I have been stuck in a state of nostalgia reminiscing about the Christmases of my childhood. This is directly related to the Christmas Traditions radio station I am listening to that is playing songs from the 40’s to 60’s. Music is a powerful evoker of memories.
My earliest memory of Christmas was the year my granddaddy died. I was around five years old. Both my family and my uncle’s family were gathered at my grandparent’s farm in central Texas. This farm was actually my grandmother’s birthplace. As the baby of her family, she inherited the farm from her parents. Her brothers and sisters lived on nearby farms that were all a part of their parent’s original acreage.
The house was built similar to a dog trot cabin and modified over the years. There was a central hall down the middle of the house that opened in the back to a screened-in porch. The house had a big porch across the front with several steps leading down to the yard. We used to sit on the porch and snap peas. On one side of the hall was a large room with a fireplace that my grandparents used as a bedroom. On the other side of the house were the living room, dining room, and large kitchen. There were two large bedrooms upstairs with a storage area in between them. To get to the upstairs bedrooms you had to go outside on the screened-in porch and go through a narrow door to get to the stairs. The one bathroom was also accessed off of the screened porch. It was obviously an addition to the original house. (I can remember it being quite chilly having to go out there on a cold night.) There was always a pail of water by the back door with a dipper hanging above it so that you could come in from the fields and get a fresh drink of water. The water came from a well in the back yard and you actually had to let a bucket down into the well to draw the water. There was a smokehouse in the backyard in which we played. I loved everything about that old house in the country. This city girl was enamored of that Walton-like lifestyle before I even knew what it was!
I’m sure this particular Christmas Eve we were all gathered there because we knew it would be the last one with granddaddy. Both my two cousins and their parents and my sister and I and our parents were sleeping upstairs and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa. As if on cue, the cousins got up while it was still dark to check to see if Santa had come and gone. I remember sitting in the dark stairwell waiting until my grandparents awakened and we could go in their room where the Christmas tree was located (for my granddaddy’s benefit) and open presents. I got a beautiful Madame Alexander doll that I wish I still owned.
A couple of days later my granddaddy died and within a year the farm was sold and my grandmother moved into town. Not too many years later the farmhouse burned to the ground. I’m sure that is why this memory is etched so vividly in my memory.
From that time forward until Judy and I were teenagers, our family tradition was to celebrate our immediate family’s Christmas on Christmas Eve because we were either going to relative’s houses the next day or were busy preparing for them to join us for Christmas dinner. After dinner on Christmas Eve, daddy would “say let’s go look at the Christmas lights.” Then he would tell us to go ahead and get in the car. So grandmother, Judy, and I would obediently go get in the car and wait for Mama and Daddy to finish whatever they were doing and join us. Judy and I, being the smart girls we were, knew that what they were really doing was putting the Santa presents under the tree. So…after a few minutes of waiting, we would get out of the car and tiptoe up to the picture window in front of which stood the Christmas tree and peek through the venetian blinds to see what Santa had brought. I think Grandmother enjoyed this charade as much as we did – she loved Christmas. We would ride around for a while looking at the lights until daddy said “Do you think Santa has come yet?” We would drive home and what do you know!!! Santa had come!!
Tomorrow we will be making more memories to hold close to our hearts. I hope that you will, too!