My husband (correction: “I”), put up all of our Christmas decorations over the weekend. After all of the pilgrims and cornucopias, faux and real pumpkins, and the “Happy Harvest” signs were put away, I hauled out countless Santa Clauses, angels, reindeer, carolers and tree ornaments. Wreaths went up while Indian corn came down, and as I worked away, I marveled that another year was rapidly coming to an end. It seemed like just a few short months ago I was doing this very same thing.
I was looking around at my house last night and thought about the fact that it looked like Kris Kringle had thrown up all over every room. After 31 years of marriage, I’ve collected quite a few seasonal decorations, so much so that I have a large bag of them put aside that I just have no need for or room for anymore. I’ll let them adorn someone else’s house for the next 30 years. But there are ones I hold on to tightly, and would never think of getting rid of, and those are the few I still have from my childhood.
The once-bright red and green paint is chipped on those old ornaments now, and all of the glitter is gone. Nevertheless, they always hang front and center among the evergreen branches of the tree we buy from a friend’s Christmas tree farm in Spruce Pine, NC. Not to regress, but going to that tree farm is one of my greatest joys each year. As I walk among the helter-skelter rows of trees, I look off in the distance at Roan Mountain’s majestic peak, and I think to myself, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and His holy hand has created all of this.”
It takes a while to pick our tree simply because we love to linger, but we finally make our selection and then set it up in its usual corner at home. Once it is, our yearly ritual is to begin decorating it by hanging those ornaments we love the most. Without fail, it is my childhood ornaments I reach for.
When I touch them, I remember Christmases on Romano Avenue, in Coral Gables, Florida. I remember going with Mama to Burdines department store in downtown Miami, on Christmas Eve day, to sit on Santa’s lap, and then have lunch in the tearoom while watching my grandmother model the latest fashions there. Watching her elegantly glide across that catwalk was a Christmas gift in and of itself. I was in awe of her, and pleased when she’d come to our table, take me by the hand and walk me around the room, showing me off.
Another gift I always looked forward to at that lunch was having the Snow Princess ice cream dessert. It wasn’t that it tasted so good (in reality, it was way too sweet), but the creation was beautiful. It was a little ice cream princess complete with a whipped cream hoop-style skirt and silver sprinkles covering it. Though I couldn’t eat much of the too-rich dessert, I always got it, and Mama never scolded me for ordering something I was far more interested in looking at than eating.
Shortly after lunch, Mama would leave and I would happily stay behind with Grandma until she was done with the show. Once she was, she’d drive us back to my home in her turquoise ’57 Chevy, where she’d stay the night with us, eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival, too. My aunt, uncle and cousins would congregate there, as well, so the house was noisy and full. My sister and I gave up our beds to the adults, and we’d share a mattress on the floor. It goes without saying that we got little sleep that night, but not because of the sleeping arrangements, but because of the great expectations of what the morning would bring. We would get up about 5:00 a.m., and Mama let us know it was time for she’d come into the room singing Jingle Bells. (I can still hear her soft, sweet voice.) After all of the happy squealing over our gifts had died down, Mama would suggest we go back to sleep while the women got busy cooking Christmas dinner. Of course, it was just her way of getting us out from under her feet, but being fueled up on coffee cake and newly-gotten toys, sleep was the last thing on our minds. Our house was a madhouse on that day, just as it should have been, and I miss those electric Christmases of old.
All of the adults in those cherished memories are gone now with the exception of my aunt. My sister and three cousins are in their early and later sixties, and I’m just a year short of being a newcomer to that decade. The house on Romano Avenue was sold twenty five years ago; and the Burdines where my grandmother modeled no longer has the tearoom and catwalk. My sister lives in one state and I’m in another. And my cousins are scattered about, as well. But, when I’m hanging those old ornaments on the tree, we’re together once more, and I can just about taste the sweetness of the Snow Princess on my tongue, while hearing familiar, softly sung strains of Jingle Bells.
All things considered, I know how very blessed I am to have had those times that created those memories, and how very blessed I am to have friends and family to make more with. And I hope that those memories and traditions will be passed down through the generations to come, along with those not-so-glittery special ornaments, for those are the ones that make the heart the merriest.
Wishing each of you many blessings and some sweet unexpected surprises this holiday season.