Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Feeling Nostalgic at Christmas

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960's we lived in a ranch style house that didn't have a fireplace (until my parents boarded over a window and put in an electric fake fireplace about 1966 or 67. Prior to then, our stockings--red  felt, double stitched up the sides, with a wide white cotton fabric top and a glittery white Christmas design on the stocking body (mine was on a full length Santa waving and the words Ho Ho Ho)--were suspended from a length of cotton clothesline cord between the coat closet door knob and the front door knob. Mom taped all the greeting cards we received on the back of the front door, and there were enough cards received that they literally covered the entire door from top to bottom. It was always fun to drag a kitchen chair into the living room to stand on to look at the cards hung high on the door, and then get down on the green carpet to peer at the cards at the bottom of the door.

I'm waxing nostalgic this year because I found a company that reproduces those fifties/sixties felt stockings, with three jingle bells attached! I purchased eight of them and filled seven of them with little goodies and treats plus gift cards and those were given to my big sister, her husband, my little brother, his wife and my best friend of nearly 20 years here in town. My brother sent me a text message yesterday on Christmas Day to say he really enjoyed opening his stocking, it brought back many memories of childhood. The eighth stocking is for me, for when times are not as lean as they were this year with John being out of work for nearly two years now.

After the original red felt stockings with white tops were retired, we all had white felt stockings with colored graphics of Santa Claus, all identical. Each of us has our original red felt stocking safely tucked away as a remembrance of our Christmases long ago now. om had kept them for us.

Other things I remember from childhood Christmases are a plastic light-up plaque of a cherubic-faced Santa going down a chimney with a sack of toys on his back. That was propped up in the window until we got the fake fireplace, and then it stood on the hearth next to where the real tree was set-up the weekend before my sister's December 23rd birthday. On the mantle, we set up my Polish grandmother's cardboard stable and her collection of chalkware Nativity figurines. A few of the figurines needed to be replaced, which was fairly easy back then--you just ran downtown to Grant's and there was always a bin at holiday time filled with assorted chalkware/plaster nativity figures in various sizes to replace the easily broken ones from older sets.

I tracked down an entire set like Grandma had because one of the things I'd inherited was the nativity set stored in its vintage Cream of Wheat shipping carton, and I wanted my sister to have a set too. She was so excited to get the complete set with all the original figures like she remembered them from when she was little (she's 3.75 years older than I am.) I'd like to one day get the same set for my brother, but they're pricier now so it will have to wait.

My Meme had a felt Santa Clause that had a pouch for Mail. She hung it on the door of her apartment which had been built off of our kitchen in the mid-60's. We ut all her holiday mail in the pouch for her to collect when she joined us for meals. She had a bed/sitter room and a private bath and ate her meals with us (don't get me started on the grapefruit story!)

Mom had to have ivory-colored electric candles with red bulbs in every window in the house. It was quite a chore running around after sundown plugging in all those candles, especially in the family room which was all jalousie windows on one short end and one long side! Oh, and there was an artificial tree in the family room where the windows met in the corner, all decorated with gold tinsel and gold ornaments. The real tree in the living room had silver tinsel garland, Shiny Brite glass ornaments, aluminum (and later plastic) icicles, and strings of the bigger colored lightbulbs.

Mom had a bayberry candle in jar, and a pine-scented candle in a red-glitter covered jar. On the utility closet door Mom hung a Coca Cola Santa advertising sign she'd gotten from Fred Bulanger who ran the corner store we were always being sent to for milk or a loaf of bread. It was also our place to spend pennies, nickels and dimes on penny candy, crayons, paperdolls, comic books and other small toys and treats; one of my favorites being the Ring Ding snack cake in its silver wrapper with blue/violet print! Int he summer we went for Popsicles and Fudgcicles! Later, in our pre-teens and teenaged years it was Tiger Beat and other teen magazines with Bobby Sherman, the Cowsills, the Osmonds, Herman's Hermits, Paul Revere, and then David Cassidy on the covers. We all spent a small fortune in that wonderful neighborhood corner store growing up!

