A Penny for Your Christmas Memories

| 12/23/2010 11:47:37 AM

CindyMurphyBlog.jpgFlip through the television channels during this time of year, and you’re likely to come across the movie, A Christmas Story, at least once. You might sit and watch the entire movie, or maybe you’ve seen it so many times, you stop for just a few minutes to catch your favorite scene as a grown-up Ralphie Parker recalls the most memorable Christmas of his childhood. What is your most memorable childhood Christmas? I can say with all honestly that I don’t have one.

I do remember that Christmas as a kid was magical. When we were very little, Santa brought everything. When I say everything, I mean everything. We’d hang our stockings above the fireplace, and leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk on the coffee table before going to bed on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, the cookies and milk would be gone, a thank-you note left in their place, and the stockings had been filled. In the center of it all, a fully lit and decorated tree with presents stacked all around, would be standing where there wasn't a tree when we went to bed! Santa had certainly been busy while we were sleeping!

Even before we woke up, we knew Santa had come, of course. I’d heard him up on the roof during the night! This was not just a figment of my childhood imagination; my brother heard him too. He’d run into my room, and whisper excitedly, “He’s here! He’s here!” We’d have to contain our curiosity, and not go watch him come down the chimney; Santa didn’t come if he sensed he was being watched. We listened to his sleigh bells, and hear his heavy footsteps above us as he made his way across the roof.

I’m not sure when my parents stopped doing everything on Christmas Eve, or when Dad stopped getting up in the attic to ring a string of bells and stomp around loud enough to be sure we’d wake up and hear Santa on the roof. I can’t imagine the work they put into just this one night! But while it lasted, it was magic.

I can also remember being very little when making the long drive to get our pictures taken with Santa at J.L. Hudson’s on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. This was in the late sixties before my youngest brother was born, and back when Hudson’s downtown flagship store was the tallest department store in the world, and the second largest store only to Macy’s in New York. At Christmas, a 9-story Tree of Lights decorated the outside of the building. In the windows, mechanical ice skaters moved around frozen ponds with ice as smooth as glass, and mechanical elves worked making toys in Santa’s workshop. There were closer places my parents could have taken us to see Santa, but everyone even remotely close to the Detroit area knew the “real” Santa only came to Hudson’s downtown. I never remember seeing Santa though; I’ve only seen the pictures of my brother and me on his lap as proof that he was there amidst my memories of the lights, and mechanical elves.

The one time I do remember seeing Santa was not at a department store. Neither did he ride in a sleigh filled with presents and pulled by reindeer. He drove a snowmobile, and the sleigh was filled with neighborhood kids. He pulled up to the house one snowy night, whisking us all off to a lodge in the woods. Outside, the parking lot was full of snowmobiles; inside the lodge was full of children. We had punch and cookies while Santa passed out presents. I don’t remember what he gave me – maybe a doll, it was, or a coloring book – it doesn’t matter. The thing that stands out in my memory is lying in that sleigh, warm and snug with neighborhood friends under layers of blankets, and watching the snow swirl above us as we sped through the night. I also remember that Santa looked suspiciously like our neighbor ... obviously because the real Santa was at Hudson’s.

Cindy Murphy
12/31/2010 9:45:21 AM

Thanks for stopping in, and for your comment, Shannon. Michelle, hope those rockin' days are over for you, and aren't revisited with the grands! Happy New Year to both of you.

Michelle House
12/29/2010 10:39:54 PM

lol, Cindy, I have heard rocks in the washer, not a pleasant sound at all. lol

S.M.R. Saia
12/29/2010 10:44:50 AM

What a beautiful story. A great thought to take into the new year. Happy New Year, Cindy. :0)

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