I grew up in Central California where more than 200 types of produce are grown due to the different types of good soil. December often brought thick Tule fog where visibility could quickly drop to 10 feet and where schools closed due to fog days rather than snow days. With Christmas coming soon, I am reminded of a few memories of my childhood.
1. Learning to balance on a unicycle (my 7th grade Christmas present) by hanging on to my dad as he walked around the driveway. I wore that unicycle out in a month; my parents bought me a better one which I still have. You never forget how to ride, though the first few seconds are a bit shaky.
2. Occasionally riding a tandem bicycle with a high school friend out to a lake through the grey and damp Valley weather. We tried to be quiet and peddle faster as we approached a particular farm just before the canal because we were chased down the road by their dogs. We lifted our legs up on one side so we didn’t get bit. We watched ducks and coots while drinking hot chocolate and snacks that my mom had made.
3. Smelling loaves of tangerine nut bread and pans of fudge my mom was making. Being called to quickly come to the kitchen to scoop out small helpings of divinity onto wax paper on the counter before it hardened. Friends driving to our home to bring their delicious specialties. One of my mom’s friends put the paper plate of divinity on the top shelf of her kitchen cabinet to hide it from her family.
4. Riding, and later driving, around two counties with my father to thank doctors’ offices and businesses by dropping off candies, cookies and his business calendars with international scenes.
5. Caroling with a group of friends our senior year in high school. We were a little nervous about knocking on the front doors of our teachers’ homes to surprise them with singing.
6. Watching the weather forecast to see if it was going to freeze that night. Occasionally my father would call “All hands on deck!” in order to avoid frost damage to the six citrus trees in our backyard. Standing on ladders out in the dark, picking oranges, tangerines and grapefruit, packing them into wooden boxes and putting them in the bathhouse next to the pool.
7. Often standing in line along the kitchen sink: someone bringing in the citrus, another soaking the fruit in one sink and scrubbing and rinsing the skins in the other, a third cutting the fruit in half, and the fourth juicing the fruit. How many juicers did we go through over the years?
8. Finding lugs of grapes and persimmons on our front porch from our neighbor, one of the grape growers in town. My mother encouraged all who came through the kitchen, “Have some more grapes. . .” My father went out before breakfast to the garage to see which persimmons had ripened. All enjoying scooping out the sweet slippery middle.
9. Going to a Christmas Eve candle light service at our church. After singing carols, everyone stood around the edge of the large sanctuary, holding a candle with a circular paper guard. Wondering if the guard would keep the hot candle wax from running down my fingers. The lights were turned off and the first candle was shared with others. The light spread slowly throughout the whole room.
10. Taking my stocking to my parent’s bedroom on Christmas morning and opening the small gifts. As the youngest in the family, I had to wait for my older sister to wake up. I played outside with neighborhood children who had already opened their gifts.
11. Sitting at the kitchen table on Christmas morning, making the topping for “Tutu’s Cake,” a coffee cake named after my grandmother. After my mom poured the dough into three pans, I sprinkled the cinnamon streusel on top before she placed the pans in the oven. Next, she baked a light and fluffy omelet on a heavy round pan. It worked well with a crowd since she didn’t have to fill various egg orders.
12. Our family singing carols while my mom played organ and I played piano. My favorite carol was “We Three Kings” and hers was “O Tannenbaum.” Then we sat in a circle on couches and chairs in the living room while Papa sat at the fireplace ready to burn the discarded wrapping paper. Each person opened one gift at a time while Mama made a list of gifts so you could write thank-you cards later. I looked forward to passing the box with decorated gingerbread cookies made by Aunt Pearl in Seattle.
I hope you enjoy remembering and sharing some of your favorite Christmas time memories.