I don’t mean to gloat but I’m not missin’ the rain and dismal days of the GREAT NORTH-WET!!! It has been beautiful here, and I’m starting my first Christmas Season in the southwest. One thing I’m already likin’ is that since we’re surrounded with old folks, us included, people pretty much stick to the lovely OLD traditions of the time in which we were raised. I’ve seen only one house that had Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving. Of course, the stores were all decorated and playing jolly holiday tunes pre-turkey day but I try to ignore them. I’ve been down here after Thanksgiving in the past and it is a real experience in December to see cactus instead of the trees decorated in lights. Folks down here do a wonderful job of creating a Christmas wonderland in their yards—minus the snow and cold of my youth in eastern Washington State—not the rainy, nasty west coast of the state where I spent thirty-three years as an adult because of my husband’s work. No offense to you coastal dwellers, but geeze, my feet never grew webbing, and I never got used to the continual dampness. Coming from four strong seasons and then having to trudge west over the North Cascades to my destiny—kickin’ and screamin’ to no avail—was not easy. In the Methow Valley, where I hail from, we had hot dry summers, beautiful falls, cold snowy winters, and green, green springs. Guess that’s why the dryness of this southwest territory makes me feel much more at home than I ever did on Camano Island.
Thank God we have my in-laws—who I love—down here, and some of my mother-in-law’s family to help us celebrate this year since I may get a wee bit homesick for our family Christmas celebration up north without my parents, kids, and grandkids with us. Next year they’ve promised to all come down AFTER we have the remodeling finished on the house. Right now, I wouldn’t be ready for company anyway. I’m getting in the spirit though. The other day, I bought a new fake tree with lights already strung—does my darlin’ husband think that’s nifty—It’s been a fight every year to get the lights just the way I want them. I also have dug out enough Christmas things from storage to decorate the house adequately for this first year.
REMINISCING: Is it just that old age is creeping up on me—at a rapid pace, or do all adults wish time had stood still at around eight years of age when preparations for Christ’s Day were so exciting in those four weeks after Thanksgiving, we’d almost bust? School, church, and home events were all crammed into a time of wonderment for children and adults alike. It was a time when even colorful outside lights showing through the deep white of a heavy snow gave your heart a feeling of peace and serenity.
It seems like yesterday when our little town would be bustling with excitement as huge red bells and wreaths were hung on several long strings of giant, green garland across our main street, and merriment and well wishes were felt and spoken as we passed. We were kept busy with practicing our part in the school play and choir at church, going on caroling parties, and helping Mama with the extra work and cooking it took to have a great celebration each and every year.
The snow was coming down on a regular basis by Thanksgiving, and sleigh riding excursions and ice-skating had to be worked into our busy schedule too. And skiing was BIG in the mountains surrounding us. A bus took adults and kids to the ski hill every Saturday for a pittance. A towrope for the little ones, and chairs for older kids and adults would be waiting for our arrival with smoky engines grinding away to get everyone safely to the top so we could then zigzag through the pines on a more dangerous and thrilling trip down the slopes. Then back to the chalet for hot cocoa to warm one’s innards and shake off the powdery snow. Sitting near a crackling fire after a fun day in the snow still warms my heart even in memory.
Christmas’ in the valley would be with friends and family at our house or at my aunt’s in town. My maternal grandparents, aunts and uncles, and lots of cousins would be in attendance, and we would have such great times. We girls loved to show off our new baby-dolls, and the boys usually had Tonka trucks or toy guns and holsters—guaranteed to be true replicas of Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. Always, there were new slipper socks, robes, knitted neck scarves, etc. from our grandparents—who were more practical in their gift giving.
We’d hurry through a big afternoon dinner, then rush outside to try out new sleds or BB guns. There was always enough excitement to go around even among the adults who needed to relax and catch up on family gossip.
Many Christmas’, we would literally travel over the meadow and through the woods to spend a week with my paternal grandparent’s on the farm. It took an average of four hours for this trip—if not held up by snows blowing into the low spots in the road that cut straight through the wheat fields of eastern Washington and often settled into ten-foot drifts. Snowplows would have to come to the rescue and dig through these giant piles to keep traffic flowing on the holidays. We’d sing along to Christmas songs on the radio all the way whether stranded or not. My favorites were and still are, songs sung by Gene Autry or Eddie Arnold.
We’d finally reach the snowy lane leading to our grandparent’s old farmhouse, and see lights strung along the house eaves and on the tree in the window reflecting beautifully into the night as we drew closer. I’d get so excited I’d have a lump in my throat.
When the door was flung open, the warmth of the house and smells of Granny’s wonderful food baking in her old wood stove would waft across us like pure love—and I guess it was. They always had a big tree Gramps had cut in the backwoods of their property—not decorated in grand style like today, but covered in bright lights and tinsel, and plenty of fat, silver garland wrapped ‘round and ‘round.
When Christmas Day finally arrived—I say finally because each day of waiting seemed an eternity in our young minds—all seemed well with the world as we ate a big country breakfast, then opened our gifts, and filled our tummies with candies, nuts and oranges. Remember those red, white, and green swirled hard-candies that were popular in the fifties? It took a while for those to melt in your mouth, right?
We kids thought the whole idea of Christmas was something mystical, from the story of Christ’s birth, right down to the glittering lights and gifts under the tree. It all made great Christmas memories.
Y’all have a great Christmas now, ya hear? And don’t forget, “Christ is the Reason for the Season!”
Here are a couple of poems to bring back more Christmas memories…