Monday, December 18, 2006

Remembering Christmases Past - Part 3

This is the third and final installment of my memoirs about Christmases past, Part 1 covers my childhood memories, Part 2 covers my memories as a young adult, and Part 3 covers my memories as a parent.


We bought our first house on Otay Mesa in South San Diego late 1971 and then moved to our present house on Via Trieste in Chula Vista in 1975. Lori was born in 1974 and Tami came along in 1976, so our Christmases became even more happy and fun.

As the girls progressed from being babies to toddlers to children and to teenagers, the Christmas gifts became more sophisticated - from squeeze toys to dolls to playhouses to games to miniature kitchen appliances to bicycles to sports equipment to cars, plus clothes -- we enjoyed shopping for our girls.

Decorating the Christmas Tree was fun when the girls were small. We would all go pick out a tree, then they would help me put it on the stand and string the lights. Then Linda and the girls would hang the ornaments on the tree. Often, they made popcorn strings or paper chains to decorate the tree. When the girls were young, each year my mother gave them copper enamel angel ornaments with their names on them – priceless handmade treasures. They were put on the tree with care. Then one year Linda decided the whole tree should have only angel ornaments, and that persisted for years, sometimes over the objections of the girls.

On Christmas Eve, we would go to church, then come home and read Christmas stories and set cookies and milk out for Santa. There were often gifts for me to put together on Christmas Eve after the girls went to bed, and sometimes I worked into the wee hours to get them finished. Bicycles and kitchen play sets are my fondest memories.

Then hearing the patter of little feet around 6 AM on Christmas morning, followed by shrieks and laughter and hugs and two excited little girls jumping up and down on our bed wanting us to come open presents before breakfast. And we always did. One year when they were very young, we had Christmas Day a day early because we were flying off to visit the Leland grandparents on Christmas Day.

Every other year we would travel to San Francisco to celebrate Christmas with Linda’s parents, Lee and Edna Leland (“Papa Lee and Mama Lee”), and her brother, Paul. Usually we would fly on Christmas Day and return before New Years Day. Occasionally we drove up and returned after New Years. It was wonderful for the girls to be with their grandparents, who showered them with gifts and hugs and kisses. We would always go down to the beach and walk on the sand, drive around looking at the lights, and often went to the homes of Linda’s aunts and uncles to visit. When the girls were teenagers, we drove to Yosemite for some snow fun on year on our way home. When we did not go to San Francisco, the Lelands came to San Diego to enjoy Christmas at our house.

When we were in town on Christmas Eve, we usually attended the 7 PM church service, but sometimes went to the 11 PM service. At the early service, the Christmas Story was told in song and drama, and I would usually play the part of one of the Three Kings – presenting a gift to the Christ child. Tami was an Angel in this drama for several years. Afterward, we would drive around Chula Vista to Christmas Tree Circle and Christmas Tree Lane to see the lights and displays.

After my father died in 1983, my mother or one of the three boys hosted the family Christmas dinner and gift exchange. When we planned to go to San Francisco, this dinner was usually on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve. Besides the usual talk of sports and work and kids, there were usually friendly and spirited competitions of “tossing the pea in the glass” or “tossing the rolled-up napkin in the cup.” My mother would take offense at her aging barbarian boys ruining the spirit of the day – I think the wives just tolerated it as “men being boys” and the grandkids thought it was fun – rooting on their dads and eventually wanting to compete themselves.

Now our girls are married with wonderful husbands and beautiful children – darling little ones so full of energy and love, bright-eyed and happy - just like their mothers were at that age. They have homes of their own away from San Diego, and we try to visit them every other year at Christmas. This usually means a two week long road trip because we also visit Linda’s brother in the Bay area.

We exchange gifts, but the most meaningful gift for me is the time spent with them – talking, listening, sharing, enjoying, seeing their warm nests and being with them and the grandchildren. I imagine that is what my parents and grandparents were thinking while we were growing up!


Unfortunately, Christmas is the one time of the year that I don't put in the yearly Christmas family letter, so specific memories are missing for many years. This is when I wish I had the patience and the persistence to write a daily journal. One of the reasons for this blog was to try to document my genealogy and family life, so I may write about this Christmas time after we return from our trip to see the family - we leave tomorrow!

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