Waiting for Christmas: A Childhood Memory and Christmas Gift for My Friends
Hello, Friends! Christmas week is here…and the whole world is waiting for Christmas! It’s been such a busy year here in the studio. We’ve had lots of crafty adventures together, told stories, and shared our thoughts with one another. What a blessing this blog has been to me…and I hope to you as well.
We are all probably in the middle of last minute holiday preparations…wrapping presents, baking cookies, putting the finishing touches on all the things that make Christmas such a special time. We are busy, and perhaps even frazzled. So I thought I would invite you to slow down for a moment and breathe. So go grab a cuppa and a snack as I share one of my very favorite Christmas memories of waiting for Christmas with you.
Winter on the Hill
You’ve heard me talk many times about growing up “on the hill” in rural Vermont during the 50’s and 60’s. The picture attached to this post is the house I grew up in. I can remember trudging up that hill, the snow squeaking beneath my boots. Although wrapped up in layers of warm clothes, the icy cold still managed to sneak in and chill the bones. Eyes watered in the frigid air, and clouds of vapor appeared with every breath I took as I carried school books and lunch box up the hill.
About half way up, the yeasty aroma of Mom’s homemade bread or hamburger soup would tickle my nostrils. This always made me walk a little bit faster, knowing that warmth and good food were waiting for me at the top. Stamp the snow off your feet before you open the door, please. Take off your boots and put them on the mat so they don’t make salty puddles on Mom’s freshly mopped floor. Hang up your coat, hat, mittens and scarf so they’ll be dry the next time you have to go out. And now you can grab a thick slice of that heavenly bread, slather it with margarine (no butter in our house) brew a cup of tea and take the chill off.
Most of the families who lived in and around our tiny town worked in the granite industry. The quarries operated year-round, regardless of the weather. I can still picture the men walking down the hill with their hard hats and lunch boxes in tow. Some worked in “the hole”, some ran the huge derricks that lifted the massive blocks of granite out of the quarry. The “sheds” used diamond tipped blades to cut the stone into huge slabs. There were other sheds where the slabs were fashioned into beautiful headstones and monuments. A few men….like my dad…worked in the office.
Christmas Day was a paid holiday, and the men got a half day off for Christmas Eve. This is when the company handed out a cash Christmas bonus along with a turkey for the family to enjoy. When the noon whistle blew, we knew my dad would leave work, get in the car and drive to town to do his Christmas shopping.
We were fairly giddy with excitement and anticipation at this point, We must have driven my mom to distraction with all our attempts to snitch a bit of her cookie dough or shake the presents under the tree.
It was a small house, and we were a big family. There was no heat in the upstairs rooms except for the warmth that managed to drift up there through the grates that were installed in the ceiling. So we basically lived in the kitchen and the living room during those cold winter months. Inevitably, our antics drove mom to pronounce, “That’s it! Bundle up and go play outside!”
Waiting for Christmas…a Green Christmas
This was usually a punishment that we could live with. But the Christmas of 1969 was a rare “green” Christmas. We had no snow. Which meant no sledding, no snow forts, no snowball fights, no making a snowman. Although the trees were bare and the air was cold, there was no blanket of snow to cover the green grass. It just didn’t seem like Christmas.
It begins to get dark around 3:30 in the afternoon in December, and that’s when the street lights would come on. We had one half way up the hill, and another at the top near our house. When they flickered on, we trudged into the house, somewhat more subdued after romping around in the yard.
Inside the warm house, we watched out the window for the flicker of the headlights on Dad’s car. If he didn’t get home from his shopping soon, we would burst with the agony of anticipation! Finally, we saw him come round the curve and we squealed with excitement! Dad was bringing Christmas home in the trunk of that car.
“Go upstairs and get dressed for church while I help your father carry things in, ” was Mom’s next directive. And we scurried up the stairs, our ears attentive to the rustling sound of packages being carried in.
Every Christmas Eve we attended services at the Presbyterian church “down in Lower Graniteville.” The simple white structure was about a mile from our house. Every Christmas Eve they held a candlelight service. The ladies of the church decked it out in Christmas greenery, and it smelled like the piney woods.
As we walked from the parking lot to the front door of the church, it didn’t seem like Christmas Eve. No snow. Green grass. Bare sidewalks. We were handed a small white candle poked through a paper circle to catch the drip of candle wax along with the bulletin as we entered the nave.
We sang the beautiful Christmas hymns, endured the pastor’s mercifully short re-telling of the Christmas story from the book of Luke, And then the magical moment arrived at the end of the service. The ushers turned out the lights and lit one candle at the end of each front pew. Then we passed the light from candle to candle until the whole sanctuary glowed with the golden light while we sang “Silent Night, Holy Night…all is calm, all is bright.” Jesus, the Light of the World, filled my heart with joy and my eyes with tears. It was a holy, hushed moment I will treasure all my life.
Then down into the church basement to watch “The Night Before Christmas” movie, eat a sugar cookie and take home a popcorn ball that the church ladies lovingly made for each child in the congregation.
Let it Snow…and snow and snow and snow!
The ushers opened the front doors of the church, and to our amazement…the grass was covered in white! Snow was swirling everywhere, coming down hard and fast. We drove back up the hill, and my father said, “I think we are in for an old fashioned blizzard.”
And he was right. It snowed while we opened our presents and continued to snow all that night. When we woke up to open our stockings on Christmas Day, it was still snowing. And it snowed all day long and into the night. By the next morning, there was so much snow that no one could get up the hill. Even the snowplows were silent. It snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed, and by the time the storm passed over, we had more than 3 feet of snow on the ground!
Even the quarry was shut down! So Dad did not have to go back into work the day after Christmas! We played games and munched on the treats from our stockings and enjoyed being snowed in. This was a magical Christmas that I will never forget.
It was also the very last Christmas that Dad was with us. In the spring of 1970, he suffered a fatal heart attack. So that snowy extended holiday with him was a gift from Heaven. We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but looking back, I think maybe God sent that big storm to snow us in and give us extra time together as a family so we would have the warmth and joy of that last Christmas to carry in our hearts forever.
As you are waiting for Christmas, you might enjoy seeing some of my past winter projects to get you in the proper frame of mind.
Your cuppa is probably needing a refill by now, so I will close. I wish every one of you a memorable, joyful, light-filled, love-filled, hope-filled Christmas.
Thanks for stopping by!