front of this tree!
Here are a few more of our poor little trees and vintage photos. But you know what? I absolutely loved it that my dad would sometimes let Michael and I go with him into the woods to find a tree, cut it down, and bring it home. I carry with me the memory of how the tree filled our home with the scent of cedar, and how the lights thrilled our young eyes and hearts. One year, when I was married to Randy, I decided to try to re-create that childhood magic by purchasing a large quantity of those lights, and hanging them on our tree. That lasted for about 10 minutes after he got home. Ever the conscientious fireman, he made me take them off the tree and return them to the store, because they are "so dangerous" and "get so hot". Well, umm, yeah, they do get very hot. So I guess (just like how we survived the the days of no car seats, airbags or childproof outlet plugs), we should be extremely grateful that we didn't burn down the house every year at Christmas.
Probably the most longstanding family Christmas tradition has been the Christmas-Eve dinner at Mom & Dad's house. Every year that I can remember, and probably even long before that, Aunt Joyce & Uncle Gene would come to Mama Nay & Daddy Bill's house to spend the night on Christmas Eve. About supper time, we would all gather for the annual chicken-stew feast. Around the table would be Mom and Dad, Michael and I, Mama Nay, Daddy Bill, my great-grandma Grandmother, Aunt Joyce & Uncle Gene. Daddy Bill was just a big kid at heart, and always couldn't wait to "open a parcel". So began the tradition of exchanging little token gifts on Christmas Eve. Thin mints, chocolate covered cherries, knee-high socks, LifeSaver books, etc. It wasn't what the parcel was, it was just the anticipation of opening it. After dinner, we would sit around and talk, while Michael and I kept a close eye on Guy Sharpe's Santa Radar, and made sure we went to bed long before he was due to arrive in Statham. Of course we were too excited to sleep, and many a time poor mom and dad had to stay up wayyyy later than usual- only to be awakened by our eager little voices the next morning at an ungodly early hour. Even as we grew older, we kept the tradition, and though we didn't worry about the Santa Radar any more, it still was one of our favorite events of the year. As I look back with such fond memories, I am thankful for home, thankful for family, and thankful that even though Grandmother, Mama Nay & Daddy Bill are no longer here to celebrate with us, we still hold to the tradition of chicken stew on Christmas Eve. I remember the first year I was married to Randy. We spent the night at mom and dad's on Christmas Eve, but earlier,we spent the late afternoon and evening at the Bennett's, forming a new family tradition. I was excited to be part of a new family, but it still broke my heart to miss Christmas Eve chicken stew with my folks, and I had to be very careful not to let Randy see my tears. At some point, Michael and Uncle Gene began a fierce competition to see who could give the ugliest, tackiest gift. It was a hoot, and the highlight of the evening. After many years of this, with the gifts getting uglier and tackier each year, they finally agreed that they had indeed already exchanged the ugliest and tackiest of gifts EVER and could no longer top one another, and gave up this tradition. Those two found some doozies over the years, that's for sure. Christmas of 2009 found us yet again around the dinner table at mom and dad's. Though we were missing Grandmother, Mama Nay & Daddy Bill, the new generations of our family help to fill the void. There are now grandchildren, great-grandchildren and in-laws to fill the empty seats. The Circle Of Life.
Thank you for indulging me in a moment of Christmas nostalgia. May you find as much joy remembering your Christmases past as I do.
Oh, and please try not to laugh too much at the snaggletoothed, curler-headed, 10-year-old version of yours truly.