Most of my Christmas memories are wrapped around the little farm when I spent much of my childhood. We lived in a trailer not far from my uncle's farmhouse. He lived there with his wife, a dodgy brother named Sylvo, and his nine kids. There was also the hired hand who lived in 'the little house' not far from us. There was usually a kid or two attached to it as well.
Days were spend bundled up against the snow and wind and praying for snow days. However, once we hit Thanksgiving, there was magic in the air. At school, we would start coloring Santa's and poinsettias. Recess was spent making miles of paper chains or braiding crepe paper streamers. In the afternoon, we would practice our songs for the Christmas show, along with our little poems. There was always someone, usually in first or second grade who was too shy to go on, but always seemed to fine their courage at the last minute. Penmanship lessons were usually addressed to Santa or some Christmas cards. Arts and Craft often entailed cotton balls and Bruce Gendron eating the paste...
The Christmas show was always a crash and burn, but we didn't care and our parents didn't care. To them, we sang like angels and recited more competently than the finest orator. There were little gifts, as we had drawn names, and our teacher would give us pencils with our names embossed in gold on them. Then we headed for the door and Christmas break.
That's when the magic would really start.
My mom would spend all day, one Saturday, preparing special treats and then my cousins and other relatives would arrived, gifts and dishes in hand. We would crowd into our small living room and sit around our Christmas tree, usually a Scotch Pine from my uncle's lot, and eat, laugh and open gifts to each other. There would be singing, especially if Da got into the eggnog and joke telling, and just fun.
After everyone left, we would clean up and start packing for we would spend Christmas with my sister and her family at the Button farm. Art and Marion were the grandparents I never had growing up. While I would prefer to stay home, I knew that things would be hopping. We would pile into the car with shopping bags overflowing with gifts and carefully drive the forty miles to my sister's (often it could take as long as two hours depending upon the weather).
Once we got there, it was time to prep for her Christmas Eve party. Weeks early I'd been there, helping her make 752 dozen cookies (or so it seemed) and then we'd deliver them, always eliciting a promise to join us for Christmas Eve. There were often an upwards of fifty people in her house, all bearing food and presents. The party would go on far into the night and it was the magic of the evening that we were allowed to stay up as late as we wanted. Then slowly, people would head out into cold, only to rejoin us at the church for the Midnight mass. I used to love the candles, although I don't remember much about the actual service.
The next morning, like magic, Santa found me and the tree would be piled with gifts. Of course, this was a farm and that meant no presents until after the chores were done. We got our stockings and that usually was enough to keep us content until the menfolk came back. Then we would burst into the gifts with wild abandon.
My sister would set out snacks around eleven and we'd nibble away. Then she would steal me away and hand me a bag, with special instructions. I would creep next door to Art's and Marion's place and sneak into the back hall where all the grandchildren's stockings hung. There I would carefully place each gift in the corresponding socks. Later I would be trust with the adult's stocking gifts as well. A few years after that, I started staying behind at night as the 'babysitter' but in reality, I played Santa and assembled toys and got everything ready while the adults were at church.
At around one, we would wander over to the farmhouse, where Wendell's brothers and their families were staying, along with other various relatives. I still don't know where they all slept! After a huge feast or ham, turkey, often venison, bear or whatever else the brothers had shot, we would waddle into the parlor and the huge tree there. It was always a sight to see and the mountains of gifts were incredible. I knew there would only be one gift for me and that used to make me sad, until I realized that this was their Christmas. not mine. The afternoon would be spend opening gifts, eating and sleeping.
At four, the men would get ready to head to the barn and we would pack up the car and head home. It was always a relief at that point as, being the only kid in our house, I often preferred my own company to others. At my sister's, I would stay behind and sit with the adults as opposed to going out with the 'little kids' to sled or what not. It was always with great relief that I would happily return to my room and all the familiar surroundings. I always enjoyed it more after I'd been gone for a while. That still holds true for today.
Thanks for coming along on my little journey. I hope as maju01 did for me, I reminded someone about their Christmas mornings so long ago. Yeah, is good.