slice of green olive on it.  Sometimes I spread Kraft cheddar pimento cheese in a little jar on the Ritz. Sometimes it was the Roka Bleu spread!  To my amazement, these delicacies are still made.  Oh, and wait...sometimes there were curled up little anchovies from a can placed atop that cream cheesed Ritz.  Come to think of it, there might not have been any other cracker back then that was suitable for company.
The parties sort of stopped when my younger brother came along.  Dad worked rotating shifts because my older brother was ready for college. Mom was home with the kid.  Only relatives showed up at Christmas.  Or sometimes, we'd go to her mother's and father's house for Christmas dinner, after mass, of course. Grandma put out a lot of food.  Sometimes she invited my other grandmother to join us.  My uncle, single then, was always good for great presents.  One year, he had a few drinks with the owner of the only jewelry shop in town and our presents were pretty fabulous!
But the smell of the baking cookies, the pine from the tree, the warmth inside and the chill outside (let there be ice skates under the tree, please!) and the joy, the out and out joy...these things made my Christmas season wonderful.
I don't know if I managed to do the same for my own children.  I sure hope they have memories to equal or surpass mine.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

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