It was a time of simplicity and innocence....Memories flood back at the mere sound of the songs of the holiday...Memories that stay with you no matter what age "child" you are. |
The Christmas season officially started with Santa perched precariously atop the fire truck at the Christmas parade just after Thanksgiving. Showers of candy rained down like manna out of the sky for all the children...Racing each other to capture the prize and running down the street with childish excitement, cheeks red with the cold and glee, just so they can catch one long, last lingering glance at the man who would, in a few weeks...IF they were good little boys and girls...shower them one more time; Only this time with Christmas presents.
Time slowed to an excruciating snail's pace in the heart and mind of a child. While twinkling lights grew magically on homes, stores and downtown, anticipation was at peak force. Santa was on the street corner, in the department stores, where you could sit on his lap and whisper what you wanted for Christmas...but mostly, he was in the heart of a child.
School became a countdown to "The Day." Christmas parties at school; each kid bringing their present to "swap" with a classmate and something special for the teacher. Gifts were made for Moms and Dads. Handprints made in Plaster of Paris was usual fare; a treasure for years to come, displayed proudly on a wall at home.
All the favorite songs were sung...Every child sang the tunes of the day, from "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth." (Tho I can with you Mewwy Cwithmuth!) to The Chimpmunk's Song, "Christmas, Don't Be Late." (ALLLLLLLVINNNNNNNN!!!!) And the always popular, "Up On The Rooftop," complete with click, click, click...
The Nativity scene was played out during the annual Christmas Play before proud parents and grandparents. Somehow "Mary" managed to dump "Baby Jesus" on his head when she was wrapping him in his swaddling clothes. The "Three Wisemen" stumbled across the stage with "Three Shepherds" stumbling right behind. Fake beards slipped, angels swooped with a lack of certain angel-like grace across a stage of homemade props. A tinfoil "Star of Bethlehem" sparkled in the light as it hung from fishing line over "Mary's" head.
Church was much the same. Nothing beat the "Cute Factor" of children representing the Holy Family. The sanctuary was filled with peals of laughter and The "Herald Bells" ringing loud and clear....High, piping voices of children sang the sweet refrains of "Away In A Manger." Life was rich and full.....
At home, Christmas was taking shape as the tree went up in the corner of the living room. Aromas of baking Christmas goodies began to fill the air almost as much as anticipation had for weeks. The recipes of generations past are familiar and and comforting smells. Cinnamon...cloves...nutmeg... Culinary excitement in it's purest form.
It was routine to wake up and find scattered tinsel and empty candy cane wrappers strewn throughout the house....and a guilty looking dog with an upset tummy and minty fresh breath, begging to get outside. Dash off to the store to replace the candy canes with a brand new batch...Better lay in supplies...That darn dog loves peppermint.
Mommy and Daddy have had the "Big People" Christmas party, complete with eggnog and good cheer. Children who are supposed to be tucked safely away in their bedrooms, sneak to the doorway in pajamas to have a peek at the merriment....Or to see if they could finally catch Mommy REALLY kissing Santa Claus!
At last...Christmas Eve...Each child has done his or her Christmas duty; sitting on the lap of Santa, posing for the classic picture, being "good," hanging the stockings with care, listening to Dad as he reads the Nativity from the family Bible, being sure to put out the obligatory cookies and milk to bribe the apparently always hungry Santa....the day is almost here. You can almost hear sleighbells tinkling in the distant night sky. While presents are piled up under the family tree, there are yet to come the "Santa Gifts." The Grand Prize...The Mother Lode of the holidays.
Children are snuggled safely in bed...visions of sugarplums, elves, reindeer and the man himself, Jolly Old Saint Nick, dance like a cacophony in their heads. Sleep comes slowly as they listen for the sound of hooves on the rooftop. Shivering with anticipation under warm blankets, the thought reels through their heads..."He sees you when you're sleeping...He knows when you're awake." How does he do that???? How does he fit down the chimney??? How does he go back UP??? How do reindeer fly??? How did Rudolph get his red nose??? Magic is in the air, along with wisps of snowy wonder. Finally slumber steals them away as carolers stroll the streets, singing Christmas carols in the night...."Silent Night, holy night...All is calm, all is bright..." A Christmas lullaby.
As the night drifts into morning, parents are conspiring with Santa as they fill stockings to bursting with trinkets, candy, apples and oranges, put together bicycles, new ice skates and sleds with shiny new blades, train sets, dollhouses and more. Dolls that cry, wet and burp and smell luxuriously of rubber....a smell that will bring Christmas back to me even 45 years later...are laid in tiny baby beds, train tracks are circled around the tree, toy trucks and miniature dishes are piled alongside the bicycles and the dollhouse that have real working lights and a tiny family to occupy the miniature kingdom.
As the sun peeks over the horizon, it sets the snow aglow with a million dancing, glittering sparkles. Magic and Christmas have arrived hand in hand...Two most welcome guests.
The familiar smell of coffee and breakfast waft up to the bedrooms, stirring the children from restful slumber. IT'S CHRISTMAS!!! Running on cold floors with bare feet and hearts filled with child-like excitement, they make a beeline for the Christmas tree. While wrapping paper and ribbon fly through the air, Mom and Dad sit back and absorb the joy of the moment. Laughter fills the air, cameras flash and children run out the door to compare their loot with the neighborhood kids. Mom and Dad collapse among the ruins of Christmas past and count...Only 364 days till Christmas!
Magic...sounds...smells...memories of Christmas carols and the Reason for the Season, Jesus...Time passes, but memories do not fade...They live on in the hearts of the child who is now grown, with children of their own. While generations come and go, some things never change....Magic...