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Wednesday, 19 December 2012


By Johna Ferguson

December 1936 – I remember my father, my sister and I piling into his car in search of a Christmas tree.

At that time the government owned a lot of timber land in the foothills out of Tacoma, Washington and many parts were open for free tree cutting. It really wasn’t that easy to find a good tree as they all grew so close to each other in the forest but finally, we found what we thought was a good one.

In reality it only had to have two good sides as it would go in the corner of our living room; bare parts would be hidden in back. My father chopped it down and we rolled it in a sheet and tied in onto the roof of his Plymouth coupe and my sister and I sat in the rumble seat and held onto the lower branches to keep it from falling off.

Then into a big pail of water in the unheated basement for a few days to acclimate itself. In the meantime out came the boxes of ornaments and lights. I especially liked the little glass blown birds with spun polymer tails that clipped onto the branches.

Each light had to be checked to see that it worked and if not, bulbs were replaced. My father finally put the tree into its stand and mother draped a white sheet around the base for a snowy look. The lights were first and the strands were carefully wound around the tree.

Then the cherished glass ornaments were carefully hung but not until after my father climbed a step stool and placed the beautiful white flowing gowned angel on the top. He placed the smaller ornaments at the top and then we hung the bigger ones on the way down and finally all the biggest ones on the lower branches.

Mother, then with her critical eye, changed a few around and finally pronounced it was time for the saved-from-year-to-year tinfoil rain. Of course, she started but eventually as her arms tired we two girls were allowed to help. But I must admit she was forever telling us hang a single strand not a bunch and make sure it then fell in a straight line.

After all that, began the making of Christmas wrapping paper. It was just after the Depression and we didn’t want to spend our precious money on paper so my mother had saved all kinds of white butcher papers.

We decorated them with Christmas seals from the Lung Society or using stencils we painted in red, Merry Christmas, or drew green trees on it and all and kinds of colored ornaments. Actually we spent one entire Saturday under mother’s direction having fun making Christmas wrappings.

When it came time to wrap the gifts, we’d use home made glue - flour and water - instead of ribbons to hold the packages together for who had the extra money to buy ribbon and we had no Scotch tape.

We had helped mother and the maid make cookies, fruit cake and home-made, brightly-colored, flavored, hard candy the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. These were packed carefully in boxes or bags as gifts for the neighbors and relatives but I must say we snatched tastes whenever possible.

Throughout the entire time, we listened to Christmas carols on the radio. Oh, it was such a festive time that the thoughts of our meager gifts just faded away. It was the joy of the whole family together and having such a good time.

On Christmas Eve we put our few, carefully-wrapped packages under our lovely tree and my sister and I hung our stockings from the mantel. My father read the story about the birth of Jesus from the Bible, whose birthday we would be celebrating in the morning.

Oh such fond memories from my childhood and such a joy at 82 to even be able to remember them.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thank you for sharing your Christmas memories. Brought back some of my own memories.
Your last line summed it all up for me: "Such a joy at ____(fill in your number) to even be able to remember them."
Maybe that is why our short term memory weakens first as we age. Comforting long term memories stand the tests of time and our age. Hopefully the discomforting memories go away along with our short term memories.

For a long time I worried that my kids would not have as happy of memories of any holiday compared to me. But I found out I was wrong. They do. The memories are just different.

Just perfect thanks for sharing..I remember real trees too, at my present part time job, I happen to be back on west side Manhattan and all along 9th avenue, the trees are for sale, little wodden stands have popped up just like the 40s when I was a child..I have yet to witness a sale, but it is early for apt dwellers to take in their purchases..How true about memories and how we never forget those smells or special moments..when you talked about the beautiful birds and the tails, I could remember holding ornaments and asking whose they were, etc..and hearing my Mother tell me that was a gift from her Aunt Mabel, etc..and tinsel..never did get the thing of one strand at a time..today I had lunch with long time friend, we see each other maybe once a year..she was asking lots of questions about where we worked late 70s and 80s and neither of us could remember things that were going on..esp. dates, we laughed, but walking back I was racking my brain about forgetting a whole decade's events..my life was in tumult for most of that time, so maybe I was doing it day to day and it's best left unrecalled, so to speak...

Thank you for your story. It brought back sweet memories for me. We,like you,went into the woods and selected the perfect tree to cut down and take home. Icycles were the finishing touch and we had to string them one by one on each branch when we really wanted to throw them on in clumps. We were so proud of our decorated tree that we made our dad drive around and around the block to check it out. During the holidays we also drove through our small hometown to look at all the decorations. I must admit that I still like to do that.

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