Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Season Memories

I've been a bit quiet since my last few posts, mainly because I was waiting for some craziness to die down. But I'm back now!

My preparations for the Christmas season are in full swing! I'm totally stoked, because this year I convinced Brett that we should go cut down our own tree! So, off we went this past Thursday to Eckert's to chop down a tree, with kids in tow. Which made for an interesting (and occasionally frustrating) trip.

I have such good memories of the Christmas season from my childhood. Most of our Thanksgiving traditions are from Brett's side of the family, but a lot of the Christmas stuff is from my side. For example, cutting down our own tree. As early as I can remember, we would go to Meert's Tree Farm the day after Thanksgiving. It always seemed like Dad took FOREVER finding the "perfect" tree. (Which I now appreciate more, since it was my job this year.) We'd cut it down, haul it back, wait for Dad to secure it to the top of the van (which also took forever). Then we'd get home and put the tree up, cut the netting off, and voila! A huge pine tree that filled the house with the most amazing smell ever.

We'd get all the decorations out. The way I remember it, we'd decorate the rest of the house while Dad put the lights on the tree, although I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate. I DO remember that the lights took an eternity, because he was incredibly picky about how they looked on the tree. Finally we got to put the ornaments on, and then the angel on top. I remember just loving that angel, and I always wanted to be the one to get the angel out. It's the reason why our tree topper is an angel, and why I hunted for weeks for the "right" angel the first Christmas we were married.

I remember the house being filled with Andy Williams and Mannheim Steamroller (I think). Andy Williams is still probably my favorite singer of Christmas music. I remember how much Dad loved Kathy Mattea and how he would play "Mary, Did You Know?" over and over. I listen to it every Christmas.

I remember the ton of holiday baking Mom always did. I always loved helping her in the kitchen, although I'm sure I was probably more a hindrance than a help. I remember how Dad loved those little mincemeat "pies", and how he and I were pretty much the only ones who ate them. Date-nut pinwheels. Pecan snowballs. Almond bark pretzels. Fudge. Grandma & Grandpa's toffee and peanut brittle. (Seriously, the best toffee ever. There's just no comparison.)

Every single year, Dad would always warn us, "It's going to be a small Christmas this year." There were a lot of us kids, and money was tight with such a big family. Looking back, maybe they were "small" Christmases. I'm not really sure. They never FELT small. There were always gifts piled around the tree. I was always so excited about the gifts I got. I remember one year in particular, Dad got me a train set. It hadn't been on my list, but he told me he'd thought I would like it. I thought it was one of the coolest gifts I'd ever gotten. He was so disappointed when we couldn't get the train to work. He even took it back for a different one, and THAT one wouldn't work, either. I don't remember what I was given in its place. There was probably something. But I look back on that so fondly, remember how excited he was to give me that train set.

So many memories! Christmas Eve dinner with our seafood bisque, cheese, crackers, sausage, and other yummy things. Opening one gift, and that awful year I got coal and thought I wasn't getting anything else. (Honestly, probably the only negative memory I have of Christmas.) Reading the Christmas story from Luke. Cinnamon rolls. Driving around looking at lights. Taking the tree out to the garden, where it was eventually burned after it dried out. Dad's last Christmas. More recent memories with my sisters and their kids. Christmas plays with the Leigh and Hawkins kids. Brett and I painstakingly painting wooden nutcrackers by hand for Christmas gifts. We did one for each set of parents and one for ourselves. Each one took us HOURS to complete.

I love Christmas. I love giving gifts, especially now. We don't have a lot of money to spend, so I've discovered the thrill of making gifts. I get so excited searching for just the right gifts to make, hoping that people will like them.

To me, this really IS the "most wonderful time of the year."  Merry Christmas!

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