CHESTNUTS ROASTING

I would love to write a nostalgic post about my many Christmas memories. Stockings, carols, turkeys, Santa, the works. The truth of the matter is that my childhood memories, collectively, would EASILY fit on the head of a pin.

I have been challenged by a Facebook friend to get with it and THINK BACK. I have been brain racking (wracking??), and I have managed to come up with some details of my Christmases past to share with all of you. Dickens I am most certainly NOT, but I do have some memories perhaps worth sharing.

FAMILY. My mother was a gifted artist who spent her life as a housewife. Her genius was expressed through flower arranging, sewing, cooking, and crafting. She let herself go at Christmas! We always had at least five kinds of cookies stored in Christmas tins in the garage (!), and every night after dinner, we brought them upstairs and gorged on nut crescents, little pecan tarts, Slovak (my Mom, a true Bohemian peasant) jam tarts, and various other delicacies. I have never made a cookie that doesn’t come in a roll from the grocery refrigerated section.

My mother always made a Christmas candle. She let my sister and me help. It consisted of a wick, blocks of paraffin, melted paraffin that she somehow whipped into a froth, glitter, food coloring, and decorative greens. The candle was assembled from the blocks, the whipped frosting applied with a cake spreader, and the glitter applied while the paraffin was still wet. The candle was arranged on the buffet with the greens; it always looked beautiful, and we lit it every night during supper during the holidays. I absolutely loved it. It has never occurred to me to try making one.

We did not have a fireplace in our house, so we never had stockings. My father acted as Santa on Christmas morning, and he did an admirable job. We opened gifts one at a time, and exclaimed over each one. I am not aware of my parents exchanging gifts—Christmas was ALL ABOUT ME, of course. I do remember Dad getting things like socks and gloves every year, and his enthusiasm for these gifts was always boundless, bless him!

GIFTS TO REMEMBER. My favorite gift as a child was a ballerina doll with pink toe shoes. I found it in my Mom’s closet at around Thanksgiving time, and took it out and played with whenever she went to the store. I am shocked that she didn’t notice its slightly shopworn appearance when she wrapped it up to put it under the tree. The worst gift I have ever received (and my daughters will back me up on this) was a pair of blown glass earrings from my husband. These looked to me like tiny little dog poos on 14k gold posts, and I never wore them. They got lost, somehow…

THE HOLIDAY RAMP-UP. Families in the fifties were not so slavish in the decoration department. I have no memories of lights in the bushes or wreaths on the front door. We had a big non artificial tree in the living room, in front of the picture window, and every year, my Dad did what all Dads throughout history have done: he put the lights on the tree and used words that I never heard during other times of the year: words like shit, damnittohell, and son of a bitch.

Our decorations were thanks to my talented mother, who managed to make a different style of beautiful handcrafted ornament-every year. We had ones made of satin ribbon, ones covered with sequins, knitted and crocheted ones, stained glass-like ones, and some she made from kits that she ordered. I have many of these still, and we put them on our tree every year. I have never tried to make an ornament. I know my limitations.

Since both parents were musicians, and my Dad played a mean concert violin, we always had Christmas music. On the stereo, I adored the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Robert Goulet sang “Panis Angelicus” like nobody’s business. My Dad played his violin for us once in awhile, and I loved it. Since my Dad was also associated with the music department at the university in our town, we also attended Christmas concerts. I loved sitting there, behaving beautifully (my Mom made it clear that one false move and I was a dead man) and letting the music wash over me. I have no musical talent myself. Charlie takes care of that with carols galore on the accordion, whether we need them or not.

So there you have it. Memories. My children, if writing blogs, would have a very different set of remembrances: about the Santa gifts with Mom’s handwriting on the tags, the trips to the emergency room on Christmas Eve two years running (a badly sprained ankle one year, uncontrolled vomiting the next), taking rides to see the lights and getting into a big fight in the car about why it isn’t in good taste to say the “F” word in front of your parents, embarrassing a boyfriend at a fancy restaurant with a family discussion about scatological topics, and the time Mom gave Dad back all of the gifts he got her because none of them were on her Christmas list…

Oh, it is a magical time of the year.

I want to wish all of you who have supported me in my writing a wonderful holiday. I will name some names: Merry Christmas to my Facebook family, especially Karl, Tracy, Diana, Michelle, Celine, and Dr. Steve. To Watson the cat, felicitations! To my Etsy friends, a hearty Yule! To my neighbors, lots of love. To the rest—Jane and Dave, Susan G. and Dave, Alison and Tim, Carl and Sherry, John and Joann, Paul and Susanne, Waynesville Vet Hospital, Joe and Dee, Sheryl and Rick, Mar and Den, Lynne, and the rest of my family—peace and love.

I will be taking a Christmas hiatus (no,Charlie—I don’t have a HERNIA) and I will be back after the holidays. Annie and Marion will be home this year, the four of us together for maybe the last time before one of them gets married.

It will be the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.

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