An American Family Christmas

There are only a precious few memories that I sincerely keep in the forefront of my aging brain. My first memory, when I was about 3 years old, was of knocking over the tall floor lamp even after being told to not touch it. My second memory was of coming home from a lousy out of town baseball game I played and having my grandfather meet me at my door, telling me my brother had been seriously injured. Fortunately, my brother recovered and today he is healthy and functioning; still it reminds me how life throws those curve balls at us. Lately, my third memory is one that really keeps coming up, especially during the Christmas season. It is about going to my maternal grandparent’s house, after our raucous morning of waking mom and dad up to open our presents, and sharing Christmas with so many of our other relatives.

A conglomerate of memories always flow through my mind at this time of year. My earliest Christmas memory was of going over to my grandma’s and seeing a stuffed Santa Claus under the tree. This Santa held a coke bottle in its hand. I remember how I always loved to hold that Santa in my lap during the day. I told my mother about this memory because I had remembered a picture being taken with me holding it. Well, needless to say she found that picture.Was I shocked to find it was taken in 1966 when I was only 2 years old. Other memories, not as early, resurface as I revisit Christmas’ experienced at their house

In later years my brother and I would always push Mom and Dad to hurry in getting dressed so that we could get over to Grandma’s. They thought they’d lounge around in their jammies drinking coffee. But my brother and I knew that our cousins, aunts and uncles were all there at Grandma’s having brought car loads of presents. It was the place to be on Christmas afternoon, eating, playing, sharing and getting more presents. What always got me was where my grandmother had hid the presents because we had been looking from July on. We never did find any.

I remember many family Christmas traditions were rooted at my grandparent’s house. My grandfather started a tradition of having the oldest cousin, not yet a teenager, be given the task of reading the name on the package and the other cousins helping pass them out. It sure did help me learn who everybody was, since we didn’t see some of these folks except at Christmas time. As I got older my cousins would take over and I would sit out. We passed that on to our kids and their cousins when we went over.

Oh, so many memories. When you reach middle-age, snippets of memories through the years keep recirculating. There was the smoking train that moved, whistled and would do circles. Seeing my great aunts and uncles, my great grandparents, and even some family I would never see again. Several years of getting clothes, even underwear, a tie, a sweater I would not be caught in today and finally as I got older $10 in envelope. That was the best money I ever got because I could spend it my way. It’s nice to do some things your way, but just as nice to have other people’s way, that is tradition, as well.

My grandparents are now in their late 80’s. Although they can’t move as fast, and don’t always remember things, they sure can reminisce of the many Christmas’ they had hosted. I do not know how many more there will be for them, but I know that I will carry on those traditions we shared with my family. And hopefully, one day, there will be grandkids who can’t wait to go to their grandma’s house.

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