When I was a child and growing up, we were blessed! When I look back on past Christmases, I think of how my parents, baby brother and I used to travel home for Christmas from wherever Dad, a soldier in the Army, was stationed. We would all gather at Uma’s or Grandmas. Sometimes we would celebrate the holidays at one grandmother’s house and both sides of the family, Mom’s and Dad’s would celebrate! Those were the best!
I always loved those long trips. Although the car ride would be eight, sometimes twelves hours long (give or take), I looked forward to seeing the vast countrysides, mountains and woods as we would travel down the highway in that old red and white Volkswagen van! They were called microbuses but back then, they weren’t so micro. You could fit about a dozen people in those things and with the motor housed in the back in a compartment under a space on which maybe twenty bags of groceries could sit real easily, there was plenty of room between the hatchback and the backside of the second backseat.
Many times we traveled overnight and Mom would make my brother and me a nice, plush bed, complete with two pillows to sleep on in the space over the motor in the back of the van. And on those cold winter nights, that motor underneath us served as a source of heat to keep us warm while we slept. And between the warmth and the steady hum of the motor, my brother and I would get the best sleep ever!
Christmas was a magical time when we grew up during the 70’s and 80’s and it was partly because we were allowed to be kids and believe in Santa Claus. We were a close-nit family and always gathered together during any holiday- New Years, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But Christmas and New Year’s were the best! Uma and Grandma would have their houses brightly decorated with an abundance of Christmas lights and candles!
I’m blessed to have the beautiful memories of the love and unity my family enjoyed during those times! Because they truly were what Christmas was all about! The love! The laughter! The joy in being together as Christmas classics, such as Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, Burl Ives, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” or Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing on the record player in the background.
Our family would meet at either Grandma’s or Uma’s house on Christmas Eve day. We’d snack on the fruits and veggies from the fruit and veg plates, eat cheese and sausage balls, chocolates, mints, and have a slice of pecan, pumpkin, Chocolate, Lemon or Coconut pie. With it, we’d drink Egg Nog or Boiled Custard. And there were enough soft drinks to go around.
On Christmas Eve night, we would all gather in the living room around the Christmas tree and open presents. Then it was off to bed with me, my brother and cousins. Christmas Eve night was the hardest night of the year for a kid to get to sleep! On Christmas morning, we’d all wake up to a hoard of our favorite toys under the tree- Barbie dolls and baby dolls complete with different outfits for me, Hot Wheels cars and trucks, or Star Wars action figures and vehicles for my brother and my cousins, who were also boys. Even a brand new bike or pair of roller skates!
But isn’t presents the thing that’s on every kid’s mind? And getting to see Grandma? Now that I’m older, presents aren’t nearly as important to me as they were when I was a kid. In my opinion, society over-commercializes Christmas these days.
When I look back now, I think about the love and the togetherness my family shared during the Christmas holidays! I reminisce of the festivities and good times we all shared together. I recall all of us eating or playing cards and board games together! I reflect on the memories of holiday music playing and my mom and grandmother preparing our holiday meal. I think of excited kids running through the house squealing with delight and with their little eyes lit up like Christmas stars! We made so many magical memories together and they are memories I will carry with me to my grave. This, to me, is the true meaning of Christmas.
This post is dedicated to Dad, Grandma and Uma
Rex White Jr.
Frances Bain White Times
Mary Lucille Lawrence Queen