I asked myself this morning what made Christmas special in the “old” days. And what could I recreate this season to truly feel that feeling. I looked back at childhood photos recently and saw a small girl with bright eyes standing in wonder under the scraggly tree my dad had placed in the old wooden box stand he had made himself – a round hole cut in the center – a pan of water below to freshen it. That old wood tree stand stayed in our family until … I actually don’t know.
What strikes me about that little girls’ awestruck face is knowing now what she’d find under that tree the next morning. The simplicity of it all. A doll most every year, a metal kitchen set complete with stove, sink and refrigerator, a sled one Christmas in the hopes of a rare white Christmas in Oklahoma. A record player that played 45’s. Presents of socks and underwear from my granny in La. Clothes and chocolates from my Nana (my mother’s mother) and old metal Doan’s pill containers filled with dimes from Grandpa Charlie. Perhaps a game from Hazel and Charley – my adopted grandparents and family friends. Sometimes ‘dress-up’ costumes made by hand by my mother – long dresses of satin and netting and once a faux fur stole.
Stockings contained no toys, but we prized them – a couple of oranges and a lot of nuts which my dad would crack open for us, usually with his bare hands – an old metal nutcracker for the harder ones.
A few gifts, fewer packages to open, stockings full of nuts and fruit. And yet Christmas was anticipation and wonder back then.
A hardback children’s book of The Night Before Christmas, my dad reading from Luke as we sat under the tree Christmas Eve. Church bells and choirs. Cookies and milk for Santa. The downtown streets lit with lights and fake snow and a simple wooden manger scene. Drives to the ‘rich’ side of town to enjoy the light displays in front of houses we would never afford.
The light from the dented silver star atop the tree. Bubble lights full of mercury we weren’t afraid of back then. Hanging each strand of icicle carefully on each tree branch.
But mostly I remember the family under the tree Christmas morning: mother, daddy, my little sister and me. I remember a little girl with permed curly hair, wearing a long straight dress-up dress that my friend, Vickey, and I would play in later that day, hugging a doll and grinning from ear to ear with front teeth missing. I remember her well, and I want to tell her what her life will be like, but she’d never believe me.
And so this week I recreate the Christmas of my children’s growing up years as they are easier to achieve. I decorate and bake and purchase and wrap and trim the tree and turn Christmas music on as loud as I can, and I go to church to pray for peace knowing that may not be God’s plan.
Merry Christmas to everyone and Peace on earth!