A Homemade Christmas

I grew up in a large family, five kids, Mom and Dad, two dogs, a hamster and Teddy the turtle. Christmas was always a special time in our house. Mom hung decorations around the house and Dad sold trees at the Knights of Columbus Hall to raise money for their charity work. We kids would bake cookies, make gifts for each other and put on a talent show for our parents. It wasn't unusual to find me and my two sisters striking poses on our twin beds, singing into hairbrushes to practice for the talent show.

My mom encouraged us to make our gifts rather than buy things. Mom and Dad instilled in us the importance of giving at Christmas, so we kids made things for each other and our parents. Mom gave us craft books and my sisters and I would begin a new project each year. One year we carved soap, another time we made little perfumed drawer sachets for Mom. We didn't tell Mom we used her perfume to make them.

When I think of Christmas, I don't think of any of the ones that have come and gone in recent years, not that they weren't nice. But, as oft happens to people over thirty, I tend to reflect on the days of "remember when..."

Remember when every class room in elementary school had a shiny aluminum Christmas tree and we made red and green construction chains to hang? I have to smile when I admit I had my students make them this year. And I miss those silly science fiction silver trees.

Remember watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special for the sixty zillionth time loving every second of it? And eating popcorn in the living room? Remember twist-and-turn Barbie and the Barbie swimsuits that changed colors when you painted them with water? What a special gift that was!

I remember Mom making little beaded Christmas ornaments and crocheting snow flakes to decorate the tree. I remember sewing a Christmas stocking for the family dogs. When I had a job, I always asked the meat counter of the local grocery for a sack of bones to give as doggy gifts. The pets made out pretty well during Christmas.

Do you remember the smells of Christmas? The pumpkin bread and butter cookies. The smell of a baking ham mingled with Mom's perfume. She always checked that ham the minute we came in from church, even before she'd changed her clothes.

I remember the smell of winter in Oklahoma. A cold smell mixed with the odor of a thousand chimneys burning logs. We lived in a a sub-division in which nearly every house had a fire place. Although we usually didn't need to use it, we lit a fire every Christmas Eve, even if it was 50 degrees outside.

Do you remember waiting up half the night for Santa to come? My sisters and I would crowd into one bed and wait there, sweating in our flannel pajamas, giggling and talking about what Santa would bring. When I was too old to beileve, I still piled in with my sisters because they believed. They believed and I hoped. Mom would come in and tell us to "pipe down" and we'd listen to the quiet rustling of paper in the living room. I never knew until I was quite grown that Mom wrapped all the presents on Christmas Eve. No wonder she looked so tired when we woke her and Dad at 5 a.m. on Christmas Day.

--Shelly Blanchard

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