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Entries in Christmas (4)

Tuesday
Dec272016

It Was The Best Christmas Ever...MOM


Those were the words that Liam whispered to his Mom when she asked him how his Christmas was.  Those words, from a seven year old, are a gift in itself.  It tells me that he, and possibly Jaxson, will really hold this Christmas in their hearts all their life...of course Tucker played a big part.  You never forget a gift like him...all that soft fluffiness, full of endless energy,  and loving the boys right from the start..and here is how the rest of the morning went...

 

Jaxson and Uncle Chris...Christmas Eve..

 Waiting..

They finally get up and move cautiously into the living room.  Jaxson staying close to his brother.  This is Jaxsons first year of really "getting it"...

Ok. now he gets it...what is that?  Santa brought Jaxson a geiger counter.  He loves rocks and now he can go to the beach and find rocks and money..he really liked this gift from Santa.

Oh my gosh...gold sneakers.  Jaxson is pretty excited about these...He put them right on. I think he's got a bit of his flashy Nana in him...you go Jaxson...your rocking it here.

Well after Tucker I would say this was Liam's second best gift.  It's all he talked about before Christmas and he was pretty happy to unwrap that one...love how excited they both were..

It was Lego city by the time the day was over.  Jaxson got this battle ship...do you think he liked it...

that face...

Before the real puppy appeared, there was this puppy that Liam loved.  

Getting help from Dad to put the spaceship together. 

Taking a break from opening gifts to have a little run with Tucker.  

Rest time for Tucker.  His first day in his new home, his first Christmas.  It's a big job for a little guy. Uncle Chris to the rescue...

 

Although it seemed to be all about Tucker today, it's really Riley who shines in this family and he deserves the spotlight.  For 10 years he has been a loyal companion to Jenna and the boys..and now he gets to rest more and enjoy all the pats and treats a dog of his age deserves.  I think before to long him and Tucker will be best friends as Riley takes Tucker under his wing.  Merry Christmas Riley..

So it was a whirlwind day that is right up there at the top of the Memory pile. For Papa and I it was a much appreciated gift to go through this season with the boys, both of them believing in the magic of Christmas and Santa Clause.  We also welcomed Elf on the shelf to our house when the boys discovered we didn't have one...They named ours Brownie and each day that little elf would move around and the boys would always run in the door to see what kind of trouble Brownie was in now.  At their house they had Buddy...he was really bad.  I am happy to say that Brownie is now back at the North Pole.  

So many gifts this year...our son and daughter both live close by..we spend lots of time together during the season..and the boys bring it all to light from being a King and a Shepard in the church play to being full of wonder at the gifts that Santa brings...we are a small family but boy we make a lot of noise, filling each house with laughter, running and bright smiles...so many kisses and hugs and I love you to the Moon and back...and even for me, a snuggle in bed with Jaxson before he opens his eyes to discover this new day...let me just tell you, there is no better gift on Christmas or any other day, than the sweet smell and soft smile of a little one as they are just waking up...and those kisses, those butterfly kisses, you guessed it...best gift of all...

I hope you all found many moments of quiet joy and perhaps even a bit of loud joy over your Christmas day...wishing you all a very Happy New Year.  May it be filled with hope love and possiblities in the new year...

My word for next year....Possibilities...

