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Ghosts of Christmas Past

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By Leah | Dec 20, 2017

Christmas is upon us once again. It seems that only yesterday we were preparing for Christmas 2016. Where does the time go? As I get ready for the big day, my mind wanders back to all the Christmases of the past.

Christmas is much different today than it used to be. The celebrations were more traditional, with fewer frills, and more emphasis on family. Presents were different too. Most were handmade, and might only consist of a stocking with fruit, homemade cookies, and a few pieces of candy if you were lucky. I come from a long line of “pack rats,” so I still have a few of the actual gifts my father and his siblings received. Daddy was very sentimental. He passed them down over the years, and I have kept them safe in a cedar box. I take them out now and again just to savor the past, and to show the grandchildren how fortunate they really are. But are they? Just think of the love and care my grandfather put into carving that yo-yo, or making that sling shot. And as insignificant as the marbles or fan seem, my grandparents had to save up for those. That kind of love is better than picking up something at Walmart, or ordering from Amazon.

My favorite Christmas story is the one about my Aunt Alta’s doll. She wanted a doll more than anything, and all she had ever had were rag dolls made by my grandmother, or the tiny plastic one in the picture. One year, a peddler came to the Bruno Store and sold them several large porcelain dolls. My Aunt, who had just turned 12, spent many hours just staring at them and wishing with all of her heart for one. So Granny began to save part of her egg money, and Grandpa did some extra work at the forge, and the kind owner of the store put one doll back for them. A week before Christmas, they were able to pay for it, and Granny brought it home to hide it in her closet. Daddy and Aunt Alta were wild with joy. They suspected what was hidden there, and they begged and begged Granny to confirm their suspicions. At last, Christmas morning came. The doll was wrapped up in a blanket, and Aunt Alta carefully pulled her out. Then she just sat and hugged that doll and cried. Daddy said he didn’t remember what he got that year. He was just so happy for her.

Aunt Alta died two years later from complications of diabetes, and Granny sat the doll in her own bedroom. It remained there until her death, when I brought the doll home and put her in the high chair my grandfather had made for his daughter as a baby. I have loved Adele (Aunt Alta’s name for the doll) and cared for her all these years. Last Christmas I told the story to my grandchildren and asked that one of them promise to care for her after I am gone. My oldest granddaughter gave her word, so I know that the special Christmas gift will never be forgotten.

I have my own memories as well. I didn’t get many big toys as a child, but thanks to my Granny who lived with us, I always had a good Christmas. The only bill she contributed to was the monthly groceries, so she had lots of savings to spend on me at Christmastime. I still have my favorites in my library in as good a condition as I can keep them. I took great care of my toys because I knew they could not be replaced. They keep me company as I set in my library to read, or write, or study my Bible. And both my daughter and grandchildren have loved them and played with them as well.

My husband has his own fond memories of Christmases gone by. They were an Air Force family, so for the most part, gifts were kept small and mobile. He says his favorite gift was his GI Joe. His brother’s of course were toy airplanes. He says his mother always sat in the floor with them as they opened their gifts, just as excited to see their faces as they were to find out what was inside.

My grandchildren are very privileged. In fact, they have far more than they really need. And I am just as guilty in the giving. Every Christmas, they get a big toy, a book, a movie, and a craft kit from me. I often wonder if they will remember the simple awe of the gifts under the tree and the special memories I try to give them. Christmas was magic when my husband and I were small. There was no going to town and buying a toy just because you could. You had to wait all year for that special item you wanted so badly, then you held your breath knowing that you might not get it, if your parents could not afford it. And if you got it, you took extra care of it and valued it and it became a treasure. I think if we would go back to that, we would raise a better generation of children. And certainly create a whole new set of wonderful Christmas memories. May the ghosts of your Christmas past come to fill you with warmth and love this season. Merry Christmas everyone!

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