Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Nostalgic Christmas Memories

Christmas is without a doubt the most nostalgic season of the year. Dickens was no dummy to create a character called “The Ghost of Christmas Past,” because we all have vivid memories of Christmastime during our youth.

The older I get, the more I marvel at my parents for the way they made Christmas such a joyful and exciting holiday in our house. I’m thinking primarily of the 1960s and early ‘70s. My dad was a math teacher, which is why my siblings and I still break out in a cold sweat a half-century later whenever we hear the words, “Time for flash cards!” (On the other hand, we have never failed to blurt out the correct answer whenever anyone asks, “What is six times seven?” Of course, no one has yet to ask that question, but if they ever do, we are ready.)
Back in the ‘60s, the average annual income of a public school teacher was slightly less than the income of a 17-year-old French Fry trainee at McDonald’s. In other words, with five kids and a mortgage and my mom working part-time when she could, there wasn’t a whole lot of extra cash laying around in those days.

And yet, every December 25th, the house was always decorated festively, we had a big feast, and there were plenty of presents under the tree. I still can’t believe they pulled it off.

Speaking of the tree, we had an interesting tradition in my family. I don’t know if it was an Irish-Catholic thing from New Haven, but the rule back then was: you had to wait until Christmas Eve to put up the tree. Christmas Eve was already hectic enough for my parents, what with food preparation, last-minute shopping, and trying to corral five super-excited children bouncing off the walls, fueled in part by candy cane sugar highs.
Every year on Christmas Eve afternoon, my father and his two oldest sons, which unfortunately included me, would drive off to a Christmas tree farm, armed with shovels and a couple of yards of burlap. You see, cutting down a tree would’ve been too easy. Our mission was to dig up a tree, roots and all, so we could plant it the backyard in the spring, after the ground thawed out. As you may know, the ground in Connecticut isn’t exactly soft on December 24th, a fact that was not lost on my brother and me as we banged our metal shovels into the frozen tundra.

In retrospect, I think it was a brilliant plan by my father to get us so exhausted that we would sleep through the whole night, instead of waking up at 2 a.m. wondering if it’s time to open presents. After a couple of hours of chipping at frozen dirt (apparently, we were into CrossFit way before CrossFit existed), we finally dragged that tree home and had a great time decorating it.

Then we would watch the news on Channel 8 from New Haven, as they gave updates from NORAD, which tracked Santa’s journey with radar. “They’re not going to shoot him down by mistake, are they?” my brother once asked. “Nah,” my dad replied. “The Russians might, but not our guys.”

I know for many people, Christmastime is more painful than nostalgic, usually because loved ones are no longer here. But for me, The Ghost of Christmas Past has nothing but fond memories. And I’m very grateful to my parents for working so hard to make Christmas really special. I don’t know how they did it. It must’ve been yet another Christmas miracle.

I sincerely hope your activities this year will be nostalgic memories in the future. Merry Christmas!

No comments:

Post a Comment