Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas–My New Normal

Some traditions hold true.  Some change.  Christmas is no different.  I remember the first Christmas we had after my mom died.  For years, we went to our parents’ home for Christmas, even after she was too ill to prepare the meal.  We three girls brought the Tommi, Maggie, Paige, Danicafood, because my mom wanted us together.  The only time her holiday was changed was the day my sister went into labor in the wee hours of Christmas morning, and delivered the only girl grandchild to my parents.  They already had eight (8) grandsons, and no granddaughters.  That was a nice gift for them.  For my kids, they felt robbed of the day.  A few years later they said the day was not the same.  We all got together, short of my sister and her husband, and then the adult women all ran off to the hospital to see this Christmas baby girl.  We then returned to open all the presents under the tree with the family.  Every year, we went to my mom and dad’s, ate dinner, and had a huge gift exchange with all our family.

Our mom died in August, and all of a sudden we had to come up with a new tradition.  I don’t remember what we did that first December.  Maybe we showed up at our dad’s or one of my sister’s home.  The following year, we sisters decided to have a “progressive” IM001639Christmas celebration.  We loved it, the men hated it, and the smaller kids were okay with it.  We started at my home.  My home was very small back then, so I started with the appetizers, so I wouldn’t have to have folks around the table.  Everyone showed up and were fed whatever the appetizer I selected to make.  We also had to do some sort of small entertainment.  I don’t really remember what I did—maybe lead everyone in a Christmas carol.  After those two things were completed, I gave out my gifts to the family members.  We then went on to the next home.  As we progressed from my home, we went to homes to have soup, salad, main course, and desert.  No one had to drag presents with them because the adults who bought presents for all the kids, delivered them at their own home.  It was a fun day, and it took all day to eat our meal as none of IMG_1307.JPGus lived next door to each other.  After that year, my dad moved to Arizona, and one sister and her husband moved out of town, and also a couple of their kids scattered.  Two of my children made their way to the west coast.  The whole Christmas tradition changed again.  I had since moved to a larger home, and I worked out a deal with my remaining local sister that if she did Thanksgiving, I would do Christmas.  We did this every year through 2011.  Then in early 2012, my local sister was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away later that year.  We once again started a new normal.

I was like my mom.  I wanted Christmas at my home as long as I was healthy enough to celebrate with my children and grandchildren.  I hosted Christmas, even after I married Dennis, and lived 2 hours from my Missouri kids.  That worked every year until Dennis and I decided we wanted to move to Arizona.  Last year we were just snowbirds.  We wanted to leave the day after Christmas, so instead of hosting our children, we went to St. Louis and had Christmas at one of their homes.  We were still all together.

sledThis year the dynamic changed.  It changed for everyone.  One son in San Francisco got married, which changes the dynamic of his holiday, although he didn’t always make his way to the midwest as he had found his new normal in California.  He and his wife shared photos of their celebrations with friends who they love as family.   My youngest son, in Los Angeles, married and has a small child, and doesn’t have much opportunity to travel. My #3 son, his wife, and daughter flew to Arizona to have Christmas with us.  It was not a Christmas with lots of wrapped presents, since most of the grandchildren have grown up.  It is hard to shop for older teenagers when we don’t live near them, and they love to receive cash to do their own shopping.  I kind of miss having all the packages to wrap, always giving a toy, some clothes, and every grandchild would get a pair of warm winter pajamas and a book.  I was the book and pajama grandma!

 

So, the tree was bare underneath except for a few envelopes.  We did have Christmas cookies.  The consensus of the celebrants wanted grilled steaks, and since Arizona is supposed to be warm, their wish was granted — except, St. Louis, Missouri, was actually warmer this year on Christmas Day than Arizona!  We were fortunate that was the one day it did not rain, and steaks were grilled to perfection.

2019As my other children and grandchildren called me that day to wish me a Merry Christmas, we talked about how this holiday was different for all of us.  My grandson mentioned that this was the first one that not all the midwest family will be together—he will not be with his cousin who he celebrated with for 17 years.  My son, his dad, said that since they sold their home and moved to a new place in November, it was all new to them also, just making the new place their Christmas home.

