Getting all nostalgic this week, I had to dig out this photo from a Christmas morning long past.
Christmas morning, 1967.
We didn't have a fireplace, so Mama hung our homemade stockings on the glass knobs of the built-in buffet. (We always called it "the buffet", although I don't ever recall serving food from it nor am I convinced that was its original intended purpose. But we still, even today, call it "the buffet"....)
Mama and Dad shared one red corduroy stocking, then one for each of us kids. Mark had just been born two weeks earlier, so his was the littlest one.
It doesn't look like much. And indeed, compared to what I've gotten used to over these 49 years, it wasn't. The typical content of our stockings: 1 BIG shiny apple, one orange (rare treats...both very expensive and difficult to get at that time of year in Indiana), a handful of still-in-the-shell English walnuts, and some pieces of hard candy that always got stuck in the bottom of the toe and we couldn't eat until we rinsed off the red fabric fuzz that inevitably and inedibly stuck to them.
Then underneath our stocking, one special gift (unwrapped...Santa did not like to wrap our gifts) for each of us. ONE Christmas treasure. A doll or a tea set or a stuffed animal or a new diary (with a key, of course!). Whatever it was, we were THRILLED!
We did also have a few gifts under the tree, and we always got to open one after getting home from Grandma House's celebration on Christmas Eve. Sometimes Mama chose which one we could open (those were the years when she'd made each of us a brand new Christmas gown or pajamas that she wanted us to be wearing on Christmas morning), but sometimes we got to choose. Mama (yes, I'm giving her all the shopping credit...Dad was the bread-winner but definitely not the shopper of the family) had bought and wrapped gifts for us to give each other, but I usually had no clue what I was giving to my sisters and I was as excited as they were to see the surprise inside the pretty paper.
Probably my most memorable childhood Christmas gift was the doll bed that Dad "secretly" made for each of us girls. We knew he was working on a "surprise" down in the basement (a safe place to do it since none of us girls ever ventured into that wet, dark, scary place unless forced to...) and what delight to find 3 shiny white doll beds under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. (Santa didn't bring them...they were special surprises from Dad, with plenty of help, I'm sure, from Mama). I still have my doll bed, one of the few woodworking projects I ever remember Dad doing.
I do recall one year, when we were older, that Dad handed each of us $10 and took us to town to buy gifts for each other one afternoon. We went to the brand new MALL (quite a treat in itself, going to the mall!) in the big city of Richmond and he turned us loose (not completely loose, as us girls were to stay together) with $10 in hand and orders to meet back at the mall entrance in an hour with gifts in hand for all of our siblings and parents. Thankfully he took rowdy little Mark with him, and the three of us shopped together, turning our heads as us sisters made Christmas purchases for each other. I still remember Mama's shopping advice...when choosing a gift for someone, always buy something you'd like to have yourself...I still heed that advice most of the time!
What a magical time of year it was! We could hardly get to sleep on Christmas Eve, and would wake up about 4 am. on Christmas morning. We weren't allowed to go downstairs until all of us were up, and I can remember impatiently waiting at the top of the steps with my sisters while Mama and Dad got out of bed too. The whole house just felt different on Christmas morning, the lingering mystery of Santa's visit in the air! It's a wonder none of us broke our legs fighting our way down those steep, narrow wooden steps to be the first to make it to the stocking line-up.
Beautiful, cherished memories! And while many things about Christmas have changed dramatically in 50+ years, the most important thing hasn't. Mama and Dad always emphasized the true meaning of Christmas, that Jesus is the reason for the season. And that precious nativity scene (which Mama bought at Renaker's dime store in Hagerstown), with its broken-legged sheep and glued-back-together angel, always presided over the stockings and oversaw Santa unpack the gifts.
This special time of year always brings those sweet memories flooding back, childhood recollections of..
...Christmas mornings past.