Christmas past

This year I am rethinking the meaning and source of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and find I have to seek them in the past, at least for right now. I find myself, like so many of you remembering past Christmas experiences. I’m usually that frantic woman who starts bugging her dear man to put up the Christmas tree the Friday after Thanksgiving, but not this year. As many of you know, it’s been a rough year in the health department at our household and I don’t currently have the strength or the health to be enthusiastic as usual. I’m sure my husband would be scratching his head in wonder if he didn’t have to look at his sorry excuse for a wife, right now, and understand a nauseous woman recovering from a fractured back is not a pretty sight. The oral chemo has made me ill and we’re praying and hoping it will pass. A month of nausea can bend one’s attitude a bit.

In the meantime, Christmas with all of its festivities, family fun and food is coming at us, as fast as Rudolph’s lit nose can twinkle. I’ve tried to hold it back but it is thundering in on reindeer hooves, faster than usual with a late Thanksgiving this year. Since I have been physically and at intervals, emotionally down, for the last couple of months, I have had a great deal more time to think, ponder and remember the many Christmas times of my life. I know some folks have unhappy Christmas memories but most of mine are ones of joy and family pleasure. They haven’t always been abundant in the material sense, but always blessed. Always Christmas has brought with it the miracle of rebirth and the joys of life.

When I was a child living with an upholsterer Dad and a housewife Mom, my three sisters completed the circle. Since I was much younger than my sisters, my Dad used to take me shopping with him to buy them a family gift. I recall the year we went into our favorite music store in town. It was a lovely store with sparkling lights and always, always a mechanized, colorfully designed front window just for the season. Each year it was a different excitement of some sort to delight young and old. The memory that stands out most in my mind is when Dad wanted to buy my teen-aged sisters a new contraption which was a step up from the radio that was always running in our home. It was called a stereo hi-fi. I was in awe that it played all types of records and had a radio too. It was encased in a lovely light wood frame and I alone knew about it. I love Christmas secrets, don’t you?

We always opened gifts at our house on Christmas Eve. Santa came early to us and always rang sleigh bells on the front porch of our California style ranch house, just as we were eating dinner. He was speedy in his escape, and believe it or not I was a shy child and afraid of running into him so I waited a bit before opening the front door. We didn’t have a chimney and I’m certain my dear Dad was always grateful for that.

Mom and Dad were counselors for our church high school group and I’m certain that’s how I got drafted to sing AWAY IN A MANGER one year, white robe and angels wings complete with curly hair which came at the price of trying to sleep on metal rollers. I remember a cradle beside me with a doll like image of the Baby Jesus. I was frightened out of my mind but got through it.

Then I remember the Christmas I was ten-years-old and dearly desired a beautiful bridal doll I had spotted at our local J.C. Penney department store. That same year a very homely, realistic looking baby doll came onto the market. At least it was homely to me. When gift opening time arrived, I opened what I anticipated would be my bride doll to find the realistic baby doll frowning back at me. I burst into tears and ran from the room. I must have been a spoiled one to display my disappointment so openly. In the interim my eighteen-year-old sister was laughing. She had pulled the prank on me, thinking it would be humorous. It wasn’t.

There were, of course, later years when money was scarce and one year after a divorce when my children and I celebrated Christmas with another single young mother by buying and swinging at a piñata. That was a fun year, although a lonely one as my parents were committed to visiting one of my married sisters. Good times aren’t always dependent on money but unfortunately, they often depend on health. When I was eleven, I had rheumatic fever and spent that holiday season in bed or on the couch in our living room. I’m not unfamiliar with illness and have had it intertwined into my life almost from the beginning.

Worshipping, family and food are all interwoven into my thoughts and memories of Christmas. This year I have been particularly intrigued by why we say Merry Christmas. Maybe it’s because I am not feeling very merry. We used to say Happy Christmas and I understand that is still the accepted greeting in some countries. Whether you celebrate the birth of the Christ child, or another such as Happy Hanukkah, Ramadan or Kwanzaa, I wish you and yours health, joy of life and peace of mind.

Don’t let the falling needles, the pain in your body, that grouchy relative or the flu spoil this season for you. I will try, also.


