As we get older, we tend to appreciate things we took for granted, like stories from grandparents about their life and the childhood of our parents.
Family stories may be boring when we’re kids or when they’re repeated often, as can be the case when our parents enter their 80’s, but grandparents and parents who pass on their stories help children remember their heritage, their family strengths, and joyful times.
Mom shared her Christmas memories with us and through them, I relate back to the real reason for the season. This is one of her stories:
During the depression, if we received oranges and candy that was a great treat.
One Christmas Eve morning the firemen came to my barrio of Little Silao, in Pomona (CA). This Christmas was special, it was 1932 and the middle of the Great Depression. FDR was the president.
Times were hard, but my family was lucky. My mother had a vegetable garden, and walnut trees in the backyard, rabbits and chickens too. We had enough to eat, barely enough for clothing, and no money for toys. I was four and wanted a doll more than anything.
We didn’t have a Christmas tree that year, but we did have a little table in the living room which mama decorated for the arrival of baby Jesus. She bent tree branches to form a small tent and added little green fans of pine over the branches to form a shelter. Tiny pinecones and red berries decorated the sides, pine needles were scattered at the entrance. An empty wooden manger sat in front of this small cave among the boughs. This looked very pretty and it smelled good too, fresh and woodsy.
I scanned the street in front of my house while perched on the wooden chair against the living room window. A shiny red fire truck turned into Newman Street, my street. Firemen, in their uniforms, rode on the running boards of the truck. They stopped five houses away from our place.
One of them climbed up to the top of the truck and handed blue, gold, and red boxes to another fireman and he handed them to another one who stood on the sidewalk.
“Here they come, here they come! Papá, mamá, Catarino, Jose, Concha, they’re coming.” I almost fell off the rickety chair.
I had to tell the others about the firemen and the Christmas gifts. I ran from room to room shouting their arrival. My brothers and sister ran out of the bedroom, my mother with baby Adela walked out of the kitchen.
“Maria, no grites. Sientense por favor.”
She didn’t like me yelling and told me to sit down.
Catarino was the oldest at 10 years, Jose was eight, Concha six, and the baby was one-year-old. Everyone sat down, except me. I ran back to my chair at the window.
“Here they come!” I shrieked and ran out the front door onto the sidewalk and everyone followed.
My cousins, across the street, were already outside jumping up and down shouting, “They’re here, they’re here.”
Maybe I would get a ball and jacks, real ones. Concha and I were tired of playing jacks with washed apricot pits and an old rubber ball. Maybe I’d get a real doll, one of my very own. That would be better than the paper dolls I cut out from the Sears Catalogue.
The big truck rolled to a stop right in front of my house. The fireman began calling out names, “Concha, Maria, Jose, and Catarina.”
Catarina? That’s a girls name. My brother was “Catarino.” He unwrapped the box and his smile disappeared. It was a doll! He held up the box to give it back to the fireman, but I ran towards him shouting “I want it, I want it.” I got to it before Concha did and ran back into my house.
The doll had on a beautiful red dress with black shoes and fluffy hair. I was so happy, I carried my doll the way mamá carried baby Adela.
For the life ofme, I can’t remember if Catarino took the present meant for me or if the firemen gave him another gift. All I remember was that beautiful doll.
Now remember to share your family holiday stories with your kids and encourage your parents or grandparents to talk about Christmases past so you keep your family narrative strong and alive.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you and yours.
My hometown is at sea level. We don’t get snow. Ever. Okay, I heard we had some back in 1962, but someone might have mistaken it for bits of hail.
For us, Oxnardians, the winter season arrives when Christmas Tree Lane in the Historic District opens, where palm trees lit in sparking white lights tower alongside huge sycamore’s, and Craftsman style houses sit next to Spanish Revivals.
Our annual writer’s group party took place at the home of our friend, Florencia, who co-founded the group ten years ago. Interestingly, she also founded the first dance team for her high school back in 1989. Must be why we like to party at our writing retreats.
The archway to her home had mistletoe conspicuously hung, not that my date noticed, until we left, when it hung so low it hit his head and ricocheted off my cheek.
After the scrumptious posole, tamales, bolillos and chocolate champurrado, all twenty some of us, plus kids, headed out the door and walked the few blocks of Christmas Tree Lane.
Lucky for the crowd, the sidewalks in the historic district are wide enough to allow for strollers, dawdling toddlers, and hand holding couples. But not all at the same time.
And the town’s historic plaza:
Now, we’re off to enjoy some ‘real’ winter weather and snow in Denver, Colorado.
I’d like to share with you a travel prayer, sent to me by my mistletoe ducking boy friend:
May the Lord accompany you, that no evil befall you,
no accident overtake you and no calamity come near you,
We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.
When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”
The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.
There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.
This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.
How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:
1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.
2-Hug more and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.
3-Spend time with your parents or anyone over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.
4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.
6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.
7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.
8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.
9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.
10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you.
11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.
12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.
13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.
14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…
15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.
16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.
17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.
18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.
19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.