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Christmas Past

Yesterday we brought the Christmas tree down from the attic. I am always amazed how we Americans bought into the idea of bringing a "tree" into our homes. A tree, mind you, not a plant or a branch but the "whole tree".

Then we decorate it and light it up. Does this take away from its dignity?

As I sat there looking at the undecorated tree, so out of place in a living room and not outside swaying in the breeze, memory flashes came to mind of "Christmases past".

My husband always did things on a "big bright scale." He made a star for the top of the tree that the mighty oak couldn't hold up. It was red, yellow, green and black. Hardly the silver or gold of most trees. We still have it because he made it, but we couldn't use it.

Another year he made an outdoor light display with red and green spotlights and all the works. Unfortunately, the brightest spotlights ended up being aimed at our elderly neighbor's bedroom window. I am sure he was glad when the holidays were over.

One year he made toy blocks so the children could build a fort. Not those tiny 2x2 ones but blocks the size and weight of bricks. He should have had a building permit for them. After the kids fell a few times and a few cut lips, we got rid of them.

I remember the early years of my marriage. Come September we started to prepare for Christmas. We counted how many Tuesday's were left (paydays). Other than the gifts, we had to figure the price of the tree, liquor, 5 lb box of candy, turkey etc.etc.etc.

In the fall, Bailey's would have a sale of 88-cent toys. My children were young enough to enjoy them and we bought boxes and boxes of them. The year the price went up to $1.29 the children got to old for the jack in the boxes and such…. good thing….how dare they charge 1.29 for the 88-cent sale?

As a child I always went searching for a peek at my presents. One Christmas I found all my presents weeks early and had no surprises Christmas morning. (They could have hid them better).

I won't forget the Christmas dinners my mother made for so many years, with so many relatives taking part. Later I took over the dinner and now my brother and sister and law do the honors.

We'd do anything for a laugh. One year all the women showed up in funny hats. Later we forgot we were wearing them. A friend dropped in unexpectedly and no one thought to explain. As she was leaving she complimented my sister in law on the lovely hat. We didn't tell her anything different.

Then there was the year we decided decorating the tree was a chore and used only lights. It was beautiful at night when lit and ugly as sin during the day. The word got out and people brought ornaments for the poor tree on Christmas day.

So we ended up with a big tree with about a dozen ornaments………ugh! I think that's the year I hung a "Bah Humbug" sign instead of mistletoe.

We (my brothers family and mine) always mock the other ones tree. Ours was always tall, full and beautiful and theirs slim, dry and faded. The year my husband died on Thanksgiving we decided not to have a tree - it was too painful.

On Christmas Eve I went to Marc's and got something resembling a 2-foot tree for the end table. That was the only one that didn't get mocked.

We all remember the years when our children were young and the tree was loaded with paper chains. One year my son made and painted wooden ornaments. Christmas Eve he was still painting. They were beautiful.

Another year my daughter made little frames with pictures of our guests and hung them on the tree. The tree was studied by everyone and they got to take their pictures home. An aging aunt and uncle (must have been my age now) were ecstatic to see their pictures; they said it made them feel a real part of the family.

That was the year that same uncle fell in love with my daughters Teamsters jacket. He always wanted one and when he left he was wearing it. Yes, she gave him her cherished jacket.

Then there was the year I took up the guitar. I loved the song "Mary's Boy Child" and we played and sang it dozens of times. It became a tradition for several years.

Oh, there's the Nativity Set that I made at ceramics class about 25 years ago that my husband and I painted. There's the table cloth that my Aunt Edna made for me a few decades ago with "Merry Christmas" in all the different languages.

Memories, memories, memories. Time is funny. It seems like yesterday - or was it 100 years ago?

Recently a niece made mention that they always used our front door on Christmas. I wasn't aware of it, I think it was because they had to park on the street and had a lot to carry. I never realized they used the side door the rest of the year.

Tradition is very important in our family, including food traditions. When my children were little I made a red cake and we sang happy birthday to Jesus. We are still doing it and I see there are now mixes for red cake.

I was surprised when a grand niece said at Halloween that one of her favorite desserts was the red cake at Christmas. I didn't think it even got noticed anymore - just part of the scenery.

Once when we were reminiscing the Christmas foods that were most remembered, to my surprise, were my traditional burned bottom rolls and the mixed vegetables that no one liked. Why didn't they say something then?

This will be the first Christmas in 35 years without a dog. But it will be the last! No ornaments knocked down with the tail. Presents can be put out as soon as we decorate it (not Santa's but the other ones).

We always took our dog upstairs and closed a bedroom door on Christmas Eve so when Santa came the dog would not open the gifts before we got down there. Our dogs always loved presents and thought they were all for them. How bland without a dog!

We should go to the nursing home and bring our small gifts, but how can we now that Aunt Lil is gone? Who will be sitting in her favorite spot?

I don't want to think of who is missing. It's too hard. I'll think of who is added.

Funny as I re-read this column there is no memory of special presents or gifts. I guess it's true they really aren't what's important.

Enough of Christmases past, this is Christmas present, with it's own memory makers. I hope if the spirit moves you you will check out my Christmas memories article from last year.

May this be your happiest, holiest, best Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa ever. And to all you atheists out there……smile, God loves you.

What are some of your memories?

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Pat


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