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This time of year brings so many memories. Most are sweet. I’ll share a few of these with you now.
One of my earliest memories is of making my little angel ornament. I am told I was only three when I made it, but the memory is quite clear. We made them at church. This angel is made out of paper. The teacher had us glue feathers for her wings, and took over from there. She is simply closed in the back and a string is looped through her halo. Every year, my little (50-something) angel gets a place of honor on my tree.
Another very early memory involves the song, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” The song is an African/American spiritual. It’s an unbelievably sweet song. There was a soprano soloist in our church (I believe her name was Jean Merchant) who sang this song one Christmas Eve service when I was only about 5 or 6 years old. I vividly remember hearing the words and bursting into tears. I was in the front of the church with the other children as we had done our song earlier in the service. My poor dad had to run up, pick me up, and hurry down the side aisle of the church. I do remember everyone being very nice to me after that and saying how sweet I was. (Well, when I was that little, I guess I was.) Years later Mrs. Merchant asked me if I remembered it. Of course, I did. She said that was the best compliment she’d ever had for her singing.
My family had some unusual traditions, too. According to my family, Santa’s elves brought the Christmas tree just before Christmas. The tree was, supposedly, some form of reporting device. It was an early form of nanny cam. Santa is so busy right before Christmas, that he uses reporting devices (elves and Christmas trees) as the final word on who was “naughty or nice.” We couldn’t decorate the tree until Christmas Eve so that it could do it’s job reporting. Now, where on earth did THAT tradition come from? Pretty diabolical, if you ask me. Have you ever heard of this?
Like many families, we would decorate the outside of our house with colored lights. My dad was quite particular about how the lights should be strung and in what color order. Getting the lights up on the house was always something of an ordeal, but it was a great honor to be able to help. One year, we had a color wheel on the front porch, too. Our house was white, so the color wheel (if you’re old enough, you might remember these wheels being used with aluminum Christmas trees) would turn the front of the house, red (well, pink), blue, yellow and green.
Christmas in St. Petersburg always meant lots of colored lights. The “Million Dollar Pier” (which was a WHOLE lot of money back when the original pier was built) had trees on each side of the road. The pier sticks out into Tampa Bay. The original pier was a beautiful Spanish-style building that had many interesting stories around it. I’ve heard that there was even a casino in it in the early years. The “new” pier is nothing like the beautiful original. It’s an ugly, upside-down pyramid – but I digress. The city’s service groups and many of the businesses sponsored trees on the pier. They would be covered in colored lights and had signs with the sponsors’ names lit up at the base of each tree. It was quite a big deal to drive downtown and out to the pier. The Vinoy Basin Park would also have lots of lighted decorations and, sometimes, a live nativity.
One house that was a “must see” was Doc Webb’s house. Doc Webb owned Webb’s City. Webb’s City was “The World’s Largest Drug Store.” It had started out as a pharmacy way back, but it became a multi-storied precursor to WalMart. You could buy just about anything imaginable (including baby alligators) and go visit the “live” mermaids. Talk about a tourist trap… Every year, though, Doc Webb’s house got more and more elaborate in its Christmas décor. It started with a revolving mirror ball (more than 20 years before disco). It evolved into another live nativity with thousands of colored lights, huge standing decorations, and the ubiquitous mirror ball.
I still have one favorite Christmas present. I got this present in 1979 from my sister. What could have been so memorable? It was a little, white kitten with a huge black smudge on his head. The first thing Sambuca (shortened to Sam) did was climb my mother’s Christmas tree going after a lizard. Sam became my best buddy for a long, long time. We had many memorable moments. I’ll tell you more about Sam (and the rest of the kitty menagerie we used to have) in a later post. Sam lived to be 19 years old. I miss him to this day.
Another of my best memories involving Christmas came in 1985. That was the first Christmas Jim and I had together. We planned to go cut our own Christmas tree from a farm in Georgia. Wouldn’t you know it, Jim came down with a terrible cold, but he wouldn’t let that ruin our quest for our first tree. I didn’t realize at the time that he was even running a fever. We did find a beautifully shaped cedar tree. It was cut down and brought home. Jim got the lights on the tree then went to bed (poor guy was sick for several days afterward). I got the rest of the decorations on except for the star which had to wait for the tall person to get out of the bed. I’m not sure how it happened, but that tree managed to drop a seed outside our house and the rest of our years in Georgia, our first Christmas tree’s scion grew tall near the front steps. I’d like to think it’s still there today.
I could go on and on (I see you out there nodding in agreement), but I’m cutting this post off here. I hope you’ll share some of your Christmas memories with us! Simply click on the “Respond” button at the bottom of this post and add your memories.
Up Next: What do You Do for New Year’s Eve?