I’ve been tagged by Mabs to do a “Christmouse” memories post with twelve holiday memories for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Being the grinch I am, my first thought was the “mouse” in the picture was actually a rat; it looked like a lab rat I once kept as a childhood pet. (I could be wrong, of course.) So I found my own mouse.
I’m not a big fan of the blog meme thing, which is sort of a blog chain letter which can seriously undermine the gravitas (rofl!) of my blog. Besides that, you’re supposed to tag a certain number of additional bloggers to continue the meme, and I’m like … duh! I don’t know twelve other bloggers, much less twelve who haven’t already been tagged and would want to be. This particular meme is kind enough not to require additional tagging. But if you’d like to continue it, the idea is you credit my blog with a link (and the blame) and then write your own twelve memories. And, if you wish, name more bloggers to continue the meme.
All that aside, it couldn’t hurt ol’ Grandma Grinch to scrounge up some Christmas memories. Doing so couldn’t possibly make me any grumpier, and it might even cheer me up. (Oh no, not that!)
1. Last week I went to help the kids decorate their tree. I wasn’t looking forward to navigating over and around boxes of decorations in a crowded, overheated room with two other adults and two super-excited kids, but I went anyway. Wow. The tree was in the other, bigger room. The kids, 3 and 7, were now old enough to do all the decorating by themselves. So with gentle, unobtrusive Peanuts Christmas music playing in the background, we three adults sat back munching snacks and sipping drinks and watched the kids decorate the tree. The only lights in the room were those on the tree, and the kids’ faces were bathed in an angelic glow. It was … magical.
2. Growing up with four siblings meant lots of chaotic Christmases. One year my little brother suddenly couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the hospital. Get rid of the tree! the doctor said; it had triggered some sort of allergic or asthmatic attack. So the huge living room tree, already fully decorated, got dragged out to the front porch and was set up on the other side of the big front window so we could still see it from inside. The doctor didn’t know that in addition to the big tree, each of us had one of those little 2-foot trees in our bedroom, and all those (four) had to be tossed. In future years, we got painted trees, and then flocked trees. Those treatments sealed in the resins or whatever my brother was allergic to.
3. Pile gifts for five kids and two adults around one tree, and you’ve got a mountain of gifts. Lots of families sit around and watch while each individual gift is opened, but that would have kept us there all day. So we mostly just dove in and started unwrapping, having already spotted every package with our name on it. Except for the Santa gifts, of course, which hadn’t arrived until the night before. “Here, open mine!” “Hand me that red striped one over there!” “Look at this cool game!” “This is just what I wanted!” “Daddy, this is for you.”
4. Remember those long foil icicles people used to put on their trees? We usually called them “tinsel.” They added lots of sparkle and movement. Some people just tossed them onto the tree in clumps, more or less. Not me. I was the perfectionist. Those were icicles and should look and hang from the branches like icicles. So I spent hours, pulling them from the packages (many packages) one at a time and hanging each very carefully at the very tip of a branch or elsewhere, making certain it looked as “natural” as possible.
5. I was the artist in the family. Each package I wrapped was an artistic endeavor, a creation, a masterpiece. Knife folds, hidden tape. Handmade decorations of all kinds. I spent hours wrapping my gifts. I think the adults appreciated it. The sibs, I’m sure, never noticed. These days, a gift is lucky to get covered at all, with anything.
6. We lived in an old house with high ceilings, and we always had a tree that, with the topper, brushed the ceiling. Daddy always attached wires near the top of the tree and anchored it to the window frames on either side. A wise move, I’d say, with so many kids running around. And of course, in those days tree stands weren’t particularly stable. For a long time, they were just those big wooden X’s nailed to the bottom at the tree lot.
7. We didn’t have artificial trees when I was a kid. First, there was no such thing. Then they were developed, but for years were so ugly that no one would buy one. Anyway, we always had a real one. It wasn’t a real Christmas without a real tree and the holiday fragrance it brought into the house. Real trees got a lot easier and a lot safer when someone invented sturdy metal stands with water reservoirs. It was usually my job to crawl under the decorated tree every day to check and refill the water.
8. Lights on the tree were always a big deal. I helped Daddy test all the strings, replace any burned out bulbs, and arrange the lights on the tree. Light placement and the hiding of cords was as much an art as the placing of icicles. (Always put some lights inside, toward the trunk of the tree, so the whole tree will glow from within.) Bulbs were easy in those days — if one burned out, you replaced that one. Period. You didn’t have the entire string or sections of a string going out.
9. White Christmases were rare in Oklahoma City, mainly because measurable snowfall in any given winter is relatively rare. Seems like there might have been a couple in my lifetime. I couldn’t find any historical data, but there’s a story out now saying OKC’s chance for a white Christmas this year is 3%, so you get the idea. Currier and Ives would never have made it in Oklahoma.
10. I grew up with the idea that Christmas is a day to be in your own home with your immediate family (unfortunately, my spouses-to-be would not feel the same way). With seven of us there, it was always festive, always busy, and nobody expected a family that size to travel for the holidays. I remember only one childhood Christmas away from home, a year we all went to my aunt’s house in Kansas City. With a lot of Missouri relatives on hand, that was a huge Christmas.
Oops, I almost published with only ten. I need two more.
11. I remember the year my sister and I (the youngest sister hadn’t been born yet) got matching “ermine” muffs (handwarmers; get your mind out of the gutter!), complete with little black tail tip accents. Matching earmuffs too, I think. All rabbit fur, of course. We felt sooo glamorous!
12. One year my sister and I woke up very early on Christmas morning and heard Santa still on the roof! Light, scrambling, hurried footsteps. Definitely something up there, and what else could it be early on Christmas morning? Mom and Dad heard it too, after we woke them up. We always left milk and cookies by the fireplace for Santa, and he always ate them, so we knew he’d been there. But hearing him on the roof that year was practically like seeing him at our house!
So there’s your Christmouse meme, Mabs. (It was fun. Shhh)
*Doh! I didn’t even spell it right. It’s “Chrismouse.” Sorry about that.