Don’t look now but I am doing another column.
When we had a larger editorial staff, we used to spread the columns around and everybody had an assigned week of the month – now, with staff changes and different placement of columns, there’s just a couple of us writing pieces for use on the ‘Perspective’ page.
Teresa Hammond’s ‘Mommy Musings’ and the sports-themed ‘Time Out’ columns by Dennis D. Cruz run in what we call the ‘A’ Section of news/sports and not in the ‘Living/Perspective’ section.
So I am trying to increase my column production and that means you have to suffer through another one this week.
And this is a strange time of the year for us, anyway, with production schedules seeing major revisions to account for the back-to-back holiday weeks.
Be that as it may, my thoughts this week have drifted back to the Christmases of my childhood. It probably didn’t hurt that my sister-in-law let me know they got 28 inches of snow from the last Nor’easter that went through upstate New York; that sparked plenty of memories.
Growing up, I enjoyed many ‘White Christmases’. There was always something that seemed so magical about that to me as a kid; it just didn’t feel like Christmas unless you could sit inside by the fireplace and watch the snowflakes fall.
Traditions were also important; for years, we went as a family – my mom, dad, older sister, older brother and me – over to my grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve. It was ‘over the river’ literally, you had to go on the bridge over the flour mill stream, unless you took the long way around. But you didn’t have to go through the woods. My dad was one of four siblings and, for many years, his two sisters, brother and all of us kids enjoyed a loud, boisterous, ripping of the gift wrap evening. Several cousins, my siblings, all the aunts and uncles and my grandmother and step-grandfather on my dad’s side, it was always a full house. Every once in a while, a few additional relatives would show up and I just remember it being a night of good food, laughter, excitement over the gifts received and trying not to lose any small pieces to games or toys. A couple of years, with heavy snow falling, we dealt with power outages and super slippery roads, but we still managed to have a good time.
My grandmother also made sure to have the poteca, a Slovenian dessert bread featuring nuts and brown sugar, for everyone to enjoy. We pronounced it ‘poe-tee-tsuh’ and that may not have been right but, who cares? We knew grandma was going to make some for us to take home and that was a sure sign of the holidays.
Many of us at grandma’s then went to the candlelight service at church. After all the commotion at her house, it was a calming way to end the evening. It was a quiet, candles only 11 p.m. service, which typically ended just before midnight. Then it was off to home and, since it was usually a little after midnight when we got there it was technically already Christmas. Our parents let us pick one present that was under the tree, sent in by out-of-state relatives, to open up before we went to bed. After we went ‘to bed’ my brother would come in to the room my sister and I shared and we would talk about what we hoped would be under the tree for us in the morning.
Ironically, or prophetically, one of my most favorite gifts was a small tape recorder I got one year. I proceeded to interview everyone in the family about their Christmas gifts, their thoughts on the day, favorite part of dinner, etc., etc.
Guess that was just laying the groundwork for the career I would one day have. I’d love to still have that tape recorder, not to mention those interviews … but I am grateful I still have the memories.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.