It’s Christmas Eve and I’m wrapping presents — my family will be here tomorrow night to receive them and have Christmas dinner with us. Now that everyone is older and the kids (my nieces) are all grown up, presents aren’t a big deal … there is less stuff to wrap, so doing it is pretty relaxing, and I’ve had time to reflect back on some of my favorite Christmas memories from childhood, which include:
- My father putting out hay for Santa’s reindeer. We lived on a dairy farm, and he made a show of scattering a whole bale of hay at a place in front of the barn where my sisters and I could see it from the window when we got up the next morning. It was the first thing we checked, and it was evident by the tracks on our snow-covered driveway and the remaining strands of hay (the large flakes were gone!) that the reindeer had stomped around and eaten it up. (My father loved animals, and I think this is one of the ways he reinforced the notion that we needed to treat them well … a theme he frequently touched on when we were growing up.)
- Getting Heaven Scent perfume for Christmas one year. It came in a frosted glass pendant in the shape of the moon (or a star, I can’t quite remember) that was suspended on a long necklace. I loved the smell of it, it was so pretty!
- Also getting a talking Mrs. Beasley doll — an exciting gift not because it was a surprise (I think I circled it in the Sears’ Wish Book catalog numerous times so there would be no mistaking that I wanted it), but because Mrs. Beasley was the famous doll of a little girl named Buffy on the TV sitcom Family Affair. I loved that doll so much I took photo after photo of her with a camera I “earned” through one of those company promotions where you collected so many cereal box tops and sent them in to claim your prize. A couple rolls of film later, I realized that dolls, no matter how real they seem, don’t take good pictures.
- My mother’s belief that we should have plum pudding with Christmas dinner. My sisters didn’t care for it, but it was delicious to me (I craved those dark, boozy- flavored desserts that most kids hate from a young age — plum pudding, fruit cake, rum-raisin ice cream, mincemeat pies and the like). This was one of my mother’s constant gifts to us: she was always interested in broadening our tastes rather than placating them with a constant supply of Oreo cookies. Not that there is anything wrong with Oreo cookies, but I appreciate that she wanted more for us.
- Lastly, Santa’s letters (courtesy of my mother), in which the handwriting was scriggly and trailed off the page to the point that we asked her what was wrong with him — and her answer was, “He’s very, very old!” Considering how beautiful my mother’s handwriting is, I realize why this detail was so important in convincing us that a man with a white beard and red suit had actually visited us and eaten those cookies he thanked us for.
What are some of your fondest Christmas memories? Here’s wishing you a jolly holiday!