Memory Monday ~ My Christmas Memories

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday

When I saw today’s prompt for Memory Monday, I had a lot of mixed emotions.  For the past forty years, or so, Christmas with my husband, Ed, our children, and now our grandchildren, has been a happy and memorable time, but this wasn’t always the case when I was growing up.

You see, when people have ‘issues’, sometimes the holidays tend to make those issues worse.  You may recall, from my previous posts, that both of my parents had a problem with alcohol.  Often, they chose to drink during the holidays.  Need I say more?  More than a few family Christmases were spoiled by alcohol.

Hard times…

Due to alcoholism, and all of the problems it brings, money was often scarce for my parents during my early years of childhood.  At one point, they were deeply immersed in alcoholism and deeply in debt.  That year, I got a doll/layette set, (that I’m told daddy picked up from the grocery store, at the last-minute) and a little round suitcase (sort of like a hat box with a strap) filled with some Christmas candy and a little necklace.  I didn’t know it, at the time, but some of daddy’s co-workers had taken up donations to buy the little suitcase, candy, and necklace for me.  This would be the first of three “Hard Candy Christmases” for me and my family.  I have a brother, who is almost nine years older than me, but, strangely, I have no recollection of him on this particular Christmas.  We didn’t know it, at the time, but this would be the last Christmas our family would spend together in this house.

The next year, money was incredibly tight, even though mama had taken a job, too.  My parents had moved from Florida to Georgia, after losing their home to foreclosure.  My older brother had gotten married to his high school sweetheart.  My parents and I were living in a small rental home.  That year, I asked Santa for a Tiny Chatty Baby doll.  My brother’s wife (they’d only been married a couple of months) saved her S&H green stamps and got me a doll stroller to go along with my doll, even though I’m sure there were many things she needed for herself.  Unfortunately, that year, mama and daddy went to bed without putting out my Christmas presents, so I woke up, the next morning, to find nothing under the tree.  Sadly, I went back to bed.  A while later, I heard my parents scrambling around in the living room, and when I got up, for the second time, my gifts were beside the tree.  This is how I learned the truth about Santa.

By the next Christmas, my family was still struggling. By then, we had moved to another town, closer to daddy’s job.  Daddy was working at the Georgia State Prison.  The thing I remember most about this time was the fact that we had no car.  We relied on friends and neighbors (and our feet) for transportation.  For Christmas, that year, I got a Barbie doll, two Barbie outfits, and a doll crib, that daddy had asked a prisoner to make for me.  I was ten, and no longer played with baby dolls, but I really loved my Barbie and her new clothes!  In fact, I still have her, as well as the old doll crib.

Better times…

Thankfully, things were much better with my family, by the following Christmas.  I was in the sixth grade, when mama and daddy stopped drinking for several years.  Money was not in such short supply anymore, and we had a nice Christmas that year.    My brother and sister-in-law came from Florida to have Christmas with us, and brought me my first bicycle!  We had lots of gifts and good food to eat.  That particular Christmas is the best Christmas I can remember, as a child.

The next few Christmases were good, with the exception of the year my maternal granddaddy died, just a few days before Christmas.  I was in the ninth grade.  Mama took granddaddy’s passing hard, and barely got out of bed that Christmas Day. Most of our Christmas money had to be spent on new clothes to wear to the funeral, as well.

Somehow, we always managed to have a Christmas tree, in good times and in bad.  Most of the time, daddy would go to the woods and cut down a cedar tree.  Sometimes, we did this as a family, and that was always memorable.  We trimmed our tree with colored lights (the big ones, not the miniature ones), glass ornaments, garland, and, of course, icicles!  By the end of Christmas, those icicles would be all over the house!

When I was sixteen, on the first Christmas after Ed and I became engaged, he was deployed overseas.  For Christmas, Ed sent me a Japanese Geisha doll, along with a large glass case to keep it in. When my gift arrived from Okinawa, Japan, every piece of glass, for the case, was broken, except one!  Ed’s daddy had all of the glass replaced, and even put the case together for me!  Ed’s parents also bought a huge red and white stuffed dog, that I’d been admiring, and gave it to me for Christmas.  My future in-laws helped make Christmas more bearable for me, that year, in the absence of their son.

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Christmas 1970

Good times…

Christmas was good the last two years I lived at home, with my parents, because I landed a job and had my own spending money!  The first year, I worked as a gift wrapper in a small department store.  I had so much fun wrapping all of those gifts for everyone!  By the second Christmas, I’d been promoted to working as a sales person, at the same store.  I was amazed that so many people waited until an hour before closing, on Christmas Eve, to do their shopping!  The store manager actually had to turn people away and lock the door at closing time.

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Our first tree

By Christmas, 1972, I was an eighteen-year-old newlywed.  One of my all-time favorite Christmas memories is still the one of Ed and me shopping at K-mart for our first tree and all of its decorations!  We were so young and in love, and were thrilled to be finally spending our first Christmas together, in two years!  The fact that we were husband and wife made it all the better!  Some of those first tree decorations still hold a place of honor on our Christmas tree, today.  Every year, when I hang those ornaments, I can’t help but marvel at all of the wonderful Christmases they’ve presided over!  Forty-one Christmases and counting…  Oh the stories those ornaments could tell, if only they could speak!

Oh, and by the way, I have one lone Christmas ornament, that belonged to my parents when I was growing up–a tiny red glass pine cone.  Somehow it survived all of the moves, and hung on my parents’ tree for many, many years.  I hang it at the top of my Christmas tree, every year, as a reminder of years gone by.

*I’m linking my memories up with Judy @ Retired-Not-Tired.

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Published in: on December 8, 2014 at 11:22 am  Comments (9)  
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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good story, yep I had also some bad parents while I was growing up, but they at least provided for a good Christmas, with the help of other family.

  2. I never had a Barbie doll. By the time she came out I was too old for dolls however my sister Barb had lots of them. She even had the Barbie motorhome. My own girls had them too and now so do my grandchildren.

  3. Your story gripped for the beginning. Holidays can be difficult – especially when we remember the past. The stories from your childhood really touched my heart today. 🙂 Merry Christmas from my blog to yours!

  4. What a journey of memories for you! Some not so good memories, some better. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas 2014!

  5. What a pretty young lady with that big red dog. 🙂 I’m so glad that God placed kind people in your life along the way and how thankful I am for you that this story has such a happy ending. You have come through a lot of stuff and those hard candy Christmases. I loved reading about you and your honey going through KMart!! And your first tree was beautiful. Merry Christmas to you all.

    I never had a Barbie, but my sister did.

  6. Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us! You have overcome so much hardship and heartache. I’m so happy that your years with Ed have been so wonderful.

  7. You paint such a clear picture. You should write a memoir

  8. Even our bad memories make for the chance to make happier memories for the ones we love.

  9. I always remember money being tight too at holiday time — somehow my mom managed. I know now, as a mom myself, it’s because she went without. I wish I had been more aware as a child, but then – you are only a child. Time enough later for adult things to be pondered. the best I can do is best the wonderful legacy of Christmas time that she started on to my own kids. And perhaps spoil her a bit too. 🙂


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