Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas memories

I have been ask to share my childhood memories for the children at church tonight . So I have been thinking about it this past week. What was Christmas like for my family in the 1950's?
Our family did not go to Grandpa's house for Christmas like Marvin's family did. By the time I was five years old, my paternal grandparents had passed away. About that time, my maternal aunts had grandchildren of their own and had their own family Christmas. Since my mother was much younger than her siblings, we spent almost every Christmas at home. But we did not feel sorry for ourselves! As long as I can remember, it was impressed on us "This is Jesus' birthday!" For weeks the excitement would build to a cresendo level! My mother would order a decorated cake from the baker. The words on top of the cake said "Happy Birthday Jesus". "How old is Jesus?" I often wondered. Our parents did not have a lot of money to buy presents. Some of the " really big" gifts were my first doll with hair, my first and only bike and my first wrist watch. I still have all three of them today. Some of our family activities reflect the interest of my two parents. Daddy usually led us in singing one Christmas carol after another. Mom often had a special "Christmas story" to read to us.
One year my parents bought a cardboard fireplace. It looked like a red brick fireplace with a cardboard log and red light bulb. When we plugged in the light, we felt like we had a real cozy fireplace...just like they do in story books.
As Christmas approached, the excitement steadily increased. When we shopped in Ephrata, we begged to go up to the second floor to see Toy Land. We did not expect our parents to buy any of the toys for us. It was just fun to look at all of them. I can still see all the pretty dolls on the shelves! My brothers looked at the toy trains and cars. One of the most fun things at that store was to ride the 1912 elevator, one of the first elevators in PA. It was built like an open black iron cage big enough to hold about 4-5 people - if they were not too big. You could actually see the supporting cables outside the cage...and hoped they did not break when you were part way up to the next floor.
When we shopped in Lancaster we could watch the animated displays at Watt & Shand. The one display had two little kid goats in a pillow fight with feathers flying in every direction. When the door to their room slowly opened, and their mother peeked in the room, she would see two little goats "pretend sleeping" in their bed. As soon as Mama goat closed the door, the pillow fight would resume.
Our family attended a small mission church in another county. My Dad rented a bus to take most of the church people Christmas caroling. We went to many homes tucked in the hills of Berks Co. I loved to stand beside the Weaver sisters and hear them sing the beautiful carols of Christmas...and even teach us some new ones. Enroute from one home to another we had a breath taking view of the gaily decorated Christmas Village...while adults commented on the enormous electric bill those folks must pay in December.
A week or so before Christmas the ladies from church came to our house to bake Christmas cookies. Even some older town ladies came to help. We baked cookies to distribute to some needy families and divide among ourselves.
About that time my Dad would set up the train on the dining room table. He started with an engine and a few cars with a small track. Every year he added something new like more cars, trees, and small buildings. If we had permission, we could put a little white pill in the smoke stack of the engine. Then while the engine went around the track, it would give of little white puffs of smoke, just like the real train that went though town. We thought that was the grandest thing you can imagine!

This poem came in an early Christmas card. I love it!

Memories are a special house
We build inside ourselves
Where love and laughter linger
Where all our past life dwells.
On holidays like Christmas
We can draw upon the store
Reliving happy times
And feeling all that warmth once more.
Wherever we may travel
The house is always there
To help to blend the old and new
To build on, grow and share.
This house can never get too full
Just grow from floor to floor,
Because the joy of making memories
Is always making more.

Make some memories for you and yours this Christmas. May they focus on the real reason for the celebration..the birth of Jesus...God's unspeakable Gift to us!