I was sad to see my kids leave for Missouri.  They had an early flight this morning.  Life goes on though, and they have to get home and back to work and school.  We now have our tree and Christmas decor around the house that will need to come down and be packed away.  

I still think it was the right thing to move here.  Our family is growing and the kids and grandkids have their own busy lives.  I am no longer babysitting grandkids and having them come for sleepovers.  They have school activities, boyfriends, girlfriends, other friends, and even work obligations.  We also have a place that they love to visit.  One granddaughter was here for the week of Christmas.  A grandson is coming with his friends in January during their winter break from college.  I am working on a date for my oldest granddaughter to come visit.  Our home in Arizona is open to friends, but is especially open to our family.  Our Christmases will be different, but that is what happens in all families eventually.  We will learn our new normal.

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Santa Baby

sistersI was a big fan of Santa.  I believed that jolly old guy would deliver every year.  I wrote him letters.  The first one was apparently dictated to my mom.  She sent it off to the North Pole, or so I thought she did.  After my mom passed, I found many things she had saved over the years, of which two were letters I had written to Santa Claus.

I should have known that first Christmas as the age of 6, that Santa was sure to disappoint.  The first item on my list was a Saucy Walker Doll.  My sisters both had this type of doll, and I was dollenvious of their beautiful dolls, so I requested one.  I think I did receive one but it was a smaller version.  Of course, I was a smaller version of my sisters back in those days.

The second item on the list was dishes.  I am sure I received those, because I had a lot of play dishes, pots and pans, toy rolling pin, just everything a little girls in the mid 50’s would think her play kitchen should have.

I requested a bank, and got one that you couldn’t take the money out of until it reached $10.  Do you know how long it takes to save up $10 in those days.  It felt like forever.  We bankfigured out how to fool the totaling of the register to bring it to $10 way before that large sum of money was saved.  There were important things I needed to buy, and I couldn’t wait for the $10 to accumulate.

The next item was a huge disappointment.  Why on earth did Santa not bring me the requested “baby brother?”  He didn’t even bring me a baby sister.  What kind of Santa is that?  I was going to name my brother Charles.  I don’t know why—there wasn’t a single Charles on either side of our families.  I think it was a sturdy name—maybe I was aware at age 6, that Queen Elizabeth had a little boy the same age as me by the name Charles.  What made me think I could name my brother anyway?  Charles, or whatever his name could be, never arrived under our tree or anywhere in our house.  I was the end of child making in this family.1954 Santa Letter

The doll buggy and doll bed sound like something I got.  As you also see, I was into properly dressing my dolls also by requesting doll clothes, skates, and shoes.  I loved all my dolls, and I loved dressing them up.  I spent a lot of my time “playing house” and loved pretending to be a mother.  By the way, I never got a ballerina doll either.

I made a good try at age 6 to writing my first name in cursive, a lost art today.  My last name apparently was a bit more difficult to do in cursive.  It is good to know that I promised to be a good girl and mind “my mother and daddy.”  I was a very compliant child, and took this part of my job seriously.

So then a year later, I learned to write, and apparently I found a toy catalog, probably a Sears Roebuck, or maybe a J.C. Penney.  My writing is quite primitive, but I sure could copy names of toys that I saw, as I am sure that those descriptions would not be how I would have stated the item. 1956 Chrismas Letter A1956 Christmas Letter B

I am amazed at how demanding I was with the jolly old fellow.  I just went straight to the point.  I didn’t promise to be a good girl, I didn’t start with a nice introduction—I just told the man what I wanted for Christmas.  I noticed, though, that I didn’t bother to sign the letter.  How did Santa know who to deliver the goods to?  As I think about it, I am not sure I got all those or any of those things.  That could be why—Santa didn’t know who wrote this note, or maybe he wasn’t happy that I had not promised to be a good girl.

FastFoto_0300I believed in Santa for a long time—probably much longer than kids today.  One year I went shopping with my mom.  I was always with her.  She bought some stuff and I never thought anything about it, until on Christmas morning.  When my sister opened her much coveted paint by number oil painting set, a light bulb turned on in my brain.  I remembered my mom buying that when I was with her!  The magic was gone!

