This memory is pure nostalgia - a definite blast from my long ago past! (David's probably relieved that I'm writing about my early childhood this time instead of his:)
When I was very young, we'd always go to my grandparents house for Christmas and, like many children I suppose, to me their house was magical and somewhat mysterious. For one thing, we lived in the city and they lived in the country. For another they had rented a house on a farm so while they didn't have to take care of the cows, we kids saw them whenever we went out there. They also had the standard barn with loft and we spent quite a bit of time playing out there - even getting trapped in the loft when the cows came home, literally, sooner than we expected. Being from the city, none of us kids wanted to climb down and run the gauntlet of Bessie, Buttercup and so on... So my older siblings tried (without success) to convince me to do it, assuring me that I was so small the cows would never notice me and that all I had to do was go get grandma and she would come shoo the cows out of the barn. I wouldn't budge so there we perched until grandma noticed that it was awfully quiet around the house and she figured out what had probably happened.
Another thing that made my grandparent's house special was the fact that they had a huge old-fashioned fireplace and hearth in a high ceiling-ed, somewhat drafty house. We kids used to bump each other from "hogging" the fire, standing first one way and then another in front of it as if we were human marshmallows roasting on an open fire.. ha!
And then, of course, there was the basement which was dank, dark and scary. And the attic which could only be reached by lowering a ladder into the main hallway (right next to the big hall closet where Grandpa kept a huge "switch" that he threatened us with but never used). And of course, we spent hours playing in the attic where a kid could get splinters if they weren't careful where they sat =/ and the occasional Grand Daddy Long Legs spider could send us girls shrieking to the ladder for protection. (We were always assured that the creatures were non-poisonous, perfectly harmless. It wasn't until a few months ago that I learned they contain as much poison as a pit viper but are harmless simply because their mouths are too small to bite anyone with. Obviously, this was back in the days before Bill Nye the Science Guy...)
This farm house was the best place to spend Christmas, bar none, in my humble opinion. My grandfather loved Christmas and a week or so before the big day, he would go looking for the perfect tree - one that was huge and full at the base and that also tapered to a height of at least six feet, preferably higher because he really preferred for it to touch the ceiling. And he always found one! He loved multi-color lights - something that I inherited from him and even though I know white lights are more elegant, today I still go for the more jumbled red, blue, green, and yellow effect just because... that was Christmas to me way back when.
It was at his house where I used to stand on tiptoe to watch the "bubblers" magically produce their bubbles up and down their long red and green glass stems. And where I also learned that sometimes magical, beautiful things are meant to be enjoyed from afar:) (Those bubblers were hot to little, sticky fingers!) And of course, since there were no LED's back then and Grandpa always had a live tree, we had to turn the bubblers off periodically to make sure they didn't set the tree on fire.
And the gifts my grandparents gave were always special, none of the socks-and-underwear variety. We got toys! The best they could afford! But even the adult gifts were sometimes fascinating to us children. One such gift has come back to my mind over and over again. To me, it was the most magical of all -even better than our toys (probably because I was forbidden to touch it...).
Since we've gotten the internet, I've periodically hunted for some hint of this wondrous invention but until tonight, I never could google in the right words to pull it up. For those who can't remember the fifties - which I suppose is most of the American population.. :), the key phrase is Forest Fire Motion Lamp! Grandpa had one of those and so did my parents - who gave what to whom I can't remember. But I do remember hanging onto the edge of a table at Grandpa's, watching flames on that cylinder table lamp move without going anywhere! While a bear forever stood on the brink of water that also moved ...without moving! I'm not trying to be sacrilegious when I say that Moses couldn't have been any more in awe of the burning bush than I was of that burning forest fire! There's no telling how long I watched that thing, wondering when the fire would reach the bear :) (Don't worry; it never did!:) Even to this day, I can hear my grandpa explaining that the forest animals were fleeing to the water to escape the fire, which seemed pretty darn smart for a bunch of furry creatures because I never would have thought of that!
At any rate, below I've included a picture and video of the most wonderful lamp in the world...:)
One other thing that my grandfather had was a book case that was about shoulder height. On the top shelf he kept a series of diaries. Each night he would write about the day's events while I danced around a floor lamp near his chair.
I don't have all of them - mostly I have his diaries from WWII and the years right after, several years before I was born. It seems fitting to end this blog with some accounts of Christmases way past from his diaries.
Dec. 25th 1941. Sybil [my mom] went with group to sing Christmas carols at 4 a.m. Went out to Walter and Jewel's [his sister and brother-in-law] for dinner. Gave them a small present and left some for the Grovers. Santa gave to Mother [my grandmother]: gloves, gown, hose, handkerchiefs, apron. To Sybil: graphaphone record, necklace, theater coupon book, pajamas, shoes, hose. To Gerald [my uncle]: shirt, tie, tie pin, record, tennis balls, socks. To me: shirt, 3 ties, handkerchief, diary. Hongkong fell today.
Dec. 21, 1945. [Although the war was over, my uncle, Gerald, was still overseas and my mom and dad were living in Minott, N. Dakota waiting for dad to be sent overseas]. Received letters from Gerald and Sybil. He sent us 10.00 to buy Christmas presents for ourselves. Gen. George Patton dies in Germany from injuries received in car wreck several days ago. 25% of school children in Little Rock down with flu according to the paper. Sybil called about 9:15 and we talked to both her and Richard. She said that she was homesick.
Dec. 15, 1949. [My sister, Ina Marie, was a year old]. Ina [my grandmother] spent day at Sybil's. Telephone man came out, said that a pole had to be put in before they could install phone. Garland and Pearl out after supper, he finished the installation of their door chimes. They were well-pleased with them. Took Sybil and Ina Marie to the store where I bought a doll and a toy watch for the little girl. She was tickled with Susie the 3rd or is it Susie the 4th? Watch - no go...