Saturday
Dec242016

An Early Morning Visit...A Christmas Story

Christmas eve morning...early, I wake and think of you.  I lay in bed remembering our Christmas mornings together.  In all the days of the the year, this is the day I miss you most.  We would quietly creep down the stairs and I would put the coffee pot on for you and Jim and make tea for myself.  I remember you still, sitting at the kitchen table in your red bathrobe, hair a bit funky, whose isn't when they first wake up, legs crossed, your pink pajama's peeking out as if to say hello, a look of excitement on your face.  The feeling in the kitchen was one of great expecting, even in the silence that we were experiencing at that moment. The sun has not risen yet and so we wait.You lived not five minutes away from us for the last 15 years of your life, yet each Christmas eve you would sleep over.  It was something we started when Chris was a baby and he didn't even know who Santa Claus was, but you came, and you stayed each year except for your last Christmas..I look back now and wonder who was more excited, you or the kids.  Growing up we didn't have much.  No gifts or toys during the year, no new clothes except at the beginning of the school year...we just didn't have the money but somehow, each Christmas a miracle came to be, and Santa always came to us.  I don't know how you did it, but you were a big believer in the Christmas miracle and you always  made it happen.  So it was not surprising to me to see you excited when I had my own kids and Christmas once again became your joy. Not so much because of the gifts, but because of the excitement and laughter of the kids.  You gift was my kids and when those little ones finally got up, you would move from the kitchen into the living room, always sitting in the red chair, with a dog tucked in beside you and just watch.  It was like you turned into a kid again yourself.  You had presents to open each Christmas also but you never opened them until later in the day when the entire family came...Christmas morning at my house was reserved for just being, in the Santa moment, with the kids.  Finally when all the gifts for them were open and they had come to you to show you a special toy and you make plans with how you both would spend time with that gift, then after a million kisses and hugs, they would talk you into opening your stocking.  I have never, even until this day, seen anyone take so long to open a stocking.  They stood by your side as you reached in and pulled each little item out.  You would study it and tell them how much you loved it and when you were going to use, read or smell it.  Chocolate at the bottom was your favorite gift in that big old stocking and then as neatly as you unpacked it, you repacked it to take home with you.  The kids loved that you were there.  You made Christmas morning special.

So as the sun was rising, we were talking, about all the things that Mom's and daughter's share on a quiet early Christmas morning...what the day will bring, who will come, comparing one year to the next.  How fast the kids are growing...then all of a sudden the silence is broken...little feet, sweet baby voices, calling from upstairs...Nana did Santa come yet.  You yelled back, yes "yes he did and you better get down here quick"...and they would come running, the smiles were priceless the excitement un-containable as they greeted us with wow's and "this is just what I wanted"...in all this confusion Jim would work his way down the stairs, but you didn't notice as you just joined in the fun.

As I look back, those were priceless years, how fortunate Chris and Jenna were to have you celebrate each Christmas morning with them.  To sleep over with them, in their beds and tell them the stories of Santa and how one year you told Chris that Santa and the reindeer were up on the roof and he believed you.  I laugh about it now but if you said it, it must be true and who knows, maybe it did happen that way.  Chris believed and that made it magical.

So, now I go to Jenna's each Christmas morning.  No, I don't sleep over but I do get there before the boys wake up.  It's an early morning call but no worries, I'm awake and ready.  We drive over in the dark, again only five mintues away...wow, it just occurs to me the similarity of the distances between our houses, first my Mom's to mine and now mine to Jenna's.  Jenna and I sit and talk like my Mom and I did, we work around the kitchen, sharing the same excitement as we wait for the boys to get up.  Last year we had to wake Jaxson but this year he should be up much earlier.  Then after hugs and kisses and a few photo's, I will take my place on the brown couch and watch the boys, as my Mom watched mine and the joy goes on...one generation to the next.

I find it pretty amazing how sometimes these thoughts come into my head so early in the morning.  I find I do my best writing when I am in bed either falling asleep or just waking up.  I think my mind is working when I'm resting but I also think that in those quiet, pre-conscience moments, is really when our love ones visit.  Yes, I do believe that's true and what better time for my Mom to come clearly into my mind and heart than on Christmas eve morning...reminding me that she is close as we once again witness the Magic and Miracle of Christmas in the eyes and the hearts of the "little ones".

Thursday
Dec152016

The Crane's Estate At Castle Hill

Christmas on the Cape Ann coast of Massachusetts is beautiful and timeless, at least that's how it feels when we recently visited the Crane's Estate, all decked out in it's holiday finest.  The sun was shinning, the ocean was at the bottom of the hill, the sound of music and the scent of gingerbread filled the air. It was a grand day to get your Christmas mojo on.  Nothing was left undone and it was just magical...from the moment you stepped through the front door..

