Saturday, December 16, 2006

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 2

This is a continuation of my Christmases Past memories - the first part was here.


During the 1950's and 1960's, we would visit Aunt Emily’s (Emily (Richmond) Taylor, a widow by then) house in Kensington (a San Diego neighborhood) every Christmas season. She was my father’s aunt, and she had a daughter Dorothy who was married to Marshall Chamberlain (called “Chuck” by everybody but Dorothy and Emily); Marshall and Dorothy had a daughter, Marcia, who had been my mother’s student at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in the early 1940’s. This was the only Seaver-related family we had in San Diego. The trip to their house was dreaded and anticipated – Dorothy was very non-traditional – she was an artist, a harpist, made her own tree ornaments, and cooked different dishes that we didn’t particularly like. This was also the only time we had to dress up in a shirt and tie. Emily fawned over us, and Chuck was gruff and ornery (in retrospect, a fun “uncle”).

The best part of the visit for us was playing in the backyard – they had a nice fish pond, some cats, and a big awning swing. We had great games of hide and seek there. They also subscribed to National Geographic, and I loved looking through them for pictures of naked women and to steal the maps. In retrospect, I think Chuck placed the really good issues on top where I could easily find them.

Another tradition that we really enjoyed during the 1950’s was the box of Christmas presents that arrived from the Seaver families in Leominster, Massachusetts. They were usually toys, board games for the boys and candy for the family, which we loved. These were sent without fail by our Grandmother Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (Emily’s sister), my father’s brother Ed (and wife Janet) Seaver and their sister Gerry Seaver.

As I grew older, I realized that the true spirit of Christmas meant that I should also give presents to my family. It was easy buying toys and sports gear for my brothers but it was a struggle to find appropriate gifts for my mother and father. Sometimes Stan and I would go together to buy a gift for both of them - I remember one year we bought a new mailbox for them.

During the fall and winter, we had the 'O' gauge Lionel train tracks set up through the living room and into our bedroom with many switches and crossovers. We (my dad, myself, my two brothers) would take turns trying to crash our trains into the other guy's train at high speed. The track layout was elaborate, but the decoration was nil. It was all about speed and crashes, and was competitive. For several years, our Christmas presents included new train track and boxcars and engines.

After I moved out on my own in 1968, and married Linda in 1970, I now had someone else to do the hard work of shopping for the family, and she did it extremely well. We usually went to the 30th Street house for Christmas Eve dinner and gifts with Mom and Dad, Stan and Sheryl, Scott, Gram and Gramps. I usually shopped only for Linda – mainly nice clothes, fine jewelry and kitchen things. I always enjoyed this shopping – the giving part was more fun for me. Of course, once she started her angel collection, the challenge was finding new and better angels for her.


I'll finish next time with my family memories on Monday.

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