Monday, December 5, 2011

More Christmas Memories

The Tree(s)

Prior to my teenage years, we usually had not one, but TWO Christmas trees in the house. The one placed in the front room was always a real tree, sometimes flocked, and usually decorated with the more formal ornaments.

This is me in front of the "front room" tree in 1973

The other tree was placed in the basement family room. Most of the time it was real, but I remember an old “bottle brush” artificial one that we used a couple times. The basement tree had the funky old, giant bulb lights with reflectors, the bubbling candle lights, and a gaudy lit-up tinsel star on top. The ornaments were all the favorites… snoopy in various sledding, skating and other winter activities… handmade styrofoam/napkin/Mod Podge ornaments… ornaments that we children had made with Dixie cups and foil, Christmas cards and colored toothpicks, wooden cutouts and school pictures… my mom’s ornaments from her childhood… and usually a LOT of tinsel. This was always my favorite tree. The formal one looked nice, but I loved digging out the old, sentimental ornaments. And those giant lights with floral shaped foil reflectors… you can’t get more nostalgic than that!

This is me in front of the "basement" tree, also in 1973.

I have very vivid, yet dreamlike, memories of hanging out in the front room, Dean Martin crooning Christmas tunes on the console stereo, the smell of fresh pine hanging heavily in the air, the only light in the room was the soft glow coming from the many strings of Christmas tree lights my dad had strung all over the floor in an effort to detangle the cords and check the bulbs. It was magical.

We used the same tree skirts every year. It was tradition. My mom had sewn them out of red and white flannel fabric and embellished them with silver rick-rack and little foil holly berries and leaves. Over the years, these skirts have gotten kind of ragged, but in my mind, they’re still the standard by which all other tree skirts will be judged.

Gifts we were planning on giving to friends, extended family, etc., were placed under the front room tree along with any gifts we received from our friends, neighbors, etc. The basement tree was for our immediate family’s presents and for Santa Claus… why? Because the fireplace was in the basement family room and that’s how Santa got into the house… and that’s where you hang your stockings!

The D├ęcor (Doesn’t everyone have a life-size Nativity in their front yard?)

My father did the more traditional outdoor Christmas decorating… colorful lights strung on the roof, in the windows and on the branches of the front yard trees… he also went above and beyond what most people did in their yards back then... every year he built a life-size stable in the front yard. In this stable was a life-size Nativity made from mannequins, a wooden manger and a large plastic baby doll to represent the newborn Jesus. There were bales of hay, evergreen branches, a large spotlight and a big sign that had a hand painted Bible page and scripture. It was a sight to behold. I wish I could find a picture of it. People would drive slowly down our street and park in front of the house to look at the Nativity. My sister, Emily, has told me that when she was a child, she wondered why people would stop and look at our yard at Christmastime. She assumed everyone had a Nativity.

When I was in my early teens, we were hit with snowstorm after snowstorm one December. The snow piled up higher and higher on the roofs and the stable ended up caving in. When my dad was able to clear it all out, he noticed that when the stable caved in, all the mannequins (Joseph, Mary, Wise Men, Shepherds) had fallen into the center covering the manger and protecting the Baby Jesus doll in the manger. The mannequins were broken beyond repair. The hand painted sign was split literally in half. The stable lumber was torn and broken and could not be used again. But the manger and Baby Jesus came out of the disaster unscathed. True Story… It was a Christmas Miracle…


Suz said...

Thanks for the memories. I just had to say that!

You are such a great writer. I love it.

I was never really fond of the tinsel. We had two toned silver and gold tinsel to match the frontroom decor. Dale and I would sing and dance together in front of our huge mirror on the wall in the frontroom.

Lyn said...

Somehow, I have no problem at all picturing Dale dancing and singing in front of a huge mirror! :)