Remember when we were kids and Christmas took FOREVER to arrive? Back then the days moved glacially, and the months even more slowly. You never heard Christmas music until the Thanksgiving leftovers were put away. Kids painstakingly wrote their Christmas lists to mail to Santa, and at every recess that’s all we could talk about.
Everyone I knew had an Advent Calendar to help mark off the days until the BIG day arrived. Mine looked a lot like this one:
Some advent calendars had little treats behind each day’s door, which made it even more exciting.
Our family’s tradition was to drive up to my grandparents’ house, one town over, on Christmas Eve. My grandmother, or “Ba” as we called her, made a wonderful seafood chowder for that night, along with her homemade watermelon pickles and my mother’s homemade Parker House rolls. Dessert was different each year, and Ba never disappointed.
After dinner, the adults sat around the table talking and drinking coffee. I would always excuse myself and go sit in the parlor where a beautiful freshly cut tree sat on the bay window, glowing with colored lights. Ba had ornaments on every twig, and enticing presents lay under the branches. I liked to lie down under the tree and look up at all the lights and wonder what Christmas morning would bring.
My parents would drive back home, and I would stay overnight at my grandparents’ house. It was a tradition I loved: when it was time for me to go to bed, Ba had a plate of cookies for me and a glass of milk (brushing my teeth always went by the wayside on Christmas Eve) to take upstairs with me.
I would settle in what we always called the “pink room;” Ba loved pink, and the walls, ceiling and all the bedding was pink. I piled up pillows behind me, opened my book and read and ate cookies until I got sleepy. The window was open just a crack so that I could smell the pine-scented air.
When I turned off the light and began to doze, I could swear that I heard the faint jingle of sleigh bells in the air. I would fall asleep, cookies crumbs on my face, dreaming of Christmas morning, safe and warm.
Before the sun came up, I went down the stairs to pick up my Christmas stocking hung on the fireplace mantle. I always looked at the ashes; there were always two big boot prints in there, courtesy of my grandfather. As quietly as I could (as my grandparents were still asleep), I ran back up the stairs and dumped out the contents of my stocking.
Always there was a Life Savers “book” filled with rolls of candy. There would be little toys, a book or two, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, and a tangerine in the toe of the stocking. I would feel rich with all those wonderful things around me. As I ate some of the chocolate coins, I read my book, and usually fell asleep again.
The sound of the creaking kitchen floor always woke me up along with the scent of fresh coffee and frying bacon. Christmas had come at long last.