Today Steve and I decided to start decorating for Christmas. There was a time when I was adamantly against any sort of Christmas decorating before Thanksgiving, but that time has passed. I do reserve putting up the tree until the weekend after Thanksgiving, but I’ve realized that I can’t possibly decorate the entire house in one weekend and stay sane. I also can’t do it the first weekend in December because I have WinterFest and will be busy the whole time. I admit I like starting a bit early because it means I can enjoy it longer. I do love Christmas, but decorating brings a little sadness as I unwrap all the ornaments and decorations from my childhood. By the time I put on The Beach Boys Christmas Album for the first time, I’m usually in tears. But that sadness quickly goes away as the season progresses.
I remember my childhood Christmases fondly. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but they managed to make the season special and my sister and I received a bounty of presents. My best memories center around celebrations with my grandparents. For many years we stayed home which meant celebrating with my paternal grandparents, Nana and Papa. Christmas Eve we’d have dinner at their house (boiled shrimp and salad, filet for my sister) and then we’d either attend church or Ralph and I would present a Christmas program. We always wore our fancy dresses and the evening wasn’t complete without a visit from Nana and Papa’s good friends, Jane and Pat Ciccone. Pat would play Christmas carols on his trumpet, we’d all sing, the grown ups would have a drink and Jane and Pat would be on their way. Finally, we’d gather around the tree and open gifts, but only the gifts from Nana and Papa. Once that was over, mom and dad would go home and Ralph and I would spend the night. The next morning, we’d rise as early as possible and wait until Nana and Papa said we could leave. Then we’d drive across town in our pajamas and see what goodies Santa had brought.
While we didn’t always spend Christmas Day with my maternal grandparents, Grammie and Keck, I also have fond memories of holiday celebrations with them. I loved driving into Fulton at night and seeing the town outlined in white lights. It looked like a postcard. We always entered at the side door of their house and Grammie had the Christmas tree in a small bay window in the back. One of the great things about visiting was seeing what goodies Grammie had left for us on the dresser of the guest room. There were always two piles, one for me and another for Ralph. Even at Christmas, with all the gifts we’d receive, she had some treats for us. My Aunt Susie, Uncle Riley and cousin John would join us for the celebration. I remember most celebrations being at Susie and Riley’s house as we gathered in the front living room and opened presents. My cousin, being four years older than I, seemed so worldly! He would receive things like custom-made shirts and suits or L.L. Bean flannel lined pants, while my sister and I were still getting toys or books. I did love that my grandparents always gave us magazine subscriptions. My cousin received The Wall Street Journal, Ralph got Time or Newsweek and I received Vogue. After all the celebrating, we’d have dinner at Susie and Riley’s where the one rule was no jeans at the dinner table. One year, my cousin showed up wearing his slippers, but he had on khaki pants so he didn’t break the rule.
So while I’ll get a little teary thinking of Christmases past, I’ll enjoy the holiday and smile when I think of the good times we had when I was a kid. Hopefully, my nieces will someday feel the same way when they look back on family celebrations.