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Today in My History

2000:  Tradition
2001:  Thank You
2002:  It's Still a Small World
2003:  Feeling Crabby
2004:  Park Bully
2005Christmas Creature

2006: A Bit of Thanks
2007:  Shaniqua
2008:  Green Room Perjury
2009:  Gettin' Outta Dodge
2010:  Doo Doo Nice Puppy
2011:  A Fall Afternoon in Davis

Bitter Hack
Updated: 11/24
"Mistakes Were Made"

Books Read in 2012
 Updated: 11/21
"Last to Die"

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The Paul Picnic

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mail to Walt


24 November 2012

TreeLights.jpg (195581 bytes)Brianna is 4-1/2, the perfect age to really start to appreciate the magic of the Christmas season.   The family spent their Thanksgiving with Laurel's family and across the highway was a cut-it-yourself Christmas tree lot, so their tree is already up.

This photo, which Tom sent this evening, made me think of so many magic Christmas moments throughout my life, and how, as you get older, the magic seems to fade.  I hope Brianna and Lacie have many magic seasons ahead of them.

We never cut our own Christmas tree when I was a child.  Living in San Francisco, there weren't any places to do it--for all I know, cutting your own tree may not have been as popular as it is today.  We just went to the nearest Christmas tree lot and picked out a tree.

When I think of my young years, the memories come back in snippets.   The smell of the tree filling our house.  You could smell it as soon as you came through the front door, all through the season.  It said "Christmas" to me. Somehow the trees we have had in the last 20 years or so just don't have that smell, even when they smell great when we first either cut them or bought them.   Maybe it's my nose that's out of whack, but for me, the magic of Christmas always began with that smell.

There was a routine to decorating the tree.  My mother was very particular about the lights and so putting them on the tree was her job.  Those were the years when if one bulb was bad, it made the whole string of lights go out and I can remember so many times of my father cursing and swearing, trying to find the one bad bulb on a string.

I usually put on the first ornament, which was "the face."   It had been on of my mother's family's ornaments and I just loved that thing.   When I married and was looking at my own first Christmas, my mother gave it to me.   I don't remember how it got broken, when our kids were still little, but I kept the pieces and later, when I made a memory box for my mother, one of the segments had "the face" in it.  She didn't remember it, which was a big disappointment, since it had been such a special thing for me.  (Or maybe she just didn't understand why I'd put something broken in a memory box...I can't remember now...but it was definitely part of my own "Christmas magic")

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I remember the year Karen and I heard Santa.  The Christmas tree was at one end of the hall in the center of our flat and our bedroom was at the other end.   We definitely heard him ho-ho-ho'ing as he put our presents under the tree.  Of course we were too scared to sneak out and see him, and by the time he had finished, we had fallen asleep.  Missed our big chance.

We always had to wait until Christmas eve before we could open any gifts, but I remember this one year when my mother let us open ONE gift the day before.   I still remember that I chose a gift that a classmate had given me.  It was a ceramic piggy bank.  Isn't that weird that all these years later I can still remember that piggy bank (though I don't have a clue who gave it to me)?

I mentioned the other day about the year my mother read "A Christmas Carol" to us and how special that was for me. We also played a lot of board games around the Christmas tree, as I recall.  And a couple of years we strung popcorn, which was also magical.

I also remember putting cookies and milk out on the window ledge of our "light well" because we had no fireplace.  There was always magic in discovering the cookies gone and crumbs on the plate because we knew Santa had been there.

When I went away to college, there was real magic in the chapel of the old Newman Hall, with its rich wooden walls and the manger scene under the altar, surrounded by poinsettia plants, lit up, giving everything a warm golden glow.

I loved the magic of Christmas caroling on the Cable car in San Francisco with the Lamplighters, ending with Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista, and, in later years, walking the streets here in Davis singing our songs

The magic is different when you are parents of young children, and you lie awake waiting to hear the whispered giggles as they find wrapped packages under the tree.  I always loved that, and it became frustrating as they got older and actually SLEPT in on Christmas morning.  We'd be wandering around trying to make noise so they'd wake up then!

I loved the magic of decorating our Christmas tree, everyone having a glass of egg nog and listening to Bing Crosby.  I remember the Christmas after Paul died, when the Lawsuit guys showed up to help us decorate the tree, because they knew how hard it was going to be.

1977.jpg (11089 bytes)I loved the tradition of taking the annual "train picture," all five of the kids, often, but not always, in identical pajamas, sitting under the tree.  When we had foreign students, they joined the "train" too.

I also loved the years when the kids made their own Christmas ornaments and still mourn the loss of Ned's "Jesus doing a front dive" during the diving years around this house.

I remember so fondly the year Jeri rebuilt the face of Delicate Pooh after the dog ate it.

There was magic in the annual "egg nog gala," with the kids doing skits and playing music, the shows getting more and more "professional" as they got older and their talents improved. 

Sadly, as you get older, the magic slowly fades away.  It's "just another holiday" and we haven't yet settled on meaningful new traditions, though with children of their own, Tom and Laurel are making their own magic now.

But I'd love to be asked "how do you doodly doodly do?" again and watch David play "Deck the Halls" once more time. 


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