Do you remember Christmas Club accounts at the bank?  You put a certain amount of money into the account every week, and the first of December, the bank closed out the account and gave you the money.  One year my mom, got me an account.  I don’t remember how much it was. It was pretty minimal, but at the end of the year, I had money to buy my family Christmas gifts, and I learned how fun it was to find the perfect gift for each person.  I bought my mom a new metal canister set and my dad a light table for sorting his slides.  I had some money left over and bought myself a pair of shoes, and wrapped the box and put it under the tree for myself—one can never get too many presents!

IMG2780I loved Christmas.  My dad was the resident Scrooge, so my mom took us girls out to find our Christmas tree.  We could never purchase the tree before my birthday (December 16), so usually on the 17th we went tree shopping.  Judy, the middle sister, would string the lights on the tree, and then we would pull out the  glass bulbs and hang them.  The final touch was always the tinsel on the tree.  We thought the tree was beautiful.  We would turn on the lights, put our Johnny Mathis Christmas album on the Magnavox stereo, and marvel at the tree and the beautiful holiday music.  Those were good days—simple and fun.  We had family dinners with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We went to church, and performed in the Sunday school Christmas programs.  I even sang (yeah, can you believe that?) “We Three Kings” in a trio with two other little girls.  Each of us got to sing one of the verses solo.  My apologies goes out to those who may remember this performance!

Today, there are new traditions, and I hope my kids and grandkids have heartwarming memories of their Christmas celebrations as much as I do.

What were the traditions in your family?  Do you have fond memories of these days, or were you from a household that Christmas was a chaotic time with stress and family disagreements?  I am so grateful that our Christmas celebrations were wrapped with family love, and celebration of Christ’s birth.isaiah

The Magic of Christmas!

In less than a week, Christmas will be here. I love Christmas, but lately it has become a difficult holiday to celebrate. My children are scattered all over the United States. Some are married and have their spouse’s family to consider for the holidays. It just becomes ever so difficult to get together.

I think about Christmas when I was a kid. Maybe my parents and grandparents had some of these challenges, but as a child, Christmas was magical. We first had to get birthdays out of way. My mom and dad had their birthdays in November, with my sister and I having our birthdays in December with mine being the last before Christmas hit. My other sister, had her birthday in early January, actually on the day of Epiphany, so we covered all the end of the year holidays along with our birthdays, and then waiting for what seemed are very long time until our birthdays and Christmas would come rolling around again.

Today I put up the tree around Thanksgiving. That is not what happened at my house as LDM02105a child. Dad was not a fan of any kind of work or fanfare around the holiday, but Mom understood our need for the magic that the holidays brought. We had Christmas LP’s playing on the stereo. There was the Johnny Mathis Christmas album, which was probably our favorite, but we also had the Boston Pops, and many other albums of mostly instrumental and religious Christmas music. We would stack the records on the spindle, and push maxresdefaultthe little lever that told our stereo to lift the arm, feel the size of the record (45’s were small, and 33’s big), and then one record would drop down, and the needle would start on the edge of the record as it spun until the needle came all the way to the middle, producing festive Christmas music with every groove the needle encountered. When it hit the middle, it lifted and moved out, and once again moved to find the size of the record. If there were no longer records on the stack on the spindle, the arm would move all the way in, detect there were no further records, and move back to its original position, and the stereo would turn itself off. It was high technology for its time.

00 carolingOur church used to go Christmas caroling. We often did caroling for the St. Louis Christmas Carol Association. We would sign up with them, and they would assign us a local neighborhood to carol. One person wore the provided little red cape and carried a red money tube, so that those we caroled to could make a donation. The money from caroling went to local children’s charities across the St. Louis area. We would go out one evening before Christmas, sing our hearts out (and we were not great singers), and people would stand in their doorways and listen to us sing. They would go find some change or a dollar or two to put in the canister. When our caroling was over, we took our freezing selves to one of the homes of someone from church for hot chocolate and refreshments. I loved the caroling night. It made me feel so festive.

