The build up to Christmas would begin some time in October when, on a visit to Grandma Louise's house, she would take us into the dining room. There on the dining room table, next to the punch bowl that was always there, would be the first Christmas present of the year. Over the following weeks, it would be joined by more and more presents. My little brother and I would circle the table looking for tags with our name on them. Then, some time in early December, the gifts would be moved from the table to their ultimate destination: under the tree.
Grandma Louise ALWAYS had a real tree flocked with white snow and trimmed with gold ornaments. Going back to pictures of my first Christmas confirmed it. She knew what she liked and she stuck with it.
She went all out for Christmas. Her front door was always wrapped like a giant package and she had a flower shop trim all her decorations with real evergreens. The Santa and reindeer on her piano were always prancing through a forest of real Scottish pine.
Ed and Jere, my mom's 2 brothers, were always home for Christmas.They are bachelors to this day, so there were always 3 times as many adults as kids. Opening presents was first priority at Grandma Louise's house. One of my uncles would call our house about 9 on Christmas morning wondering where we were. We'd drive across town to my grandparents' house and the frenzy would begin. Jere usually sat under the tree and passed out presents. One year my granddad gave my grandmother an especially grand gift. Jere let out a really long "AAaaaahhhhhhh" and a tradition was born. Every year after that, either for a great gift or for the gift giving as a whole, Jere led us in the "Exclamatory AAaahhhh!"
In the picture below I'm reading a book one of my uncles gave me: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (Did you know that it was written by Ian Fleming, the same writer that gave the world 007 James Bond? A car with gadgets, imagine that!)
I really liked this book, because here I am, still reading it in another location. Just behind the Christmas cards on the music rest, you can see the reindeer in the greenery. Santa is just over my head. (I know there is a lot of alcohol in the picture: that's okay, my grandparents were Presbyterian!) My brother and I both got big stuffed German Shepherds that year. Mine is beside me in the chair. And check out those white go-go boots!
Here we are a few years later. I see Grandma's dog Tiny got in the picture. His name might have been Tiny, but he outgrew it!
I couldn't resist putting in this picture, even though the tree's not in it. It's one of the last of them altogether. I'm pretty sure that this was my grandmother's last Christmas. That's Ed in the pink shirt, then Mom and my grandmother Louise (who never smiled in pictures) and Jere in the red shirt. The champagne was tradition for Christmas at Grandma Louise's house. Pa-Pa Ace opened the bottles when I was little and after he passed away, the cork popping duty passed to his sons.
Looking back at old Christmas pictures makes me wonder what kind of memories and traditions will my girls take with them into their families. I hope they are as wonderful as the ones I remember.