Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Anticipation!

I am sure we all have stories of our youth concerning the anticipation of Christmas. 

I remember my sister and me trying to hide under an end table in our living room so we could see Santa.  Of course, Mom came and told us Santa knew we were still awake and was not coming until we were asleep in our own beds.  Drat, we thought we had it figured out; but moms know their kids best.  Remembering our attempt to see Santa is probably why I enjoy the commercial with the children all sitting on the couch with their headlights illuminating the fireplace.  Did we not all want to catch Santa in the act?

The most exciting stories of anticipation and suspense come from my husband Michael.  His family had a wonderful tradition that made the expectancy almost too much to tolerate.

Two weeks before Christmas, Michael’s parents would close off their living room.  The house had wonderful sliding pocket doors separating the dining room from the living room, making it easy for them to block the access from the dining room.  The living room also had a glass panel door with a key lock separating it from the hall access.  The glass pane was covered on the inside to hide all the activity going on behind.

To hear my husband talk of the expectation it was almost more than a child could endure.  The days would slowly tick by as the boys lay on the floor trying to see under the door.  Who was in the room?  What were they doing?  Was it Santa?  Was it his helping elves?

Joey, Michael, and Kevin had a truly exciting Christmas morning.  Finally, the three boys would come down the steps, still in their PJs to find the hall door slightly ajar showing ever-changing reflections from the fully lit Christmas tree just beyond their vision.  The boys would enter the living room to see all the gifts displayed not wrapped.  It was like walking into a wonderland of toys.  Being boys, they would find such delights as forts with soldiers assembled and ready for enjoyment, or a farmland fully displayed.  On one Christmas morning, it took Kevin nearly 15 minutes to spot the 10-speed Schwinn bike behind the door the boys opened.

Marguerite, Michael’s mother was a master at decorating and displaying.  So naturally she would have the Nativity scene displayed, and the stockings were there filled with even more fascinating wonders.  She would also make exhibits of winter scenes.  Like ice skating figurines on a mirror with cotton laid out to look like snow on the hillsides around a frozen pond. 

I remember one display she gave me.  She took a large round inflated balloon and worked her magic.  She soaked string in a sugar and water solution, and then she would wrap the coated string around and around the balloon until it took on the appearance of a white globe of lattice string.  Once it was dry, she would pop the balloon, allowing the string to hold the form.  Michael’s dad then cut a circle entrance to the sphere and flattened one side to stop the sphere from rolling.  Again using cotton and miniature figurines Marguerite would build a display of a town square complete with a Christmas tree.  It was a delight and so fascinating.

Her cost effective displays added to the wonder of Christmas.  Not to mention the 144 gross of cookies she baked.  Yes, that is 144 X 144….do the math.  She would seal them in decorative tins with tape to deter the boys from getting into the cookies.  This would have worked if Michael and Kevin had not gone out and purchased their own roll of tape.

Michael and his brothers must have enjoyed those Christmases of their youth.  I know that I love hearing the stories of how their parents kept the wonder and spirit of Christmas for everyone to enjoy.

I hope the parents of today are creating such magnificent memories for their children.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  It just needs to be from the heart.

Merry Christmas to all and God Bless!




  1. Jannie, you make all my own Christmas memories come avalanching back, as if they happened just yesterday!

    My birthday is on the 23rd, so in our small family (Mother, Daddy and me), we always celebrated the gift-giving of Christmas, and a big holiday dinner, on my birthday, complete with the obligatory chocolate-cake-with-7-minute-icing that would harden to the depth of an eggshell, with a marshmallow-y layer beneath. Then, on Christmas Eve, we'd pack the car with presents and luggage and take off upcountry Louisiana to my Daddy's sister's house, and we'd all go to Midnight Mass together.
    This sister, my Aunt Mary, was married to a restauranteur who was a very good man. His "help"--fantastic Louisiana cooks--would cook and serve the Christmas dinner for the entire big Italian family--thirty to forty people--but at the same time, they'd be cooking their own luscious Christmas dinners as well, with all the trimmings (a free and lavish bonus from Uncle Sam.)
    After we had finished our meal, the cooks would take home their hot, sumptuous dinners in restaurant casseroles and roasters, and all the family ladies would wash the dishes and pots and pans and clean the kitchen, while the men rearranged the tables and chairs into their usual one-table-four-chair configuration, ready for the next day's business--and we children played and danced and argued together. I always got to say Grace Before Meals, standing on a chair at the end of the long, long table(s). I think it was because I was the only one who knew it in English.

    In our home, once I grew up and married, with our first six children born before the eldest was seven, we needed some way to keep the children from attacking the tree before we (who had been up until dawn wrapping, marking, and assembling toys) could even open an eye.

    So what we did was to tell them they were on the Honor System. I would tape a piece of paper ribbon across the hall between their bedrooms and the living room, and they knew they were not to cross it until we got up--Honor was the keyword.

    And for all the years we had children, even after we added fourteen more little ones to our family, NOT ONE CHILD EVER CROSSED THAT LINE!--(even though one year, when we lived in a home with stairs, Mark and Kippy held little Grettie's PJ pants by the back of the waist so she could hang out over the bannisters to try to read the labels on the toy packages!--she couldn't!)

    But that little ribbon--and Honor-- kept them from ever crossing the line. Even on the Christmas when it was a few minutes after 12 when we finally woke up, our seventeen children sat there, patiently waiting for their parents to share their joy, rather than selfishly tearing into Christmas gifts on their own.

    Knowing such good things about our children is part of our many lovely Christmas memories.

  2. Jan, What a wonderful Christmas story. The anticipation was building in me as I read it. I can picture the delited faces of the boys as they invaded the room.
    I on the other hand came from a large family with little money, but our Christmas was wonderful. If you like you can read about it at It is always the best time of the year for me, and although I am no in my 70th. year I remember it well.