  1. I read this the day Sue posted it. I’ve ready through your replies, got misty eyed at some, laughed at others, and wanted to wring Tonie’s neck! Take care of yourself, friend! But, I read this, then immediately transported back to I think every Christmas I could remember. My sister Rosa was a girlie girl and liked girlie girl things, I, on the other hand, always asked for Annie Oaklie guns and holster, pogo sticks, a new baseball bat; I didn’t like dolls and didn’t want one. My first big Christmas I remember, we got up, and the living room was full of this beautiful doll furniture. I mean, beds, cradles, a dresser, chest of drawers, table and chairs. I was so excited for Rosa, we hugged and laughed and I even played with her and her girlie girl stuff a while. Then she looked at me and said “where is YOUR Santa Claus?” Then she asked Mom, whose face was stricken. She said ‘but this is for both of you”. Rosa, always my champion, said “but that’s stupid, Linda don’t like this stuff”. But I did like playing with Rosa, so I was okay. A few years later, I spotted a bike at the Western Auto store. It was love at first sight. I went with anybody who was going to “the front” (a groups of stores mostly owed by the local cotton mill) so I could look at my bike. I knew about money and not having any, so I didn’t expect to get it. Then, shortly before Christmas, I went into western auto and “my” bike was gone. I was devastated and cried a couple of days. Low and behold, that bike was in our living room Christmas morning. There was also a smaller bike for Rosa. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “why did they get me a present you’d like?” Were we ungrateful brats? I dunno, I just think our parents didn’t know us that well. The next Christmas, Rosa and I were excited and laying in bed talking and giggling. My Dad finally came in with a belt and beat us both. Rosa rolled over me so she’d get the most of it. Daddy would stop when we started crying. Rosa would start crying as soon as his arm went up in the air. I thought he just wanted to see me cry and refused to cry. Rosa would tell me not to be stupid, to cry, but I would not give him that satisfaction. In fact, I was in my 30’s before I could cry in front of anyone. But on to happy times, dinner at my Grandma’s with 30 or so folks there, all talking, eating, and gift giving. A lot of laughter and a lot of joy. And a lot of dishes to wash, on my gosh. And by the time we got through washing, everybody started eating again! Then on to my last Christmas with mom. She wanted to have us all together, but she wasn’t able to cook and she refused to let us do pot luck, said we all had enough to do. So she had trays of subs. Rosa’s birthday was Christmas day and we always tried to make a big deal of it for her. That year Becky had Rosa a Barbie doll cake make. That thing was so beautiful. The doll sat in tons of icing, made to look like a cascading skirt. Nobody would cut it, it was too beautiful to mess up. Finally Rosa said she was cutting it, for she wanted her doll! My DH doesn’t like cake but he will eat the icing off anybody’s cake. So, he was in hog heaven with all that icing.
    I remembered my first Christmas dinner on my own, as a young married woman. I lived in California and I called my grandma at least once a day to find out how she made this or that. I couldn’t have Christmas without Grandma’s dressing. That was a lot of hard work, but I was so proud that I had pulled it off. I cooked my turkey until the drumsticks fell off, but they were still eaten. Mostly good memories, but so many years to think about. I stayed lost in memories for days.
    Christmas eve morning, Ed and Keith handed out presents. Neither one of them can wait to give you what they got. They truly enjoy giving more than receiving. They are so excited to see others reaction to their gifts. I didn’t try to stop them, it’s a season for happiness and this made them happy. And I was happy I have them. Our home maybe poor, but it’s rich in love.

    Wishing you all the best in the new year, and praying for an upswing in health for all of us. I love you folks so much, you make life so much better.

    • Linda, I have tears of joy and sadness as I read this. So good to hear from you! I know you are missing your sweet Rosa, but I’m glad you had a happy Christmas with loved ones this year. There is nothing like the joy of giving, and seeing the joy of going on a loved one’s face. Many hugs and blessings to you!

    • Linda, how wonderful to read your memories of mostly happy times. Our sisters figure into the network of our lives so tightly, don’t they. I think you’re right. Your folks were too busy with the burdens of life to know you all as well as they should but it does happen. Your journey was a sweet one and I bet you rode that bike a great deal. I think maybe they were trying to be fair and missed the mark a bit at times. Memories of times gone…to be cherished and relived when possible and often as possible. Thanks sweet friend for such wonderful, heartfelt sharing. Love you much, Sue

  2. Linda
    What a story of family ties and support
    What can I say of those beatings ,why do they do these it carried from their childhood …..
    But it shows how strong you both were for each other .but i was so sad you should have that memory

    Yea..all the best for the new year Chris

    • Chris, thank you. But I think of that as a good memory. My older sister loved me and protected me. My Dad talked little of his childhood. But I do know his Dad was a very mean man. My Dad left home very young, as did all his brothers. He went home at 16 because his sisters begged him too. They weren’t allowed to go to school without a brother there to protect them. Dad stayed a while, until he said he couldn’t bear it any more, and he left again and joined the navy. Hard to believe fighting in a war was better than being at home. So, I do believe his behavior was learned in childhood.
      The only real memory I have of his Dad is when I was 8 years old. We went to visit. They lived in Texas and we in VA. My granddad told me to “come here”, and I always obeyed adults. he told me to give him my arm, which I also did. He held my arm and held his lit cigar to my forearm. I screamed, mom and dad came running, Dad grabbed me up and asked Mom “how long will it take you to get packed?” She said “I knew where we were, I never unpacked”, and in no time we were gone.
      I didn’t see him again until I was about 19. I only saw him then because I did love my grandma and wanted to see her. I can only imagine what my dad and his 11 brothers and sisters grew up with.

      • Linda
        What Your grandmother and mother must have seen and had to endure.they did in those days ,no escape
        How can people be so cruel
        It s good that your good memories outclass those others

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