Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Christmas," from HOME IS WHERE...

         Now, Christmas was special. Dad would bring the boxes of lights and ornaments. They would get a real tree, and we would proceed to untangle the lights. When we finished, we said the same thing every year, "This is the best tree ever!"

         How every year this tree never went up in flames is a miracle because we had big, hot lights on all day. It is a wonder.

         I'm sad that I never took any of the Christmas ornaments and decorations from our home before Mom sold it. There were so many old decorations that Mom had put out year after year. I remember Dad bringing down from the closet the same big box that held all the decorations. The tree lights were always a tangled mess, because each year after Christmas we would be in a hurry to get done. We would just throw them in the box. The tinsel effect on the tree was similar. We would start putting on the tinsel one strand at a time, then get bored, and just start throwing it at the tree.

         My mom said her favorite Christmas song was "Silver Bells." Her favorite singer, Bing Crosby, whom everyone said our uncle Eddie resembled. Mom had one dressy dress she wore to every Christmas show at the school. It was black, long-sleeved, and had pearls on the front. She did not dress up too often, and neither did Dad, but when he did, he was very handsome.

         Another memory of Christmas is of Mom’s doing Christmas cards. She would devote the whole afternoon to this, doing 200 cards. Nobody does this now. We almost always got what we asked for: toys, games, and later, as we got older, clothes, jewelry, perfume, and records. One time we got diaries, but I didn't keep mine up.

         Christmas morning we would race to see what was under the tree, always lots, and Mom made sure we all got the same number of presents. One Christmas we asked for long-haired dolls. We got them. Mine had red hair. Nancy’s had blonde hair. Before anyone got up, we cut the hair. This is what we wanted them for, the hair, and boy did we get it. No, we were never hit, but we knew we had done wrong.

         Once shortly before Christmas, after Grandma had lain down to nap, the three of us got the closet key and went upstairs, got all the presents out, went into Doreen's room, unwrapped them, looked at them all, then rewrapped them, and put them back. It was the worst Christmas ever! We knew everything we were going to get and what we would not.

         There were always presents piled high---everything we asked for and sometimes things we didn’t. One Christmas, because I was afraid of the big pond, Santa brought me my own skating rink, only to have the neighborhood dogs run through it and ruin it before I could use it. We were so disappointed! I had to use my new skates on the “big pond,” but when I outgrew them, they had barely been used.

         We got new sleds, but preferred the long piece of tin with a curl in the front of it, from the old roof; it went like wildfire down the hill toward the railroad.

         It comes to mind when it was that I found out there was no Santa Claus. Aunt Jo and Uncle Connie were up for the holidays, and Mommy, Daddy, and the two of them were sitting around the kitchen table. We had gone to bed already. I got up to go to the bathroom; our room was across the hall from the kitchen. They didn't hear me open the door, and when I went out into the hall, Mommy was showing them the doll she had gotten me.

         I was confused, and I told Doreen.

         She said, "There is no Santa. It's Mommy and Daddy who will give us all of the presents."

         I remember I cried, but I didn't tell Nancy. It was great to still see the excitement in her eyes.


          We are serializing the memoir by Kathleen Blake Shields, Home is Where the Story Begins: Memoir of a Happy Childhood, published in 2015 by Outskirts Press, available from OP and online booksellers like and
         I am proud to have coached Kathy and to have edited her book. My writing-coaching-editing site is


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