The best evidence that the holidays were actually over was when the legal intimidation from your parents that started the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve (exactly 28 days) finally stopped. The constant reminders to be on your P's & Q's came to a halt. "You better be good." "Santa Claus is not going to bring you anything if your room is not clean." "Pick that up." "Put this away." "Stop fighting with your brothers and sisters." "If grades are not good on your next report card, Santa Claus is not bringing you anything." I didn't know of any children whose parents actually followed through with Santa leaving coal, sticks, or stones.
Christmas in the 60s seemed so innocent by today's standard in my small hometown. Our holidays were simple; it was all about your beliefs, family, a few gifts, and having a wonderful Christmas dinner, along with the many cakes, pies, and bowls of fruit. And we especially enjoyed the fresh pecans sent by our kinfolks from down south every year.
Oh, how we prayed and wished for snow so our mom would take out her ice cream maker to make homemade vanilla ice cream from the very first snow. That is the only time she made it. That hard-sticky ribbon Christmas candy, and that darn fruitcake were the only remnants left of the holidays in our home as far as goodies went.
My mom was the only one; however, who dared eat that funny looking cake that appeared dry and spotted with colors from a crayon box. Ah, but the good news was that those round, decorative cans they came in were recycled every year becoming things like my mom's sewing can, a storage for my pink sponge rollers, or a repository for my paper dolls and their clothes.
Other signs that the holidays were over in our house was the then torn and tattered wish book, the Spiegel's catalog, with all that we wanted for Christmas circled. We (my 5 siblings and I) even added our initials by every toy so not to confuse our parents. I would often let my mom know that I circled everything I wanted; but I never understood her reply, "Don't let your wants hurt you." As a child, I thought it was a sign to keep circling the toys I wanted, so wherever the "wants" were located in my body, would not hurt.
All that time of circling and dreaming was when my "wants" started to hurt, bad, especially when we were asked to show or write down only three things we wanted for Christmas." I had circled and initialed over fifty or more toys. I thought- how did my mom and dad expect us to narrow it down to two or three toys? We were hopeful Santa Claus would override their decision.
Alas, when I saw the two or three toys I asked for under the tree, I had forgotten about all the other forty-seven 'wants' I had circled.
Moreover, I loved to listen to my mom and dad when we got holiday calls from our relatives from down south. As a child, I thought all of our kinfolk were hard of hearing by the way my parents' 'shouted' with excitement during those conversations. It was as though our kinfolk were hiding upstairs in the attic. Our parents would give us ' that ' look to keep quiet while they continued to 'yell ' into the new instrument that eventually was a part of every household--the telephone.
In addition, I had been amazed how my mom had done a special cleaning just for Santa Claus. She washed windows, including the walls; drapes were taken down, washed, and ironed. Furniture moved and rearranged for the tree. Cushions were removed from the sofa (where a sock, a piece of candy, that penny, nickels, or dimes you accused one of your siblings of taking, was there). Our fine china (the S&H Green Stamps version collected by my mom) were washed and gently placed back into the china cabinet not to be touched until the next holiday.
She busied herself as she took down the last of the beautiful Christmas cards from relatives, friends, and families from across the country; they had transformed our plain archway that lead to the kitchen into a holiday work of art; a panoply of cards in all shapes, sizes, and vibrant holiday colors. I loved reading the hand-written notes inside the cards and looking at photos of my kinfolks and my cousins, who were growing like tumbleweeds, along with newborn babies and kinfolk I had never met. I watched as my mom neatly put them away inside an empty fruitcake can.
My dad was meticulous as he removed the Christmas lights, along with the Christmas wreath made from pine-cones, with a red bow that welcomed all into our home. He placed them back into their respective boxes, and took the Christmas tree from the water-filled bucket outside as the pine scent permeated throughout the house until it slowly dissipated.
Now, it was time to put away my siblings and I's most treasured and hilarious mawkish group of friends: Simon, Theodore, and (Alvin!!), the Chipmunks! Not for another year would we play their familiar Christmas song with those high-pitched voices. I felt a little maudlin and often wondered if Alvin ever got his hula-hoop...