MY EARLY CHRISTMASES

By Bill Grosboll
December 18, 2007

   

Every family has a different way of celebrating Christmas so what I am about to relate is the style in which our family had the holiday season.  Mom and Dad, probably more so Mom, made Christmas a very special time of year.  Iíll begin with the Christmas tree which Dad always put up.  It was usually about seven feet tall and requires a fairly sizeable area, so the tree was put up in the Ďhallí.  This hall was actually a large room that served as an entrance to the house that was no longer used.  It had a door that lead out to the front porch which made it easy for Dad to bring the tree in.  This hall also had the open stair case leading to the upstairs and once the tree was decorated it was a most beautiful sight when we kids came down from our bedrooms.  Dad had the responsibility of setting the tree up and then stringing the lights.  Upon completion of this, he disappeared!  Then Mom had the pleasure of us little helpers hanging the ornaments and putting on the tinsel.  Mom had some beautiful old ornaments that had been in the family for years and each year there were always a couple of casualties.  Those darn ornaments were just too delicate in my opinion, since it was usually my fault for those Ďcasualtiesí.  Mom would already have my sisters and my presents wrapped therefore as soon as the tree was up, she would put our presents from ĎMom and Dadí under the tree.  Any other presents that we received from outside the immediate family also went under the tree for opening on Christmas morning.  I know a lot of people opened their presents on Christmas Eve, which as a child, I thought was a pretty good idea rather than waiting until morning.  But the folks didnít see it that way so my sisters and I had to wait another few hours.  Torture!
 
As I got older, I learned just how sneaky Mom was at Christmas time.  There were always presents under the tree from Mom and Dad, but on Christmas morning when we kids came downstairs, the first place we headed was the fireplace in the living room.  There to the left and right of the fireplace was a pile of unwrapped Ďgoodiesí that Santa has left on Christmas eve.  Patís was on the right and mine were on the left.  Since sister Sue was six years younger than me, hers didnít show up for a while and were then located in the middle.  This was the only time of the year that having a six year younger sister became an advantage.  As my older sister Pat and I began to figure out the Santa Claus thing, Mom expressed the importance of keeping the secret from Sue so that she could still enjoy her gifts from Santa.  This prolonged the tradition of Santaís gifts for Pat and I so it was a pretty easy secret to keep.  Thank you, Sue! 
 
Christmas eve was always spent at Grandmaís house.  Grandma Tebrugge had seven children so when her children and all their children got together, it was a house full.  The four brothers and two sisters of Momís always drew names prior to the holiday and each of the brothers and sisters would buy gifts for the family drawn.  This was sort of fair but my aunts and uncles who did not have children always ended up buying way more gifts than they received.  Oh well, as a kid I didnít worry about such things.  That was a problem for the adults.  This was the only time of the year that all my cousins had a chance to get together at one time and it was great fun.  I remember one Christmas eve that my sister Pat was sick and Dad stayed home to take care of her.  Sister sue may or may not have been born yet but if she was, she stayed home also.  Mom and I went to Grandmaís in Springfield by ourselves and as luck would have it, the weather turned bad before we started home.  The old cars of that era didnít have the greatest heaters and defrosters, so as Mom was driving, the windshield would keep fogging over.  To help out, I would put one hand down by the floor heater and one hand on the windshield directly in front of Mom.  Once my hand cooled down, I would switch hands, putting the newly warmed hand on the windshield and re-warm the cold hand by the heater.  This made a small clear de-fogged opening for Mom to see out of.  Iíve often wondered just how much help this was for Mom but we made it home.  Mom and I both still remember that trip back from Springfield to Petersburg.  I donít remember her screaming for me to get my hand out of the way so it must have been some help.
 
Aaah, finally Christmas morning!  Mom would have the tree lit and as we kids came down the stairs, it was beautiful with all the Christmas lights, ornaments, tinsel and many, many presents under it.  Like I said earlier, we just went right on by the tree and headed for the fireplace.  We knew that was where the toys were.  Under the tree was just going to be badly needed but unappreciated clothing.  When I say unappreciated, you must remember that as a kid, the only important thing is toys!  Two Christmases were special, one being the year that I got a Lionel Electric Train and the other when I got a Remington .22 caliber target rifle.  All of the Christmases were special but these two really stand out.  As for sisters Sue and Pat, I donít know which were their favorites and at that time, I didnít really care because all they ever got were Ďgirlí things.  Probably some stupid doll or something for their doll houses.  After going through all the toys, we kids then went to the Christmas tree while Mom and Dad sat in the living room, adjacent to the hall.  Pat, Sue and I would sort through the packages under the tree and those for Mom and Dad, we would deliver to them.  Once we had delivered their presents and we had sorted each of ours, we would all begin to tearing up the wrapping paper.  As a kid, there is no greater feeling than tearing wrapping paper.
 
Once we had opened all our presents, we only had a short time, couple hours maybe, to play before getting ready to go to Christmas dinner at one of my aunts' and uncles' houses.  Every so often, Mom would have Christmas dinner at home so my sisters and I got to play for the whole day and then my cousins would have to go without playing with their toys so I guess it all worked out.
 
It was always wonderful if we had a white Christmas because there is nothing uglier that winter in the Midwest without snow.  Too cold to play outside unless there is snow on the ground and one of the presents happened to be a new sled.  I think the older we get, the more we dislike the snow over the holidays but as a kid, itís the greatest!
 
As my sisters and I got older, along with our cousins getting older, we each started having families of our own and all the old traditions we kids knew and enjoyed, changed.  We still tried to get together but it just wasnít as easy as when we were younger.  Dadís parents had passed on before my sisters and I were born and his only sister, Gretchen, was married to my Momís brother so it was pretty simple at the holidays.  It was going to be spent with Momís side of the family only.  That was not the case a generation later.
Alas, a great tradition had come to an end.
 

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