Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Love Christmas


Our downstairs live tree

I guess I love Christmas so much because I was born exactly six months before Christmas, June 25th. I actually remember my first Christmas, somewhat. What???? , you don't believe I can remember an event when I was six months old. Well I do,.... er.. or maybe I was 18 months old. You were not there so you don't know and better than I do ... LOL. But anyway what I remember was my/our first Christmas tree. It was about the prettiest thing I had ever seen and it kinda mesmerized me. I remember that it was about 3 feet tall and since it was in the bedroom it may have been on a dresser instead of the floor. It had one string of pretty multicolored C-7 lights; the kinds with the type bulb you now have in nightlights. It had one box of shiny very fragile glass globes. And the thing that made it so pretty to me was the angel hair. It had angel hair all over it and that made the lights sparkle even more. It was kinda dreamy. And I remember my parents telling me not to touch the angel hair. After all it was really just white fiberglass and it would cut you up pretty good. And if you got it in your clothes or bed it would make you itch pretty good. And yes I did touch it.

The next Christmas that I remember was when I was about 6 or 7 years old. About that time I was staying with my grandparents in West Point.

Downtown West Point, Ms .. Commerce Street
 And at Christmas time the town had a Christmas parade with a Santa riding on the town firetruck. There was also a clown who to me was kinda scary but he was the one throwing candy to everyone gathered watching the parade. The town shopping area was only 3 blocks, shaped like an "L" and they always had decorations on each light pole and lights strung across the street between the poles. One department store, "Pryors", always had Christmas decorations in the window. It was great just to ride through town during the Christmas season while the decorations were up.

Back then most kids, like me, loved cowboy movies and we would go to the "picture show" (cost a whole $.10) and see serials of westerns like The Cisco Kid, Whip Wilson, Lash LaRue, Hoot Gibson and other cowboys. When you went to the show they would show maybe two 15 minute serials and the second one would end with things not settled and you had to come back next week to find out what happened. That was in addition to a cartoon or two and a newsreel. Then you would have to come back the next week to see a couple more serials. So anyway with westerns so popular of course I wanted to be a cowboy and have a cowboy outfit. My grandparents would get a Sears and Roebuck catalog in the mail and I would get it and look though it at the toys but spend more time looking at the cowboy outfits. I wanted a cowboy hat, a shirt with them frilly things hanging on the front and sleeves, some jeans, boots, and two cap guns in holsters, plus a Winchester cap rifle. So every year I would look and drool but never got all that. Then one Christmas I did get the two gun holster and rifle, and some caps. (Ya'll do remember what a cap pistol and cap rolls are/were??) I remember getting up Christmas morning and finding that and I think I put clothes on, but I do know I went out on the front porch, filled all the guns with caps, and blasted away. I blasted the whole roll in both cap guns and then in the rifle and was left standing there in a big cloud of smoke. LOL Then I think that's when they yanked me back inside. So I have a couple of good memories of my early childhood Christmases.

When I moved to DC in the early 1950's each Christmas we always had a Christmas tree and I maybe got a couple things. But Christmas was not a time to remember because I rarely got what I wanted. Dad was not big on Christmas and didn't want to spend any money on it. Mom would make sure that I got some clothes, maybe a new pair of shoes and/or a coat. But that was about it. I remember one year I wanted a new bike and dad waited until Christmas eve and we went together to someone's house who had placed an ad in the newspaper and had a bike for sale for $10.00. That was my bike for Christmas, a used bike. Then about 6 months later somebody stole the bike; we lived across the street from the projects. Even then I really didn't know we was poor. I loved going to my cousins house on/after Christmas because he always got all of the great new toys for Christmas. A bunch of years went by and while we did have a Christmas tree each year there was nothing special to remember about any of them. A few years later after we had moved from the ghetto I did get a new bike for Christmas. But Christmases were not memorable or special.

When I got married and my kids came along I always made sure that they had great Christmases (ask them).

