Friday, December 10, 2010

The Best Holiday Memories

Over 35 years ago...

Christmas Eve, a special time of year and one of the most cherished memories that will always hold a sentimental place in my heart.

Springing out of bed and giddy with excitement, we were going to Baba's (my grandmother's) for Christmas Eve. It could not be here soon enough. "What time are we leaving?" I would ask for the millionth time. It seemed like an eternity, but it was finally time to go.

Proudly displaying our Christmas dresses with our Mary Janes and white tights, we get all bundled up in our winter coats. Donning our hat and mittens, exhilaration filled the frosty air. My sister and I jump in the car, restless in the back seat. First, because we were going to Baba's. Second, because the car took forever to heat up. Singing every Christmas carol under the sun, we would surely make the Griswald's proud! We were on our way.

Glancing out the foggy windows, winter-white snow drifts graze the landscape making the picturesque Norman Rockwell scene come to life. The houses appeared as though they were merely a little village that belonged under a Christmas tree. You could actually feel the holiday spirit come alive. 

At last, we pull into Baba's driveway, her brick Cape Cod covered in snow. It always reminded me of a storybook gingerbread house and it was the perfect holiday backdrop. Sprinting out of the car, but careful on the driveway (Mary Janes were quite slippery with snow), we follow the stone path between the house and row of emerald green arborvitae trees. Reaching the back porch, we stomp our feet, shaking off the snow. We finally made it.

Opening the wooden door, the warmth brushes against our cold skin. Baba is standing at the kitchen sink with her green apron as we have seen her so many times before. Raising her head, she casts a warm smile and opens her arms to embrace us--her hug so comforting. *sigh* Immediately engulfed with the smell of Christmas Eve dinner, we search the counter for something we can sample. Yelling at everyone else for picking, she turns away from them, sneaking us a taste of anything we want.

Surrounded by family and sitting around her enormous dining room table, this is what it was all about. All of Baba's prepping and cooking was well worth the effort. It was simply delightful. 

Having finished dinner, the men made their sly escape into the living room (no surprise there) while the women cleared the table and washed the dishes. Had I known then what I know now! LOL. With the last dish washed and put away, we were finally ready for my favorite part. 

Bustling into the living room and everyone finding their spot, the old record player was brought down from the upstairs bedroom. The Mitch Miller Christmas sing-a-long albums were spinning and we all sang our little hearts out. Glancing around the dim-lit room, the fire crackled and popped, the Christmas tree was twinkling with baubles of Christmas past as the outside world was lost to us all. All that mattered was family and that particular moment in time.

With the last song almost sung, there was only one remaining. White Christmas. When my grandfather came home from World War II, he called my grandmother to say he'd be home for the holidays as White Christmas played in the background. Ever since then, my grandmother and grandfather would cry at the drop of a hat every time they heard the song. It has been many years since they left us, but the song still makes me tear up when I hear it.

It is with a gentle sadness that in my own youth I took those times for granted. I would have appreciated those times so much more. You always think the ones you love will be with you forever. Even though my Baba and Pap are no longer with me, those memories will always hold a special place in my heart--as will they. 

The best holiday memories are made with family and friends. Care to share a favorite holiday memory?


  1. Sounds like a lovely memory!

    My mom was a stay at home mom and my dad worked six days a week. We weren't the poorest, but money wasn't in abundance. My mom would scrimp and save and layaway for Christmas each year. She would be even more excited than us three kids and one year woke us up at 2 a.m. after Santa had dropped his loot so we could play with our gifts.

    The memory of her excitement always makes me smile.

  2. We used to go to my grandparents' house out of town. I remember one year, my brother and I decided to stay awake to talk about Santa and what we might get. I was younger so I had to go to bed earlier. But I waited and then we talked and talked until we both fell asleep.

    When I woke up the next morning, my brother was already awake. We talked quietly until the suspense was killing us. With the sun still not up and shadows all around us, we tiptoed downstairs to look at the Christmas tree and everything Santa left us. We were very excited, but we knew we had to wait for everyone else to get up. So we tiptoed back to our room and talked some more until our grandmother came in and talked with us. Soon after, the rest of the house got up and we started our Christmas Day.

  3. Melinda, I think parents get more enjoyment out of seeing their own children filled with the excitement of the holidays.

