Friday, December 13, 2019

Forgotten Christmases

We had cats?

It's not that I've completely forgotten my childhood Christmases; just mostly. I sure don't remember those ugly drapes and that lamp! But kids don't really notice things like that. What I do remember is the oversized tree bolted inside its metal stand in the middle of the living room. And lots and lots of metallic tinsel. Mom viewed Christmas decorating as one more chore to cross off her do-to list. Christmas wasn't a competition in 1960. Everyone had a tree...and that was it.

I do remember the best and worst of Christmases. The worst was when I couldn't keep my fingers off the presents under the tree with my name on them. I tore the wrapping off one well before that magical night and my big sister (looking so blithe in the picture) sprinted down the stairs, snatched it from my tiny hands and informed me that now I would get no gift whatsoever. I think I even shed some tears and threw myself upon my bed, despondent. (She later relented.) The best were when I received a cardboard play store with cardboard shelves and a plastic-molded cash register with fake plastic money.

The supermarket is the one with my cousin's grubby hands on it. I'm on the lower right.

The most awesome world-changing Christmas present I received as a kid was the RECORD PLAYER. I have no photos to commemorate the occasion, but that record player changed my life forever. It was blue with buckle snaps and a black plastic spindle insert to accommodate my 45-RPM records. My life was complete. I remember Mom and Dad and my big brother and at least one sister gathering around as I placed the needle on that very first record. The muffled warble of The Beatles choking out my one speaker was the most glorious sound in the world. I still don't know how my mom knew. Apparently she didn't actually ignore me, as she seemed to do most of the time. Mom was a casual radio listener ~ she liked Arthur Godfrey's talk show ~ but she had to deal with my dad, who was enamored with music, and thus this little foreign girl wasn't a complete anomaly.

Christmas music in my first ten years of life consisted of the banal Jingle Bells and Rudolph. Music wasn't sophisticated, at least not for a grade school kid. This was a song I tended to like:

And this one (yes, I have a penchant for Anne Murray this time of year):

At mass, which I was required to attend, the carols were "Away In The Manger" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", which confused me because I had a cousin named Harold. On the plus side, at least I knew the tunes.
As I moved into my teen years, the holiday season was best forgotten. I bought gifts; my parents (my mom) bought gifts; but it was simply going through the motions. Dad liked a good snifter of eggnog with a stiff shot of whiskey, but he mostly wasn't around, frankly. I had a little brother and sister who geeked out over their gifts, which mitigated the sadness. I mostly retired to my room as quickly as civility allowed. I did, by that time, have a best friend, and we exchanged LP's for Christmas (two albums for each). They weren't Christmas albums; they were country.

As far as Christmas music was concerned, we weren't the type to drop the needle on Nat King Cole and Andy Williams was a bit too bland. The only country artist making Christmas music was Buck Owens, although this one is pretty hard to beat:

When I had tiny babies, I really paid no mind to Christmas music. It wasn't until I grew older that I discovered the true classics. And a good holiday song is hard to come by.

Yep, here's Anne Murray again:

"O Holy Night" is my favorite sacred Christmas song. My favorite sentimental song is this:

I only hear these songs once a year, so they don't grow old. I'm not too old to latch onto new favorites, though. I currently like this one a lot:

And ta-da! Until next year...

Merry Christmas to you until we talk again.

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