Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ahhhhh, Christmas Memories!

     Growing up, Christmas was always very special for me, as I'm sure it is for many. As the fourth child born with three older brothers and one younger, six days before Christmas, my mother always made me feel like her precious Christmas gift. (Especially, since she was told she couldn't carry a female fetus to term.) My maternal grandparents treated me in kind. Although they adored my brothers and subsequent all male cousins, I was the only girl born of that generation and they treated me like a princess. My brothers would say spoiled brat, but many years of trying to understand them has led me to realize they will never understand me. I remember or maybe I just remember pictures of huge celebrations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My mother has two sisters, but my grandfather had six brothers and my grandmother was one of eight. I remember music, singing, games and laughter. I adored my Christmas tree with the disco-lighted star on top, colored lights, gold boa-like garland and the beautiful manger that sat underneath and played Silent Night. It was all very 1970's topped off with the white velvet couches and red velvet chairs wrapped in plastic. I remember my dear mother dressing me up, curling my hair and basically torturing me. (Probably why I became a hairdresser.) Most of all, I remember being the brunt of my charming brothers' and their significant others' jokes; priceless! Those memories prepared me for wanting to create beautiful ones for my own children as well.
     My husband and I wanted to build our own traditions unique to our new family and diverse backgrounds. Each year we added something new: from our first, small, real Douglas Fir just like the one from A Charlie Brown Christmas, to the 10 foot tree we recently drove home on our Ford Focus.  On and off for the past 20 years, we have driven to the mountains to cut down our tree at Battenfeld Tree Farm: http://www.christmastreefarm.us/.  We discovered the first year, on the road to the farm, a quaint eatery. It was reminiscent of a 1950's diner and the aroma of egg creams, milkshakes and burgers filled the air. It knocked me right back to when I was a little girl and the coffee shop my father used to take me to. We immediately fell in love and returned every year, until it was GONE. A few times it was abandoned or it had turned into a Mexican Restaurant, so, we ate in the town of Red Hook at local diners or other little cafes, but they didn't hold the same charm. Two years ago things were looking up as our favorite little luncheonette was reopened as Another Fork in the Road. We were so excited. We eagerly sat down and opened the menu and were confused; gourmet eggs and gourmet grilled cheese? Did we take a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Soho? All we wanted were burgers, eggs and pancakes. Why would someone make gourmet grits? Really? This past Christmas, on our yearly jaunt, the same place was still there, so, we decided to give it another try. Maybe last year they had to work out the kinks, or maybe we are just gluttons for punishment. Same menu, ughhh, but let's be safe and order basic pancakes, a burger and grilled cheese. I had the grilled cheese, but it was French (?). It was served to me and was garnished with this chunky, orange colored sauce. It must have been French for vomit- grilled cheese. I was starving at this point and wiped away the unsightly mess and ate the sandwich. It only left a slightly sour aftertaste in my throat. My poor son Michael ordered the big stack. After he devoured the top pancake, he started on the second and came to an abrupt halt because it was gooey batter. OK, so not as bad as puke, I continued eating, but had to stop because I couldn't even look at my husband's burger which was just raw chopped meat in the middle. A few dry heaves later, we complained to the waitress, (we never complain, because I am always afraid what they would do) and she took $4.00 off the tab. Thanks toots, I'll send you the doctor's bill.
     At the tree farm, my husband declares he wants the biggest tree he can find. We searched all over and found it-all ten feet of it. We shot our traditional photos. The kids ran amok howling their tribal chants, falling only a few times down the mountain as their father screamed bloody hell. When my husband began to saw, I noticed a loose animal about 100 yards away. I saw people slowly walking away from it, not alarmed, just not approaching it. What was it? It looked like a wild boar. It started towards us and I could make out it was a Rottweiler. I love dogs, but my husband does not and fears them slightly. He was busy chopping, so I did what any mother would do: I gathered my children and locked them in the car. I don't want my children to be hurt by a stray dog. Now I see Frank is picking up the pace (he must see the dog is really close), so I need to help him, but I am hysterically laughing and my kids are now beating each other in the back seat. I rummage through the car for a weapon and grab the snow brush--ooh scary. I head toward my poor husband, then I think, he has a saw he's OK. As I am returning to rescue him, the dog walks right up, sniffs around and moves on. The dog is friendly, but my husband is quickly dragging that tree back as fast as he can while trying really hard not to appear frightened. He was so frazzled he forgot to hand in the coupon for money off. The men who helped him bale it had a good laugh at the sight of him tying this tremendous tree to my car.  It really was the most beautiful tree we ever had, but we looked like the Griswold's from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation driving it home.  We even sang Christmas Carols there and back. The only thing missing was the attack squirrel.
     We would have brought the minivan, however, last year it barely reached 40 MPH on the hills and we didn't think it would make it this year. It broke down this past Christmas Eve heading down to Egg Harbor City, but that is another Christmas Memory to be continued! All beautiful memories that I will cherish forever!

1 comment:

  1. Reading your memories of Christmas Past brought me back to all the good times our family experienced. Your very first Christmas was one of my best Christmas presents. Your father brought us home Christmas Eve to a small tree he had put together with the help of your brothers and colorful trimmings hung everywhere. Gifts were under the tree and smiles were on everybody's faces as you gave each of us your first smile. Thank you for the happy tears you brought to me today. Love you, Mom