Every year at this time of Christmas I enjoy revisited my past Christmas memories.
For all my photos, I have absolutely no photos of me as a young child in front of a Christmas tree.
There are no photos of me sitting on Santa's lap. That's because I never sat on Santa's lap. My parents never took us (me and my two younger brothers) to a Santa, department store or a Salvation Army Santa. That kind of tradition just wasn't in their DNA.
|Brat on Santa's lap|
The first Christmases I can remember was when we lived in that cockroach infested, second floor apartment ($22 a month rent) on Washington Avenue in the white trash section of Downingtown in the late 40's and early 50's. Ironically, that apartment building is still there and it is still the white trash section of Downingtown. And believe me, White Trash. My father was a hillbilly, literally. Arrived in Pennsylvania from the mountains of western North Carolina in 1929 with his eight brothers (two more born in Pennsylvania) with his hillbilly mom and pop.
|My father (tallest man in back with hat on the left) with ten of his eleven brothers (one took the picture) and mother - 1939 - at the burial of their father 1939|
They were starving in those mountains and migrated to south eastern Pennsylvania to his brother-in-law's farm as cheap labor. But I digress.
My father married up to my Mother who was descended from Pennsylvania Quakers. Her mother died before she was two years old and she had a "Cinderella" childhood. My father was her "Prince Charming",
|Mom's "Prince Charming" - a near illiterate North Carolina hillbilly - my father|
to take her out of her poor living conditions. Mom got married to my father when she was only sixteen years old.
|Cinderella - my Mom's early life was very similar to this image|
My Mother's birthday was Christmas Eve. She always told me she didn't like it when her birthday was combined with Christmas ("This give is for your birthday and Christmas").
Thus with this family background, I have set the stage for my early Christmases.
I remember always being reminded how she only got an orange for Christmas for which she was always thankful. So we should always be thankful for whatever we got.
She also reminded me that "Pop's" Christmas was even more bleak. She said he was lucky if he got through Christmas without a beating from his father, who did like to beat his eleven sons. And beat hard, enough to leave scars on my father's back, which she often referred to.
Now I'm not complaining about our early Christmases. I was grateful for whatever new pair of pants or scarf I got. I don't remember any toys.
Then came the one Christmas I got very bold and asked Santa Claus (I still believed in Santa then) for an electric train set. I really wanted that electric train set, the one with an engine that puffed smoke. And since I was the first born son, I assumed my wish would be granted.
Come Christmas Day, we three (me and my two younger brothers) could hardly sleep Christmas Eve. Early Christmas morning we rush to the "front room" (which is what we called our linoleum floor covered living room in our apartment where our Charlie Brown Christmas tree was displayed in resplendent splendor) to see what Santa left under the tree.
There were the usual packages which the Christmas paper couldn't hide the fact that more underwear and pajamas were underneath. Then we spied the BIG package. OH NO! There it was!
I grabbed the huge box with my ten year old hands and ripped off the Christmas paper.
There it was! A Lionel train set!
I GOT MY TRAIN!
But wait, my Mother, who was observing her sons, quickly put a caveat on my Christmas present. She said "That train is for ALL of you."
How does that work?
She said "You're all to share."
Well folks, long story short, that didn't work.
We tried. I took the engine and the coal car. My middle brother Isaac took the two middle cars which included the flatbed car with logs.
By youngest brother John got the caboose.
We split the tracks. We never did decide on how "owned" the transformer.
Needless to say this "sharing" didn't work. I'm sure my Mother had the best intentions and our family was just too poor to afford a gift of such expense for each son. But this just didn't work.
My brothers and I never did use that train set. In fact, I think I eventually walked away from it and gave the train set up to my brothers.
I've always viewed this episode from my early life as a metaphor for my whole life.
It's funny how a seemingly innocuous decision during one's early life affects one's future life.
Maybe I'm wrong but I know this, my Mother's decision at that time only contributed to my life long questioning of myself "Am I good enough?"
I think my Mother tried to make up for her mistake at a subsequent Christmas. I wanted a camera so bad. I think it was my next Christmas, when I was eleven years old that I got my camera. Thus beginning a life long hobby of taking pictures.
|My brothers John and Isaac with their new Christmas presents 1954 - bikes! And my first pictures with my new Kodak Brownie camera - definitely not HD but I loved the fact that I could take photos now|
There, this is just one of my Christmas memories. I have another one (much better) which I will share tomorrow).
By the way, the photo of bubble candles at the beginning of this blog is an image I will always associate with my early Christmases. We always had those wonderful bubble lights on our Christmas trees, no matter how sad the Christmas tree. The bubble lights always "made it Christmas."