Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmases Past

There's no getting away from it:  this is a nostalgic, emotion-heavy time of year.  If you celebrate anything during this holiday season, or have celebrated in the past, doubtless you have some fond, and not so fond memories.

Because it's SENTIMENTAL SUNDAY anyway, I couldn't help thinking of all my Christmases in the past, and the little things that stand out from all of them.  So, I'm forcing you all to join me on my little nostalgia trip.  That's right!  I'm FORCING YOU.  Anyway, it's been hectic:  you've been baking and buying and decorating, so clearly you need a little break.

When I was a kid, we always had a real tree.  We tried one of those tree farms one year.  I don't think my sister was born yet, because I can't remember her in this picture!  I do remember having to wear that super itchy hat thing that was basically like a hat and neck warmer all in one with a hole for the face.  My brother and I called it  "the egghead."  I'm scratching my forehead now just remembering it.

We had to go waaaay off into the field to try to find a tree, because we were a little late, and most of the good ones were gone.  Finally we found a slightly crooked, Charlie Brown-ish tree, and my Dad hacked it off.  We had a wagon ride that day, and I got a styrofoam cup of soup that burnt the hell out of my mouth.  That soup was actually hotter than anything that's ever been called "hot".

The tree farm was unusual though.  Normally we would get stuffed into the station wagon, and driven to every tree lot in the city so my Mom could hem and haw and "turn it this way" and "lift up that one.  Oh, it's a 'long needle.'  We don't want that," for what felt like FOREVER.  And then we'd return to LOT NUMBER ONE and get the first tree we saw anyway.

Tree decorating night was fun because Dad would always put on the same records, and Burl Ives would be belting out "Holly Jolly Christmas," and we got to drink egg nog, which at the time, was the best drink known to man.

We played the same tree decorating tricks on my Mom EVERY SINGLE YEAR.  We would pile a whole lot of the same colour ornaments in the same section of the tree.  Or, we would take the entire pile of tinsel and plop that on ONE branch.  Or, we'd take one piece of tinsel and thanks to static, it would stick to the tv screen and look like a crack.  Then we'd say; "Mom, what happened to the TV?" all innocent like, and it would get her EVERY TIME.  One time my brother put my mother's pack of smokes up on the tree.  One time he put my sister's hearing aid on the tree.

Good times!

Of course every kid freaked for toys.  Let's be honest:  you can try to instill all the good values you want into your offspring, but deep down in their greedy little hearts, it's mostly about the receiving.  A few toys really stand out in my memory.  One year my grandmother gave me a little jewellery box.  It had a little plastic ballerina, and played "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters.  I thought that was WICKED.

But, the best, the top, the pinnacle of presents was The SINDY HOUSE.

What I DIDN'T know, was that after the usual Christmas eve festivities at my grandmother's house, we kids got dropped off and my parents headed on over to the States to go to an aunt's party.  Back in the good old days, it was perfectly fine to GET RIPPED, have "one for the road," and hop into your car and head on home.

Yeah, I'll let you think about that for a moment.  Let's all say a small thanks that times have CHANGED.

Anyhoo, when my parents got home, it was late, and my Dad STILL had to put that freaking house together.  This may be why the elevator never, ever worked properly the whole time I had it.

I woke up that Christmas morning, and let me tell you--that majestic cardboard house was UNBELIEVABLE.  I freaked.  I totally freaked.  It had an elevator, a SPIRAL STAIRCASE...

wait, I have to tell you that I thought spiral staircases were the top notch of awesome when I was a kid.

So, the spiral staircase led up to the roof top patio, where Sindy would have all her outdoor barbecue parties, or lounge in the sun for as many hours as you want, because back then, if you weren't BRONZE, you weren't HAWT.

Of course, because the house had its small imperfections.  Like, the cord that was supposed to pull the elevator up would always get all tangled.  And, that spiral staircase didn't reeeeeally fit into the cardboard frame so well, and tended to want to pop up a bit at the top, instead of fitting level with the patio floor.

Oh, and I never did have all the furniture that was supposed to come with the house.  I mean, I never had that little bedside table with the WORKING LAMP on it.  I mean, MON DIEU, a working freaking lamp?!?  COME ON!  I did have the dining room table and china hutch, the bed, and a fridge that came with lots of plastic foods--enough to fill the fruit/veg crisper, and a little plastic brown turkey.

Oh!  And the china hutch had little dishes and glasses.  One time my Mom made teeny tiny pancakes that would fit on Sindy's little plates.  That was so awesome.

I should also mention (again---I've lamented this before) that one of the cardboard floors used to cave in regularly unless I was super careful, because my brother accidentally winged his basket ball into it.

So, imagine that you've just received all your super awesome presents, including this beyond-comprehension Sindy House, and then your Mom says; "okay, put your toys away.  We  have to go to CHURCH."

