October 22, 2010

The Days Long Ago

Wow...I was thinking the other day about how time really does fly...sparked no doubt by Mrs. X's recent post on parenting...

Somehow, I seem to remember feeling as though summer lasted forever - running around our backyard in my swimsuit, dashing through the icy water of the sprinkler, sitting on the concrete patio, my towel fastened around my neck with one of mom's clothespins...eating summertime treats, stealing the strawberries and tomatoes right off the plants and eating them warmed from the sun...

And then, all of a sudden, we'd wake up one day, ride our bikes around the block and across the street to the school to see our class list and pick up a supply list for mom (as if she didn't know exactly what I'd need, being the 4th one to go through the system!), and we'd start the task of trying on every single article of clothing in our closets and drawers and making 2 piles - those that would fit a while longer and those that we were ready to hand off to someone else who could make use of them. Mom would call her sister, who lived about 75 miles from us, to find out when we were getting together and if there would be any bags for us...OH! how I loved those bags.

The bags themselves were your ordinary black plastic lawn/leaf trash bags...the kind my folks still use to gather their yard waste and our Christmas paper.

But inside was a treasure trove of exciting things for my sister and I. You see, my uncle is the son the Former Executive VP of one of the Automotive companies, and as such, came from money. You know the type - they always wear name brand, drive fancy cars that are classy, play golf, eat lunch at the club, and travel, as opposed to taking vacations...and therefore, my cousins lived in a large house on a private golf course, and always wore Izod, Benetton, Guess, Polo, Liz, and later, DKNY, and the like...in fact, my aunt sent me amazingly adorable outfits for each of the kids after they were born, such that I was afraid of them wearing the outfits for fear they'd get ruined!

But I digress - inside these bags...oh, how lived for the opening of these bags...in them we'd find sweaters from Guess and Polos from Benetton, and the best of all, those Gunnie Sack Dresses...those decadent creations of soft prints decorated with luxurious lace and satin ribbons...and then, when I was a bit older, the Esprit, and Laura Ashley tops and skirts...

Somehow, as I was packing away baby girl clothes which Littlest One has already outgrown these were brought to mind vividly.

I remember how the time seemed to drag on from the first day of school to the long-awaited break for Thanksgiving, which was never more then a half-day on Wednesday, and all day Thursday and Friday...I remember that we didn't even have Friday off until I was in the 5th grade, and then what a HUGE thing it was to have this 4 1/2 day weekend to enjoy the parade, playing, sledding if there was snow, football if there wasn't, the scent of the turkey cooking in the oven, knowing that all day long we'd be peeling potatoes, mixing ingredients, stirring pots, peeking under the foil and helping to baste the turkey, and then, as it was resting and the other dishes were heating up again we'd sneak the extra crispy parts of the skin...

And after we were done, we'd play games and watch football, and then mom would put the leftovers out and we'd all eat more food...and then, when Friday dawned, we'd get all the decorations around the house, dust them, wrap them and put them away, and then, then the fun would begin.

We'd get out all the boxes and tubs of Christmas decorations. Lights, snowmen, angels, village pieces, pretend snow, wreaths, centerpieces, the nativity scene that Mom had hand painted on ceramic figures...and we'd spend the day ensconced in the scents of artificial greenery and pinecones that we'd gathered on various hikes throughout the summer...putting the limbs on the tree, and then spending hours untangling and hanging lights, replacing bulbs, and while we were inside doing this, Dad and the boys would have the ladder set up outside and spend the morning hanging the outdoor decorations, stringing lights along the eaves, around the window, around the lightpost, draping them over the evergreen bushes, hanging the fresh greenery around the door frame and the giant wreath with it's red velvet bow on the front door. Mom would set up all around the house her snowman collection, her carefully selected pieces of the village...carefully spreading batting to look like snow, and sprinkling the shredded opalescent plastic so it appeared more lifelike...setting the wise men and their camels across the living room from the shepherds, sheep, donkeys, and the serene figure of Mary, with the somber Joseph standing behind her, hand on her shoulder and, of course, the manger with the swaddled baby Jesus...and the year that Mom added the real straw to the table upon which the set rested.

