Saturday, November 28, 2015

Warm Christmas Memories, Part 1

This month has always been my favorite time of year. I have so many warm memories of this festive season. So I decided that for the next four weeks I would do a series of reminiscences of Christmases past. Here's the first:

bedroom, window, curtains
This isn't my actual childhood window,
but mine was just as frosty during the
winter. Ah, the joys of the single
pane window.
Outside the blankets, it's icy cold, but underneath them, so numerous it's difficult to move, it is toasty warm. My bedroom is a converted attic and our house's heat source is a floor furnace that does an admirable job of warming the downstairs but is basically meaningless up here. But I don't mind at all. The best sleep is cold room sleep.

I'm half awake; it's a half-hour before I have to get up for school. I could get up, but I have no intention of stirring before I'm called. This time is too delicious. Wafting up from downstairs are sounds and smells that my pre-teen mind has no idea will become so precious to me as an adult. Mom has been up for a bit, and during this time of year--the weeks before Christmas--that means two things: blasting Christmas music on the stereo and baking delectable Christmas treats too numerous to list.

It just wouldn't sound right to me
without the pops and hiss of vinyl,
but if you want to try it, go to Amazon.
It's only $5.99 for the whole album.
We have lots of Christmas music, all of which hid in the bottom of the stack of LPs until Thanksgiving. This is long before the days of iPods, CDs, or even cassette tapes. Dad, along with the rest of the country, hasn't yet given in to the commercial excess of starting Christmas in mid or even early November. But from the morning after Thanksgiving until early January, I am awakened by one of those records. I love every single one, but my favorite is The Star Carol by legendary country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford. His rich, silky baritone fills me with warmth on the frostiest morning.

Accompanying the music are the sounds and aromas of Mom working in the kitchen, splitting time between getting breakfast ready for the house, packing Dad's lunch, and baking the aforementioned Christmas goodies. Mom is famous in our circle of neighbors and family for her baking prowess. The list is seemingly endless: chocolate chip cookies, snicker doodles, Niemen Marcus cookies, fudge, toffee, snack mix, wedding cookies, sugar cookies--I could go on, but I'm getting fat just thinking about it.

cookies, dessert, baking, sweets, treats, ribbons, food
I have no easily accessible pictures
from the time period. The
memories are still fresh, even if
the cookies aren't.
Mom annually bakes so much that most years we walk around the neighborhood, tins in hand, to share the bounty with older folks who don't have much Christmas to be cheerful about. Some years when I'm younger and frustrated about not getting to join my older siblings (I often joke I'm the fourth of three children because I came along unexpectedly almost five years after my brother Don, who Mom and Dad thought was going to be their last kid.), Mom soothes my tears by letting me join her in the kitchen. This is why I'll love cooking and baking as an adult--and why I'll have a sweet tooth until the day I die.  

Shortly before it's time to get up and get ready for school, I hear Mom come and slide back the door at the bottom of the stairs to let some warm air up. It's an accordion-style device that wasn't really designed for what Dad installed it for, but it works. The door opening only intensifies the sensory delights as whatever's in the oven just at the bottom of the stairs dances up and tickles my nose. I don't know how my brother can stay asleep through it, but he doesn't stir until a few minutes later when Mom yells up that breakfast is ready. I don't want to get up, not because I want to keep sleeping, but because where I am is just so perfect and part of me wishes that it can stay this way forever. But another part of me, even the me that's not yet old enough to understand why, knows that perfection doesn't last. So it's up into the frigid morning air to get dressed, trudge downstairs, and meet the day.

PS--I would be remiss if I didn't remind you one last time about my reading and signing event today from 4pm to 6pm. It's at Emmanuel Baptist Church, which is on the corner of 23rd and Liberty Streets. It's just up the hill from City Park, so when you're finished, you can go enjoy the lights. I know that's what I plan to do.

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