Counting down the days to Christmas was so exciting for me as a child. Projects created in school were snuck home on the school bus and hidden until I could wrap them. I was so happy to have presents to give! I could hardly wait. I worked so hard to keep these a secret until Christmas morning. One year, I wanted my Mom to tell me what she got Dad. I promised her I could keep a secret because I had kept my secret about her gift. I pleaded, “I won’t tell, I promise! I didn’t tell you about your Fish!”, then the tears came! I had just finished a big fish that was made with brown paper, stuffed with cotton, sewed together with yarn and painted in bright colors. I was so sad that I blew it!
I was also a curious kid and while I didn’t purposely look for gifts around the house, I found them a time or two. I remember digging around for wrapping paper and discovered little people, furniture, and other items in a big box! Yikes! I shut the lid right away but knew exactly what was in there for weeks. My Mom had built a dollhouse for me. She customized the house, it was made to scale and fit those little people and furniture perfectly. It had stairs, carpet, linoleum, curtains, closets with little hangers and even a picture of me in a frame!
Christmas Eve was spent in church, participating in the Christmas Pagent where I always dreamed of being Mary but was usually relegated to playing a shepherd. I may have been an angel once or twice but looking back, the shepherd role was spot on. Perhaps they knew I would grow to enjoy tending a flock! The church we attended was small and in the middle of Amish country. Many of the families that participated in those services still attend to this day. Christmas Eve service was wonderful. The church looked so beautiful at night. A massive Christmas tree stood in the front corner and was almost two stories tall. We would make ornaments for the tree at Sunday School in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Everything was so extraordinary that night! I remember getting a bag of goodies each year to take home after the pageant.
From there, we would go to my Grandparents’ house which was rowdy, loud and bright. Grandma’s tree was small, something that my Uncle Glen would bring from the woods. I
remember Grandma’s ornaments. They were ornate glass balls with a concave side and colored red, green, gold, and silver. I loved them and thought they were the most wonderful decoration. If you looked carefully, you might find one or two with a hole in it, a casualty of a perfectly placed BB, shot from a Red Ryder. Yes, true story. One year, my Grandma gave me a jewelry box with a porcelain top with a painting stamped on it. Grandma told me that if I were careful and didn’t break it, she would someday get me a tall wooden jewelry box that I could hang necklaces in. I still have my unbroken jewelry box and use it to this day!
Once we got home from my Grandparents, I would try really hard to stay awake. I would try to pretend to sleep and hold out as long as possible. Eventually, sleep would come. When I got up in the morning, I’d race to the tree to see what Santa brought. I would be so excited (and so would my Dad)! I think that’s his favorite time. He has this thing with trying to figure out what’s in the package before he opens it! Unfortunately for me, we’d have to eat breakfast and do the dishes first! Ah, the agony!
Later in the morning, we would go to my other Grandparents, my Mom’s parents that lived along the river. We would have a traditional meal with turkey, stuffing, vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie! One year I remember having lutefisk! I don’t remember the flavor, but remember the texture – not a fan. I was so excited to get to see my family and play with my cousins! We would have so much fun playing on the ice of the river or playing Ping Pong in the basement. As much as our mother’s kept us in line, we were still a bit too loud and obnoxious at the time which didn’t always sit well with my Grandpa Bernard. He was a stoic fella and a little scary (at least that’s what we thought at the time). A farmer and logger who wasn’t particularly fond of our antics when we were young. As we became young adults, we gained more confidence and gently began teasing Grandpa. He loved the witty exchanges. One year, limits were really tested when we had a paper fight with the wrapping paper in the middle of the living room. Grandpa found himself in the midst of it and had no problem joining in. Grandma was also reserved. While she was a bit quiet, it really was just a rouse. She knew exactly what was going on and very likely to be in on it. However, Grandma was THEE s – l – o – w – e – s – t gift un-wrapper EVER!! Grandma …admired the wrapping paper, …slit the tape with a knife, …admired the paper some more, …commented on how nice it was, …unwrapped the gift and then would …fold the paper back up and …admire it some more! All before ever looking at the gift. Grandma usually had a pile of gifts at her feet long after we had already unwrapped, unpackaged, and begun to play with our presents.
One of my favorite traditions of Christmas is the tree. I’ve loved all of our Christmas trees over the years. My parents’ trees often came from the woods, and then for several years, from those they had planted and pruned each year. My Mom made many of the ornaments for it. One year we made felt ornaments. Mom’s were detailed and perfect, mine, not so much. I was always so mad when Mom would hang mine on the tree! Uggh! What an ugly thing. Now, I look for it when I’m there! Funny how perspectives change as we get older. I remember sleeping under the tree a time or two as a kid. It’s silly, but I still like to do this! I tried this with our kids when they were little, but they just didn’t have the same excitement in this (nor did my husband)!
Once I moved out on my own, my first few trees came from the forest as well. Sometimes they were the wee tops of big trees, felled for a logging job or blown down in a storm. Most years we get a tree from the neighbor’s land who, at one time, pruned and sold trees. The remaining trees are now long overgrown, but they have allowed us to continue to cut them. We use the top for our tree and the branches at the bottom for Christmas boxes or wreaths. Over the years, I’ve had a few different tree phases. Ten years ago, I got a great deal on a used artificial tree. It was “really perfect,” however, it didn’t shed needles, run out of water, tip over, sag with the weight of clay ornaments or smell! It’s stayed in the box for the last several years. I also have “perfect” ornaments that are the “perfect” color and size and the “perfect” ribbon to complete the “perfect” look. The “perfect ornaments” are in a box too. This year, we decided to get a “real, perfect” tree and I have to admit, it is gorgeous! I catch myself glancing at it throughout the day and night. Every ornament on the tree has a story. My husband helped me decorate (a BRAND NEW Tradition!) It smells amazing. The needles are vacuumed up. It has water. It’s symmetrical (:)). It won’t tip over.
I love it!
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your traditions. Whether creating new or cherishing old, make some memories this year!
Do any of these memories strike a chord with you? Please share your favorite memory or tradition!