Remembering Christmases past
Looking back over seven decades of Christmases, I really don’t remember a lot of the gifts I’ve received or, for that matter, given. What I do have is many joyous and some humorous memories of holiday celebrations, and that is the most important part of the holiday celebrations.
Really, I have relatively few childhood Christmas memories, probably due to the continual illness of either my mother or father. However, there is one family Christmas story I cherish. My mother was born on Dec. 24, 1904, in the parsonage of the Baptist Church where her father was pastor. The church was holding Christmas Eve services and “Silent Night” was being sung when my mother entered the world. That led to her being named “Carol,” and every time I hear “Silent Night” I always think of her.
Most of my Christmas memories entail family celebrations. When our three daughters were young, Christmas was the biggest day of the year. Jean and I spent many Christmas Eves struggling to assemble toys. One year, we put together a kitchen set which took us until 3 a.m. We dragged ourselves to bed only to be awakened at 5 a.m. by three ultra-excited daughters clamoring to see what Santa had brought them.
Hiding gifts from the girls was always a challenge. I remember one year they wanted the “Battleship” game, and my aunt sent the girls a present, which always arrived early. When Aunt Beulah’s gift arrived, they could see through the paper that it appeared to be “Battleship.” We decided to play a trick on them, and Jean carefully unwrapped the package and removed the game. She replaced the contents with three pairs of underwear and re-wrapped the package. On Christmas morning there was the usual excitement as they ripped open the package, removed the lid, and to their disappointment found only underwear. After a good laugh we restored the game which we all played during the day.
Sneaking gifts home could be a challenge, too. This was particularly true the year we bought one of the girls a small bicycle. At that time, we owned the Mulvane newspaper and lived about four blocks from the office where we had hidden the bike. I remember it was about midnight when we got all the gifts under the tree and the stockings filled, and I had to walk to the office, get out the small bike and ride it home. I’m sure if anyone saw me, they must have thought I had lost my mind or enjoyed too much eggnog.
When Jill was about 15 months old, we went shopping in downtown McPherson where we lived and visited the Gambles Store which advertised a tiny red wagon as a holiday leader. We were talking with the manager when we missed Jill. She was pulling one of the little wagons down the aisle and, of course, it became one of her Christmas gifts. I remember thinking 15 months was a young age for selecting gifts.
I was always easy to buy for because in those days I was a pipe smoker. Most Christmases I got a new Dr. Grabow pipe and Hickory tobacco along with a variety of books. I believe that books are great gifts because they last forever. Leafing through some of my collection, I find myself remembering the Christmas when it was given to me.
The arrival of grandchildren changed Christmas celebrations. For example, in 1987, we were asked to babysit our first grandson, Andrew, who was just a couple of months old. We dressed Andrew in a Christmas suit complete with a Santa hat and then took a 36-roll of color photographs. We were so excited that we drove to a convenience store in Edwardsville which was the only one-hour photo processing center in the area. One of the 36 shots was framed and is part of our holiday decorations.
Now, our holiday celebrations have changed. The highlight now is that all our daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren are home for the holidays. It is a noisy, joyous celebration which includes great food, gifts, playing games and watching football. Christmas, however, is a busy time for Jean who begins putting her menus together weeks ahead of time, baking cookies, cinnamon rolls and pies, preparing party mix, peanut brittle and other delectable treats. Yet, I believe it is a labor of love for her.
You’ll note that I didn’t include any sad memories. We have all had sad Christmases at one time or other, yet I choose to forget them and dwell on the joyful times. I prefer to let the bad times remain dusty memories and enjoy the happy time again and again.
Hopefully this will start you thinking about the Christmas joys that have been part of your life. I’m looking forward to another great year and I hope that you all have a safe and merry Christmas.