I have not kept up with the pace that Amy set for journaling Christmas traditions, but after reading some of hers, I thought I’d share a little more about me, since I’m not even sure that she and Kevin know a lot about my childhood Christmas experiences. This gets a bit long, so feel free to skim. It’s probably only of interest to immediate family, but enjoy as you see fit.
I have many precious pictures clearly burned in my mind of holiday scenes in our little house in Ohio, but unfortunately my family members weren’t much for picture taking, so we don’t have very many actual Christmas photographs to share. I may have a few, but my picture organizing project is still waiting to be done as well, so someday I’ll find them and post them.
To begin with, you need to understand that I was the 5th of 6 kids in a family of 8, in a small 3 bedroom home that probably wasn’t much more that 1100 square feet or so. Downstairs was a small living room, eat-in kitchen, bedroom and the only bathroom in the house (with a tub, but no shower). Upstairs were 2 more bedrooms. My parents slept in the living room on those corner-to-corner sofas that had bolsters that could be removed from the back so you could sleep on the size of twin beds. There was a sliding wooden door that could be moved to close off the living room from the rest of the house when needed. When all of us were living at home, the 3 boys slept in one of the upstairs bedrooms, my sister Sharon and I shared the other upstairs bedroom and my oldest sister, Diane got the downstairs bedroom all to herself…I never quite understood that except my mom said something about her being the oldest and quite a bit older than us 2 younger girls so needed her privacy. Whatever! She had things pretty good.
We always had a 5 foot tall aluminum Christmas tree (like the one pictured above) with one of those colored light wheels that would sit in the corner and shine on the tree. The wheel would rotate to change the color of the tree from red to blue, then green to yellow. One year my mom would buy a bunch of glass ball ornaments all in the same color, like gold or blue. That’s all that was hung on the tree. The next year she’d buy a set in a different color. Then, because inevitably some would get broken thru the years, the 3rd year she’d mix those two colors on the tree. That was our tree. It was sparkly and pretty, but kinda boring from the perspective of someone who likes variety and doesn’t decorate the same way twice.
Before I was old enough to wrap presents my parents never wrapped anything for Christmas morning. Probably because there really wasn’t a private place to do it with all the kids in the house, my dad wasn’t home a lot and my mom didn’t have much time with everything else that was going on.
In our house, mom did pretty much everything except work outside the home (for pay) and had to accomplish it all while depending on someone else to drive her around (since she didn’t have a car or driver’s license until we moved to Arizona when I was 16)…she did all the grocery and Christmas shopping, cleaning, baking, planning and helping with all of the 6 kids’ school and holiday activities. She was very active in our neighborhood Homeowner’s Association planning various parties and events every year, as well as in the PTA at Lake Elementary School. She was also the president or other officer of both organizations for many years, so she was a busy lady! I truly admire all that she was able to accomplish with her limited time, money and resources. She did an amazing job and loved us well with what she had available. I would have been about 5 years old when this picture of her was taken.
Back to Christmas morning…we would wake up on Christmas morning and come down the stairs. The door to the living room was closed and we weren’t allowed to look in there until our parents said it was o.k. – Often, Mom would gather us all up and have us sit on the stairs in our new Christmas Eve PJs, our hair all messed up and take our picture. I don’t have a photo of all the kids handy, but here’s one of my oldest brother, Rusty when he was about 7, sitting on the stairs in 1959. I would have been about 8 months old when this was taken.
Finally they’d give in and let us in the living room. When we walked in, we saw the small room filled with toys and gifts, none of them wrapped, but all grouped in small piles or groupings for each person. All we needed to do was find out which grouping was ours! Sometimes it was obvious if there was something that we particularly wanted and we knew it was for us. Other times we were told which “pile” was ours and we immediately began investigating the treasures there.
It was a wonderful exciting day, but the anticipation and excitement were over much too quickly. So as soon as I was old enough to wrap presents (probably 8 or so) I talked my mom into letting me wrap all the gifts except my own. Then she (or someone) would wrap my presents. It was so awesome to have all the presents wrapped and even though I knew what everyone was getting, I didn’t tell them, because I LOVE surprises and what fun would that be if everyone knew what they were getting? After that, we took the time to open each of our gifts. We never had a lot of structure that I recall, but at least the suspense was extended thru the time of opening.
God was good to us in all those years. We had our ups and downs and sometimes my dad was out of work because he was an iron worker and the weather would keep them from working. Even with hardships, I never remember going without some kind of presents on Christmas and being able to enjoy the holidays with people we loved.