For me, Christmastime evokes sweet, funny, sad and thoughtful memories.
When I was a child, my family would travel an hour and a half to my aunt’s house every Christmas Eve to spend the night and celebrate.
My aunt and uncle were very social in a small town where most everyone knew each other. Aunt Frances would put their numerous Christmas cards on the walls until it looked like Christmas wallpaper. The good Christmas china would come out and the kitchen would be filled with people cooking dinner, friends and relatives coming by with gifts and to wish a merry Christmas.
Since no one was driving, the bourbon flowed, and she would put out her famous fruitcake that she’d spent days preparing. There would be a turkey and ham along with numerous sides, and we listened to old Christmas albums on their ancient turntable.
I would sit by the huge gas-log fireplace that put out about a thousand degrees of heat to warm up. When my backside started to feel like it was on fire, I knew it was time to move.
My brothers, cousins and I would find all the presents with our names on them and try to guess what they were. We’d feel them over and over, try to look under the light, maybe slide the paper over a little, and on and on.
The tree was always one that my relatives cut down themselves, and it was decorated with special ornaments.
We would open one gift on Christmas eve and then wait up to see if we heard Santa climbing on the roof. Mama would always warn me: “He won’t come if you are up!”
On Christmas morning, we woke up early, had a huge breakfast and waited by the tree for everyone else to get up. Someone was designated to call out your name and hand out presents. After opening gifts, the wrapping paper would be strewn about the tree.
There were always Christmas stories that often started with “remember when?” One year when it actually snowed in Nashville over Christmas, we loaded into the car and headed to my Aunt’s anyway. We made it the whole way without incident until turning in the driveway and then skidded off the road.
That became one of the Christmas stories told every year after that. And there was the time the Christmas tree fell over in the middle of the night and gave everyone a scare. That was a subject of humor for many a Christmas, as we’d recall, “Remember when the tree fell over and we about had a heart attack?”
Driving back to Nashville was always a letdown. No Christmas for another year. That’s a lifetime to a child.
After my aunt and my mother were gone, the tradition continued, with the extended family gathering at my house or one of my relatives. This year we have to cut back on the gathering, and that makes many of us sad.
Yes, we can Skype or Zoom, but that is not the same. At least we can enter this one into the Christmas lore.
Remember that Christmas of 2020 with the pandemic and we couldn’t all gather together? Boy, that was a year!”