As I decorated the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, I was trying to remember some of my childhood Christmas presents. I realized that I couldn’t remember most of the presents I had received over the years as a child.
As each ornament took its position on the tree, and the gold ribbon was wound into place, I tried to remember. But none of what I thought I would remember was coming back. The excitement of Christmas and the traditions of that month was the only thing I could remember from childhood.
The best night at home was the night dad brought the tree home. They came into the local grocery store wrapped in mesh, and it was like opening the first Christmas present, because you never knew what you were going to get when you unwrapped the mesh.
All the trees back then were the very thin-branched fir trees, you didn’t have other choices. It might be the most beautiful tree ever or the skimpiest thing going. I think he mostly went for height and thought we could fill it in with lights and icicles.
Then each evening after school we would race home to see if there were any new packages under the tree with our names on them. We learned early how to shake, squeeze and rattle a package to try and figure out what was in it.
About the time I got really good at guessing; dad got smart and started to wrap them in boxes to big for the present. For some of them he would add bricks or pipes for weight and rocks or marbles for noise. But the shaking and squeezing continued each night to try to figure out what was in each package. It was more fun to try and figure it out than the actual opening of the packages.
The year I was 10 I had received a record player for my birthday. It was a small square player that only played 45 records and you had to put the needle on the record yourself. I believe mine was covered in a pink material.
Right after Thanksgiving, I used some of my allowance (25 cents a week) to buy the record of Alvin and the Chipmunks called “The Chipmunk Song”. I nearly wore the record out that Christmas, along with my mother’s patience. I played it over and over and over. Surprisingly I still get a kick out of the song when it comes on the radio.
When Christmas Eve finally came around and the floor around the tree was crowded with packages I could hardly wait until supper was over, because I knew that Santa always came to our house on Christmas Eve. He somehow knew that I was going to be at my Grandmothers on Christmas Day, so he made a special delivery to our house.
After supper, mom always had the idea that we should drive around town and see the Christmas lights, so we would all pile into the car. All except my dad, and something always seemed to come up and he couldn’t go. We would be gone about 30 minutes, which took some doing for my mother, because the town was only 8 blocks square. When we got back home, Santa had always been there while we were gone.
I would be mad because I had missed him again. I would always say, “Why didn’t you ask him to wait Dad? You knew I had cookies for him.” Dad would say Santa had lots of stops to make and he couldn’t stay. So I would have to try the next year to see him.
The proof that Santa had been there was all over the floor. There were new toys all around the tree and the ones from Santa were never wrapped. Santa didn’t have time to wrap packages mom said, there were too many of them.
I would spend the rest of the evening playing with my new toys, because I knew that in the morning we would get up early and head to Grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner.
I could not take any of my new toys, because there were only 3 girl cousins and a pack of boy cousins. I didn’t trust the boys to be careful with my new toys. So I had to leave them at home. But the best part of Christmas day was being with Grandmother for the day, and it was worth leaving everything behind.
So as the last ornament was put on the tree and I looked at it in all its gold and crystal glory, I was remembering the traditions of the season, and they were as clear as if it were yesterday. But I couldn’t remember many of the presents I received.
I realized it is not what is under the tree that counts, but the traditions of your family and the real meaning of Christmas, that is the most important and memorable. To contact Sandy: [email protected]