Christmas at the Greenwood house was always interesting. How Mom managed to make it merry with everything else that was happening, I don’t know, but it was her favorite holiday and she made sure we had fun.
When we were very young, the whole family would head out to a tree farm for a tree. It couldn’t be any tree, it had to be fresh. In fact, it couldn’t just have been a cut, fresh tree, Mom insisted that poor Dad dig it out of the ground and keep the root system. He did that twice and both trees ended up at the cabin. One of them was so messed up, that the poor tree had a long trunk and a nice pine top. Neither of them lived very long, but long enough for Mom to justify her request.
I remember walking through department stores and wishing for all of the latest toys and gadgets … yes, even in the late sixties, toys and gadgets were on my wishlist. We couldn’t afford them. I knew that. But, on the endcaps were all of these brightly packaged items that I knew I should own. Mom never apologized for not purchasing everything for us, she made it quite clear that we couldn’t afford it and oh, by the way, our lives probably wouldn’t be any worse for not having those things.
But, that isn’t to say she didn’t work to make Christmas morning amazing for us. I remember sitting with at least Carol, and probably Jim as well, in the doorway of the room where she worked. We heard the sewing machine going and she’d talk to us through the closed door, tantalizing us with creative descriptions, never giving things away.
She would send one of us to count the gifts under the tree, knowing that the anticipation would keep us occupied and ensuring that no one got more than another. Dad got caught up in creating gifts for us as well.
When we were young, he and Mom couldn’t afford play house items, so they built them. A fun refrigerator and stove with cupboards were made. He put them together, she painted the details. We played with those for years until we moved to Sigourney and they ended up in one of the kids’ Sunday School rooms downstairs.
For someone who didn’t learn to sew until she was in her twenties, Mom was amazing. I remember the year she made me a beautiful, brown, fake (not even faux, this was just plain fake) fur maxi coat (it was the seventies). That year she made a fabulous, big, floppy, stuffed white dog for Carol’s gift. There were always wonderful items of clothing for us and it never occurred to us that store-bought was better. She was awesome.
Dad always purchased at least one fun gift for us. There were roller skates and I was surprised to see that Jamie and Carol both received hockey sticks one year. That seems almost dangerous. There were big gifts hidden in other parts of the house and Dad loved nothing more than playing the “hot-cold” game with us.
My grandfather and his brother owned a printing shop in upstate New York. They sold it to his brother’s son, who turned it into a wonderful business, but one year we received this immense bolt of holly printed wrapping paper. Every year we would bring it down from the attic and use as much of it as we pleased and every year, we would take it back up. When we pulled the last of it off the center cardboard roll, we were aghast. It was time to purchase wrapping paper.
I wish I remembered all of the gifts that were in those packages, but they are simply things that have come and gone in our lives. The memories I have are vague and faded, but anchored in laughter and joy.
May your Christmas be filled with love, laughter and joy.