Yesterday the first installment of my 12 Christmas Memories meme revolved a lot around my grandmother. Yes, that wonderful lady was always a big part of what made Christmas so special, and here are some more family memories.
3. Christmas Lights with Pap Pap
You may remember my grandfather from this post. There I mentioned he was curmudgeonly, but if there was one thing that melted his heart in addition to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it was Christmas.
Lights in particular.
I don’t really know when it became tradition, but for as long as I can remember, every year around the big day, an hour or so after dinner to make sure everyone had their lights on but weren’t in bed yet, my Pap Pap and I would drive around the area admiring all the displays–and yes, I do mean DISPLAYS of lighted trees, reindeer, Santas, bear, snowmen, candy canes, wishing wells, you name it and someone within a 20-mile radius had it on the lawn or hanging off the house.
We never did the outside of our house quite so Griswoldesque (no complaints from me on that one!) but I always appreciated the time and effort that others put into it.
And that was something I shared with my Pap Pap, every year in fact.
4. Christmas Eve Footsteps
Remember yesterday when I talked about the Christmas Eve tradition in which everyone came to my grandparents’ house after church?
Well 1998 was our first holiday season without my grandfather who had passed away that June, and it was business as usual at the house on Christmas Eve. My brother and I were seated side by side at the table, eating more than necessary I’m sure.
Suddenly, simultaneously, he and I turned our heads toward the back door to our right, expecting someone to come in. We had obviously both heard a noise outside, but didn’t say anything–I figured it was the wind, and I’m sure he did as well–and just went back to eating and talking.
A few minutes later, our heads did the same thing toward the door, and when no one came in, my brother looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“Did you hear that?”
I sure did.
Nearly together we blurted out that we had heard twice, minutes apart, the unmistakable sound of someone stomping snow off of their shoes on our wooden back porch, preparing to come into the house. Something that was pretty connected to our grandfather in both our minds; he certainly never entered the house quietly in the winter.
Only that night, there was no one there.
No one that we could see anyway.
5. Dad’s Family Movie Light
Last year for Christmas, my brother and his wife got our old family movies transferred to DVD. Honestly it’s rather strange to me that my family even has these because it’s just so out of character–hard to explain why but it’s in the “We’re *so* not The Waltons” category. Trust me. It’s odd.
Anyway, from 1970 to 1980, our family is documented. I had never seen any of the movies before they were on DVD, and watching them for the first time was so emotional for so many reasons that I’ll probably write more about that at some point. But right now, sticking on-topic, the point is that one of my favorite Christmas memories has to do with my dad’s documenting those family moments.
Every time he wanted to take video, he also had to set up a huge, blinding spotlight alongside the camera for adequate lighting. And so, my every early childhood memory of a major event involves squinting into the exaggerated beam, feeling its heat envelop me, and fighting the urge to just look away, pout, and throw a tantrum. I used to be big on those.
And, lest you doubt it, Christmases were *the* main event of our family movies.
Every year up until I was probably five or six years old, I’d put on my (new) pajamas and get ready for my close-up. We made a literal production of hanging our stockings and putting out cookies and milk for Santa –and some pretty cute video emerged if I do say so myself.
And then Christmas morning? Rubbing the sleepies out of my eyes while plodding down the stairs, one hand on the railing to balance me?
And of course filming continued throughout gift opening, catching each and every ooh and aah face (no sound you know) along the way.
And that light was *always* on.
But now looking back, the shocking brightness doesn’t seem nearly so bad–the extremes always do fade with memory, don’t they? In fact after watching those movies, I kind of wish that light could make a comeback just for one more Christmas.
I’d even buy new pajamas for it.