Christmas is over for another year; YAY! Judging from some of the after-Christmas posts I‘ve read, most of you had fun, but for me, I’ll be really glad when Monday comes and life returns to normal. I didn’t always feel this way; Christmas use to be fun before most of the family died or abandoned us.
Mom was a nurse in Detroit when we were real little, but when the Detroit Riots came, she and Gram decided it would be best if my sisters and I lived with Gram in her little motel, in what was then the boondocks of Mid-Michigan, while Mom continued to work in Detroit, where she could make twice as much money than she could here. That worked out well, but it meant we only got to see her once or twice a month, so when she came home for Christmas, it was her presence (pun intended) that was the greatest present for me.
She’d always take us to the “Big City” a few days before the actual day, because we wanted to buy something for her and Gram, and the shopping opportunities in our area were slightly limited, to say the least. We always wanted to go to this incredibly exciting, glamorous store called K-Mart, because the first one who saw “The Big K sign” got bragging rights for the year. Any arguments we got into were very effectively squelched by simply saying, “Oh yeah? Well I saw the Big K sign before you did!”
Mom’s income helped Gram buy the basics for us, but there wasn’t usually much left over for extras, such as restaurant meals, especially if the hot water heater broke and had to be fixed immediately. So it was a real treat for us on these Christmas shopping trips that Mom would take us to McDonalds and let us each get our own hamburger and French fries and pop, as we usually had to split these things with each other.
I never remember decorating the tree myself, so suppose Oldest and Mom did it. It always had pretty colored lights and tinsel, and thirsty years later, I can still remember what some of the decorations looked like, and the huge pile of presents under the tree. Mom always made us new pajamas every year and let us open them on Christmas Eve so we could wear them to bed. I still have a picture of us the year she found material with the same butterfly pattern; Oldest Sister’s was blue, Middle’s was green and mine was pink.
She always gave us a stocking to open as soon as we woke up, so she and Gram had time to get their first cup of coffee before we opened the presents. That stocking was always full of magic; pretty socks and undies, tiny little toys and candy, and a huge orange stuffed into the toe. Middle Sister has continued the stocking tradition, now that Gram and Mom are gone. I still get my year’s supply of undies and socks, only now instead of getting coloring books and crayons, I get nifty practical things like Comet and dish clothes. And chocolate, of course. That goes without saying; it wouldn’t be Christmas without my chocolate.
Gram would cook up this magnificent dinner for us; turkey and stuffing and pies, and always scold us when we wanted to eat pie for breakfast the next morning. After we’d stuffed ourselves silly, she’d shoo us outside to play in the snow. Then in the evening, we’d always sing Christmas carols together. Since Oldest was majoring in music, she would play the piano and take the alto part; Gram and Middle would sing soprano, and Mom and I sang lead.
The year I was nine, we took up our usual caroling positions, but something kept throwing everybody off, and it took them awhile to realize I wasn’t singing lead; I was singing alto, and it stopped the whole show. Mom looked at me flabbergasted and said, “Honey, I didn’t know you could sing alto! That’s the hardest part to sing!” Of course I could sing alto; the whole family listened to it at least three hours a day when Oldest was practicing.
When Middle and I got older, it was always so much fun when Oldest Sister would come home, bringing with her all these incredibly imaginative presents for the family, usually scrapbooks she had made with recipes or just interesting articles she’s found over the past year. She had a large collection of optical illusion books and other weird things she’d picked up, and it was always such a blast to read them with her.
She’d tell us all these exciting stories of her life; first from Interlochen, which was a boarding school for artistically talented high schoolers. Later, her stories revolved around college life, and then her life on the road as a circus performer with her husband. For Middle Sister and I; two innocents if ever there were any, Oldest Sister’s life was full of glamour and magic, though I suspect she didn’t see it that way, exactly.