Saturday, December 19, 2009
In Passing & Pausing
As I gather up and feast upon the precious new memories of this Christmas season, it's not without a reflection (or ten) of those of my childhood. Among my favorite memories are ...
Searching for Rudolph.
I fell for it every year; or at least every year until I was old enough to know better.
On Christmas Eve, just after dark, the olders would lead me out the back door to walk the same stretch of sidewalk behind our home we'd walked many a year prior; ostensibly to search the night sky for Rudolf and the host he headed.
Naive and unwizened as was I, they'd (these colluding olders) steer me this way and that. Our sojourn was dotted with their convincing exclamations (dare I say taunts): Oh where could that Rudolf be? or You don't suppose Santa got lost, do you?
After a pre-planned span, someone would point to the night sky, and to the dot of red there. More exclamations: It's Rudolf! I see Santa's sleigh! (How was I to know it was a radio tower; the same radio tower light they pointed out EVERY year?).
We'd scurry home, hoping to catch a glimpse of Claus at best, the tail on Rudolf's (or Donner's or Bitzen's) hind end at least. Imagine my shock and utter delight to discover a bundle of goodies had been left, even though I'd missed the bearded one. Again!!
The Fireplace Nativity
I don't recall there ever being a fire in our fireplace. It stood at the end of the living room, and often played back-drop to family pictures - princess-clad prom girls and their awkward beaus among them. In fact, each of we four girls had many a wedding photo captured with that fireplace face in them.
It was a gathering place, in oh-so many ways.
At Christmastime mother would line the fireplace with Douglas Fir boughs and then set about the charming task of positioning the family Nativity within it's enclosure. For hours on end I would sit on the tiled hearth to observe that scene, whisked away by my imagination and the strong need to lift and closely inspect each scene member.
The Poker Gang
OK, so good Christian families don't gamble. BUT ... in an era pre-dating Uno and Trivial Pursuit, my family's Christmas afternoon pass time was playing poker - - this amidst the clamor of mother & crew puttering in the kitchen nearby.
There were penny and nickle bets, and often someone would lose a heaping sum of $2 as others bemoaned their plight.
It was my great pleasure to move from lap-to-lap so I could sort & stack the chips (or eat some of the goodies they'd selected), or to glean a hug from an uncle or brother-in-law. But mostly I loved the laughter and the mysterious babble behind it. I can hear them still: Ante up! Hit me. I'll call you.
Everyone has one, a favorite relative. Mine - and I dare say the entire family's - was Uncle Elmer.
Elder brother to my Dad, he'd suffered what has come to be known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the first World War. He lived out most of his days in a soldier's home; a sanitarium of sorts. Kean of mind and heart, his disorder's manifestations were lost on me! That's him on the left in the photo, next to another brother, Ed (and yet another favorite uncle).
He was a funny little man that smoked unfiltered Chesterfield cigarettes in rapid succession; his fingers permanently stained the color of tobacco. He also had false teeth which, to my great delight, were the source of much entertainment. So quick you'd miss it if not intent upon staring, he'd click them in-and-out. I begged him over-and-over to perform his most unusual feat, and he never disappointed or complained.
Mostly Elmer was warm and kind, with a twinkle in his eye I've yet to see in any other mortal. And when he'd laugh ... his entire body scrunched up and bent a little, even as his face crinkled. It makes me laugh just thinking about it..
I never tired of them, my dollies. I had but a few, yet they were my very own little family; and I their mother. I was probably about to enter my teens before I stopped asking for them at Christmas.
In this scene with me (age 8), is my first Barbie-type doll. Unlike the sophisticated Barbie, she was a little sandy blond-haired girl, and just my age - a true mini-me, complete with her own pajamas and a few dresses. .
The list could go on and on; so many are the collectibles among my Christmases past. But I'll stop here to give thanks to God for the richness and goodness of my days as a child. That is perhaps the best of my memories, and among the best of His gifts to me.
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