Mom had an upright stereo in the corner of the living room, and a bunch of holiday records from Firestone and other stores. We had to move the lamp and knickknacks off the top so we could lift the lid to play the records. I still remember the smell of the speakers and turntable mechanism heating up behind the mesh screens in the front of the cabinet.

Of course, Christmas wouldn't be complete without watching Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (seriously, I am confessing this in public for the first time- the Abominable Snowman terrified me so much I would run and hide in my room until those scenes were over!), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which always horrified me because we had a dog named Max and the Grinch abused his dog with the same name as ours!), Santa Claus is Coming To Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. I also loved The Little Drummer Boy (I have always had a thing for camels, and back then I also liked lambs and cried like a baby when Baa-Baa got mowed down in the street!). I was not a fan of Frosty the Snowman- I thought it was stupid. And I have, to this day, never actually seen Nestor, the Long-eared Donkey, but just hearing the line, "Ears, Nestor," makes me want to cry.

The town I grew up in had life-sized painted flat wooden nativity figures. I LOVED the camels, of course! It was always set up on the town green. Conical green plastic Christmas trees and red bells with white trim alternated with the Christmas lights along Main Street. Stanley Home Products, a huge brick factory strung lights four or five stories high in the shape of a tree at the entrance to their factory. You could see the tree from half a mile or more away across a field from route 5. And there was a huge star atop Mount Tom. They have revived the star tradition, but it's a little lower on the mountain now, behind the Log Cabin restaurant now.

Piling into the station wagon and having Dad drive us all around through Easthampton and Northampton and sometimes Hadley and all the way up to Greenfield, was a holiday tradition on a Saturday night as Christmas drew nearer. Poor Dad never really got to see any lights since he had to watch the road, but occasionally we'd pause in front of a house with tons of decorations so he could admire them before moving on. When my brother got his license, he started taking me and our sister to look at lights. I've carried on the tradition with Kelly, and now she sometimes says, "Let's go look at the lights!"

Finally, on Christmas morning, we all had to wait in our rooms while Mom and Dad lit the tree and made sure everything was ready n the living room, then big sister would lead the way up the all and the magic of Santa Claus' visit was revealed to our wondering/dazzled eyes! Stockings were opened and then Dad doled out the presents. We each had our lace to sit...my seat was at the end of the couch across from the tree and next to the stereo.

The best Christmas gifts I ever got as a kid? My '63 titian ponytail Barbie (big sister Lynnmarie had gotten hers in '61 and she had a cardboard Barbie house from Sears (a little bigger with several rooms, so different from the original one room house but it still had cardboard furniture!), my Pebbles Flintstone doll (also a redhead!), Larry the Lion, Pushmi-Pullyu (from Dr. Doolittle- it talked!), and a coppertone Sears play stove with a set of aluminum pots and pans. I also liked my dish playset, my Barbie turquoise coupe, and flock-haired Ken (I always wished I had a red-haired Midge doll, but didn't get her until I was in my early fifties and bought myself one on ebay!)

Mom and I always made banana walnut bread at Christmas...substituting Gerber baby food bananas for real bananas and using Jiffy mix, not Bisquick baking mix. I had to run to the store on Christmas Eve afternoon to get the Jiffy Mix because John had pulled my old box down from the top shelf and it had surpassed its expiration date! I almost had a panic attack, but the grocery store wasn't very busy. I'd also run out of walnuts! (I buy shelled and grind them myself. Kelly handled that for me this year!)

Finally, I remember one year I was a king in the church nativity pageant. I wore a shiny blue robe and a gold paper crown, and carried my mother's gold covered candy bowl as my gift. I can't remember if my brother was Joseph or a shepherd that year, but I'm thinking he was Joseph because he had a serious crush on the girl portraying Mary who was our big sister's age!

Yes...this year I have a brand new laptop thanks to my wonderful daughter, and this has given me the ability to more easily access my blog (hooray!) I have retired the HPStream which developed issues after the Microsoft10 free update...it sucked up all the memory so I couldn't open things or do much of anything- a huge disappointment.

Happy Holidays to All! Looking forward to a New Year with more blog posts!

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