Christmas morning remembered, circa 1975

Christmas Tree“Go to bed, Ted and Natalie. Santa can’t bring your presents ‘til you’re asleep,” Mom said.

I eyed the chimney pipe rising from the wood stove that heated our cedar house. How does Santa fit through that chimney? How does the fire not burn him and how does he get out? I envied the homes I saw in picture books that had a mantle and a fireplace where they hung their stockings.

“Why don’t they have to go to bed?” Ted looked at our siblings playing Monopoly at the dining room table, eating popcorn and drinking soda pop.

“Because they’re older. Off you go. Just think. When you wake up, it’ll be Christmas,” Mom said.

We hugged Dad and said goodnight to everyone. Mom followed us as we trudged upstairs to the room Ted and I shared until we were in the second grade. We changed into our pajamas and slipped down to our knees next to Ted’s bed, elbows resting on the covers. Mom said our prayers with us, and we ended with, “God bless Dad, Mom, Nate,…” and on down the line until all family members were mentioned, “and Sachi, too.” Can’t forget the dog.

“Okay, time to sleep,” Mom said firmly. She tucked us into bed, then turned off the light and left the door ajar, allowing a sliver of light to spill in from the hallway.

I tossed and turned, distracted by the voices downstairs. Anticipation kept my dreams at bay. Maybe I’ll get the doll that comes with a bottle and diapers, the one that actually drinks and goes pee pee. Or maybe I’ll get that kitchen set with the sink and stove and dishes. Or the Easy-Bake Oven. Oh, I can’t wait.

I must have fallen asleep because later, Ted was shaking me. “Nat, wake up! It’s Christmas!”

I jumped up, instantly awake. Darkness filled our window. Not even dawn yet.

We tiptoed halfway down the stairs and peered over the banister. Oh, heaven. Presents spilled out from under the tree. Soft colors emanated from the string of old fashioned bulbs on the Charlie Brown tree cut from the woods behind our house. Tinsel twinkled. The magical Christmas village, spread out over the coffee table, glowed on a cloud of white cotton. Bing Crosby, captured on vinyl, crooned softly from the stereo. Warmth from the wood stove wafted up the stairs. Mom slept on the sofa, wearing her faded red bathrobe.

“Mom, are you awake?” I whispered.

Nothing.

“Mom?” Ted whispered louder.

“Hm?” Mom shifted on the sofa.

“Mom! Merry Christmas!” We said in unison. We looked at each other and giggled.

“Merry Christmas.” Mom sat up and rubbed her eyes. She looked at her watch. “Wait a minute. It’s 4 in the morning. Back to bed you two.”

“But Mom…”

“You can come down at 5. Go.” She lay back down.

Ted and I climbed into our beds. I watched the clock and listened to my brother snore. An interminable time later, my extra sensitive Christmas morning senses detected the sounds of a creaking sofa downstairs followed by footsteps into the kitchen. Cupboards opened and closed, water ran, pans clanked together. Evidence of bacon found its way to my nose.

At 4:45, I could wait no longer. I got out of bed and shook my brother awake. “Ted. Mom’s up.”

We ran downstairs. “Can we get up now?” I asked.

Mom grinned at us and went back to flipping strips of bacon. “Go wake your brothers and sisters. Your Dad, too.”

We burst into our parent’s bedroom downstairs and jumped on the bed. “Get up. It’s Christmas! Wake up!”

Dad groaned but didn’t budge.

We ran up the stairs and into the big bedroom where our three teenaged sisters slept. We turned on the lights. “Merry Christmas!”

One sister sat up and smiled sleepily. “Good morning.”

Another  sister threw her pillow at us. “Go away! Let us sleep.” She pulled a blanket over her face.

Our older brother was already headed down the stairs, roused by our noisiness and drawn by the breakfast smells.

We ran downstairs and poked our heads back into our parent’s room. Dad sat on the side of the bed and ran his fingers through the sparse hair barely covering his head. “You up, Dad?” I asked.

He pulled on his glasses and smiled. “Come give me a hug.”

We ran to him and hugged him tight. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas.”

We gathered in the living room around the tree, siblings jostling for the limited spots on the couches. Mom shooed the boys out of the kitchen. “The bacon’s for breakfast. Later. After presents.”

The middle-of-the-night Christmas magic had disappeared with the morning light and the bustle. Mom and Dad sipped their coffee while Ted and I sat on the floor and stared at the presents. We could look but we couldn’t touch.

“Who’s going to be Santa’s helper this year?” Mom asked. “Shall we go oldest to youngest or youngest to oldest?”

Dad lifted his Bible from the side table. “First, let’s read about how God gave us the best gift of all.”

Ted and I scooted around so we faced him.

Pages rustled until Dad found the chapter. He cleared his throat and began reading, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…”

For the rest of the Christmas story, see Luke 2:1-21.

This post was inspired by Darla, who has been writing about her childhood Christmas memories over at Afternoon Tea. What about yours? I’d love to read about them.

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2 Comments

  1. Love this! We would do those long “God bless …” prayers, too. Did you ever get the Easy-Bake Oven? We did. That was the dream gift of all girls back then. Taking time to remember is a good thing. Glad you’re doing it.

    Reply
    • Thanks for inspiring me to remember, Darla! Forgot to say we knelt by the bed to do our nighttime prayers. I’ll have to edit that in. 🙂 I did indeed get an Easy Bake Oven and I only had to share with my brother. He liked the brownies. 🙂

      Reply

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