Thursday, February 01, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

14. This is how my family celebrated Christmas.

How we celebrated anything depended on where we were living at the time and the year. When I was younger, we lived in many places in California, and we always returned to Modesto, where both of my parents had grown up, for the holidays. Because my Grandmother Hunt had a house with an extra bedroom, we would stay with her. If my Uncle Lee and Aunt Orlena came as well, which they usually did, they had the bedroom in the tankhouse. We would spend part of the day with the Hunts, and then part of the day with the Herndons. Christmas presents would be opened when we were there, since in those days I was the only child and the adults could wait. Most of the presents under both trees were for me, because no one had much money and the adults would draw names so each would get one present, married couples would also buy something for each other, and everyone bought a present for me! Breakfast would be with one family, dinner with the other, and I think we rotated. At my Herndon grandparents, Aunt Flossie would be home from college or from her job. Aunt Nadine was there before she was married, but after she married she spent all holidays with her mother-in-law. Including her own wedding anniversary. Great-grandpa Herndon and Aunt Julia, who had sold her business in San Francisco and returned to Modesto to take care of him when Great-grandma died, would come at least for desert, but usually also for dinner.

After my father's death, we continued to visit my mother's parents and Forrest and I would be taken to visit Grandmother Hunt as well. One year, when we were living with Aunt Flo and she was newly married, we had Christmas in Stockton with her, Uncle Wes, his daughter Sylvia, Mama, Forrest and me. I remember Aunt Flo using the egg beater to whip up Ivory Soap flakes and water to a stiff substance she put all over the tree as snow. And that, quite by coincidence, Daddy (who Mama was engaged to but wasn't there when we got up to open presents) gave Mama the exact same robe that Uncle Wes gave Flo -- one was blue and one green and it was very funny, because all of their lives people had done that, but always before the ditto gifts had come from one giver and been done on purpose.

For the years that we lived outside of California, it was just the five of us. We were allowed to open one present before bed Christmas Eve, and then our stockings and the rest of the presents were attacked before breakfast, which Daddy always cooked and which was always a special treat. One year while we were opening presents, Daddy brought us all glasses of orange juice with ice cubes and Mama was paying attention to how the kids were greeting their presents, and finally Daddy said, sort of short, "Virginia, finish your juice so I can wash the glasses". She did and started to hand him her glass with the ice cubes still in it, at which he said, "Well, finish the ice". And, there, frozen in the ice cubes were a pair of ear rings he had designed and had made with the diamond and ruby chips from a piece of his Masonic jewelry. She still wears them.

After we moved back to California we continued to open presents at our own house and then to drive to Modesto for dinner. Mama almost always made the entire family matching bathrobes for Christmas. Some presents were clothes, some were toys. As Aunt Nadine had children of her own and Aunt Flo took over raising Sylvia, there were fewer presents from them and none from the Hunts (Uncle Lee also had children to buy for then), but I still remember Christmas as the time I got the lion's share of the goodies.

*Sadly, when my mother remarried and Daddy adopted Forry and me (so that there would be no difference between us and any children who they might ever have, which would be Colleen), my Grandmother Hunt ceased any interest in us and we didn't visit there. I remember that she always wrote to me and sent cards and small presents at any excuse (St Patrick's Day, Groundhog Day), but after my last name changed, she never sent me anything again.


kenju said...

That was a bit HARSH! How insensitive of her.

J said...

I wonder if Grandma thought Grandpa was being especially bossy, that he wanted to wash the glasses before people were even finished opening gifts! Ha! Very sweet, though. :)

J said...

I just now realized that your father's kids from his first marriage were adopted and changed their name as well. So this woman estranged all of her son's kids, for something that they themselves had no control over. What a hard woman.

Maya's Granny said...

Yes, my mother called her the battle-axe, with good cause.