Monday, December 5, 2011



Waking up the first Sunday in December as a kid
was similar in excitement to waking up on Christmas morning.
I'd throw the covers back...
forget about making my bed
and thump my way in a galloping tattoo down the stairs.

Our stair well was open half way to the upstairs
so that as you went, you began to get a view
of the long living room.
The tree was at the farthest point of view.
I'd jump the last few steps to slam onto the landing
and pivot quickly to see the tree...
now lit... and gasp with kid delight.

It was not yet decorated.
But there was a thrill to see the big old fashioned colored lights...
the big ones in crayola colors of blue, red, green, yellow and orange.
So big that the newly replaced bulbs glared back at you,
while older bulbs that survived from Christmas past had a duller glow.
The old silver tin star was set on top...
with it's accent light tucked in the middle...
letting out rays of light from punched holes.

My parents were particular about our trees.
Mom hated Douglas Firs because of the number of needles they lost.
They liked the stubborn, thick, sturdy branches of Nobles and
whenever available...the ultimate tree...
Blue Spruce.
All our trees began as 10 to 12 foot beauties...
to fill our elderly home's high ceilings.
It spanned its nook between the bookcases,
once the star was in place on top,
from floor to an inch from the ceiling.

This was my mother's influence on Christmas.
Her decorator's eye.
There was no doubt when you entered our home that the tree was the focal point.
It commanded you to look at it and continued to drag your eyes back again and again.

There were rules for the tree...
like there were rules for anything in our house.
Decorating it happened in a steady order of layers.
My excitement to see it waiting for it's dressings was hard to contain.
But that would have to wait for the running of errands and Saturday chores
put off the day before for laying out the decorations.

I'd struggle through breakfast and the agonizingly long trip to church.
Out of the car, at home at last...
shrug off my best clothes for play clothing and go to work.
Being the littlest, my tasks were the more simple ones.
Big Boo was the trash and yard guy.
I was a picker-upper, laundry folder and low item duster.
The three older sisters did most of the rest.
Mother cooked and checked to see that we had done our tasks correctly.
Father read his paper and did his cross word puzzle.
It was the only day he did not go to work.

There was no lunch on this or any Sunday.
At holiday times, my mother laid out trays of "nibbles".
Finger foods that you could attack as the need arose.
We played for a few hours... but only at home.
A homework check was performed.
Sunday was not a day to visit with friends when I was little.
An early diner was likely a pot roast or chicken baked in egg noodles.

All day long I eyed the still mostly naked tree.
The oldest bunnies washed the Christmas cups as mother put on the hot cocoa...
No Swiss Miss in those days!
This was made from powder, sugar and real whole milk...
and developed a creepy skin as it cooled.
If not properly watched, it would scorch and be ruined.
You could smell it all over the house.

The time to decorate the tree was finally here!
Christmas music was in the form of records...
played on the reproduction old fashioned RCA record player complete with it's big black flower like horn.
We had Mitch Miller, Bing Crosby, Alvin and The Chipmunks...
a real variety depending on Father's mood.
Mother ladled up the cocoa from the steaming pan
and we piled in the marshmallows.

We all had our favorite ornaments to hang.
There were often good natured squabbles over which one got to hang a certain one up,
despite the large number of items to hang.
Big balls went on the bottom... and the sizes shrunk as they went upward.
No two balls next to each other were supposed to be the same color.
Mother would watch as much as work...
making switches when required.

The last thing to go on the tree was the tinsel.
Real lead tinsel...
that could clog the vacuum if not removed first...
or start a fire if not carefully hung around lights.
This was my Father's forte.

Icing the tree was an art!
Even pealing the tinsel off of the cardboard packaging was serious business.
If you were careful not to break them apart, the strings could be very long.
These long strands were the key to his style...
they were to go where there were long open spaces,
creating gorgeous cascades of icing.
He was not above carefully snipping them to fit with scissors.

The entire top of the tree was Father's area.
Mother would never let a bunny on the ladder...
and she needed to direct from the middle of the room.
Finishing the tinsel sometimes took a few days after the tree was considered done.
Repairs were sometimes required when a breeze from the front door
caused strands to shiver to the floor.

The ending of the decorating party was signaled by
Mother leaving her director's post and taking up the angel hair.
She carefully took blobs of the spun glass and worked them into
little nests...
these she turned upside down over the bright lights...
giving them a soft frosty, angelic glow.
When the last light was hooded,
we all stood back to "Oooh" and "Aaah".
Then it was bed time for the three smallest bunnies.

Upstairs in my bed...
I liked to listen to the sounds below.

Cinderella with her Julie Andrews voice...
and Duffy doing the best she could...
as they washed the cocoa cups and cleaned the kitchen.

I knew without seeing that Father was still perfecting tinsel magic...
with his glass of Cognac on his side table next to his leather chair.
Mother would be rearranging ill placed ornaments...
sipping at a salt trimmed margarita.
A fire crackled in the fireplace.
When the oldest bunnies headed off to bed...
the music would turn soft and romantic...
my parents voices now murmurs.

Quietly I'd slip from my bed...
and creep, sitting on my bottom
from step to step...
feeling thrilled by being sly and sneaky...
until I could peek below the banister,
through the banister rails at the tree...
now its fairy like glow the only soft lighting beside the flickerings from the fire.

My parents now seated in their chairs separated by the small table...
leaned toward each other conspiring in low voices.
The sight of that made my heart beat louder
until I was afraid it would betray me.
Long moments passed as I drank that sight in.
A smile would play its way onto my mother's face.

"Good night, Rebecca."
she said softly...
sending me scurrying back to my bed.
Their chuckles followed behind.


  1. Just dropping by to say these have been lovely. I have been reading all along, generally in a few free minutes, which have been hard to come by lately, thus the lack of comment(s).

    Have to run. More later :-)

  2. Cricket- The holiday season is always so busy for parents. No problem with not commenting.

    This rambling remembering began because of whining from my youngest, who complained that I have not been writing. He's the one who gave me my e reader and who is himself a much better writer than I.

    It has no real base, other than that's what it was like when I was a kid. I'm going to print them and bind them into a booklet for Squeaky's Christmas gift, since we can't really afford to give regular presents to our grown kids this year.

  3. Your writing is so vivid, I can picture each moment as you described it.
    And I think a homemade book of tales would be a wonderful gift!

  4. billy pilgrim- Back at you!

    laura b.- Thank you. Squeaky loves to read and write. Its right up his alley. And for family, its a nice thing. The idea came from a journalist who was talking about how people are going into debt over Christmas... and said he thought a letter telling family what they meant would be more appreciated than a bobble that puts someone they care about into debt. I liked that idea.

  5. You know, I still have that feeling of magic when it comes to the tree. Mine is up with lights, and my younger son and I will decorate it together.

  6. secret agent woman- I miss decorating with my kids! The tree has a very warm spot in my heart.

  7. what a beautiful memory. cant believe i missed all of december here. sorry about that. catching up now.