By Bruce Stambaugh
Growing up in Canton, Ohio after World War II, Christmas was the holiday of holidays for our family. Christmas related activities ran the gamut of the Advent season. My earthly father saw to that, and Mom chimed in, as if she had a choice.
Our wonderful parents modeled the joy of the season for us. We didn’t have much money, but that didn’t seem to derail any of their holiday plans or enthusiasm. Given my father’s meager income, I don’t know how they pulled off the Christmas they did for us year after year.
Like most families, we had our Yuletide traditions. Shopping was one of them, and extravagance was not on the list. Consequently, shopping took a back seat to preparing the home place inside and out for Christmas. Dad led the charge.
We lived on a corner of a very busy intersection in our mixed blue and white-collar neighborhood. Dad had planted a pine tree right on the corner to provide some privacy and help block the noise.
At Christmas, Dad filled that tree with multiple strings of lights, the nightlight-sized bulbs so popular then that glowed in all the primary colors. As the tree grew, so did the string of lights. Year after year, Dad wanted those Christmas lights to shine for all who happened by.
Then there was the family Christmas tree. Dad would round up as many of his five children as possible, and off we would go, sometimes tromping through deep snow, to select just the right tree for our household.
The tree always went up in front of the large plate glass window in the living room. Again, Dad wanted the world to know that his family had the Christmas spirit.
On went the ropes of garland, the fascinating bubbling light bulbs, and strings of regular Christmas lights. On went the fragile decorative ornaments, including colorful antiques from previous generations, and the simplistic arts and crafts ones we had made at school.
Next came real candy canes that somehow seemed to have totally disappeared by Christmas morning. Finally, we slathered the tree’s tender limbs with tons of silvery tinsel. There wasn’t an empty space on the tree.
The plastic church that illuminated centered the wooden fireplace mantel. A pair of red candles affixed in Mom’s cherished cut glass candlesticks adorned the mantel’s ends.
Mom and her cherubs rolled, baked, iced and sprinkled sugar cookies in shapes of stars, Christmas trees, bells, and ornaments. Dad bought chocolates at the neighborhood candy shop.
My brothers, sisters and I were so excited we could hardly sleep the night before Christmas. All the while, Mom and Dad stayed up late assembling and wrapping gifts. We weren’t allowed up before six on Christmas morning. But younger brother Jim always started the countdown well before then.
Because of his hardscrabble childhood, Dad always wanted us kids to have the Christmas he never did. If Dad’s goal was to turn his dreams into a lifetime of memories for us, he more than succeeded. I think he wanted that for Mom and himself, too.
When Dad died five years ago just before Christmas, my brothers, sisters and I mourned his passing. We marveled, though, at the timing of Dad’s death, Christmas, his favorite time of year.
Christmas is for children. It brings out the youngster in all of us no matter what age we happen to be. That’s only appropriate, since the holiday started with the birth of a long-anticipated child.
May your Christmas dreams also be fulfilled, and may loving Christmas memories last a lifetime.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014