Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Christmas Eve Circuit

Daddy and Uncle Junie

From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another.
The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other.
~Emily Matthews

For me, the most memorable Christmas gifts aren’t under the tree. From my earliest memories of Christmas, my greatest treasures have been the unwrapped, bowless moments spent with family.

My dad was the youngest of 11 children. Seven of them lived within four short blocks of one another. One of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child was making the rounds to their homes on Christmas Eve. After supper, Mom and Daddy, my two sisters, and my brother and I would excitedly begin our circuitous journey. I skipped along in happy anticipation, knowing that wonderful times awaited.

Our first stop was a mere half a block away--my Aunt Jan and Uncle Junie’s. Daddy and Uncle Junie were born just one year apart and were best friends. These brothers had married sisters, so our families spent time together practically every day. Christmas Eve, though, made even this frequently-visited place feel extra special.

The mammoth trees they chose were always dazzling with lights, homemade decorations, and tinsel. Best yet, Uncle Junie set up his electric train with its nifty buildings, businesses, and working cars—a treat, reserved only for the Christmas season.

Uncle Junie and his family would accompany us on the next leg of our journey--Aunt Althea’s. I can still hear her husband Dick’s jolly laugh. With his teasing, jokes, and stories, he made everyone chuckle.

From there, we moseyed over to my Aunt Edna’s home. Though widowed during World War II, Aunt Edna exuded joy and love. She gifted everyone with a huge smile and a hug. Her teen-aged daughters, Francie and Nancy seemed so very grown up—they even had boyfriends!

By the time we hiked up the hill to the house where my dad grew up, my cousins from out-of-town had usually arrived. We didn’t see them often, making the Christmas Eve visit extra special. Grandpap and Grandma Flasher still lived at the old homestead, as did my dad’s oldest brother, Allen. Etched in my mind is an image of him pulling his worn brown leather wallet from his back pocket to slip us each a couple of bills to get ourselves “something nice”.

Trudging further up the exceedingly steep street, we reached my Aunt Keek’s house. Keek was a talented artist and her work adorned many of their walls. I gazed in wonder at her paintings, amazed at her ability.

Right next door, literally only ten feet away, lived Aunt Betty. Like my dad and Junie, these two sisters were best friends. Amusingly, they both married men named Frank. Frank and Frank were also buddies, so the two families were very close.

At each stop we shrugged out of our coats and traipsed out to the kitchen for a snack. There we enjoyed a variety of treats offered only at Christmas—tangerines, potato candy, sugar-glazed popcorn, penuche, date and nut cookies, homemade fruit cake, cut-out sugar cookies, ribbon candy, tree-shaped ice cream treats, poppy seed roll, nut horns, and much more. Christmas was the only time soda pop was purchased and we savored those ice-cold bottles of 7-Up and Coke.

I can still hear the Christmas carols sung in beautiful four-part harmony by my dad, his siblings, and their spouses, as they stood with their arms draped around one another. The glittering lights, peals of laughter, and hum of a dozen conversations at once pleasantly warmed the crowded rooms. The fragrance of fresh-cut pine trees, baking spices, and brewing coffee combined to transform the winter evening into a magical celebration of faith and family, topped off by the 11:00 PM Christmas Eve worship celebration—a fitting end to a truly soul-warming, treasure-filled Christmas Eve.


©2016 Pamela D. Williams