Thoughts of Christmas Past

Reader Contribution by Ginnie Baker
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It’s almost Christmas and it makes me think back to when I was growing up and how special Christmas was when I was a child. My mom made Christmas a very special time for us as we grew up.

She began by baking the infamous fruit cake right after Thanksgiving. I have to admit, her fruit cake was really good! After baking it, she put it in a tin container with a shot glass of whiskey, Scotch or my grandfather’s homemade wine.

Grandfather began making his wine right after they came to the United States from Austria-Hungary. He had a 50-gallon oak barrel in the basement and had grape juice delivered. He would then use his magic to turn the grape juice into his wonderful wine. He put quite a few bottles of wine from that first batch aside in his root cellar and on their 50th wedding anniversary, he served that great wine. I still have a lot of the wine-making equipment including bottles and the bottle capper.

Mom would begin Christmas shopping early, hiding the presents from us so we would be surprised on Christmas morning. She shopped at the old Higbee’s in downtown Cleveland, taking the bus downtown to do her shopping.

Higbee’s was a big deal at Christmas with the windows and the store all decked out with beautiful displays. The windows always had animated displays.

Mom always took us downtown at Christmas to see the Higbee’s displays. A very special time for us with Mom. We’d ride the bus downtown after school and then my father would meet us when he got off work to take us home.

Photo: courtesy

We’d look in amazement at the Terminal Tower in all its Christmas colors, tour the shops in the Arcade and then look at all the animated displays at Higbee’s. We always got to visit with Santa and Mr. Jing-A-Ling!

My father wasn’t into Christmas as much as my mom … he wasn’t exactly a “Grinch” but he wasn’t into the wonder and mystery of Santa Clause.

One of the traditions my mom started when we were very young was that everything “appeared” on Christmas morning, from the Christmas tree to the presents. That meant my father had to go out on Christmas Eve to find a Christmas tree after we were in bed. It wasn’t easy to find the perfect tree on Christmas Eve!

We had all types of trees, large, small, straight, crooked and even one that my father had to anchor with wires to keep it straight in the tree stand! We even had “Charlie Brown” Christmas trees!

Photo: courtesy CBS

But, it was the wonder of Christmas morning and it was great.

Mom would wrap the gifts as she purchased them and would hide them until Christmas Eve when the tree was up.

Being little, we would get up very early on Christmas morning, running into my parents’ room to wake them up so we could go downstairs and open our gifts.

When I was older, I realized that my poor father had probably just gone to bed after putting the tree up and helping Mom get the gifts out of their hiding place and putting them under the tree.

They gave us memories that will last a lifetime!

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