Saturday, November 27, 2021

61 Christmases

 As I celebrate my 61st Christmas I think back on the past ones (that I can remember) and, not to be morbid, wonder how many more I will have.

Christmases when I was little, ages 2 or 3 until 13 or so, were always the same. Daddy had his Christmas Eve Drop in (and fall out) at the drug store. Christmas morning, my brother and I would go down stairs at the crack of dawn and open our stockings by ourselves but we knew not to "touch" what Santa had brought us until Mama and Daddy joined us.

Our Santa practiced the unwrapped delivery method. My brother and I each had an assigned wing chair. On Christmas morning all our loot would be distributed in the correct chair. We would stand and stare with wonder and joy at what the jolly ol' elf had left in those chairs. Finally, after what seemed like 2 days, Mama and Daddy would descend.

Daddy would have his fancy movie camera with its 2 foot long light bar mounted atop, ready to film. So we had to go back up to the stairs and make another entrance, so he could film our "initial" surprise when we saw what Santa had brought.We were very good at showing total joy. Looking at the camera was impossible unless you had sunglasses on. The three flood lamp size bulbs would blind you. And should something go wrong, either technically or poor acting on our parts - the gifts would be returned to their places and we would have take two. (Now these home movies are priceless. I would not take anything for having these memories saved on celluloid.)

Opening our gifts under the tree was always a surprise - in many ways. It was not unusual for gifts to be without tags, or worse yet, to have the incorrect name on them. This was in the years of Mama's proclivity for the bottle. I distinctly remember one year being a little puzzled when I opened a gift with my name on it only to find a pellet gun. Of course not as surprised as my brother when his gift was a Raggedy Ann doll. Such was life around our house.

But we had no time to dawdle. We had to get dressed, select one gift, and get in the car. We had our agenda. First stop was Aunt Kat and Granny's home (my father's family) in Wagram. NC (pop 418). It was a good 3 to 4 hour drive. We would arrive there just in time to help Aunt Kat put the finishing touches on her Christmas supper. My great aunt and uncle, Auntie and Make, would join us for supper then presents, which usually equaled or topped Santa.

We would spend the night and the next afternoon it was  back in the car off to Blenheim, SC (yes, where they make the world famous ginger ale). Actually Granddaddy's farm was somewhere between Blenheim and Bennettsville,  Here we would be at my Mama's home with my grandparents, Aunt J'Nelle, Uncle Jimmy, and his children.

Unlike our Christmas at Aunt Kat and Granny's where the two of us as the only grandchildren were fawned over and granted our every wish, at Grandmama's there were 5 grandchildren. But it was great fun to play with the cousins we usually only saw once a year. And Grandmother and Granddaddy did not mind the havoc we all created as we turned their home into a palace, a fort, or a set for some secret mission. Of course there was another Christmas supper and another round of gifts.

Three or four days later we would return home to find the gifts we originally received Christmas morning waiting for us. I can remember those whirlwind trips like they were yesterday. The funny thing is I can remember so many details about Christmases at my Grandparents, but not so much about those at home. But then, we were only home on Christmas morning for a few hours.

In my early teens, my Grandparents were older and not up to the visits and we were spending more and more time at High Acres, the family farm in North Carolina. There would be the Christmas trips but often they were scheduled the week before Christmas - a bit calmer with much less ado.

Our new "norm" was to get to High Acres as soon after Christmas as possible and stay through the New Year. That started a new tradition that was a 'hole new ball game. In addition to our family there was the usual house full of friends. It was a raucous fun time with the usual quirks of the house. By now, frequent holiday guests were prepared for cold showers (if there was water), drafty rooms, and little sleep. 

Of course those times were followed by new traditions with our family. Christmas is so magical with young children. And, it is even better with Grandchildren. So I feel as if I have gone full circle from visiting my grandparents to enjoying our grandchildren. 

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