Childhood Christmas Memories from the Early 1960s
Living alone, and most family not living in the same town or city, makes the holiday season much like any other day or season to me. Of course, if I make my way out of my cocoon, I cannot escape the commercial overload.
That is something that does not bode well with me, though I must admit I love the bargains I find, and save many of them for giving throughout the year when it is least expected.
But here I am eight days before the Christmas holiday and I am feeling a bit nostalgic. Perhaps, I have told a portions of these recollections before. I apologize, in advance, for repeating myself.
I knew many classmates in my school whose family tradition was to open all gifts on Christmas morning. Our family tradition was that we opened all the gifts under the tree, when the house was filled with people at our Christmas Eve Open House that my parents hosted.
As our guests--family and friends--made their way home for the evening and the house became quiet. The lights on the tree seemed magical, as they reflected on the garland and tinsel on the tree. Christmas carols played on the phonograph, and the anticipation was now of Santa coming in a few hours.
I found it so difficult to get to sleep, wanting to stay up to meet the jolly old elf face-to-face. We also knew that there would be a present or two from Santa (never wrapped) under the tree and our stockings would be filled until the seams looked like they would pop.
1960 to 1963 were the best
My memories of the Christmases from 1960 to 1964 are my most vivid. The first four of these years' holiday seemed happiest, perhaps because I was still innocent and had not yet felt the sting of life's realities.
My brother, Mark, was nearly two years old in 1960. My sister, Sonja, arrived on scene in late 1962, when I had just turned seven. I think that Christmases 1962 and 1963 were my favorite two years, because life seemed much happier in my family early on in the 60s. Our family grew and there were two more sisters--Erika and Tanya--to arrive in 1966 and 1969.
Presents and the stockings
Today my thoughts bring me to memories of Christmas mornings 51 to 55 years ago, running down the stairs, still in our pajamas, and so excited to see what Santa left under the tree for us and interacting as only families can do:
--My walking doll which was about eight inches shorter than I was.
--My first record player, and my first LP, "Mr. Ed: Straight from the Horse's Mouth" in 1962.
--Mark claiming his presents "were better" than mine, followed by my throwing down the gauntlet of sibling rivalry, and each of us relentless in arguing back-and-forth about the veracity of one another's declarations.
--Accepting Mark's challenge to a duel with his "Rock'em Sock'em Robots." It was the only time it was acceptable to "knock your block off!"
--Sonja sitting on my lap as we undressed and dressed our dolls; hers were baby dolls, mine were Barbies. I was so happy to have a "baby sister" and loved her so much.
--My first bicycle, a Schwinn Sting-Ray with the banana seat...and training wheels.
My fondest memories of those mornings are taking the stockings down from the mantel to find all the goodies and extras that Santa picked out just for us:
--An orange, apple and pear, and almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts.
--Coloring books and new crayons.
--Paddles with a red ball on the end of a rubber-band string. I never mastered the technique, and before the end of the year, my mother usually had her paddles for spanking.
--Metal spinning noisemakers with pictures of Santa or Rudolph.
--Necco candy rolls. I was happy when I saw my first roll that was all chocolate.
--Bottles of "toilet water" that I did not understand how they could get to smell so nice.
--Can of Pick Up Stix.
--ChocoMint Life Savers.
--Old Maid, Go Fish, and Rummy card games.
...and so many other toys and candy that have long been forgotten.
Things changed in 1964
Christmas 1964 is one of my most vivid, though one of my saddest. It was the year that Mrs. Bereman, my fifth grade teacher from First Lutheran School, told us all to "remind our siblings that Christmas was about the birth of the baby Jesus," even though she did tell us that we did not need to tell them that our parents were Santa Claus. She did this right before dismissing us for the holiday break.
I may have been the only one in my fifth grade class who still believed in Santa. I know that a couple of years earlier, people made fun of me for believing. I never believed them when they told me there was no Santa. I would argue with them, but this was different. This was my teacher who said it.
I did not know what to do. When my mother picked me up from school, I wanted to talk to her about it, but was afraid that she would be upset with me and I would not be allowed to celebrate Christmas. So, I kept my knowledge a secret, still not wanting to believe what my teacher had said to be true. That year, I maintained the charade, but it was the year that innocence was lost.
A few months later
It was not until February of 1965 that I asked my mother if she and my father were Santa. She said it was true, and I told her that I had known for the last two months. She asked me not to tell my brother and sister, and I agreed.
Feeling a deep sense of loss, I turned to walk out of the kitchen, trying to absorb the bitter truth. I stopped and turned around. And in one last grasp to hold onto childhood as I knew it, I quietly asked: "Mommy?"
I feared asking the next question. "Are you and Daddy the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, too?"
And she simply nodded...
1965 was the year that the sparkle of the lights was extinguished for me, and Christmas began to lose its magic.
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Copyright © 2015 Coral Levang, and not to be used without permission. May be shared, if properly credited and linked back to this source
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/christmas-christmas-gift-bell-png-1075118/ by Gellinger