 

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”  Charles Dickens

 

The Crane's Estate is a property of the Trustee's of the Reservation.  I would really like to encourage you to visit any of their properties if you are fortunate to have a few in your area.  They are always beautiful kept and the grounds provide wonderful outdoor activities...even if it's only a walk along a coastal path...

 

Sunday
Dec212014

A Christmas Story

Mid December, a light snow is falling, the walk ways in the Salem Common are covered with a light dusting of snow..In the 50's it seemed like there was always snow on the ground.  More than we see now.  A young woman was coming through the Common pulling a child's sled...sometimes she would have a few children with her, other times she would be alone...but each December she made the trip to Downtown Salem several times. On her way, pulling that sled, she would pass the brightly lit and wonderfully decorated Hawthorne Hotel. It was always dressed in the finest greens, red and gold bows and bright twinkling lights in every window. A uniformed doorman standing out front. A true testament to the holiday season...but this young lady walked passed, with only the slightest glance, as she knew she would never be part of that world...

It was a time when cars were not abundant so most people walked without thought or worry..safely through the streets, even at night.  Thoughts of any kind of trouble were not on her mind.  What was on her mind, were her 4 young children, at home, waiting in anticipation for Santa Clause to come.  She knew that it would fall on her shoulders to make Christmas special for them.  She was a military wife who did not travel with her husband  and her husband was station somewhere other than home.  Some years he would make an appearance, other years he would miss the holidays altogether. So the burden was placed  on her to make sure Santa came to her children. 

Life was not easy in those days.  There was stress around every corner. Working at a going no where job, as a drug store clerk, just to put food on the table did not leave time for dreaming of a better life.  Acceptance was the mind set for this young lady.  So, through-out the year, day after day, the goal was to survive for a better tomorrow for her kids.  Work, and household task, keeping track of four kids and being in a two family home with your parents on the bottom floor brought it's  struggles.  There was never enough food, no heat in her upstairs apartment but for a gas bottled stove in the kitchen.  She was a strong woman in more ways than one. She could carry and lift those gas bottles like a man.  She could also shovel coal into the cellar furnace to heat the downstairs apartment for her parents...She boiled pots and pots of hot water on the stove for Saturday night baths for the children...two at a time in the tub...and yes, she could even lift a block of ice for the refrigerator...she was fortunate to have a Dad that was the ice man, so she was never out of ice. She shopped at the corner grocery store because they delivered...she could have saved a few more pennies if she went to one of the bigger stores but how would she get those groceries home..and also at the smaller corner store they knew her, they knew everyone in the neighborhood and so, in those days, you could charge your groceries if you ran over, and often people ran over so that before the next weeks groceries were bought they were paying off last weeks groceries...it was an endless bill.   But she coped, but not always well.

That kind of life brings many challenges and often it does not make for a happy household..the pressure of holding it all together, knowing that you are the glue that binds so many lives can sometimes break a person. They withdraw and then have to find new coping skills.  Life in the 50's was tough for lots of woman, especially those military wives...but amongst all the unique problems of that generation there was a genuine lifting of the spirit at Christmas time...it was a month were they were able to let go of their struggles and find the spirit of the season.  It was like a light was shinning just for them...and so it was for the woman with the sled..

So she began...grabbing two of her boys, she walked to the closet Christmas tree stand and they would pick a tree..not exactly a Charlie Brown but close...homemade stand of crossed wood and a tin bucket.   Lovely colored balls collected over the years and lastly the most important piece...the tinsel..shinny and bright. It turned that old tree into a thing of beauty...Not another person in the neighborhood had a tree as wonderful as that tree. Wait, there was more...Orange candles in the window..orange.  All the kids loved them.  It was tricky business though to think of the number of extension cords needed to send that light out into the world..Two outlets to a room was not very much.  Finally, the little skaters under the tree on a piece of a round mirror..with yards of cotton for snow...one could lay on their bellies for hours and imagine what the world of those skaters were like...they became real in the mind of the little girl that loved them.  So, she was ready...but where did she keep those presents that she brought home on the sled...never a hint and never found by those that chose to look. 

