Now that I've conquered the NaNoWriMo challenge for November I can start thinking about this year's annual Christmas story. I started writing an annual story back in 1997 or so, when Kelly was still in elementary school. I stopped for three years after my mother passed away in 2000 and resumed in 2003. Some years I write one tory, some years 2-3 stories. It depends on free time and inspiration factors.
After I finished my NaNo novel this year I wrote an 8600 word Christmas story based on the characters in the novel, celebrating Christmas Day three years into the future. This would most likely end up as a bonus story at the end of the novel since you would have had to have read the novel to know these characters and their back stories.
I've been feeling nostalgic about the Christmases I shared with my family growing up in the 60's. It was a more innocent time and families were closer, not everyone running off to do their own thing, or connected to their cellphones and disconnected from real life. It was a time when towns really decked out Main Street with garlands across the road every hundred feet or so- lights and bells and conical-shaped Christmas trees in the town I grew up in, lights and wreaths in the bigger town north of us. It was always an adventure to eat dinner on Saturday night then pile into the car and drive around town and the surrounding towns looking at how people had decorated their houses. This was the era of the big bulb lights, real laurel and evergreen roping. There were no giant inflatable decorations in front yards. There were snowmen in the yards, decorated sleds or ice skates on the porches, candles with colored bulbs in the windows, an occasional colored spotlight illuminating a front door wrapped like a giant gift with foiled paper and a wide band of ribbon and a huge bow. The town I grew up in had a pond in the center of town and on this pond there was a raft, and on the raft was a lit and decorated Christmas tree. This was the era of shopping downtown so all the storefronts were decked out for the holidays. I remember one shoe store in Northampton had an animated Santa. I just loved him as he turned from side to side and waved. There were also either painted flat wood or fiberglass nativity scenes on most town greens back then that reminded us of the reason we celebrated Christmas. People did not find them offensive. The nativity scene in Easthampton where I grew up was beautiful and fueled my love of camels. So did the fiberglass camels in West Springfield.
I have been trying to get back in touch with the magical feeling of Christmas morning when I was little. I remember having to wait in my bedroom like my brother and sister in their rooms until our parents got up. We'd be talking back and forth, kind of loudly because our parents' bedroom was at the opposite end of the house from our bedrooms- "Do you think he came yet?" we'd ask one another. Finally Mom would appear at the end of the hallway and Dad would shuffle past in his Santa boxer shorts over his flannel pajama pants and his red sweatshirt, dressed to play Santa. And then it was a shoving match as we dashed up the hall, hearts pounding with excitement to behold the lit tree, the real aluminum tinsel glittering and flashing, the mountain of gifts beneath the tree, the bulging stockings hanging from a clothesline tied between the coat closet and front door doorknobs. We all had our favorite place to sit. We always had at least one cat and the cat would join us. We'd open presents and then stockings. Mom always got a box of Yardley English lavender soap-her favorite. Dad always got Brylcreme in his stocking. We got jars of paste, bottles of LePage glue, crayons, pencils, bubble bath and small toys in our stockings. My favorite gifts were received over several years-my Pebbles Flintstone doll with the plastic bone through her topknot (I have her downstairs and she still has her bone!), my '63 titian ponytail Barbie doll 9which is probably why nearly all my female lead characters are redheads- Pebbles and Barbie were a huge influence, and my maternal grandfather had a passion for redheads besides!), my Pushmi-Pullyu that talked from the Dr. Doolittle movie, Larry the Lion who also talked, and my Sears copper-colored child-sized Kenmore range- oh, I loved that stove and the toy pots and pans I got to go with it. I "cooked" up a storm on that thing! And my white and pink Columba bicycle and when I was older, my green Columba bicycle. We had to go out and ride our bikes even with snow on the ground and freezing temperatures (This was back when Dad's had to build the bikes, usually on Christmas Eve- God bless his heart staying up late and building three bikes- that is real love!)
My Uncle Pete, Dad's older bachelor brother always joined us on Christmas Day. He got a box of cigars and one of those big packages with the various sausages, cheeses and crackers. He had a Polaroid camera which fascinated us all as we watched the pictures develop. I can still smell the developer after all these years! It stung my noise but the magic was so powerful watching our images emerge from a fog on the paper we didn't mind the stink of the chemicals. Uncle Pete always wore a white shirt and a necktie on Christmas. Mom usually wore a dress. I can't remember what my Dad wore, probably one of his plaid work shirts and slacks. The three of us kids wore corduroys and sweaters or turtlenecks.
Dinner was a feast. Mom ordered Table Talk pies- apple and mincemeat, from the corner variety store. They arrived at the store and we received a phone call to come and pick them up usually the day before Christmas. Although the store was in walking distance Dad usually drove there, not risking one of us dropping a pie on the way home! I remember the big Coca Cola display signs with Santa Claus in the store. Mom had gotten one sign for us one year from the storeowner- it was about eighteen or twenty inches high. She hung it on the coat closet door with a bunch of Dennison holiday cut-outs from W.T. Grants. There were Gurley Christmas candles shaped like snowmen, Santas, angels, carolers, a street lamp, a tree with silver glitter, and nativity figures on the divider between the living room and kitchen, also bought at Grants or Bradlees.
I am full of reminiscence tonight. I've been reading Reminisce and Good Old Days magazines and enjoying the stories, all the memories of Christmases past. Maybe all of this will help inspire me to write this year's annual Christmas story.
My most favorite memory of my own daughter was when she was eighteen months old, dressed in red long johns and bootie slippers, her hair longer than she wears it now , curling at the ends, still golden blonde. She is standing at the tree which is loaded with Hallmark ornaments and in her left hand she is holding her favorite ornament, a clear red acrylic heart- she always called this an apple for some reason. The sweetness and innocence radiating from her in the picture is breathtaking as she reaches for another ornament that has caught her eye. Children grow up so fast, the magical aspects of the holiday fade and become memories. Suddenly we are the adults who make the magic happen.
I don't know for sure what I'll be writing about this year...but it's been wonderful revisiting all these fond memories of Christmases past.