I have so many thoughts rambling around in my head, and I’m not sure this is going to make a whole lot of sense. But when the urge to write something here hits, I’ve learned to just go with it.
Christmas used to mean so much to me … it was my favorite holiday. My mom used to decorate everything. I’m not kidding. It was so much fun setting up the luminares on her front deck and walkway. The first year, she used traditional brown paper bags and candles. But the candles burned out too fast for her, and the next year, she used electric ones she found at Ace Hardware.
She had my Dad put up lights all around the roofline of their house and even in the mesquite trees that dotted the yard. I remember my Dad in his red long handles, Levis and cowboy boots getting up on the roof to set up the Santa, his sleigh, and reindeer. Complete with gift wrapped packages we’d wrap in clear garbage bags so the weather wouldn’t damage them.
Inside the house was unbelievable. Her tree was artificial, but live ones don’t do very well in Arizona. She had so many clear lights wrapped around it that it lit up the room when all the other lights had been turned off. The decorations were all glass, mostly cut crystal that she’d collected from all over the county.
The interior decorations didn’t stop at the tree, nope, when I say everything was decorated, I mean EVERYTHING!! She even had smaller trees in both bathrooms, greenery around all the arches, and the diningroom table centerpiece covered the entire table. There were Christmas linens, a lace topped red tablecloth, Christmas dish towels, and pot holders. And Christmas music played nonstop from the day after Thanksgiving until the tree and all the decorations had been packed away for the next year.
My most treasured memory is setting up her Department 56 Dickens village. The first few years, I set it up on top of their huge cabinet TV. Soon though, it was moved to a 4 by 8 plywood table my Dad made just for the village. I loved unpacking the buildings and setting them up to look like a real snowcoverd little town. We had mountains, a working waterfall and pond, little people, working streetlights and snow. Since it was set at a right angle to the tree, once the household lights were turned off, it was magical.
On Christmas morning, no matter what time we finally made it to bed the night before, Momma was up before all of us and would hustle through the house banging on one of her pots with a wooden spoon, yelling “wake up! get up!” He’s been here! Santa’s been here!” We’d all drag out of bed, get coffee, hot chocolate, or fresh hot apple cider and gather around the tree to open our gifts. Once that was done and the trash collected to be put on the bonfire later that night, we’d have breakfast, then work on the final preparations for Christmas dinner.
That was a FEAST!! Some years, Momma chose the traditional menu of turkey, ham, and all the trimmings. Other times, we’d have Mexican food, homemade tamales, sour cream chicken enchiladas, traditional red chili enchiladas, tacos, barbacoa, rice and beans. I was responsible for making homemade salsa and guacamole. And just a little bit was never enough! I made GALLONS of both to get us through. You haven’t had tortillas until you had the ones from the tortilla factory just up the road a piece from their house. The flour tortillas were huge, and I’ve not been able to find anything to match them in size or flavor. Always fresh and oten still warm when we picked them up. Yeah, I’ll even admit to eating a few driving home with the order I’d picked up.
Once evening came, we’d bundle up, make sure all the lights outside were on, and gather around the firepit, just relaxing, telling stories, and feeling more than blessed to be spending time with family and friends.
Yes, these are some of my most treaured memories of Christmas.