A fellow blogger Genea- musings asked: What are your most vivid memories of Christmas times past?
The expectations would begin right after Thanksgiving with my Mother’s long Christmas gift list. Then every Christmas Eve starting around 2 in the afternoon we would load up the car with Christmas packages for friends of my parents and set off to visit the Bryan, Lin, Dowdakin, Altamurano and Upham families. Kids played, parents caught up and gossiped, food and drink consumed and finally gifts were exchanged before moving on to the next house. We always ended up at the Uphams. We did not see them throughout the year but always spent Christmas Eve at their dinner party.
It was festive and fun and as I grew older and had crushes on a few of the boys I looked forward to seeing them each year. A lot can change in a year! Voices deepened, inches gained, girls became young ladies…We played board games, told stories and did what kids did back then, stayed as far away from our parents as we could, hiding out upstairs or in back bedrooms, preferably with the door closed.
Some of the memories are, well how should I say it, unappetizing. Such was the case when I took a slice of unusual looking red Jell-O from the huge buffet Mrs Upham had prepared. I loved Jell-O of all types but this one…it did not like me. First bite came right back up as I gagged on tomato aspic. It’s all about expectation. I envisioned sweet and smooth and it was neither. To this day I have not eaten aspic.
The most surprising gift I ever got was received on Christmas Eve. And it was the one present I opened that night. The opening of one present on Christmas Eve was a tradition we picked up from one of the other families, although it took some heavy lobbying to get our parents to go along. It was the most intriguing package I have ever received. It was a wrapped small can; smaller than tuna fish, but larger than chopped olives. And it had a very quiet clunk when I shook it. I could not guess what it was. I was mystified. Even after opening it with a can opener I was like what IS this? Well, it turns out it was an oyster which my father deftly opened with a pocket knife. He used the tip of his knife to explore inside, finally exposing the pearl inside.
However, that was not the most unexpected of Christmas gifts. The most unexpected gift happened when I was 11. We had spent longer than usual at the Uphams on Christmas Eve. It was after midnight on a foggy night, but not that foggy that you could not see. My brother was fast asleep and I was enjoying the Christmas lights as we made our way home. And then we saw the most unexpected thing. On the roof of a house maybe 5 blocks from our home, was a real live Santa all decked out in red and a pack on his back standing with one leg into the chimney. There was not a soul around, no one to witness but my parents and I. What was he doing? Surely he did not think he could get down the chimney? My parents were just as incredulous as I was. And we talked about it for years, my brother not believing us. Why was Santa on a roof in the middle of the night? It was a real live person moving about on someone’s house in the wee hours of Christmas morning. It challenged all of our expectations, and left us with a lifetime Christmas memory. Perhaps that is the true gift of Christmas 🎄
My heartfelt wish to all my followers for a Very Merry Christmas or Winter Solstice and that the season is full of wonder even as we deal with another year of the unexpected.
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