Ghosts of Christmas Past, part 1

The senses are very powerful.  Isn’t it amazing how a smell or a taste can take you instantly to a moment in time millions of light years removed from the moment your body is located in?  I have some constant triggers.  Chicken livers take me instantly to my Grandma Long’s kitchen on a cold winter’s night.  The kitchen is snug and warm, with six gathered around her gray Formica and chrome table with red vinyl and chrome chairs.  The mingled aromas from the fried chicken, mashed potatoes (a bit lumpy for texture, thank you), chicken gravy with bits of crunchy chicken coating in it, corn (frozen from the past summer, of course), and dinner rolls gathered in the center of the table are rich.  Ice cold whole milk in my tiny, flowered jelly glass.  My personal favorite was the one with daffodils on it.  Life was good and full and safe here in my grandmother’s kitchen.  My parent’s and my grandparent’s would never let anything happen to me, they all loved me.  My tummy was full, my heart was full, and Lawrence Welk would be on TV soon!

Grandma's jelly glasses


My grandmother died just before Christmas 1973 and subsequently just before my tenth birthday.  I have many memories of her, but none as wonderful as ice-cold milk and chicken livers, and that warm cozy kitchen.

My parents loved to listen to the Bing Crosby Christmas album when I was little.  Those songs can instantly take me back to Christmas’s from my Childhood.  My mother actually expected us to take a nap on Christmas Eve…. as if!  Who could even think of a nap during the afternoon of the biggest night of the whole year?!!  I mean really!  So my brother Jay and I would lay on opposite ends of the greatest couch on earth, the Big Green Couch.  This couch was amazing.  We could lay on opposite ends and our feet didn’t touch, for years our feet didn’t touch, it was ginormous!  Jay and I would lay on the couch, whisper about what was in the presents under the tree and giggle.  In later years we already knew what was in the presents under the tree because we became really good at unwrapping and rewrapping them when our parents left us home by ourselves…. I’m not sure if that put us on the naughty list or not, but it probably should have.

Christmas Eve was at Grandma Reiners’ house.  Big family, not so big house.  My mom has one sister, my aunt had nine children. Homemade chicken and noodles was the meal of tradition, or oyster stew, but the chicken and noodles is still the favorite.  My Grandma Reiners died in 1993 and what I find particularly amazing, is that it takes nearly the entire family to make the same amount of noodles that my grandma could make.  Plus she made pies and I have no idea how many cookies and breads, she fattened up the entire neighborhood.  Everyone knew they could get fed at Grammy’s house.  It was a loud, sometimes rowdy gathering, occasionally Santa would show up.  But that house, that grew smaller every year, was filled with a love that grew larger as the house grew smaller.

Christmas Morning was at Grandma  & Grandpa Long’s house.  We would bundle up first thing in the morning, as soon as we had seen what Santa had left under the tree and in our stockings (Does anyone else remember an orange in the toe of the stocking?).  Breakfast was warm pecan sticky rolls, coffee for the grownups (the smell again), more milk for me, and frosted flakes for Jay.  I remember sitting at grandma’s walnut dining room table with the white linen table-cloth on it.  There was another guest there today, besides the six of us, Aunt Viola, my grandpa’s daughter.  Christmas Morning was so much quieter.  Jay and I were the only children there.  The smell of a fresh Christmas tree will take me back to Christmas Morning, so will the big, old-fashioned tree lights.  There were certain things we could always count on at grandma & grandpa’s: the turtle filled with bubble bath powder that could later be turned into a bank, and “presents on the tree” in the form of cash envelopes with a dollar bill in them.  We thought we were rich!  Somewhere I still have the elephant that I got for my first Christmas from Aunt Viola.

Life was simpler back then.  Santa Claus is coming to town actually worked with us, for a few years anyway.  We looked forward to Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and the other specials on TV…  Now they are on every night for two months.  And presents are either gifts cards, or broken or discarded before Summer gets here.

What are some of your Christmas memories?

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