Christmas Memories

Sometimes during the warm, snowless winters in Spring Hill I think longingly of the Christmas days when I was a boy.

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire. The crunch of the milkman's sleigh runners on the snow. That was the way Christmas was when I was a boy. Simple, beautiful,  full of pleasant memories.

I remember the joy of shopping a few weeks before Christmas. Going to the 5 & 10-cent store to look at all the wonders on display; sometimes I would be able to talk my Dad out of fifty cents to buy a gift for Mother. I didn't need more than that for my shopping, because all of the big presents had been made in school a long time ago.

Dad was going to get a calendar with a beautiful mounting. It was was a piece of oak tag supplied by the school and decorated by me.  Mom would get a pin cushion that was a work of art. That was one of the big projects.

I didn't have to worry about a present for my teacher - Mom took care of buying the handkerchief that was presented to her each year. From the school, I knew I would get a small box of hard candy that had a jolly Santa on the front.

Sometimes, when I felt daring, I would wait for a good chance and then look in all the closets to see if I could guess which wrapped package was for me, and guess what it might be.

It seems to me that it always snowed on Christmas Eve. Usually  I was shunted off to bed at an early hour with the admonition about not going downstairs until I was given permission in the morning.

Somehow or other, when I woke and was allowed to go downstairs the TREE had arrived, magically trimmed, and full of the old ornaments that I loved so well. Dad would usually have to fiddle with the lights to get them all working at once, but that was while I was searching under the tree for packages that had my name on them.

Of course, if it was a good year, in back of the tree would be something that was too big to wrap in paper.  Perhaps a sleigh, or a new wagon! But after the big presents the most fun was in the stocking that was hung on the fireplace mantle.

No fancy knitted wool stocking was this. It was one of my regular cotton knee-length white or black ones specially chosen by me to hold the most surprises. It was unthinkable to use someone elses bigger stocking for that might result in a lump of coal for a gift.

There was always an orange in either the toe or the heel. Oranges in winter were expensive and rare, and to have one all to myself was a real treat. There were also walnuts and hard candy, and a toy like perhaps a pocket knife, was the surprise most eagerly sought after.

Of course under the tree were the socks, underwear and a shirt or new pants, but it was hard to seem appreciative of these gifts while my mind was on the game or toy or that BIG present that I tried so hard to deserve.

At one point all the action would stop while big sister would sit at the piano, and we all stood around and sang Silent Night, Oh Tannenbaum, and Jingle bells. I have never been able to recall what other members of the family got for gifts as I was too enthralled with my own presents to care.

The day that my mother would announce that the tree would have to be taken down was always a bad one. It never was up long enough for me. The only compensation was the priviledge of burning it in the road in front of our house. Sometimes we kids would get together and make a pyramid of them and burn them in one grand bonfire. If you timed it just right, as the flames died down you could grab a tree by the butt end and revolve it in such a way as to re-ignite the unburned part and make a shower of sparks.

Eventually my mother would insist that I empty the stocking and give the sticky mess to her for washing and putting back in service. That was the end of the Christmas season.

For a small boy Christmas is a real joy, unmarred by thoughts of overdrawn accounts and wrong choices of gifts.When he grows up the spirit of past Christmases will always remain in the back of his mind as he sits and watches his children or grandchildren go through the wonderful, mystical magic of Christmas.

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