Personal Stories

Memories of Christmas Past, Part 1

This goes way back. I was adopted and raised as an only child. My parents were 39 & 40 when they “got” me. I don’t remember many of my early Christmases. Mostly when I look at these old photos in my mother’s albums, I remember snippets of things but no real coherent memories.

Church was a big thing for us back in the day. I was in the children’s choir for a while. They threw me out when I kept lifting my robes over my head. I don’t really remember ever singing in the choir in church, though.

For my first Christmas, my mother was in the hospital. She needed to have a disc removed in her back and in 1966/1967 that meant six weeks in the hospital in a cast over her torso. The only time my Dad could bring me to see her was on Christmas. Otherwise, they didn’t allow him to bring a baby up. While she was in the hospital my grandmother (her mother) and my father took care of me. My grandmother was in her 60s then and every night she would just lean her head back and snooze in a chair in the living room. I wore her out!

My first “real” family Christmas was in 1967, but I don’t remember it. I couldn’t find pictures from that year, either. The first year I found a lot of pictures taken at Christmas was 1968. You have to remember back then pictures were either Polaroids or film that was sent out to be developed. We definitely did not take the number of pictures I do now that everything is digital!

Initially, my parents wanted to follow the church seasons. This meant they went out on Christmas Eve to look for a tree, then decorated it an put all the presents under it while I was asleep. That’s probably why there were no pictures – they were too exhausted! Christmas actually begins on Christmas Day. Before that, it’s the season of Advent. If you thought it was bad that Christmas stuff shows up in the stores in September, my mother and the Pastor of our church at the time would have flipped out. My mother used to tell me it was actually Epiphany that we should open presents, not Christmas. It never happened that way, though.

Christmas 1969, I was 3 years old, almost 4 (January baby). I still don’t remember much but I do remember playing with that Playskool wooden town in the pictures. I would set up the town on the plastic mat and drive cars through it in our living room.

This was probably the year we started our early tradition, which was going to church on Christmas Eve. When I got older, we would go to the Candlelight Service at 11PM. I would open my presents in the morning, then we would go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Merrick, NY. They had a big house compared to ours. All my cousins on my mother’s side would be there, even if they were a good deal older than me. I looked up to them so much. They had a fireplace in the house and I loved sleeping on a fake fur rug they had in front of the fireplace. I was so sad when I grew too big to fit on it.

Times were simpler then. There wasn’t the pressure there is now to spend, spend, spend at Christmas. It was more about who we spent time with, and going to church. I’ve already confessed to drifting away from church over the past few years. I debate every Christmas Eve whether I should go or not, and at the same time, I don’t want to be one of *those* Christians who only show up at Christmas and Easter. I still feel a longing for the simplicity of those days, though.

Merry Christmas!

9 replies »

  1. We didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve, but I remember when we were little, my brother and I woke up just about as soon as it was light and made mincemeat of the presents under the tree. Mom and Dad could get up when they were ready.