Memories make Christmas merry

When we were children, the excitement and anticipation on Christmas Eve at Grandmama’s was unmatched by any other night of the year. The old house seemed filled with joy and laughter. I remember how we’d run out into the front yard once it got dark and see how our Christmas lights looked on the front porch.[cointent_lockedcontent]

olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddUncle Walter would string lights throughout the wisteria vine that grew just beneath the porch roof from end to end. There’d always be fresh cedar, and a holly wreath would hang on the old front door.

We had a cardboard manger scene we put together each year before everything else began.

In the window of the front living room would be three red candles, plugged in and shining through the dark.

From the other window, our Christmas tree was seen in all its glory. Our precious strand of bubble lights would be front and center, and our angel would keep watch over all from the tree top. We always checked to make sure the tree could be seen from the road.

We wouldn’t be able to stay outside long, because even with our coats on we could feel the cold. We’d run up the steps and through the front door, fling our coats and hats in the general direction of the hat rack and fly into the kitchen to warm our hands.

There was a potbellied stove in the kitchen lit first thing every morning. But at night when we went to bed, none of the rooms were heated. There were gas heaters in bedrooms, but they weren’t used at night. And Christmas Eve was no different in that way.

They’d put us to bed early. We’d lie there in the dark and try to go to sleep, but it was impossible. The old house would pop and creak in the cold, and presently we’d hear footsteps going up and down the hall. The front door would open and close. We’d hear Uncle Walter thumping down the hall with his walking stick and the low murmur of voices.

Eventually we’d pass out from exhaustion. We’d usually wake up sometime during that long night and think it was time to get up, so we’d run down that cold long hall to Mama’s room and burst in, asking in piercing whispers, “Is it time to get up?”

We’d been told we could get up at 5 a.m., and surely it was that now.

Poor Mama would say, “No. You children go back to bed. It’s barely midnight.”

Sometimes she’d give us a baby aspirin. This was supposed to calm us down. She’d go with us back to the bedroom and shush us, tuck us in and cut out the light. Eventually we’d doze back off. And then, we woke up, somehow knowing that even though it was still dark, it was morning. We’d race down the hall to Mama to check and she’d say, “Go get your stockings and bring them back to bed.” She’d get up and put on her robe and follow us down the hall to the front living room. I’d always slip out onto the front porch to look up into the night sky to see if I could see the star. I always thought I could.

We’d take a quick look to see what Santa Claus had brought and take our filled stockings down from the mantle. Then we’d fly back to bed with our stockings while Mama lit the fire in the fireplace. We could hear Gramdmama in the kitchen putting on the coffee and Uncle Walter thumping along the hall.

And then we’d be in bed with our stockings and look at the wonderful things we found there.

We’d always have toy tin horns stuck in the top. They made an unholy racket when blown. There’d be hard Christmas candy, tangerines and oranges and nuts. And there’d be something special. I remember the year I got a big box of Crayola crayons and a thick roll of colored construction paper and my own scissors. It was thrilling.

And then we’d bundle into our clothes and race out to the car with Mama to go get Flora. We’d have our horns with us and would be blasting away when we rolled into her yard. There’f be a light on in her kitchen. We’d roll down the windows and yell, “Merry Christmas,” blowing our Christmas horns. Flora would come out with her coat and hat, wearing her big white apron.

We’d blow the horns as loudly as we could as poor Flora climbed into the car, and then we’d ride back to Grandmama’s, excited beyond description.

We’d all gather in the living room. We’d plug up our tree, the adults would have their coffee, the fire would be blazing in the fireplace and we’d get to really look at the larger item Santa had brought each of us and then take turns opening our gifts.

Most of the small gifts we children gave came from Woolworth’s dime store. The wrapping may have been a bit dog-eared, but those presents were beautiful to us. We were so proud that we could buy our own gifts for the others. Nickels and dimes would accumulate if they weren’t spent, and special jobs could bring in a little extra.

The year I’ll never forget is the Christmas we both got bicycles. It was the biggest day of my life to date. I have a picture of us with our bicycles taken that Christmas morning. Every time I look at it, I am taken back to that day.

I still love Christmas, all parts of it. Planning, cooking, preparing for family and friends, finding special things for those I love and even wrapping.

We still go out and cut our own tree and bring it home to decorate. Christmas is about loving and giving. That’s the important part. And each unique activity that goes into making Christmas happen is an important part of the whole. We love and are loved. We give and receive. And we open our hearts. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.