Your Best Christmas Memories

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Your Best Christmas Memories

Dic 1, 2020, 7:39am

We were very poor, but Christmas was still very fun. I didn't realize we were poor until I was in high school. Being poor certainly did not really harm me, although it did probably shape my world view.

Some of my favorite memories are decorating the tree. My dad would wait till 1-2 days before Christmas to get a tree, they were marked down, then. We had a batch of round glass ornaments that we decorated with and "icicles", which you can't even find anymore. For presents we usually got one small toy, a piece of clothing, and hopefully, a book. I always asked for books and I collected the Bobbsey Twins and my sister collected The Happy Hollisters and we read each others books. My brother had the Hardy Boys, but for some reason I did not read those. We went to my grandmothers for a great feast the Sunday after Christmas. There were probably 30 of us there and I loved playing with my cousins. By my count I had 20 first cousins. I was the oldest of all the cousins. We lost our first cousin to cancer this year, he was 64. We didn't really exchange gifts at grandmas, but usually got something small like a deck of cards or those lifesavers that came in a book. The best part of the Christmas season was just visiting with others; it still is!

What are your memories?

Dic 1, 2020, 9:05am

I still have the little plastic reindeer my mother bought the year I was born. When we got bubble lights we all fell in love with them!

The best gifts I ever got came from my mother’s parents. One year my grandfather got me a microscope, not a toy one but a refurbished one from the company his school got science supplies from. Then a couple of other years he took us to a bookstore and let us choose our own items up to ten dollars. I got three books and one brother bought books too and the other one got records.

My other grandmother always made us new clothes and my mother would make sure there would be a surprise or two.

Modificato: Dic 1, 2020, 9:47am

I’m second oldest of eleven. My parents pulled my sister and i aside one year and told us money was so tight that they wouldn’t be able to buy gifts for us that year. We dejectedly agreed that was a good decision; so that the younger kids wouldn’t be disappointed.
Christmas morning there was a television set for our bedroom! I’ve never been able to decide the full psychology behind that.

But a highlight gift, when I was about 5, was a complete tin kitchen set stuffed into my stocking.

My mother’s sister made each of our stockings, all unique. It was quite a display hanging from the mantel.

Dic 1, 2020, 10:09am

Even though she didn't have much money, my mother's mother insisted on giving everyone in her family a gift. Each gift didn't cost much but I have a collection of floral ladies handkerchiefs (or floweredy as she called them). When my daughter got married I gave her one to carry with her down the aisle and I gave another to my daughter-in-law for her wedding to my son. They both have them tucked away with their wedding dresses.

