Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

One Christmas, my sister Kathy and I were at my grandparents’ house. I was four and not sure why we had to stay there or where my mother and father were.  christmas_edited

Soon my father arrived, “You have a new sister. Her name is Stephanie.” I’m reported to have said, “I’d rather have a pony.”

Seriously? I already had one sister. Why would I need another? I never did get the pony. But eventually I learned to love my sister as much as the other one. And I tried to take good care of her, by cutting off clumps of her hair when she was standing in the playpen.

All my Christmases growing up, we always had a real tree. And most of the time, it wasn’t perfectly shaped. So, my father would drill a hole in the bare spot of the trunk and then cut a branch from the bottom and push it into the hole. We were careful not to hang heavy ornaments on that branch! We decorated our tree on Christmas Eve. My father supervised to make sure we added the tinsel one strand at a time. I would move to the backside of the tree, and add at least three at a time. Then I’d get caught, and have to do my tinsel over again.

The week between Christmas and New Year was filled with family visiting. This is when we’d get to see our cousins and aunts and uncles. When Aunt Ruth arrived, she practically smothered us with her very large bosom when she huggcookiesed us. My mother served cookies in the shapes of trees and wreathes decorated with colorful sprinkles. The only time we could eat those cookies was when we had company.

All of our gifts were arranged carefully under the tree. The five of us kids took turns showing each of our presents to visitors. You didn’t want to go last, because by that time, people were losing interest. When I was seventeen and a senior in high school, I got a complete set of red luggage. I guess my parents were anticipating my leaving, as college was a year away. And I did leave, though not off to college. I got married at age 18.

Now it was time for my husband and I to establish our own Christmas traditions. First up – I banned the use of tinsel on our tree. I made a colorful ribbon chain and spent hours stringing together popcorn and cranberries. I thought our tree looked quite festive without all that glitter. My godmother, Yolanda, was making ceramics and she made me a ceramic tree and complete nativity set, both of which I still have, over fifty years later.

Most of the gifts back then were handmade as we had limited cash. I was very proud of the Christmas stenciled wine glasses I made my mother-in-law, until she put them in the sink to soak and all the stencils slid off. I continued my mother’s cookie tradition, adding some new ones to the list. In addition to serving them to company, we gifted them to teachers, friends and the mailman. I, as my mother did, would not allow consumption of those cookies prior to Christmas. I later learned from my adult daughter, that she had clever ways to pilfer cookies that fooled me.

silver treeOn Christmas Eve, all my husband’s family gathered at their parents’ home. I’d never seen so many presents displayed under that silver tree with the revolving light making it change color. Every year, we’d try to take time to open them one at a time, so we could see what each person received, but it eventually became an unwrapping frenzy.

As we drove home, we’d listen to radio reports of Santa’s route and my children would want to get home and in bed, before he arrived. Once they were asleep, we’d gather all their hidden gifts and wrap them. We were careful to disguise Santa’s signature. Then we’d fall into bed and a couple of hours later, our kids would wake us. Then my family would come to our house for gifting and food.

Recently, my children and I were reminiscing about Christmases past. My son, who’s now fifty, has fond memories of a big platter of cookies and I still make some of his and his sisters’ favorites. My daughters were remembering those Christmas eve celebrations at their grandparents and their aunt’s house. Some of the antics made a strong impression.
This reinforced my goal when we gather with family during the holidays, or any time of the year. I try to be conscious of the fact that we are making memories.
ugly sweater cookies_edited

The people involved will take away imprints personal to them.  I take that responsibility seriously and try to interject some form of silliness into our Christmas traditions.  This year, we decorated Ugly Sweater cookies, which was great fun.

I can’t think of a better Christmas than one spent with the people I love so dearly. And if I can give them a memory to chuckle about after I’m gone, I’ve done my job well.



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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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