Our little church also had an annual Sunday School Christmas program. My mother would get books of Christmas poems, for all ages, and she assigned each child a poem about the Christmas story. Of course the little ones might just have a couples lines, and as we got older, the more lines we had to recite. Some of us sang Christmas carols. One year, I along with two other little girls from Sunday School sang “We Three Kings.” I cannot imagine we sounded very good, but we sang our hearts out, and our parents sat in the pew smiling proudly at us. We always received a box of candy for our performances.

00 Cinderella watchMy dad was not into the hubbub of Christmas decorating. We could beg until we were blue in the face, but he never put Christmas lights on the outside of our house. My mom would drive us three girls around, to look at all the pretty lights on other people’s houses. She helped us be in the Christmas spirit. My dad also wanted nothing to do with Christmas trees, so about mid-December, my mom would take us girls to a Christmas tree lot to select our tree. When I was small, my dad begrudgingly strung the lights—those big colored bulbs along with the bubble lights. I loved the bubble lights. They were magical. When we got older, one of my sisters became IMG2780adept at hanging lights, much to my dad’s delight. We would carefully hang the glass bulbs on the tree. Once the bulbs and lights were on the tree, it was time for the tinsel. Small thin strands of silver glistened in the lights. Originally, tinsel was made of silver, but tarnished with the heat of lights, so then in the 1950s & 60s, tinsel was manufactured from lead. Yeah, in the early 70s, they realized that was unsafe, and now tinsel, if you can even find it, is plastic with a shiny silver surface. I thought these trees were absolutely beautiful, even though the branches were sparse. We had to water the tree daily to keep the needles from drying out. Also, the lights could only be turned on if we were there—we did not want a fire hazard.

One of our big things was to go into downtown St. Louis to the Famous-Barr department store. This store was their flagship store and it was a block big and eleven stories high. The store windows were decorated with animated figures, and one large window was a village and trains. We would walk around the outside of the store along with hundreds of others marveling at the animated Christmas scenes. Inside the store was decorated, and Christmas music was playing throughout the store. We would take the escalators (some were even wooden) to the floor where they had made a “Winter Wonderland.” We walked through the many Christmas displays which ended with our visit to none other, but Santa Claus.

 

As the years moved on, my Christmas trees began to take on a life of their own. My early married years, I had a real tree, with its spindly branches, and would decorate it with 00 old treecandy, popcorn, cranberries, and pretzels. I didn’t have a lot of money but I would look for crafty creative ways to decorate. I moved to artificial trees, and experimented with types of decorations, but in the end, my tree is filled with memories. I have some of my mom’s Hallmark Keepsake ornaments from the early 70’s. I like unique and funky, and that’s how my tree is—it reflects who I am over the years.

There are just heart-warming feelings when I think about my childhood Christmases. I think of aunts, uncles, and cousins having dinner with us. I think about lying in bed unable to sleep on Christmas Eve, so excited with the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. I think 00 treeof the time I woke up in the early dawn, and quietly crept into the living room to see all the gifts under the tree, and my new child-size china cabinet and doll basinet that were too large to wrap, and quietly going back to my room happy and excited, but ready to sleep a little longer. We didn’t bake Christmas cookies—that was not a tradition from my European family. I am sure we had pies, and other baked goodies. I think of the times I would go through the toy section of mail order catalogs, and dream of the dolls with all the clothes and accessories any little girl would be thrilled to own. I would write Santa letters of all the things I wanted, practically copying from the catalog, and one year, I asked Santa for a baby brother. That’s one Christmas gift he never delivered—I remained the youngest child!

00 dinnerI am not sure if there is magic in Christmas today, like there was back then. The magic for me is to see my children and their children, and to know they are well. My magic is to entertain friends and family with a nice meal, and Christmas carols playing in the background. My magic is to be forever thankful that we live in a country we can celebrate Christ’s birth, and to worship him freely, and for others who wish to worship differently. My magic is to read Christmas cards from friends and family, and know they thought of me, even if it’s for only long enough to sign the card and address the envelope. My magic is the gratefulness that I have been given another year, and that my health is good.

I hope my reminiscing of my past Christmases has brought back fond memories of your own.  I hope you have peace, joy, and contentment this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  May you know the peace he provides.

Merry Christmas!

 

Isaiah