I often ponder the good fortune that I had growing up as a child in a solidly middle-class family with good parents, an abundance of grandparents and few of the social ills we see on the news on a regular basis. Of course hindsight and adulthood has peeled back some of the idyllic remembrances of perfection but for the most part, it remains intact as we remember it.
One of the most magical memories from that childhood for me and for my sister is Christmas at the farm. My paternal grandparents had a 200+ acre farm in the heartland of Ohio. They raised hogs, chickens and grew a series of rotating crops, so tractors, wagons, combine harvesters and other items of interest to my young grandson were a regular part of my young life.
In the small town tradition, Christmas involved attending church, which we followed each year by the trek to the farm. In those days, church times did not flex for families (there were fewer working Moms at that time) and after the 7:30pm service ended, we piled in the car and headed down the back roads and interstate extensions toward Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and a magic that would too soon be a distant memory.
When we were little, we craned our necks to see if Rudolph could be spotted as my father drove quickly down the dark and twisted country roads. We often did “see him”, or at least his blinking red nose as he flew far away from the farm, surely after delivering a load of presents for us.
Some years, we could even see the hoof prints on the roof of the house as we turned down the lane toward the grand old farmhouse. Once we got into the house, we had to wait in the dining room til Grandma and Grandpa said it was OK to go into the front room. This anticipation was palpable as a young child, and my sister and I still talk about the magic infused in those moments.
Once we were given the ‘OK’ to enter the grand front room, it became magic-incarnate. As you can see from the looks on our faces in the picture here, for little ones, there is nothing quite so awe-inspiring this time of year as a tree bedecked in jeweled ornaments, with snow falling gently outside the room-sized windows, the smell of coffee and fresh-baked goods and a room full of grownups who thought that we were the cat’s pajamas. My grandparents almost always had a doll or 2 under the tree and there never was such a bounty, or at least it appeared so to us.
Moments after this picture was snapped, and each year after similar pictures were taken, we were allowed to begin the paper-tearing frenzy that is near and dear to kids (and former kids) everywhere who celebrate Christmas in abundance. We would unwrap our gifts, give appropriate hugs, kisses and thanks you’s to the cast of grandparents and great-grandparents that we were blessed to be surrounded with growing up. Then, we all would retreat to the dining room for homemade cookies, fruitcake (also homemade), coffee, and other glorious treats that I now know my grandmother spent days preparing just for this evening.
After filling our bellies, and growing very sleepy, our parents eventually loaded us into the car for the 30-minute ride home, truly an “over-the-river-and-through-the-woods” trip, where we would be tucked into bed, clutching our newest toy or doll, to await Santa’s 2nd visit – this one to our house where once more we would find a tree in the midst of beautifully-wrapped gifts as far as the small eye could see.
More paper-tearing, and stockings – OH! The stockings that Santa stuffed when we were little! Those little treasures were often my favorite part of Christmas morning as there were always exotic treats, interesting and uncommon toys and delights that even a curious child would not find in their normal travails.
This magical period of years was replaced too quickly with the realities of aged and dying great-grandparents and grandparents, teenage hormones and new “priorities” that allowed me to look outside of my own experience for “magic”, which I of course, never found. For years, before I learned the value of a dollar, I believed that we were royalty; rich beyond measure and although I came to question that as a young teen as I compared the “things” that others had to mine, I know today that my small child wisdom was on target – we were wealthy beyond words in the things that really count.
In the movie Titanic, as the elderly Rose passes gently into the next level of consciousness, she joins her fellow Titanic passengers as they were when the grand lady sailed from England. I like to think that when that time comes for me, I will be coming around that corner into the front room, once again filled with all the special grownups from my young life, plus one more: a littlest angel, perched on the couch between my parents, with a cookie in her hand and icing on her face who will point at me, smile, and say, “Bammy!”
Merry Christmas to you all – and may the magic of YOUR Christmas light your path in the coming months and throughout the years!