Tammi on her trike and Mike in his car
I tried my best to do things exactly the opposite of how my dad did them. I tried my best to get whatever they wanted and make surprises for them like hiding the toys at a neighbor's house until they were in bed on Christmas eve. One year after we moved into our first house we got them a puppy for Christmas, and named him Chris.
Tammi and the surprise dog for Christmas, Chris

When we got our first house in 1972 was when I first tried my hand at outside decorations. We had a Christmas tree up inside and was looking at my neighbors' houses and decided I am gonna do that too. So I bought one string of outdoor lights, about 100 lights on the string. I wrapped the string around an evergreen tree by the front door of the house and plugged them in. They looked good too. So then that evening when it was time to go to bed I went to turn the outside lights off and they were off already. So I opened the door and got a shock. Somebody had stolen my string of lights!!!!!!

Christmases with the kids were great for me as well because I loved getting them the "stuff" they wanted and making surprises for Christmas mornings. I don't recall anything I or we did that was outstanding other than have good Christmases and go visit relatives for a while on Christmas day. Of course the kids wanted to get back home to play with toys.

Years later, after my divorce and when I met my late wife Donna was when I really began to enjoy Christmases the most. In years past it had been about making the kids happy. But then I began to enjoy the spirit of Christmas. Donna had a big family and at Christmas time the tradition was for all or most family members to meet at her aunt's house. "Aunt Goo" and "Uncle Joe" had a small Cape Cod style house. It was close inside when everyone got there but it was still fun and cozy. The family Christmas gathering was not so much about decorating and exchanging presents as about family being together. Yes the house was decorated modestly inside and out and yes there were presents exchanged. But what we did was wait for everyone to get there and then after dinner was when all of the presents would then be exchanged and opened. So everyone got to enjoy everyone else's present. And Uncle Joe would take a few of the guys down to the cellar and open a jug of his home brew for us all to have a cup.

I guess it was about the early 1990's when Aunt Goo and Uncle Joe had passed on and Donna suggested that we have the family Christmas gathering at our house.

Me and my Christmas tree in 1985
I was all for that because our house was larger and then we could invite my family as well as her family.
the decorated tree with all of the presents
I had been doing a tree for Christmas and putting up a few decorations outside.
house decorated outside before I really started decorating
So the next year I decided to do more outside decorating and so bought a nativity scene.
my house in Maryland with the nativity scene
Then I started paying attention to all of the decorations in stores and what I could buy to add to the nativity. That's when things took off. I bought a bunch more nativity stuff and when the internet came along I found I could order stuff from companies that specialized in outside Christmas decorations. Our house had a bow window so I found some animated Christmas decorations: Santa, Mrs Santa, Angels and a Snowman.
the bow window with animated decorations
Fortunately back in the early 1990's they had these available in Black also.

Animated Santa and Mrs Santa
Animated Angel

When I started doing the outside decorations I really didn't know what I was doing and one year almost set the house on fire when I had too many strings of lights on one extension cord. I had three strings of outdoor lights attached to an indoor extension cord that was laying on some leaves next to the house. One of my neighbors was walking by and rang the doorbell to tell me a fire was starting next to the house. I got that put out with no damage, except to the extension cord which was ruined. Then was when I decided I needed some more juice. So I got an electrician to run me two 20 AMP circuit outside lines just for Christmas lights. Then I as on my way.

All Christmas season I would browse the stores looking for new and/or bargain priced Christmas decorations. Our house was on a corner lot so I had the house and the equivalent of two yards to fill up. And that's just what I did; enjoying it all the way. I can't remember where I got all of the stuff but I bought two more camels, a Shepard and Shepard boy, and angels for the nativity scene. Then I bought a Santa in a sleigh and three reindeer that I hung over the roof. I bought icicle lights and found rope lights for all of the windows and at one point had also curtain style icicle lights for the windows. I had a snow man and snow woman and a North Pole sign.

my house in Maryland with the North pole decorations
my house in Maryland with the North pole decorations
Decorations with Santa sleigh on the roof

Then I found an igloo with a penguin and then bought two more penguins for the North Pole. Since I was on a corner lot I had bushes and trees and I filled all of them with net lighting. Our neighborhood was an incorporated city and the city government had a house decorating contest every year. One of my neighbors about a block away had won a couple years in a row and I decided to challenge him. So I upped the ante with more decorations. A year later I did win the decorating contest and got as a prize a really nice crystal platter with a nativity scene in it.

