I remember holidays when I was a little girl on our street, Grant Street, that was so small that only one car could go down. The few people with cars almost parked on the sidewalk. It wasn’t an affluent street, but the neighbors celebrated Christmas like crazy
Mothers baked cakes and wrote cards. Dads decorated front porches with strings of lights. My mom stenciled Santas and Christmas trees with soap flakes on the front windows and big dining room mirror.
Several years, my brother and I came straight home from John S. Read Elementary to make tissue paper wreathes for gifts for relatives and to sell to neighbors. Twisting billions of tissue paper leaves around a wire hanger bent into a circle–for weeks on end–what could be more jolly?
One neighbor blared Christmas carols from his front porch (this was not usual in those days) and I remember walking to Weiss’ grocery store listening to the music and feeling that Grant Street had the holiday spirit.
My dad would buy the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and, luckily for my parents, Santa Claus decorated it while my brother, Billy, and I were asleep. A platform had been dragged out of the basement into our tiny dining room and my brother’s Lionel trains were set up.
My mom had done the shopping for the gifts and she learned not to tell my dad what she bought. Dad had been Number Four of thirteen kids so his Christmases were probably skimpy and he was thrilled that we would have nice gifts. My dad wouldn’t exactly tell us, but he would ask us, “Would you like a toy watch? Candy in a Christmas stocking? A doll?” (Just what Mom had just shown him “in secret.”)
It’s funny to think that we got candy cigarettes in our stockings. Viceroys like Mom’s cigarettes and Camels like Dad’s cigarettes. I never smoked the real thing, though. Probably those chalky-tasting candy cigarettes turned me off to smoking forever. Whew. It’s also funny to think that one year I got Annie Oakley boots with spurs, Annie Oakley umbrella with a pistol handle and … a big Annie Oakley toy rifle. I loved them all, but did not grow up to become a sharp-shooter. Although my Cousin Charles let me shoot a couple of shots with his rifle once and it was fun… And, I did teach my ESL students about Annie and they loved her life story.
Neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends popped in and out. Soda, usually a luxury, flowed. My Uncle Art gave us a case of Tru-Ade, the best orange soda in the world, one Christmas and my parents let us drink it like water.
We lived down the street from our church and we were in the children’s choir–maroon robes with gold stoles. Our State Street Methodist Church at Fifth and Grant always had a Christmas program and I still remember the glory of all the music, the candles, the poinsettias, the story of the birth of Jesus.
What a wonderful holiday for my family on that little street…
What holiday memories do you have?