headlines this year from the Simser household
Jenny backpacks Europe for 30 days; secures her first ‘real job’ as a Technology
Joel travels to the UK & to Paris and meets up with Jenny & Char at the end of
My friend and fellow writer Marie posted I wanna be five years old a day or so ago. Many of the things she mentioned made me smile and brought back warm memories of Christmases past. So rather than bore you with details of 2010, most of which I’ve mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, I’ll steal Marie’s idea and take you back in time with me…
When I was growing up we attended midnight mass every year. Who could forget High Mass, in Latin (later English-not nearly as mystical), and beautiful music? There was such anticipation on Christmas Eve because I knew that when we returned home around 1:30am after celebrating the birth of Christ, Santa would have visited the Newcomb household. Packages from Mom & Dad as well as from the man in the red suit were wrapped in pretty paper and under the tree. I always thought I was the lucky one. I got all the toys! Sister Carole & brother George were almost out of high school by the time I turned five. I got the sled, the games, and Barbie with clothes hand-made by Mom! (How did Santa get those from Mom?) I got clothes, too, like the big kids. (What else did you guys get? I was too wrapped up in being 5 to notice – is that typical?)
Dad was often the last minute Christmas shopper. I remember tagging along with him many a Christmas Eve to find Mom’s gift. Gadgets, new kitchen tools, were always on his list. I remember the year he bought Mom a microwave oven, the latest thing out on the market! He’d buy jewelry, too. Maybe George or Carole remember other things Mom received through the years.
Gifts unwrapped, we’d munch on Christmas goodies then climb into bed exhausted sometime after 3:00am. Well I would climb into bed then. I think Mom & Dad often stayed up even later. Maybe Carole and George did, too.
Fires blazed in the fireplace many years. I’m sure we had mild weather occasionally though I believe it was suitably cold most of the time. We never had a white Christmas in Spartanburg that I can recall, not that I didn’t stare out my window many a night hoping to see snowflakes fall. Christmas stockings hung over the fireplace filled to the brim with trinkets, nuts, and candies on Christmas morn.
I loved the smell of pine from a fresh Christmas tree from the Optimists’ lot – Dad always helped sell trees for the club. There were years he’d come home with a ‘deal’ – turn it just the right way and you’d never notice that bare spot! Oh Marie – the tinsel – ugh! I lost patience putting the silvery stuff on the tree and remember throwing a few handfuls toward it, hoping it would fall in all the right places. It usually ended up being big globs that Mom & Carole frowned about. When I moved out and put up my own tree I rarely used tinsel.
Cookies. A dozen kinds of Christmas cookies, often including those sticky, gooey, Italian ball-like ones that I never remember the name of. And fudge. There was always fudge set out on green and red poinsettia-shaped plates. Mom started all the baking and candy-making in October or November. Carole and I often participated in these adventures. Grandma Newcomb – who stayed with us when she wasn’t working for Judge Littlejohn – always helped. George, who journeyed off to Clemson U the year I turned six, must’ve been helping Dad with projects around the house. I don’t remember that he spent much time in the kitchen though he knows his way around one now!
The dining room table would be dressed for the holidays and decked out with the good china and silver, water and wine glasses, and Christmas napkins. Candles burned bright. Christmas music filled the air.
Mom always made lasagna for Christmas dinner. That was a tradition I continue today, much to my children’s delight. A huge pot of homemade spaghetti sauce would bubble on the stovetop by late morning. Mom not only made the best lasagna – I’ve never found any better at any restaurant – she made wonderful meatballs. We’d have Italian sausage – both sweet and spicy. Garlic bread. Salad. Wine (that Dad rarely drank). Ice tea – we lived in South Carolina after all – and lemonade. Ambrosia was often a popular 1st course. Occasionally Carole would talk Mom into making an antipasto plate. Mmmm…
I also recall the year a frigid arctic blast hit Spartanburg on Christmas Eve. We lost power and it was mighty cold. The guy from the power company was outside and restored our heat and lights just before midnight. I’m sure Mom sent him home with some of her homemade fudge. She always gave fudge as gifts to neighbors, the mailman, the milkman (when we had that service), her hairdresser, and many others. The priests and sisters at St. Paul’s were treated to fudge and pans of lasagna.
I remember the year Dad decided we would spend Christmas in New York with Mom’s family. There was always a huge gathering of the Natale clan but we’d never driven north for the holiday, probably because of the distance and weather threats. And, we never did it again after that attempt. An hour south of the Virginia border it started to snow. It was dark. Scary. It took several hours to drive what should have taken one. We ended up in a hotel that Christmas Eve. Six inches of snow on roads as far north as Richmond. Clear as a bell further north. We drove back to Spartanburg the next day. It was a very sad day for us all. I don’t think we even had lasagna that Christmas day.
Then there was the year I surprised everyone by retrieving an unwrapped and forgotten gift Mom had hidden in the far reaches of a bedroom closet. *looks aside innocently* I couldn’t let that snow-cone maker sit in that sad, dark space for months to come. It would’ve been lonely! Didn’t we all pick up wrapped presents and shake them? try to see if the tape wasn’t firmly attached to the paper – oh darn! look! I can see the side of the game box! Whoops!
We didn’t get everything we wanted of course. I don’t know how often Carole & I prayed that Dad would get us a horse. A real horse. Nope. Never happened. I never got Chatty Kathy and had to be content to play with my friend’s doll. I didn’t get an Easy-Bake Oven but I survived. I don’t think there have been any long-term detrimental effects. Barbie’s pink corvette saw me through.