Dic 1, 2020, 11:18am

When I was in my mid-teens, I don't recall the reason why, but my father hadn't quite gotten around to get a tree, and it was only a day or two before Christmas. It was already late in the day. Well, it was dark outside at least, and my mother coerced him into going out to finally get a tree, and it was snowing -- big, light, fluffy flakes. "Make sure you get a full one," she said.
Now, you have to understand, Christmas at my house was a big deal. There were eight kids (I was the fourth) and the two parents, so LOTS of presents to go under the tree. The house was fairly huge also. It was an old farm house, formerly an apple orchard, and when we bought it, there were maybe 300 chickens in the barn out back. It was three stories (the house, not the barn), and the facade of the first two floors was field stone, including the wrap-around porch, which spanned the entire front and one side. There were four bedrooms and a bath on the 2nd floor, and the 3rd floor was one very large room with a large closet, two attic areas, a bath and one space that was perfect for tossing some pillows into and sitting with a good book – or a bad book. It didn’t matter; all books seemed good when I read in there.
The living room was one half of the first floor, and ran the length of the house. There were three wide (almost four feet,) double-hung windows facing the porch on two walls and a large, wide front door with one pane of beveled glass in it. All of the glass was so old that each of the panes had bubbles and 'grain' in them, and all of the woodwork in the house was solid chestnut.
At one end of the living room was the staircase, and the area next to it was where the bookcases, an old upright piano and the polar bear rug were located. All the rooms had 10-foot high ceilings, and high on the far wall in the ‘alcove’ section of the living room was a wooden framework that housed three small latticed windows. This is the area where the Christmas tree traditionally went, and it was probably ten feet on each side. The stairs took up an additional three-and-a-half feet of space, easily, so you can imagine the size of this room now, and approximately what my mother meant by her emphatic statement in the first paragraph.
While I would have preferred to stay home and beat on the drums (3rd floor), I went with my father to hunt for a tree. Why me and not any of my seven siblings? Simple. With only a few exceptions (that I can think of), when my father asked me to do something, I did it. If he ~ordered~ me, I generally ignored him and suffered the consequences. But at this point, he had already figured out that I'm much more cooperative when presented with a request, or better yet, a dilemma. Besides, the rest of my siblings had hiding places that I didn't know about, or were occupied (suddenly). So off we went. There were already several inches of snow on the road, and it's coming down fast, and the usual place to get a tree was already closed. So he kept on driving, and we talked about his experiences of driving in snow. Ironically, much later in my life, I would have a long conversation with my mother about previous experiences of driving in fog, but that’s another story. I didn't have a license yet, so it was all about him -- and he had had MUCH experience, as he spent a couple of months every year above the Arctic Circle. He claimed to have actually been towed out of a snow drift by Santa Clause and his reindeer. I believed him; he's got no reason to lie about such things.
My father got an idea in his head -- drive out to Spring Valley (NY), and cruise up and down Rte. 59 -- there's BOUND to be a Christmas tree place open ~there~. The nearest part of Rte. 59 was 15 miles away, and it's snowing. Harder. And sure enough, an hour later, he finds a place. It's in the middle of a parking lot at what we now refer to as a "Big Box" store -- BIG place, BIG parking lot. If I'm not mistaken, it was an S&W Green Stamp Redemption Center. I could be wrong; it was snowing pretty hard.
So, we're looking at piles of snow. Some of it was plowed into big mountains to free up parking spaces. The smaller piles were actually Christmas trees, but you couldn't tell. We cleaned off DOZENS of trees, and they were pitiful -- even Charlie Brown's tree would have kicked sand (or snow, most likely) in their metaphorical faces. We were getting desperate. I thought maybe we could duct tape several of them together. Dad finally went over and talked to the snowman. The fellow looked like a snowman -- big guy - appropriately sized for the parking lot and the building in the distance, plus, he was all covered in snow.
I'm not a haggler; hate the idea of arguing over something that I don't know the actual cost of anyway. Dad, on the other hand, relishes the challenge, but I didn't think it was one of these situations. The fellow should have been paying ~US~ to haul off his trash. So, there were a lot of conversational hand gestures going on for quite some time, and eventually, the fellow walks over to a snow bank, shoves his arm into the snow and starts throttling his arms like he's choking maybe his twin brother. The whole snow bank seemed to come alive, and in short order, he produced a huge, full tree. He dragged it over and my father and I walked around it in opposite directions, and when we eventually found each other again, we were both laughing. So, we bought it. The drive home was not unlike the scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The tree was longer than our station wagon, by several feet. We had much better traction, too.
The driveway for our house was a large arch that terminated near both front corners of the property. It also had extensions that wrapped around the back of the house, and went out to the barn. You didn't necessarily need to know all that... but I really hated shoveling the driveway. My father pulled in one end of the driveway and parked well beyond the half-way point of the front arch. That meant, of course, that when I (foolishly) opened up the passenger-side door I disturbed the branches of the 50+ foot tall Blue Spruce that I couldn't see (because it was dark), I was buried in a now compressed, former fifty feet of snow.
We eventually got the tree (the one we bought, not the blue Spruce) up on the porch and got out a tape measure -- nineteen feet. We found the (roughly) midpoint and my father bravely climbed into the tree and started cutting it (roughly) in half. My brothers and sisters were looking out the front door and the two windows that faced the front, and all they could see was tree. We brought in the top half and positioned it, and my mother was somewhat disappointed in that the bottom (relatively speaking) of the tree didn't quite fill up the area as she had hoped, but even she had to admit that it was otherwise very full. So, we took it down and dragged it outside and brought in the ~original~ bottom of the tree. The near part of the staircase disappeared in the branches. And there was NO WAY we were going to take it outside again without hacking off the branches first! The trunk was too broad to fit the standard Christmas tree base, and I’m sure Rube Goldberg would have awarded us Honorable Mentions, at the very least, for our workaround. We decorated the tree, and it looked great, but there was just no way were going to put a top on it, as the upper part of the trunk was mere inches from the ceiling and maybe four inches in diameter.
My three older brothers had a solution, though. They had already gone upstairs and dismantled the bed and moved furniture out of the bedroom directly above that part of the living room. Following their cue, and over the objections of my mother – “Oh, Honestly! I’ve never ~HEARD~ of such a thing! Don’t be ridiculous! You’ll never get it around those corners of the landing. You bring that thing back down this instant!” , my father and I went outside, got the top of the tree, and carried it upstairs and set it up in that bedroom. We all did our share of the work and got decorated in record time, including the star for the top.
Outside, people driving by the house would have to slow down to navigate the curve in the road. They were also treated to the sight of what appeared to be a two-story Christmas tree inside the house. The other benefit, of course, was that there was now enough room under the tree (or trees, depending on your interpretation) to handle all of the presents.

Dic 2, 2020, 9:23am

Getting treats like oranges, walnuts, Brazil nuts, fizzy lemonade, none of which we could afford normally.

Going round to a friend's house where we would toast bread in front of the fire and spread pork dripping on it.

The Christmas lunch - turkey with sage and onion stuffing, brussel sprouts, roast potatoes, and then Christmas pudding soaked in brandy and lit, although it must have been cheap brandy because the flame often didn't last more than a split second!

Unusual alcoholic drinks such as port and lemon(-ade), advocaat and egg nog.

Dic 2, 2020, 9:42am

We got an orange and nuts in our shoes December 6th from St. Nicholas. We each placed a shoe outside our bedroom doors the night before. Yes, oranges were a special treat for us too.

Dic 2, 2020, 10:58am

>5 WholeHouseLibrary: What a wonderful story!