Anne Eller offers this week’s Advent reflections as she shares her memories of Christmas when she was a child and her hopes for Christmas at this stage in her life.
My parents took the four of us children to town for shopping—I remember going to the Roses five-and-dime to get cheap presents—hose for Mom, work gloves for Dad. On the way, we looked at all the amazing lights on the houses and sang Christmas carols, Mom taking the lead in the front seat of the car. “Oh Holy Night” and “Silent Night” reminded us of the baby Jesus, while “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” gave us visions of presents brought by Santa—a confusing mix typical of our western culture. We looked at the stars and conjectured about the star that hung over the manger where Jesus lay, and wondered if it would snow for Christmas, which it rarely did in this southern U.S. town.
I didn’t’t really know it then, but we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on store-bought gifts for people outside the family. Mom filled the house with baking smells of treats for gift giving—something she didn’t do much during the rest of the year. Lady fingers—full of butter and pecans and covered with powdered sugar—that would melt in your mouth. Boiled cookies made of chocolate, peanut butter and oatmeal with just the right slightly crumbly texture—since then I have seen them called “mud pies” or “cow piles,” terrible names for a special treat. Banana nut bread wrapped up in saran wrap and bows to give to neighbors and friends. I stuck my finger on the ribbon so it wouldn’t slip while Mom tied the bow. And licked the envelopes and stamps for Christmas cards as they were signed and names crossed off the list.
Songs from Christmas albums filled the house—a medley on a two-album collection ordered from Readers Digest magazine. One of the best Christmas presents I received as an adult is a cassette tape that Dad made of the old scratchy albums. Christmas does not come for me with Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, but with carols and instrumentals by unknown choruses and orchestras from “A Treasury of Christmas,” which I play on my still operational cassette player as I decorate my own house for Christmas.
Ann’s memories will continue tomorrow…
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