🎶 “…we are not daily beggars that beg from door to door
But we are friendly neighbors whom you have seen before…” 🎶
I backed away from the door as the “Osmond Family” continued their unsolicited serenading of my younger sister and me from the porch. Mom, it’s for you” I called out to the kitchen where our mother had been baking Christmas cookies. We both walked away to get back to perusing the Sear’s Toy Catalog…there were lists to be made and little time before the arrival of Christmas; definitely no time for singing beggars at the door.
We passed my mom in the hall as she was wiping the cookie dough from her hands onto her snowman apron. I stopped to pick up a few of the pages of my Christmas list that had fluttered out of my hands in my hurry to get away from the door. “Mom…what’s a wassail?” I asked. “Let me talk to the carolers” she said politely, “then we can talk about it.” “Go see your dad, he’s making egg nog.” Homemade eggnog…the Christmas list could wait!
Christmas week in our house was multi-sensory. The smell, tastes and sounds of the season were all around us. The house bustled with activity and I never saw my parents in better moods, than during the week leading up to Christmas. The smell of Christmas cookies wafted through the house including the living room, where my dad was putting an Andy Williams record onto the turntable. I sat along side my younger sister making Christmas tree door hangers with our grandmother. Pieces of green felt were spread across the table alongside glue, scissors, and sequins of all shapes, sizes and colors.
“Go get your brother and sister, we’re going to sing some Christmas carols” my mother requested, as I proudly displayed my finished Christmas tree. I tapped on the bell that hung from the bottom. “Do we have to mom?” I asked; looking to my younger sister for a second motion of support. She was spreading glue on her fingers.
Still sitting at the table, I grudgingly yelled out to my older sister and brother for them to meet us in the living room. My mom eyed me with a disapproving scowl over my methodology. But it worked, as I heard my siblings fighting each other to get down the stairs first. “Are the cookies done?” my brother asked. “No…” my mom responded, to which my brother responded in turn with a look that said “Why did you interrupt me from my Christmas list preparation activities?” “…we’re going to sing Christmas carols” my mom finished. A collective ugh might have been uttered.
My father was back in the living room listening to Andy Williams singing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” “What are we doing?” he asked as we all walked in. “Mom wants us to sing Christmas carols” I answered. A single ugh might have been uttered. “OK” he said, as he removed the needle from the record…Andy Williams stopped singing.
My dad abruptly left the living room and I thought I heard him leave the house through the back door, but knew I was mistaken when he returned shortly lugging a large suitcase-like trunk with three metal clasp locks. He placed the case on the floor, unsnapped the locks and opened it. My mom reached in to remove the sheet music that lay on top. The letters C-E-L-L-I-N-I appeared from under the music. Christmas caroling, as we knew it, was about to begin.
My mom learned to play the accordion in the 1950s; part of the great accordion movement that swept the nation during that time. She was a member of an accordion-based troubadour group that played county fairs. But now it was 1970. Her stage on this day was our living room. By this time, most accordions had found their way to the backs of closets.
My mom lifted the large accordion out of the case and slipped her arms into the straps. She undid the safety buckles, pressed a few buttons and keys, and moved the bellows back and forth. “Ready when you are” she said. There was no response.
But alas, accordion music is magical and after several rousing accordion solos, we were all enticed into joining in with my mom for several rounds of Christmas sing-alongs. Promises of warm cookies helped to move things along. My grandmother took photos for posterity. I have them, just ask.
During the remainder of the week, Christmas lists were finished and sent; the Christmas tree cut, delivered, and trimmed; stockings hung. The bustle of the week slowed as Christmas Eve approached. It was a time to give pause and enjoy the warmth of family togetherness. On Christmas Eve, we played, loved, and laughed together. At 10 p.m., we finished the night with a “Love You” to our parents; and each of us marched up the stairs single file to bed; morning plans in order. Santa was coming.
Christmas Day started at 5 a.m; my parents asleep in their bed. My brother and I met our sisters at the predetermined rendezvous point at the top of the stairs. Our hearts pounded as we made our way down the stairs single file with my older sister in the lead. Thirteen steps to the bottom. This was it…the moment. Had Santa visited our house? We hit the landing and made the turn toward the living room…bumping into each other in the process. We could see the glow of the Christmas tree lights, which lay shadows across the picture window table. Atop the table was an empty glass aside an empty plate. We turned the corner and what lay before us were colorfully wrapped packages of all sizes spread out under the tree and beyond. To Steve, From Santa…To Steve, From Santa…To Steve, Love Mom & Dad…I surmised that I must have been better behaved during the year than I had thought! Santa had come, the naughty and nice clock had reset and life was good!
The grandeur of the moment was interrupted by a noise coming from the direction of the den…Holy Smokes…Santa was still here! As the younger brother, my instinct was to run up the stairs, climb into bed, pull the covers over my head and feign sleep. No one need know…we could reconvene when our parents awoke…blame my younger sister if we were captured. My brother, on the other hand, saw opportunity. Taking point, he led us down the hall toward the kitchen; the den was off to the right. With our hearts pounding again, we moved slowly in anticipation…savoring each moment, step-by-step. We got to a point where our view of the den was one step forward, and stopped. In unison, we leaned forward…
From the den, four heads came into view aside the door frame; eight eyes filled with wonder. “Come in and sit beside me.”
Our grandmother was sitting up in the pull-out bed. We jumped up onto the bed, noticing in the process that our Christmas stockings, which hung from the fireplace mantle, were filled with toys and treats. Santa had come and gone…and our grandmother had seen it all.
We sat down next to our grandmother, as she told us this story…
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…”
Merry Christmas everyone…
🎶 “Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too (whatever it means);
And God bless you and send you
a Happy New Year!” 🎶