Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - My Cousin Laurie

Memories of Christmas Past
by Laurie Loken,
December 7, 2004

Hello mom and dad and family . . .

I was watching the home channel the other day and couldn't help smile, and then began to laugh as the memories began to flood in.

The series was on Christmas, Christmas from the early 50’s to the present. They talked about trees, lights, ornaments, cookies and all of it.

The funny thing was, they were talking about our Christmases! Our trees, our ornaments, lights and all!

For instance

Do you remember the silver metallic tree? With the disc of rotating color light? Buried that one didn't you!

Remember it was kept under the house in the crawl space? One year, after a really bad rainy season, dad went to get it and it was icky…. maybe that was a good thing.

And how ‘bout tinsel. You can't have a Christmas program without tinsel. They talked about the different techniques everyone had. It was so funny, from the single strand carefully placed (like mom wanted it) to the tossed on by the handful (they way we did it when she wasn't looking). Did you use a lot or make the tree disappear completely under shine and weight of the tinsel, from the old heavier kind that tarnished to the lighter rather flimsy one of today.

Lights are another memory and one of my favorites to this day. I mentioned earlier the rotating disc, but then there are the bulbs. The large almost egg shaped colored bulbs that as mom would say to us, "it’s time for dad to curse the light’s up." It didn't matter, it was like having a picnic sitting there watching and being so excited that it was Christmas and we were getting ready. 

Remember the bubble lights? How they had sit just right so they would bubble. They still make and sell those today and we have some. Today we use the small twinkle lights. I happen to like those much better though Paul still prefers the others.

I could go on, as I usually do, but I want to share some personal Christmas memories.

We had some of the ornaments that are now considered prized collectors items, the wax candles.

We had the little choir children and loved to play with them. But most of all we loved to play with out Popeye ornaments. Yes, we had the blown glass type Popeye ornaments. This kind of ornament is now a highly prized collector item. Who knew?

We would go to Santa’s Village, a sort of mini theme park, mostly consisting of little North Pole homes, elves, reindeer a ride or two gingerbread cookies and warm cider. There were shops for various things including spices and one that dad always used in cooking most especially for his mashed potatoes. There were times he would run out and needed it before the next Christmas, so we would have to stop by but had to make sure he didn't forget. 

For years and years later, anytime we passed the village, which has been closed a long time, we would all shout, "MASHED POTATOES!!!" But, the most important thing there was SANTA! He was always the most amazing Santa ever. Naturally round, naturally silver hair and beard, I got the photos to prove it.

After that we would go up into the mountains (we lived near Santa Cruz, CA) to a tree farm to cut down our tree. It was a rather vast farm. Mom would stand at the top of the hill and look out scouting out the perfect tree. We would traipse through the dense forest looking for the one she saw, from a 100 yards away, and then she would change her mind because a new one caught her eye.

After this went on, all the while we were laughing until we almost peed, in desperation we just cut one down, wrestled it onto the roof of the car, watched dad curse it into the tree base and play "turn the tree to find the best side."

Now, we go to some tree lot and pay a fortune for a semi-dried tree. This year I said, "Enough, I am tired of being my dad and cursing the lights up and down, cleaning the needles out of the carpet, keeping the cat out of the tree." Therefore, we have a beautiful artificial tree. With tons of lights! I love sitting with only those on, well, I mean the only light on….. geesh. We don't have Popeye ornaments or wax ones, but we do have the ones that make us say "awwwww," and, I love this one this is my favorite," or "I forgot about this one."

We did see one other Santa, he was on the top floor of the Macy’s building. Outside there were mini rides (for some reason someone thought this was a necessary thing for kids to have while visiting Santa?)

The girls have always seen Santa too, but in the Malls since there doesn't seem to be a Santa Village or such thing here that I have seen. They have been ok Santa’s but never could hold a candle to The Santa of Santa Village.

Another wonderful memory was midnight mass. Mom would put us to bed for a nap (don't know if we actually did nap) when we woke we found on her bed our clothes laid out with our little woolen coats and hats and gloves and beautiful Christmas corsages on the coats. Boy, did we feel fancy!

After surviving service, sorry mom, we would put out the cookies for Santa (fighting to see who got to do it) and off to bed where we would talk and giggle and listen to dad drop things downstairs (one year a pair of roller skates!.)

I can remember the Cabbage Patch craze when my girls were little. Those don't make noise when you drop them down the stairs!

I hope one day my daughters will have something silly to remember like I do.

Merry Christmas
December 7, 2004