Then she moved into the kitchen to tease the children with the smells of Christmas...Banana bread, date and nut bread that she would later smear with cream cheese, peanut butter squares chock full of chocolate chunks and coconut...for weeks they would beg for just a tiny taste...but if you were not careful that wooden spoon would get your knuckles and the threat of no Santa would send you in a new direction..and she was so happy...in her kitchen with no counters, only a wooden kitchen table, her trusty full apron, and her little radio belting out Christmas carols, one would think it was a giant stereo the way she sang out in joy along with the songs.  This woman, didn't know much about world events or stock markets or even TV...but she knew how to make Christmas...

The day would finally arrived...and as the house woke up...all the kids would run..for the "den"..and you would find your spot.  The spot where Santa left your unwrapped gifts and your stocking..The boys shared space on the couch and the young girl got a chair.  Santa was good.  He knew, every year, just what it was that was wanted and needed by all 4 of those children...always a toy or two and always new pj's and underwear.  If she had extra, maybe some would get a pair of shoes...but not often.  It did not matter...they were so happy with what they got and they never felt that it wasn't enough...it was the exact opposite...it was always more than enough and so magical. The stockings were last...an orange in the toe and a gift from the Avon book.  The perfume in the baby blue bottle shaped, like a little boy in jammies, ...savored as the year passed, was a favorite of the little girls...and none of the children thought to ask where the Mom's presents from Santa were...but perhaps it was that smile on her face that wasn't there often, perhaps that was her gift and maybe it was all she needed back then.

Other relatives would come visit for the day...We would see cousins, aunts and uncles...The next day, the joy would still surround us as we played with our new toys and with each other...Left overs were enjoyed in a more quiet enviroment...and perhaps, that night, we would crawl into bed with Mom and have a story.  At the end of the week, the tree would come down, the orange lights would be packed away in their box with the tiny skaters and life would go back to normal.  My Mom would go back to work, do the groceries and once again the worries would come.  We knew that along with all those worries, with a the hardship she and we sometimes endored...we knew, that the snow would come , the walk ways would be sprinkled with light fluff and once again the sled would be pull across the Salem Common...and the light would return.

Today, I remember her as I bake my own date and nut bread, I'll remember to get the cream cheese.  I'll share cookies and memories with my brothers. We'll talk abouth here asking nothing for herself but only that she have enough for her kids.  The smiles on their faces...the laughter and sometimes the tears of receiving a toy that was beyond their imagination,  that was enough. In a world gone wild, I look back on those days and I remember the joy. She instilled it in me.  It's why, at this time, I keep Christmas, in her honor, just the way she would have expected.   I can hear her saying,"take care of your family," and so I do.  She is always with me though, as I wander around my lovely kitchen and think of her in her's...those kitchen treats were her gifts also..and we all knew that.  Maybe we didn't know about Santa Clause or later, where those presents were hidden but we did know about the gifts of her time and baking talents...So now "I pull the sled."..and hope that someday my gifts will be remember...by the smile and joy on my face as I watch one of my own receive a gift...that my kids and grandbabies will understand that there is more to Christmas than the gifts (they get to many today).  That the reason for joy in this season comes from giving and sharing of your time and talents. We are so fortunate today, that we should take the giving out into the world all year long...maybe, just maybe, if we could do that, we would help another person lift the burden that they carry all year. That would be the real gift...the real spirit of Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all who visit here...can you smell the date and nut bread.  Now where did I put that cream cheese...and oh, let me get the tea pot on. Know that you are always welcome at my table...

 

"Terrible things happen. And those are the things that we learn from... The amazing thing is that despite all... the human spirit still manages to survive, to stay strong."  Madeleine L 'Engle

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” 
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” 
― Bob Hope