This is the eleventh in a series of Christmas reflections.
Christmas night was for sitting around the kitchen table and raking through the still glowing, smoldering embers of the day’s celebration, sifting and examining the events for any conclusions that could be drawn. We would probably have been playing Missa Creole, the Argentinian Christmas tape that Noel had brought back with him from Dominguez. And did we really go see How the West Was Won, in December of 1962? I remember gathering at the kitchen table, perusing the newspaper with the drive-in movie section, and I remember going to see the movie. I just cannot believe that that event took place in 1962, even before President Kennedy was murdered. Is it possible that the movie was re-released at a later date? Can someone help me out here?
I seemed so young in November of 1963, but so old going with the big boys to see a movie on Christmas night. On the rare occasion when Clownie got to accompany the boys, I sat in the back by myself, while the three of them sat in the front. I had to take a lot of abuse to hang with the big boys, but I paid my dues without complaint, because it was obviously a two-way street, and one which was quite busy. I am sure that we went in the ’53 Plymouth, and that makes sense, because I used to ride on the floor of that car, right behind Pa, when we all piled in to go down and see Noel at Dominguez. That would have been in 1964, so it all works out.
Christmas night was memorable because it was one time in our lives when we could get away with bagging an extra piece of dessert pie, or even coffee cake, except for the fact that we were still too stuffed from the Holiday dinner to be able to make our way over to where the deserts were kept to indulge. Big sigh.
Christmas night was for piling into the Plymouth at some point and driving up to Pete Hill, overlooking our neck of the woods. We went to see the lights, twinkling in the clear December night, but we also went because we could. It was about getting out of the house and establishing precedent. That time period in the late sixties and early seventies, featured a number of expeditions up into the San Gabriel Mountains, or to the Palm Springs Tramway. Any number of additional guests might have accompanied us on these expeditions, and it was all good.
When we were younger, bedtimes were extended in the general aura of benevolence that descended on the house on Christmas. There may have been a Christmas special on TV, one of the variety shows or a Charlie Brown Christmas. If not the television, then surely the stereo would have been playing Holiday fare. We had new games to explore, decks of cards available if we wanted to play pinochle or poker, and there were always new books to read.
At some point hot apple cider was introduced onto the scene, and that became a Christmas night custom. Looking around the living room on Fellowship Street on Christmas night , was a comfortable experience. The immaculate house that had presented itself only twenty-four hours earlier, was a distant memory. The paper chains ringing the living room and both dining areas, were the only vestige of organization that remained. Though the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows had all been removed, either for recycling or burning, there was still plenty of evidence in sight, of what that wrapping paper and ribbons had been concealing.
From the jigsaw puzzle on the recently employed dining room table, to the “Go to the Head of the Class” board game alongside it, to the Color-by-Numbers painting, newly completed, and sitting out drying, the house reflected the day’s events. Whether we gathered in one place to play cards, or retreated to our respective quiet spots to immerse ourselves in individual occupations, the feeling was one of great success, with the emotional letdown still too far away on the horizon to be an immediate factor.
A year’s wait had proven well worth it, as we had indulged in all of the trappings of an enthusiastic and appropriate Holiday celebration. For one day of the year, frivolity and fun took over the front seat, and blue collar values and a hard work ethic were set aside. In fact we stored both in the trunk on Christmas Day and simply taped a big bow on it. Come back tomorrow hard work, but leave us alone tonight. We’re busy.