It may surprise you people to know there was a time in my life I was forced to go to church.  Like any good psuedo-Catholic-ish family, we went to church on Christmas and Easter.  Sorry if you like church, but to me that was SUPER SUCK.  My sister is lucky, because by the time she came around, she probably only had to go to church like a couple of times.

Yeah, I know some of you are going to point out the FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS in my view of Christmas, but whatever.  Christmas is for everyone.  That's why they invented Santa--for us heathens.

Then we'd have to put those toys away AGAIN, pile into the FREEZING station wagon, with its PLASTIC SEATS, and drive over to Grandma's for dinner.  We'd all sit round the table eating turkey, and pierogi, and meat on a stick, and meat stuffing, bread stuffing, cranberries, oily salad, corn, kapusta, pickled mushrooms, and stained glass cake, while my Grandmother walked around looking angry saying; "You don't eat nothing!" or "you don't eat much!" or "EAT, PEOPLE!"

And all the while we'd be dreaming of our toys.  Dying for our toys.  Longing for the moment we could get back home to our toys.  Projecting ourselves to that time when we could be in our new jammies, quietly in our beds with that special new toy, and all the other treasures piled carefully beside the bed.

The best Christmases were when we had the tree in the "good living room."  We were young, and it was cozy, and Christmas still gave me that magical feeling deep in my stomach.  I didn't realise it then, but Christmas was really much, much more than just the presents.

Wherever you are and whatever you do, I wish you happy holidays.  I have no problem wishing anyone "happy holidays," rather than Merry Christmas.  There are a lot of people in this world who celebrate a lot of different things at this time of year.  I hope they're all happy times, even if just a little.

my brother, my aunt, and little me, at my grandmother's
 I live in this house now, but without the yellow and black plaid furniture.

my sister, at just over a year old.  I remember she kept hanging red ornaments on the same branch.
After each ornament, she would stand back and babble some lengthy baby gobbledegook about the
ornament, and the tree and what she'd done, with hand gestures and everything.


  1. What fab memories - most of my xmas memories are of drunk adults yelling at each other. Happy days!

    That Sindy house is ROCKIN' and I would totally have lost my mind for it as a little girl - I also thought tha spiral staircases were the Height of Sophistication.

    Love that last pic - what a cutie patootie.

    Happy xmas! Sarah xxx

  2. Awww. That just filled me with Christmas magic AND Christmas sadness. Kudos to you! I, for one, super miss those Christmases. Of course, I enjoy this festive time with my kids and get a kick how HAPPY they are on Christmas morning....

    But those days, back then.. were super awesome.


    P.S. I was wicked cute as a baby!

  3. I LOVE the photo of your sister and the comment about her hanging it on the same branch! Priceless!!!
    The station wagon sounds cold just reading about it - and the longing - oh, you hit it there, Karen - I remember that feeling so well! I've never seen a Sindy House before - (stop laughing) it looks awesome, and hours of fun! I do have a Barbie Plane - does that count? : )
    Merry Christmas, Karen - you are an angel here - always remembering the good times, and bringing us Joy throughout the year. Love you! Thank you, and let the man clean up this year !!! You play with your toys, or your bottle or whatever makes you happiest!!!

  4. Awwww, Merry Christmas back at ya! Our Christmas was always filled with drunk uncles sitting around on the sofa getting drunker by the minute. Never crossed my mind till now how they all got home. I can guarantee you they were tanked. Probably a good thing times have changed....

  5. Alcohol and church are my strongest memories, too. Now that I'm the adult, I don't see how they carried on back then. We were in a very rural community with no deputies or troopers for fifteen or twenty miles. Christmas meant whiskey by the gallon. And Cold Duck. Anybody remember Cold Duck? I still love whiskey, but I don't see how they put that much away. Times have changed for the better, to be sure.

  6. It is nice that you have good childhood Christmas memories.

  7. I love that sexy pose Sindy is striking on the bed on the 2nd floor. Makes Barbie look like a hose beast.

    My mom used to have the exact same coffee table as your grandmother. She finally got rid of it in 2001. After the doors completely fell off.

  8. The pic of baby Beam..brougth tears to my eyes...
    And YES, Karen! Your Sindy house!! Everytime I would go over to your house...I would stare at it and just plain want one for myself!! I never made note of teh tiny was pure magic in my eyes...and your Holiday Barbie collection!!
    Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

  9. Sarah, you summed it up with "drunk adults!" Ha! Wait...will that be me? Perhaps, but hopefully minus the yelling.

    I'm glad you shared my spiral staircase love.

    Happy Christmas to you!

  10. yeah Nerdo, happiness and sadness are like the peanut butter and jam of life.

