The Meaning

BungalowI always become a little nostalgic this time of year as the old Christmas songs and movies awakens the wonder I remember as I child. When I think of my childhood holidays, my mind takes me back to those spent in my parent’s Little Green Bungalow; as opposed to the several we spent later in my teen years in the Big Brick Tudor.

The Christmases spent in the Big Brick Tudor were beautiful. My mother really had the room to decorate, but it is the cozy holidays in the Little Green Bungalow where my inner child’s heart lies.

My mom loved Christmas, the decorating, shopping, wrapping, and especially when we opened our gifts. My parents came from the Greatest Generation and as a child during the Depression; there were many Christmases that Santa left only an orange and a few pieces of candy.

Their generation was the first to make sure their children had it better. We had a huge artificial tree in the living room. Mom had to remove all of the everyday decorations on one whole side of the room to make way for not only the tree, but also for all of the presents. We usually decorated the weekend either before or after my birthday, a rare occasion when my memories include my dad, who was usually too busy working two jobs, but made time to help decorate the home for the holidays.

One of my earliest memories includes one night when me and my oldest nephew (who was just 4 years younger), fell asleep as we laid on the floor under the tree looking up at the lights. There was also the year I was so sick with the flu that I didn’t even feel like opening my packages. When I wasn’t in the bathroom, my dad did it for me while I sat on his lap.

Mom’s packages, like her entire life, were a work of art fit for a magazine layout. Until her hands became arthritic and her breathing became labored in her later years, there weren’t gift bags at our house. If she didn’t find something functional that fit the theme of the gift to decorate the package, she always had the most unique and beautiful package decorations. They were indeed almost too pretty too open – although we always did. I don’t remember a lot of what was in those packages, but I do remember those beautiful wrappings.

The big tree in the living room wasn’t the only tree in the house. I had one of those little white trees adorned with pink lights, ballerinas, and round ornaments in my bedroom and later, my mom added another tree in the family room with a toy soldier theme for her five grandsons.

On the last days of school before Christmas vacation, I would walk into the Little Green Bungalow – Bing Crosby (my mom’s favorite) crooning on her big Hi-Fi stereo my dad bought her for Christmas one year in the 60s – and she would come running from the bedroom where the door was shut. It wasn’t until I had the whole Santa thing figured out that I knew those were afternoon wrapping sessions.

At least one of my memories also includes the midnight candlelight ceremony at the Lutheran Church in which we were raised.

My husband has always been somewhat of a Scrooge during the whole holiday season, he bah-humbugs those silly clay animation holiday classics such as Rudolph, Frosty and Santa Clause is Coming to Town. He balks at my attempts to create our own traditions (though he always goes along). He groans when the news starts tracking Santa (as he did this morning).

I’ve known him for 30 years, but it wasn’t until we shared Christmases in our own Little House that I figured out his problem.

He says he doesn’t remember one warm and fuzzy from the holidays of his childhood. He remembers the presents, but not the excitement of the television shows, or the special feeling of putting up the decorations with his family, or sitting on anyone’s lap in the dark just taking in the lights on the tree as I did with my parents, or the stable, safe feeling of the rituals and traditions. He doesn’t even remember NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve. I think this is just more evidence that this time of year isn’t just about the presents. It’s about the time we spend with family and loved ones, the memories parents help make for their children and if the spirit of the season is instilled in us at a young age, we will carry that with us and in turn, be able to still feel it and share it as adults.

I realize how lucky my mom was to have had a family that did that, a holiday spirit she passed on to me.

What are the best Christmas memories you carry?

I would like to take this time to thank my readers for discovering and following me on our journey of living large in our little house this year. If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you the best filled with memories you will also carry through a lifetime and pass on. I will return with new posts on Monday, December 28. I think I’ll sleep in on Christmas and take a break from the computer for a day.  If you have Living Large withdrawal, feel free to browse the archives this weekend, there’s a lot more stuff on living large in a little house there!

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6 Responses

  1. Bj says:

    Merry Christmas all!

  2. S.A.B.L.E. says:

    Kerri, Many of my early Christmas memories were very similar to yours. Thanks for refreshing my memories.

  3. Kerri says:

    What a beautiful story, Kathy, thank you for sharing it. And you know me, I do believe your dad had a hand in helping you “lighten up!”
    My dad didn’t not like Christmas either, it was just as he put it, it was just for kids in his family and no big deal for the adults. In so many ways Dale is so like my dad. I just do what my mother always did, tried to make it the happiest for everyone, and hope he catches the spirit. Although it makes me sad to realize (and he just revealed this morning that he couldn’t remember a single Christmas Spirit instilling thing of his childhood)he will never feel it as I’ve felt it all my life.

  4. Kathleen Winn says:

    Kerri- growing up, it was my dad who really generated the Christmas spirit in our home. He loved Christmas, had a beautiful singing voice and serenaded us with Bing Crosby songs all through the season (Bing was my dad’s favorite singer too!) It’s not that my mother was anti Christmas and didn’t also enjoy the season, but as an adult, I realize that preparing for the holidays with six kids was probably pretty daunting and exhausting for her.

    The first Christmas after my dad passed away, three years ago, I was not feeling the spirit in the way I had as a little girl. I missed him, even though with advanced Alzheimer’s, he’d not been aware of Christmas for many years. At his funeral in October, one of my sisters had given each sibling a Christmas ornament in his memory. It was a pretty little ceramic Celtic cross with tiny shamrocks painted on it, in honor of dad’s Irish heritage.

    Though I wasn’t really in a holiday mood and didn’t have a hint of festive spirit that year when Christmas rolled around, I went ahead and decorated the tree, not wanting to disappoint my daughters and husband. I took the little Celtic cross out of its box and hung it on the tree with the other decorations, then went to bed.

    The next morning I followed my usual routine of getting a cup of coffee and making my way to the living room couch. When I walked into the living room and looked at the Christmas tree, I was stopped dead in my tracks by what I saw. A beam of light, a perfect halo encircled the little Celtic cross. It was as though a tractor beam was trained right on the little ornament. I moved over to the tree to examine it and tried to figure out where the light was coming from, but no matter where I looked, I could not find its source. Finally I gave up, sat down with my coffee and simply marveled at this little Christmas miracle.

    My husband came downstairs a few minutes later and had the same reaction as me when he saw the illuminated cross. “What is that?” he asked.

    I told him I had no idea how or why there was a circle of light around the ornament. David is not one to leave a mystery like that unsolved and started investigating the source of the light in earnest. After some time, he announced that he had it figured out, and showed me how sunlight streaming in through a circle of leaded glass on our front door, was bouncing off a mirror on the opposite wall and landing right at the point where the cross hung on the tree.

    My dad was such a fan of Christmas, and always made sure his kids had happy memories growing up. I know it would have broken his heart to think his death had stolen away my own enjoyment of the holidays. I am not a superstitious person, nor have I ever really believed in ghosts and spirits. And as it turned out, there was a perfectly logical explanation for the illuminated ornament. Still, I like to think my dad might have somehow wanted to send me a message that Christmas and it was to “lighten up!”

    Sorry for taking so much space on your blog- but you asked! Happy holidays to you my friend. How wonderful that Dale has you to make Christmas festive and cozy. You are so right, it is not about the presents.