Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Early Christmas Memories

My early Christmas memories are of sunshine. Hoping it would be cool enough to wear a sweater. Wondering how Santa would arrive when we didn't have a fireplace. Going to the beach after Christmas.
As you might guess, I grew up in Miami, FL. I never saw snow until I was 16 and we went to WV for Christmas one year. My grandmother lived near us, and every year she would take my sister and me downtown in Miami on the bus to do shopping. We had $20 each, to get 4 presents, and this was in the '50s so that went pretty far. I remember I always wanted to sit on the back seat in the bus--the big wide seat, so that I could watch everyone getting on and off. My Nana said, that was for black folks, we had to sit up front. Not only did we do shopping, but we ate lunch in a real diner, where they said all the funny stuff "shingles" for toast, "pine tree float" for a glass of water, when you ordered. Looking back, I see that it was probably the cheapest place to eat, and Nana was on a fixed income, but we thought it was a blast. All the stores were decorated up (this was before malls, remember) and had Santa on a red throne for the kids to sit on his lap. Somewhere I have a picture of me and my sister sitting on the lap of the most bedraggled Santa I have ever seen, I must have been 4 or so, wearing a smile that split my whole face. My sister looked like she'd eaten prunes. The crowds were everywhere, and we laughed at the people with the funny New York accents, snowbirds we called them, Calling it My YAM ee instead of my am uh like we did. I remember it was so hard to keep the presents a secret for all the time until Christmas, when what you wanted to do was show everyone right off what you had gotten for them. That hasn't changed. We always had a huge dinner after the presents, one year ot our house and one year at my Aunt and uncle's house. I liked it best at their house, because they decorated it up so nice, and had nuts and mints and candies to nibble on while you waited for dinner to be done. We kids did stuff like peel potatoes, carrots, celery, and set the table, put ice in the glasses, stuff like that. My uncle always had Canadian Club in coke, and he would offer us kids a sip. Yuck!! what a waste of good coke. It all seemed like it would last forever, each holiday a minor variation on the one before, but of course it all changed forever when I got married at 19 and moved away. Years later, here in WV, we had big holiday dinners, my folks, my sister, all the aunts and uncles, extra people with no family, sometimes 16 or more. That seemed like it would go on forever too, but people died, couldn't manage the trip, or the stairs, or the cold, and now it is just the four of us, hubby and me and the kids. The time will come when the kids won't be home either, but for now, I'll concentrate on how great it is to have the four of us, and call whomever is still alive and kickin' and wish them a merry ho ho ho. Some things never change.

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