    Deep, no?

    p.s. you're still cute :)

  11. Christina, maybe the Sindy house wasn't EVERYWHERE, and maybe Sindy wasn't a fad where you lived. The Barbie plane is DEFINITELY good enough!

    Thanks Christina, and Merry Christmas to you as well. I'm sure you'll have a great day, because that's just the kind of person you are!

  12. yeah Lizbeth--when did the term "designated driver" even come to be???

    Those were the days!

  13. Fred, why does "whisky by the gallon" sound SO FREAKING AWESOME?!?

    Pant, pant, pant...

    no, I was losing myself there for a moment. Sounds like you'd have some fun stories to tell!

  14. waaaaait a minute, Laoch: are you saying that as though you do not? Because then I'll have to add a sad frowny face:

    Hope you and the kitties have a nice Christmas!

  15. Grace did you know I totally GUFFAWED at HOSE BEAST??? Then my daughter said; "what?" as in, "what's so funny," and I had no clue how to explain myself, so I gave the standard adult reply; "oh nothing!"

    Hilarious. I'm pretty sure that if I had a coffee table, the doors would fall off mine too. My kids are, shall we say, "hard" on things.

  16. Damn it Steph, why didn't I take better care of things??? I mean, come on--that thing would be AWESOME if by some miracle I still had it and it was in good shape.

    Merry Christmas to you too! Thanks!

  17. I could never enjoy a real tree cuz I'm allergic. Regardless, my mom would get one and make me decorate it, and my arms and face would swell up, and she would yell at me and keep drinking heavily. Dammit -- why did you force me to take a trip down memory lane?!

  18. whenever my daughter hears me laugh at something & gives the standard question of "what's so funny?" i can't tell her the real thing, so i usually tell her it's something that's inappropriate that i shouldn't be laughing about and i certainly can't tell her. though, she usually reads it herself, but thankfully doesn't yet understand why it's funny.
    my family never drank so i don't have those lovely drunken parent memories.
    i do remember sleeping with my new stuff though. one year i slept in my new pink moon boots that hadn't been worn outside yet. and another year i slept in my rollerskates. that didn't work out well because it's difficult to thrash around in bed with 14 lbs of equipment strapped to each foot.

  19. ah those whisky soaked memories of childhood, eh Dr.C? Yeah, but I'm curious: if you didn't touch the tree, were you still allergic? What if you walk through a pine forest? What if someone cleans your home with PINESOL?? So many questions have I!

  20. oo dbs--were you one of those good religious folk but only on Christmas and Easter types, too???

  21. Sherilin, I LOL'ed over the image of you sleeping with your roller skates on. Jack was so excited about his new winter boots this year that he tried to sleep with them on one night, and pretty much discovered what you found out.

    Oh, I have been thinking of your Christmas story every since you told it--the one in which your parents WERE HARDCORE and returned the presents! That was a GREAT story!

  22. Wow, I would have KILLED for that amazing Sindy house! I was reduced to making my own "rooms" as demonstrated on Blue Peter (iconic UK kids' TV show) out of cardboard boxes and assorted household crap... Yes, I think I may have had a deprived childhood. Oh well!
    I guess everyone thinks their family Christmas is the norm when they're a kid - it isn't till you look back as an adult that you think there may have been some odd behaviour along the way!
    Great photos. Great post. Have a great Christmas! xxxxx

  23. so your family were 'creasters'. chistmas and easter catholics. that house would have blown my socks off!

  24. But Curtise, this is interesting: I had a GREAT BIG CARDBOARD doll house, and you made your own fabulous doll houses ...out of CARDBOARD. Hrm...clearly we can see who is more clever: YOU.

    I bet they looked great! I wish I'd saved that house though.

    Merry Christmas to you! Hope you have a wonderful day.

  25. yeah anonymous: it was half-assed religion at best.

  26. Hold up . . . is that one doll lying on the bed in a sexy come hither pose? Wait, is this some sort of porn house? Now I think I'm offended! :)

  27. The Christmas secret I never knew until I was all grown up - my parents' annual Christmas "party" with the neighbors was really a get drunk and put Lisa's toys together and stash them in their basement. I wish I had thought of it.

    I grew up allergic to pine trees too. I couldn't go into a house with a live Christmas tree for more than a few minutes. My dad and grandma were the same way. However as an adult, it didn't show up on my allergy tests. Either pregnancy changed me or it was the mold growing on the tree.

  28. maybe it is a porn house, Misty, because there are NO KIDS THERE to spoil the fun ;)

  29. Lisa, that's hilarious about the drunken party, and very interesting about the tree. Did a lot more people have real trees then or was it the same as now? I know we had a real tree for YEARS. I do miss a real tree, but don't miss circling around the tree lot.

    Yeah, maybe it was the mold..or you're right: maybe pregnancy changed things...or maybe you just outgrew it?


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