Christmas is unique for a number of reasons. Looking beyond what much of the world seems to focus on now, most of the holiday season is really about family. Sure, Christ is preeminent in the festivities, but my most fond memories are of my family. I also look forward to Christmas with some degree of food, friends, family, and the reason why we join together (to remember Christ).
This is the earliest picture I have of a Christmas, probably around 1981, where I am just over 2 years old.
One of the miracles of a photograph is the memories it can conjure from the past. I do not remember this Christmas, but so much of the picture is familiar to me. I can see the shape of my Grandmother’s arm, jewelry, and hand in the background reaching from the couch in the darkened picture. I do not look terribly happy, but then again, I am being stopped from unwrapping my Christmas present. The candy and family are much of what I remember of those early Christmas years. My cousin, Brook Jonas, is the one smiling in the background. He must have already opened a present.
My first Christmas memory is in the same room, probably a year or two later. I remember a huge number of presents, probably just because I was young, piled around the fireplace (which was not used). I remember a disgust in opening a box of underwear. The day went on and we had finished all our presents, but alas, we had not. We were informed we were not and Evan told us he could still see some presents for us. The hunt commenced. Eventually, he had to show us where he had hidden some little boxes inside the actual Christmas tree. Upon opening, Andra, Brook, and I were proud owners of some pretty nice harmonicas. I believe I still have mine, but would have to rummage through my storage to make sure. Maybe it is Andra’s. One stayed in a drawer at my Grandma’s for many years until one year we discovered it was in pieces in the box. Somebody had destroyed it. We knew it was my cousin May probably 10 years later, but nobody said anything.
This next picture is the first picture I have of a Christmas at our home.
I am pretty sure it is before Christmas as my Mom is standing on the couch and is probably helping to decorate. We probably just finished and I was anxious to plug in the tree. I do remember this Christmas and had to be about 1984. I think that is the year we moved into this house located on the frontage road just a few miles up the road from the house we would move in to in 1991.
A flood of memories and other ideas come from the picture. The tree is obviously real and really kind of a Charlie Brown tree. There are the massive lights that you can see a few of in the picture. Then a few balls and quite a bit of tinsel which seems a little heavier towards the front. Nothing like some of the pretty fancy trees you see now.
Notice we would hang the tinsel on the doorknob and pull off a few strands at a time for the tree. The carpet would be torn up in a few years to expose the hardwood floor underneath. Dad would put paneling halfway up the walls in years to come and that rattlesnake skin was hidden somewhere else in the house. That door with the center doorknob would remain as long as we lived in the house. I have never seen a center doorknob at any other time. I do not know what Andra is doing with the tube, probably left over from wrapping paper. One of the chains from the cuckoo clock are visible above the tree.
This next picture is from a Christmas about 1988, give or take a year.
This picture is taken in my sister’s bedroom with the pink carpet and brass bed. This is probably a day or two after Christmas since I had moved the location of the track. Notice the legos, probably a new addition as well. The longer hair, the cargo pants, and a new racetrack, and I look like I am having a ball. I remember loving that little track (and many years of legos) but my greatest memory of this Christmas is something else.
Somewhere I had picked up a bad habit. Rather than saying something like, “I really like…” I would say, “Me likes…” and my Mom was not pleased. Since I was home over the Christmas Break, my Mom caught me saying it multiple times and gave me some very stern warnings. At some point, sitting somewhere on the floor near where I am, I remember saying the “me” language multiple times in a series of sentences and my Mom reaching out and knuckling me on the head so hard I cried. From that point on, I got a knuckle on the head if I said it. Within days the habit was broke and I am now a better man. Unfortunately, Mom’s grammar has slipped where she is now, and I cannot help but shake my head at the knuckles I got over the years for the very same grammar mistakes she now makes; i.e. caint as opposed to cannot or can’t.
I have a couple of other pictures from this Christmas, most notably where I was given my first saddle. But that one will have to wait before I share it (because I am in my underwear and a shirt and sitting on it).
At any rate, I miss the memories of Christmas past. While I love my family now, I miss all the extended family being together, the massive Christmas meals, and listening to the stories of people chat after dinner while we played with toys. Perhaps someday when I live closer to family, the new memories similar to those of mine in the past will be recreated for little Aliza. Christmas is about family being together, not the gifts we give (and maybe even a lesson or two, perhaps even grammar).