We continued to have great family gatherings every year that made Christmas really special. Donna and I would go shopping every year on "Black Friday". We would head out early and have breakfast somewhere and hit the mall as soon as it opened. By about noon or 1:00 PM were were done. I would buy things for her, my parents and kids, and grand-kids. She would but things for me, her mom, brothers and sister. And we would buy a few things together for aunts and uncles. We didn't buy expensive things but just something to express our love. Then a few days later we would start wrapping presents. I really loved making presents pretty with ribbon and bows. I would sit on the floor in the family room for several hours wrapping while I watched TV. And we would end up with a big pile of presents under our tree, all for other people. Looking back, those were the best Christmases ever.

Christmas tree another year

My tree with all Christmas bows

The shopping, wrapping, and decorating along with the family gathering and great food made every Christmas special.

Then after Donna died I tried to keep my spirits up by continuing to make Christmas special. I remember her sister encouraging me to still have the Christmas family gathering and decorate the house. And that first year after Donna died was a good Christmas because I planned to have all of the family over. Since Donna was gone I took my mom shopping for Christmas. She was most interested in buying gifts for her grand-kids and I always paid for it all. I would wrap all of the presents and take her's to her house. I made dinner for all and continued to decorate the house to the max.

me and mom at Christmas

We had great family gatherings and even had my mom's sister and her family from Kentucky and my dad's sister from Arkansas for one Christmas.

Christmas at my house with my dad's sister and my mom's sister and Donna's mom
Ready to eat

When I met Sarah and she came for her first visit at Christmas she was flabbergast at all of the decorations. She called her brother and her son to come see. ....LOL. Then I went to visit Sarah in North Carolina and saw she had a Christmas tree up and a few small decorations inside, I said no, we gotta do better than this. So while she was out one day I went to the store and got some outside decorations for the front of her house. She didn't have a lot of space so it was not that much, just an improvement.

When Sarah and I were married and moved into our house we of course had a lot to decorate. It took me a couple years but I have managed to fill it up with decorations. Now I had a problem with outside decorations since we don't have much front yard, at least compared to my house in Maryland. So I gave my youngest daughter a bunch of stuff and kept basically all of the Nativity scene and the window rope lights ans stuff. Then I found out that my daughter was not even using what I gave her so I asked her to bring it to me the next time she came. That's how I now have the North Pole stuff and the toy soldiers.

Christmas house decorations in Raleigh in 2003
Our first tree together
Decorations in 2004

I think it was the second year in our new house that I "fired up the cul-d-sac" with every light I had. First I got an electrician to install two 20 AMP breakers for outside lights so I could go all the way. Sarah teased me that people could see lights from our house from the highway a mile away. But Christmas is MY time of the year. I kinda miss buying all of the presents and going shopping but now my shopping list is really small, Sarah and mom. But I can still decorate, mostly inside. I don't want to go up the ladder too far any more; getting too old for that. So I decorate the first floor of the house. Back about 10 years ago I bought one of those fiber optic lighted trees that was popular back then and that's the one that I have in the bedroom. I love to enjoy my easy chair with the tree lighted.

my fiber optic tree in the bedroom

Back when I first met Sarah I had the first version of Elmo that had just come out. Then I found out Sarah had one too. Then when the next version came out I bought it also. And when the last version came out where Elmo falls all over the floor laughing I bought two of those. So now we have 7 Elmo's. Sarah knows I like toys for Christmas so she bought me my first Hess truck (actually my second one because the first one my grand-kids wore out playing with it). So every year I get the new Hess truck from Santa. When i met Sarah I had a couple Cabbage Patch dolls also, actually they belonged to Donna. And then I found out Sarah had a couple too. So now we have 4 or 5 cabbage patch kids that we put under the Christmas tree every year along with the Elmo's and Hess trucks. And I am happy about all of that because I am still just a big kid who loves Christmas.

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