I was listening to a talk show on the radio today as I drove into work. The subject was “Christmas Gifts” and two of the speakers were reminiscing about Christmas’ past where they received a memorable gift. I immediately started to think about my past Christmas experiences. Did I ever have that moment where I received a memorable gift and still remember it after “X” number of years? Yep. I sure do. And those things that have been memorable were not “gifts” per se but “moments”.
The first thought that came to my mind were the memories of Christmas at my Grandma’s home. It feels like I remember most every year we spent Christmas there. She had so many traditions, that even though one year may not have stood out from another because of the “sameness”, it was those expected traditions that made Christmas with her and my Grandpa so special. My Aunt lived with them and my Great Aunt and Uncle were next door neighbors. Most of the extended family lived in the same area. Everyone pitched in and had a huge part in these wonderful memories.
I remember that Grandma’s Christmas cards were hung in the small kitchen from colorful ribbon taped to the very top of the wall close to the ceiling. She and my Grandpa had so many family and friends that the columns of Christmas cards filled her kitchen from ceiling to floor. A huge variety of Christmas cookies were always available. She let me help her wrap Christmas presents and taught me how to make pretty home-made bows from fabric ribbon (she used to be a gift wrapper at the Piggly Wiggly then L. S. Ayres – WOOT!). Ornaments on the tree were very familiar and every year I would look to try to spy my favorite ones. My favorites were always the ones made by her good friend, Fannie Fowler.
She’d put Christmas lights around the huge mirror in the living room It was so beautiful when the house lights went out at night because the light from the strand was multiplied by being on the edge of a mirror. My siblings and I had our own stockings at her home and they were hung on the front door, ready for us on Christmas with treats and small gifts inside. There was a candy dish on a small dark table that was magical because it had a seemingly never-ending supply of candy. #howdidsheDOthat?!?!?!
Grandma and the rest of the family, no matter how busy they might have been, gave the gift of their time. We always had our dinner meal together whether 10 or 30 were at the tables. Every night we could count on large groups of us playing cards. The laughing and teasing and friendly competition strengthened family ties. We even renamed one of the card games to “Get Bud”, who was my Great Uncle. He won all the time and the object of the game was to beat him vs beating everyone. Even when the extended family left to go to their homes, Grandma, (Great Aunt) Bertie and I would stay up past midnight playing cards or Yahtzee.
Lastly, I remember that without fail, never missed, we all attended her church’s Candlelight Christmas Eve service. My Grandpa, Aunt and Great Aunt were in the choir. My Dad was a consistent guest singer (“Is Bob singing this year?!?!?” YEP. SURE IS!) and would sing “O Holy Night” as a solo. Grandma had a red coat with a fur collar. It had a familiar smell and I tried to sneak to sit by her during the service. I could count on Wrigley’s Spearmint gum being in her purse and was enamored by her bright red wallet. No one I knew as a child in the 60’s and early 70’s had a bright red wallet like Grandma.
Do I remember a “special” present that she or any of the other beloved family members gave to me? Maybe one or two??? (Crissy doll and tape recorder- oh yeah!)
Ok – so you ask what made this a special memory? Because I knew that I MATTERED TO THEM. I was surrounded by love and acceptance. I was filled with joy that they wanted to be with me; that they would sacrifice their time for me; that they kept the special memories going for me; that I could count on the “sameness”. I knew that every Christmas would be the same – would feel the same. I knew that I would have the same interactions with them and feel the same love from them.
My Christmas memories are wonderful due to feeling like I mattered to people who I cherished and who mattered to me. I matter to who matters. Grandma, Grandpa, Artie, Bertie, Uncle Bud, Aunt Pat, Bill and Sylvia Gardner, Charlie and Dora Reynolds, Reese and Mary, to just name a few, thank you for helping me to know that without a doubt that I mattered to you.