Once Upon a Time


No other holiday, is remembered with the same magnitude, as Christmas. Christmas has so many more details and the older you become, the dearer and clearer, the memories seem.  I am not old yet, but I am well on the way-at least far enough, to know that there are some memories, I hold in my own heart, that bare little resemblance to Christmas, as it is now.

The Christmas season was well defined, just  a few decades ago. when I was a child. Other than a birthday, a child never expected presents- of course shopping was different altogether.  The butchers’ shop held no allure for me , nor the seafood market.  The A&P sold food and the hardware stores sold tools and fertilizer-and these places were our regular stops.  In my earliest memories, commercials were for tonics and tobacco, for grown folks.  I just never had a notion to think about toys, til just before Christmas, when the Sears & Roebuck catalog came in the mail.

One does not need to be as old as me to remember that event.  The Christmas edition had a section of toys.  Mama gave us an ink pen to circle our favorites, so Santa Claus would know.  I always chose a doll-not a Barbie, but a doll baby.  Little girls loved their dolls a long time ago.  I think it is much easier to love a doll, when you have just one.  My doll family grew slowly over childhood.  They were my children.  They played under the grapevine with me in July and said their prayers at night.  They had to nap when I was away and they got sick in the winter.

Usually, Santa brought real glass tea sets.  My sister, knocked my first tooth out with a tiny cup that had delicate blue flowers on it.  There was always a game or a puzzle, fruit and nuts.  We woke to the smell of fruit and knew Santa had been.  I asked mama about this, when I grew up.  She said, when she was young, apples and oranges were only available during the Christmas season in the grocery stores and so she had kept the practice, because of her memories.  I like that, and so I buy fruit at Christmas too-enough that you smell it, all over the farmhouse.  I can not say the same for the nuts.  I remember my sister and I working with a hammer for the longest time to crack the shells of those nuts.  We smashed our fingers and broke the cinder blocks we used to crack them on.  When we finally got one open-well, it was just a nut-and not as good as the pecans we were used to.

Christmas trees were cedar and fresh cut.  I remember Daddy would find them and keep his eye on them for years, til they were big enough.  Most often, they would have a “bad side, which we turned to the wall.  I clearly remember, the year grandmama decided to get a “modern” tree.  We went over to see it and were speechless.  It was called an “aluminum tree” and was silver with bright blue ornaments.  It folded up and came in a box.  I thought it was the most unnatural  thing I had ever seen-and it probably was.  I remember thinking, that it must have come from “Hawaii” which was the furthrest place away, I knew of and I reckoned things were different there.

We always  went to church on any given Sunday, but at Christmas, we sang the carols.  It was my favorite music of the year-it still is.  I wondered why we could only sing them at Christmas.  We sang them a Sunday or two, only and we never had time to sing all of them. Thankfully, my aunt Agnes could play the piano .  Her music was lively and unlike the church music.  She smiled and sang while we stood by the piano, mesmerized. When we sang “Joy to the World”, we meant it!   She always had cakes and pies on the “deep freeze” and she cooked as well as she played the piano.  Little elves lived at all my relatives’ houses and Aunt Agnes’ house was no different.  If I dared hurried while in a house-as if I MIGHT run, an elf saw me every time-because mama saw them. She could describe them with full details down to what they were wearing-because I always asked.

The simplicity of the Christmases past, does not make them less memorable, but instead more so, I realise.  Maybe, being a child, is all it’s cracked up to be and no matter how much we strive for  a bigger version, we do not hinder the truest form of Christmas Spirit-but I will buy fruit anyway this year, as my mama did-  and I will tell Lyla. . .”Once upon a time,  people were grateful for apples and oranges.”

23 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time

  1. So much of what you write about rings true. One, or maybe a few dolls over time are enough to play with and to treasure and love. Nobody needs ten of the same brand of doll! And fruit (and nuts!) ars more enjoyable when they are seasonal. I only want clementines at Christmas, not in July! Your Christmas sounds pretty perfect.

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  2. I read the part about the “aluminum tree” tree to my husband. We both laughed as our grandparents each had aluminum trees for a bit also! Did your grandma have that color wheel that went with it so the tree changed colors?
    I also smiled about your Aunt Agnes…I suspect I am that aunt….not the piano playing part but the baking part :). (My mom’s name is Agnes!)
    I remember for gifts my grandma made our gifts….we received doll beds made from Clorox bottles and they had little fabric edging and soft little mattresses. We were so happy with them.

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    1. She did get the color wheel-I just remember dead silence when we saw it-she thought it was beautiful! I still remember the shock for me-nothing prepared me for that tree! I never have seen a clorox bottle for a cradle though! this is the first thing that we don’t share! hahaha! thank you-love your visits!

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  3. Your post brought back so many wonderful memories of Christmas past. My Nana had the aluminum white tree with the color wheel too! It was in the fancy front parlor – no kids allowed, but my sisters and I would sneak in and turn the light wheel on 🙂 I was just talking with a friend the other day about the Christmas Wish Catalog from Sears – such great memories of circling my favorite toys. Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories…..they take me back to a simpler time.

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  4. I think one of the things that made our Christmases of the past so special was their simplicity. Now, the holiday is almost too crowded and over-hyped. And my grandmother had one of those silver trees with the blue ornaments too! And least she didn’t have the colored wheel of lights turned on it, remember those? But my opinion of the tree was the same as yours: unnatural!

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  5. My late mother-in-law told us her Christmas stocking always held an orange and a dime.
    For many years I prided myself on the execution of stocking-stuffing. Not a gift, but small trifles. Girls would get bath scrubbies and travel-size lotions. Boys would get hand warmers and lip balm. Until the list became too long to complete, (5 kids, two of them married, 6 grandkids) every stocking held in it’s toe an orange and a dime.
    Tradition, and immortality for Grandma Shannon.



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