With the holidays approaching, what better time to share some of my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood in the early 1950s?
My sister and I (although living 3,000 miles apart for all of our adult years) still enjoy reminiscing with these very special memories.
Dashing down the stairs on Christmas morning, our first sight would be a Scotch pine Christmas tree firmly nestled in an old jardiniere filled with coal and sitting in the middle of a plywood table. There was usually a skirt of brick-patterned crepe paper tacked all around the front of the table.
The tabletop was transformed into a magical village with cardboard houses, a church, a barn, plastic farm animals and people. There were skaters on a mirror pond, and a black wind-up train would chug around the base of the tree. I can still imagine the distinctive smoke smell emanating from that black locomotive.
The tree itself was even more special. There were bubble lights strung ’round and ’round the tree. With lights just plugged in, my sister and I would intently gaze at each one and make bets on just which light would bubble first. And for our entire childhood there was that same red plastic star perched up on top of the tree. Of course, the main challenge when decorating the tree was to make sure the shiny silver icicles hung just so — straight, and not clumped in bunches.
But, the highlight of the morning would be all the wrapped gifts under the tree. Unlike today, these gifts were simple toys, coloring books and crayons, ball and jacks, card games and mittens or gloves, with the absolute best being a baby doll or perhaps a toy ironing board, and boxes filled with homemade doll clothes lovingly made by my mother on her treadle sewing machine.
The holidays were always followed by going back to school on those frigidly cold winter mornings. The old coal furnace and bucket-a-day stove were struggling to keep the house warm. The warmest place to get dressed for school was sitting on the metal register in the floor, feeling its heat radiating from the furnace. And, if there was a significant snowfall during the night, we would huddle around the large wooden radio, hoping to hear a school cancellation.
It was a simple, no-frills, play-outside-all-day type of childhood. We were free to explore the farm fields behind our house, hide in the tall grasses, make forts within the towering corn stalks or roller skate on our sidewalk (if we could find the metal keys used for tightening each skate).
I wonder what memories will be special to today’s children? Many will have traveled extensively, and most will have experienced the thrill of technology in a faster-paced world. But all will still have their own special occasions with family and friends tucked away inside for adult reminiscing.
The author lives in Lititz.
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