For Better or Worse, Every Christmas is Memorable

For Better or Worse, Every Christmas is Memorable

I was asked to share my most memorable Christmas a few weeks ago — a gift or a memory — and I just couldn’t do it.

I just couldn’t narrow it down. When did I realize that Santa Claus wasn’t real? It was at age two if you believe my mother, and I do.

She had spent money that my parents really didn’t have to buy a Santa suit so my dad could provide their firstborn with a private audience with St. Nick. Although technically, Santa would visit my sister Marla, too. At four-months old, I doubt they anticipated that a visit from Santa would generate much of a response from her, beyond a burp.

I doubt they had anticipated my response upon seeing Santa for the first time, either, which was … “Daddy!”

They had the suit, the beard and even the wig (it was Sears-Roebuck’s deluxe model). What they didn’t have was white eyebrows to cover up my dad’s thick black ones.

Even a two-year-old knows Santa’s eyebrows are white.

I did try to believe, but honestly, I never did. I liked the idea, but I knew all along that my parents were buying me the gifts, and I was fine with it.

Same with the tooth fairy. As long as a 50 cent piece showed up under my pillow sometime during the night, I didn’t much care who made the delivery. Tooth fairy, tooth troll, FedEx, whatever.

The best gift I ever received? I can’t narrow it down to the top 10. A set of children’s encyclopedias and a book case. A pair of plastic high-heels and a dress-up dress. A set of dishes, a play stove and refrigerator. An Easy Bake Oven. A sno-cone maker. A wood-burning kit. A portable record-player, a set of albums and a membership in the Columbia House record-of-the-month club.

Who could eliminate any of those?

A sentimental favorite, of course, was anything from my grandmother, even if it were a handkerchief or a pair of socks (which it always was) because it meant so much for her to be able to give us anything.

Christmas memories? My mother making divinity candy, which none of us even liked. Plus, it messed up the television.

In the “good old days,” electric mixers scrambled television signals as efficiently as egg whites. And as divinity candy required the sustained beating of egg whites on high speed, it put a damper on our television viewing pleasure.

There was nothing worse than watching an episode of “The Fugitive,” while Mother was making divinity. Why she didn’t make it during the day, while we were at school instead of waiting until Dr. Richard Kimble was about to catch up with the mysterious one-armed man, I never knew. And it didn’t do any good to complain, either, or let out a disgusted sigh.

Her response was always “I don’t want to hear a word out of you!”

No, she didn’t care if an innocent man, a doctor no less, had spent years eluding Lt. Gerard and was now about to win his freedom!

That there was no Santa, I figured out at age 2. That there was never a chance that Richard Kimble would ever really catch the one-armed man or be imprisoned until the last episode of the last season, took a while longer.

Another Christmas tradition was “picture day.” My mother would spend the day fixing our hair — a tedious and extremely uncomfortable process, especially if she decided to give us a fresh perm.

I received my first Toni home permanent before the age of 2, if you believe my mother, and I do. She admits now that she can’t decide which was more remarkable — that she gave an 18-month-old child a permanent or that an 18-month old child sat there and let her do it.

We can prove it happened. We’ve got the pictures.

And then there was the year I played Mary in the Nativity scene at Oakland Methodist Church. I was chosen to play the part over my arch-enemy. I had brown hair, and she didn’t.  Plus, my mother made all the costumes. My most vivid memory of that night was my little sister Sharla stealing the limelight by pulling pieces of hay out of the manger and chewing on it, like a little hick cherub.

There was also the Christmas my mother decided that we needed a fireplace. She ordered one from Montgomery-Ward’s catalog. It was made from cardboard, as was the “fire.” A wheel of tin, set in motion by the heat of a light bulb, provided the “flames.” I thought it was really, really, tacky, although I did enjoy sitting in the dark after everyone else had gone to bed, watching the “fire.”

Sitting in the glow of a Christmas tree, enjoying the solitude. Getting up in the wee hours, stumbling into the living room to see what Santa brought — for me and my sisters or for my kids. Listening to my mother and her sisters laugh as they sat at my grandmother’s kitchen table and now listening to my mother and sisters laugh as we sit around hers.

Every Christmas is a memorable one for me, even if it isn’t perfect. Or maybe especially so.


Double Divinity

  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, syrup, water and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Cook ver medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. If sugar crystals from on sides of pan, wipe them off. Reduce heat and cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches the firm ball stage (248 degrees.)

Just before mixture reaches 248 degrees, beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Slowly pour about half of the hot mixture over the egg whites beating constantly with electric mixer at medium speed. Continue to cook remaining syrup to a soft crack stage (272 degrees). Beating constantly, pour hot mixture, a tablespoon at a time, over egg whites, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until mixture begins to lose its gloss and a small amount dropped from a spoon holds soft peaks. Mix in vanilla. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper. Food coloring can be added with vanilla, as can 1 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.