    Alexa, that's funny about your brother. I used to stay up late with my sister and we would listen for sleigh bells on the roof.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dearest Victoria, some of your own vivid memories stirred some of my own. A special red and green taffeta Christmas dress in a box of store bought hand-me-downs from my cousins. I rarely had store bought clothes. Mitch Miller--ah, sing along with Mitch. Remember the bouncing ball and the lyrics?

    I have been working on my own next blog post about Christmas favorites. Your request first retrieved my 11th Christmas. We lived in Levelland, TX. Levelland is in the flat desert of west Texas. This day began with chores. My brother and I didn't whine or fuss one time that day. We got dressed in some "town" clothes and went downtown. The court house square was decorated with lights, a nativity, a magnificent tree, and other symbols of the season. I remember feeling awed, at peace, and excited at the same time.

    The day was gray and overcast and cold. Didn't matter. Mama parked the car in backwards. Our first stop was the department store. I was usually kind of frightened in that musty old store with creaky floors and a huge stuffed grizzly bear with long claws and yellow teeth hovering over the shoe department. Somehow greenery and ornaments brightened the place. So did a deep box filled with various stuffed animals. I carried a little tiger around with me. Tried to get Mama to buy it. She wouldn't. But, it showed up under the tree Christmas Eve.

    After a cheeseburger, fries, and a Dr. Pepper from the City Cafe we climbed in the car to watch the Christmas parade. I chattered, I squealed and I hung out the window. Mama wouldn't let us out of the car because it was sleeting. The parade began with law enforcement representatives riding gorgeous, groomed, and gallant horses. To this day I love horses and dream of owning one. Santa came last. His sleigh and reindeer were perched on the fire truck. Amazing!

    Then, as the parade ended a miracle happened. Out of the gray skies the court house bells tolled "Silver Bells" in a heavenly audible display of joy. To this day "Silver Bells" is my favorite Christmas song.

  5. What a beautiful memory, Victoria. I felt the warmth and love in your post. I don't know that I can nail down a favorite Christmas memory. The one's from my childhood weren't that great but after I married and my children came...the holidays turned magical. Great post!

  6. Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for sharing. Your childhood memories brought back ones I'd forgotten. While seeing Christmas' past along with you, I remebered how Christmas Eve was always spent at my Grandmothers' houses. One year we'd stay in Ohio with my Dad's family and the next we'd drive to Meadville (PA) and spend the holiday with my Mom's huge family. Because I lived closer to my Dad's family it was extra exciting on the years we went to PA. I am an only child so having the opportunity to play with upwards of 25 cousins was a Christmas present in and of itself! Tons of food, my mom's oldest sister is the baking queen so cookies and homemade candy were everywhere and since individually buying for such a large group was difficult everyone drew names and bought for that person. We also put dollar limits or theme specifications on gifts sometimes so seeing what everyone got was looked forward to-my uncles were particularly good at the practical joke and gag gifts!
    When we stayed in Ohio the best part of Christmas Eve was driving home from Grandma's. My Dad would take the long, looong way home and we'd drive through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights. That is probably what I now miss the most. Living in Savannah (and before that southern Virginia) I've noticed people don't seem to decorate the outside areas as much. My neighborhood has about three houses with the yard covered in Christmas stuff but most have nothing at all: I confess to being one of them. My reason? No matter how much I love living in the coastal area with its balmy (for the most part) weather, it isn't Christmas without snow :)!
    Merry Christmas, hope it's a White one!

  7. Maeve, that's what your beautiful granddaughter is for. I'm sure she's brightened many a holiday with her cheerful smile. :-)

    Winona, it sounds like a Christmas movie. *sigh* Thanks for sharing and stopping by!

  8. Rachel, I know what you mean! Christmas is not Christmas without the white stuff. One year a few weeks after Thanksgiving, the dh and I traveled to Arizona. It just wasn't the same seeing Christmas lights on a cactus :) Thanks for sharing.

  9. Victoria, I have that Mitch Miller CD in my car right now, and I listen to it in rotation with lots of other "oldies" for the memories they provide. Our parents are gone as well as our grandparents, but I can still see them sitting around the kitchen table singing Christmas songs while we ate the fudge my grandmother made. Happy Holidays, my friend.

  10. Pat, it is amazing what triggers those memories. Happy Holidays to you as well!