I am sitting here in the quiet early morning, nursing the mother of all head colds and savoring my first pot of White Chocolate Peppermint coffee of the season. Yes, it is that good, and the peppermint is cooling a throat made scratchy and raw from a night of relentless coughing. I would love to invite you over for a cup, but it would be hard for you to sip through the surgical mask you might wear to guard against the germs.
As I enjoy a stillness interrupted only by my sniffling, I find my mind wandering to the holiday seasons of my youth. Was December not the most magical month (and really, isn’t it still) filled with wonder and surprise? I need only to close my eyes, and I am transported back to my childhood home and Christmases past.
As you walked through our front door you entered a small foyer with stairs leading up and down. The upward staircase had wrought iron railings, and each December we would tape all of the Christmas cards we received to the railings. Back in those days everyone sent out cards, and it wasn’t long before the railings were covered and cards were spilling over onto the wood paneled wall. I recall sitting on the stairs at night reading each card over and over, picking out my favorites and running my fingers over the embossed pictures.
Up those stairs and to the right was the living room, and there is a corner, in all of its dazzling splendor, stood our Christmas tree. Each year around the second weekend in December our father would finally announce that it was time to buy the tree. Let me tell you, that man put as much thought and effort into picking out a tree as most people do picking out a car or a house. Tree after tree was picked up, shaken, and twirled, only to be discarded due to falling needles or bald spots. There was no rushing the process, and row upon row of trees where inspected until…yes, the perfect tree was found!
Decorating the tree was a happy night of hot chocolate, candy canes, and holiday music. Ours was a tree covered in a hodgepodge of ornaments, from the handmade needlepoint ones stitched by our grandmother, to the ones made by my brother and me in school, to the cherished ones from our parents’ childhoods. There was no “just so” placement for us. Nope, it was a free-for-all decorating frenzy with the only rules being that we had to dust off each glass ornament carefully with tissue before placing it on a branch. Upon completion we would stand back and admire our handiwork while our cats, Smokey and Holly, maneuvered through the train layout and laid claim to the tree skirt.
The rest of the month would be a whirlwind of holiday activity, and the memories were made faster than they could be counted. We watched all of the classic holiday movies, but my favorite was Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. (I still watch it every year, though with a chuckle at the now obvious puppet strings.) There were days spent ice skating and nights helping our mom bake cookies. There was gift day at school when we would ponder over little holiday presents to buy for our parents and siblings, agonizing over how to best spend our precious quarters.
There were nights walking the neighborhood caroling with friends in hopes of a cookie or candy reward. There was the evening when the firetruck rode up our street, and who do you think was riding on it but the big jolly man himself? We stood looking up in awe as he reached down to hand each of us a candy cane and a wrapped gift with our name on the tag. Holy cow, he really did know where we lived! Oh yes, you better believe I believed!
There were my furtive, stealthy snooping missions. I fancied myself a top-notch sleuth as I peeked in drawers and poked around in closets looking for hidden gifts. I would inevitably come across a stocking stuffer or a gift and promptly ruin my brother’s surprises by telling him what I’d found. In reality, though, I was no match for my mo…um, I mean Santa, as come Christmas morning there was a pile of presents that my little eyes had not spied. In retrospect I consider it lucky that the coal threat never panned out as it would have served my rotten, snooping self right.
Well now, here I am back in the present, finishing off my second cup and smiling. I have not paused to consider how horrible I have been feeling as I write this. Instead, I find that once again the season has worked its magic. I was wondering where my Christmas spirit was this year. It appears it was nestled somewhere between a box of tissues and a trip down a holiday memory lane.
What are some of your favorite holiday memories and traditions? Which Christmas movies do you love? What cookies do you absolutely have to bake? Please share your stories and keep the holiday spirit alive. Believe, and be love! Cheers! Karen
Featured image photo credit to: http://www.pixabay.com