She'd hang the Advent calendar on the fridge, and we'd wait anxiously for December 1st to arrive so we could take turns opening the little doors to find out what verses we'd be reading from Scripture that day, and the one year we had a store bought one with CHOCOLATE behind the doors...

Over the coming weekends we'd spend time selecting recipes, baking cookies, making fudge, frosting, decorating, baking breads...and then would come my favorite of all things...we'd make up several plates of selected goodies that we made, wrap them carefully with plastic wrap, tie them with curly ribbon and we'd bundle up, and go door-to-door to our closest neighbors and cheerfully and gleefully cry out MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! when they opened the door...and later, they'd return the favor, and Mom would have to dole out the Russian Tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies, the chocolate covered pretzels and fruitcake bites...

We'd have extra practices for choir and band concerts, in addition to the usual school performances of all students at the elementary school I attended...and we'd go many nights each week to some concert or another, because, at one point, we were all in some form of music program at our respective schools.

With what delight as we'd sit and listen to the cherub-faced 1st and 2nd graders as they sang the fun songs like "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town", and "Away in a Manger"...and with chills of delight as the 5th and 6th graders would sing "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "Silver Bells"...and later on, as I was in junior and senior high, wearing that special dress, fixing my hair and make-up and we'd go from senior center to senior center, nursing home to nursing home, hospital hallway and floor to floor singing the traditional Christmas carols, "Silent Night", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Good King Wenceslas", and the fun contemporary songs like "White Christmas"...and the smiles of joy and delight and the light of memories in the eyes of our audiences...

It was never more delightful than that time from Thanksgiving to Christmas for me - how it made the time fly from one day off of school to the 2 weeks for Christmas break...and how the memories and delight of that time, the enjoyment of new clothes and the books and other fun gifts we'd have under our tree would carry us through the looooong days from New Year's to Spring Break and the promise of Easter, which meant more fun, more traditions...dyeing eggs, carefully selecting that special outfit for Easter Sunday service...that first promise of real Spring in our part of Colorado. The pretty pastel colors which adorned us, the lace, the ribbons, the special year when Mom let me make the switch from white or pink tights to actual pantyhose, or the year where I didn't have a "little girl" cotton slip, but instead, a beautiful ivory, lace-trimmed nylon camisole and slip for under my dress...how grown up I felt...despite the fact that I still had my little girl Mary Janes...

I want so much for my own children to have those amazing, sparkling, vivid memories of the enjoyment we get out of each day. I want them to look back and remember trips to the Coast to see their grandparents, or camping in the trailer, riding their bikes around our cul-de-sac, playing ball in the yard...reading stories, carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns...the joy of putting up Christmas decorations...

Beyond that though, I want to instill in them the understanding of just how blessed we are that we can do those things. Legally, we're allowed to do all those fun things, put up the outward signs of our beliefs...Financially, we're able to have those things, and do those things without straining our checkbook...and I want them to know that we can share what we have. I want to work in a mission kitchen with them one year when they're a bit older...to serve...to share...

What do you remember most fondly of your growing up years?

1 comment:

Penny said...

that was so cool to read! bring back lots of memories of my childhood, except mine was a lot longer ago than yours!! LOL One thing I will always remember was our Christmases. We would always get to open one gift early, which would be the new outfit we got to wear to our school Christmas program. I always looked forward to the new dress or jumper. then on Christmas eve, we would drive to the nearest big city and get KFC chicken and all the fixings for our Christmas dinner!! We thought that was the best and I'm sure my Mom was thrilled that she didnt have to cook!! Also, on Christmas eve, several members of my Dad's family would stop by with their families and we would take a picture of them in front of our Christmas tree and they would take a picture of us in front of our tree. I love looking back at those pictures now. In fact, my family does sort of the same thing. We always take pictures of each of our families in front of the tree. It is so fun to look over the years and see how my nieces and nephews have grown. thanks for giving me a chance to go down memory lane.