I get overly nostalgic this time of year.
As I gaze at my brightly lit Christmas tree, childhood memories seem to come alive in my mind. Occasionally a giggle will erupt at a memory; sometimes a tear will slip silently down my cheek, but always a smile will tug at my lips. Precious memories.
I was a military brat growing up so many Christmases involved a road trip back to Virginia. Long before DVDs, I had to quietly entertain myself with a book, an Etch-a-Sketch, or playing an auto-bingo game from Stuckey’s. The AM radio was usually turned off when Mom got tired of trying to dial-in a channel. It was big time when we got a car with an 8-track player. My favorite was the Carpenters’ Close To Yousoundtrack; however, my parents preferred Herb Alpert & the Tijauna Brass’ Greatest Hits. Both were played in a loop for hours. Even today, when I hear the first cords of any song on either soundtrack, I instantly flashback to the road trips, sitting in the far back of the station wagon, surrounded by pillows and blankets, comfortably watching the world go by.
While the road trips were agonizingly long, I quickly forgot my misery when I saw my cousins. I was an only child until I was eleven, so time with cousins meant guaranteed fun, antics and even a bit of mischief. We spent hours outdoors, no matter how cold, creating our own adventures. We acted out skits, played with Barbies & GI Joe, and giggled continuously…which is probably why we were always banished to another room to eat our Christmas dinner. When my Dad was stationed in Hawaii, at Christmas, I missed my cousin-time the most.
Memories of traditions of Christmases past crowd my mind. The delightful smell of a live tree. Prickly needles. Shiny tinsel. Festive felt ornaments handmade by my maternal grandmother. My grandfather’s shiny silver tree, with a train underneath that circled a small village. My mother’s collection of intricately painted ceramics: the carolers, Santa and Mrs. Claus, Santa in his sleigh with all nine reindeer; trumpeting angels and the Nativity scene. Colorfully wrapped packages that piqued my excitement.
I remember how my parents would always make me wait to see what Santa brought on Christmas morning. Mom always had to check to make sure Santa had been there and Dad had to get his camera ready. I realize now how much they enjoyed making me wait! I don’t remember ever making a list for Santa, but I was always delightfully surprised on Christmas morning. I still have my Chrissy and Barbie dolls safely tucked away in a storage bin. I remember baking those icky tasting cakes in my EasyBake oven. While I never learned to read music, I still remember the chord numbers for Silent Nightthat I learned to play on my chord organ. Without a doubt, the biggest surprise gift occurred 50 years ago this Christmas.
As we were driving to Virginia, Mom told me that my grandparents were pupping sitting for a little girl who was getting a puppy for Christmas. I could play with the puppy, but I had to promise there would be no tears when they had to take the puppy away on Christmas Eve night. For two days, I got to play with the most adorable little puppy, whom I called Cleo. Cleo was a Chihuahua mix, with a dark, shiny and soft coat. She tolerated my cuddles and I lugged her all around the house; but she wasn’t too keen on wearing my doll clothes or getting put in my Christmas stocking. My grandparents were left to console me and dry my tears when my parents put on their coats on Christmas Eve and took Cleo away. And yes, you guessed it. Christmas morning, Cleo was presented to me with a big ol’ red bow around her neck. I was the little girl who was getting a puppy for Christmas. Even today, the memory makes my eyes glisten with happy tears.
A lot has changed over the years, but the one thing that remains the same is the heart-felt warmth of fond memories of Christmases past. I am grateful to my parents for giving me those memories. Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad!