Let's see; my childhood memories of Christmas are very scarce. The tree was always in the living room, which had no heat; Christmases were cold in Mississippi during my childhood. Santa came fairly early on Christmas Eve; David (My brother) and I waited in the warm kitchen while Mom put out the presents. I don't remember Dad ever being there...not before he went back in the Navy nor after he came home. I remember three presents during my younger years (before age 16) - a blue bicycle, a pair of clip-on skates, and a pair of drum majorette boots (no, I was never in the band, but I loved boots and still do - three pair now and counting - of course, two pair are red). Often during the summer as we cleaned out the two tiny little closets by the chimneys, we found Christmas coloring books and small items that Mom had put away and didn't remember - so we had Christmas again. I know that I received dolls for Christmas because Mom kept them and made clothes for them. She enjoyed them much more than I did. My Aunt Virgie worked in a factory up North that made doll clothes, and so I got boxes of dolls clothes of all sizes and sorts. I still have one little kimono jacket that is pink on one side and blue on the other. Probably fit a small baby doll.
Then, we moved away from the farm to Slate Springs, David was killed in an accident in the Gulf of Mexico, and that Christmas was very strange. Mom and my sister-in-law, Sue, drove to Memphis (about four hours) to buy Christmas presents. I stayed at home. Marty, my nephew, was at his sitter's house. On the way home from Memphis, Sue hit a horse on the interstate and destroyed the car. Mom's head hit the windshield (this was before seat belts) and she had a concussion and a large cut. They were taken to the hospital in Water Valley, MS, and someone either brought them home (a good samaritan) or maybe Mom's cousin went to get them. Anyway, they got home in the early morning hours. None of their purchases were hurt, and most of them were wrapped. I got a swing coat with a "mouton" collar, and inside the box were fragments of the windshield glass from the wreck.
Christmases didn't make a big impression on me again until Mom bought her house in Columbus, MS. It was a rambling 9 room house, and she invited her step-sister and family each year for dinner - and anyone one else who wanted to come. Huge meals and lots of games were the order of the day. The two step-nephews were a bit younger than me - though it doesn't seem so much so now - and I watched them grow from boys to men through the Christmases at that house. One year, Mom bought Santa Claus gifts for my ex-husband's new family, and I watched those girls enjoy their presents in front of her fireplace. Each year, Mom bought a dozen little wind-up toys for each place at the table - and we had races and much laughter after the pecan and chocolate pies were finished.
My second husband and I split our Christmas times between our Moms, but we always spent some time at my Mom's house and that's when the family gathered. One year, we elected to stay in New Haven while I was in seminary. Our friend Donna came to visit. We went to New York City and played all day and into the night. Driving down the street with the sunroof open, taking pictures as we stopped at traffic lights; dashing across streets to the big Christmas tree while Loftin drove around blocks. Sadly, when we arrived back in New Haven, Donna found that her mother had died that day. Judith, who was just returning from the midnight service, brought us communion and did prayers for her mother.
This Christmastime, Donna is burying her father - some 17 years later. Please remember Donna and her family in your prayers. Her father really missed his wife, and I am glad they are reunited - and with the Westies that he loved so much. May we also find that joy after death.
In 1988, our neighbors gathered for a tree-trimming party - the first one. And, I realized that we'd be going to seminary the following year; so I bought my first miniature Christmas tree and Hallmark miniature ornaments. I have a miracle story about that little tree's ornaments, but I'll save that for the day after Christmas.
Since I've been with my partner, celebrating 10 Christmases now, we've had a tree trimming party each year - with lots of good food and friends. Our family now is "chosen family", those friends that we would call sisters and brothers - except for our delightful - well, actually her delightful son, who will be here in a few days. Homemade Chicken Soup was at the other end of the table. um um good.