There are no memories I treasure more than childhood memories of the holidays with my family. There were some things that were always going to happen.
We would pick Aunt Pinkie and Uncle Henry up from Love Field Airport. She would have a pumpkin roll (or two) in her luggage (click here for the recipe). She would also have with her (or maybe she mailed them ahead) her spiced pecans (click here to read more about our love of pecans). Some years she even included homemade divinity candy, each topped with a pecan half from their backyard pecan tree.
Aunt E would make turkey and dressing as well as her deviled eggs plate with olives, stuffed celery, and pickles. The last Christmas that Aunt E was with us, she sat in the kitchen and watched me make the deviled eggs while coaching me (always the teacher) as I progressed.
Aunt E, Aunt Pinkie or Aunt Clare would make chocolate pie and other sides like sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and whatever else they fancied. Since all the aunts and my mom were teachers, they usually had a few new recipes that other co-workers had shared.
My mom would make pecan pie, fudge, and a couple of salads. Usually the pink marshmallow salad and the vegetable layer salad (the one with the layer of mayo in the middle). My mom professed that she was not a cook. She was happy to wash dishes and set the table.
While clean-up was in progress, the uncles and my dad usually fell asleep. Sometimes their naps were in front of the TV, on the couch or in a chair. They were lulled to sleep by the rattle of dishes and tin foil in the background.
When we were little we had a tinsel tree with a color changing wheel. Somewhere we may still have both, but I do not know where. We have lots of photos with our toys in front of the tinsel tree. Then my mom purchased one of the green trees that had individual limbs that were color coded on the trunk as to where they were to be placed. Along with the tree came all the decorations which were mostly felt figures such as Santa and elves. They are still in an old electric popcorn popper box in a closet. And I still have the tree as well!
My mom always took us for photos with Santa, and she always purchased two copies. Once we were grown she would set them around the house as part of the holiday decorations. I was usually showing my underpants and crying while my sister looked at me in embarrassment. The Santas were pros and seemed to not notice as they cheerfully looked into the camera lens.
If we were celebrating Christmas at my Grandma’s (my dad’s mom) in Sulphur Springs, it was a big family and my sister and I had to sit at the children’s table, which meant we missed out on the interesting conversations. The bonus was there was no one to stop us from sneaking more dessert or dressing! Grandma cooked the turkey and dressing, and daughters and daughters-in-law cooked dishes to augment.
One Christmas Grandma had a new burglar alarm system. For some reason it was on while we had our lunch. When one of the guys took the trash out, they set it off. No one thought to call the police, and soon enough two officers appeared. Grandma would not let them leave until they each had a plate of food. I think she gave them a hug and a kiss on the cheek as was her custom with anyone who visited the house.
There were always photos taken to commemorate the day. Photos at Grandma’s house were usually in front of the fireplace, whereas at Aunt E’s house they tended to be outside (better lighting per my photographer cousin). We do not always remember to take photos at holidays now, which we regret later when we think of it. Those old photos are great reminders of our youth and the loved ones who are no longer here to celebrate the holidays with us.
It is funny that I don’t really recall many gifts I received (unless there was a story to it, like the TV my mom tried to hide under the dining table – although she told us not to peek…but I had to!). My memories are the experiences, the food, the traditions, the smells, and the warm, loving feeling I felt from being with my family.
What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories? Was it a food or tradition? Do you recreate those memories for your children?
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