Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wishing You an Old Spice Christmas

I was hoping to find a Christmas photo set back in those ancient times pictured at left, but it seems we have not scanned any. So this is what you get. Me, probably at 4, and my sister, probably at 8. It appears that we may be wearing matching Christmas nightgowns, however.

I loved getting those Christmas nightgowns. Every Christmas Eve, we received something flannel to sleep in from my Great Aunt. Every time I smell fresh flannel, I think of Christmas. Forget the smell of gingerbread, bring on the flannel!!!!

Christmas in these modern times just isn't the same as it was 40 years ago. Back then, stockings were not full of iTunes gift cards, jewelry for various body piercings, and pregnant Barbie dolls. No, there were oranges, chocolate coins, and troll dolls.

If someone approached me and told me they had a time machine and I could go anywhere in the past or the future, I would go to Christmas Eve, 1968, 1969, thereabouts. Back to an Old Spice Christmas.

Four o'clock on Christmas Eve, we would be pulling up in front of my Mother's parents' house. Those tacky, yet stunning, red plastic bells would be blinking on the front door. Upon entering, the smells of ham, scalloped potatoes, and other southern dishes would rush over me like a wave. Uncle Jimmy would greet us and take our coats (the racist tirades would come later, probably with the blessing). The parlor would be full of gifts and my sister and I would quickly determine which ones were ours. The vast majority of the remaining gifts would say to "mother" or "daddy", since almost everyone else was someone's mother or daddy, the gift distribution would prove to be tricky later.

After an inspection of the dining table, I would head for the kitchen. My grandfather would immediately put a slice of warm ham in my hands, and the ladies, except for my great aunt, would be clustered around the appliances in the kitchen. My great aunt would have created a throne for herself somewhere and would be awaiting her subjects. Soon dinner would begin, after a questionable blessing by Uncle Jimmy. There was rarely a children's table, we all crowed together at one table. My sister and I, being by far the youngest, felt special using the "good" crystal, silver and damask napkins.

Next, the present frenzy began. It took quite a while to find out which "daddy" on the tag matched the actual daddy in the room. One of these "daddy" packages always contained a fruitcake. Once someone's daddy opened the fruitcake and suddered and grimaced, the package was passed on to my grandfather for whom it was intended. He actually ate the things. He claimed it would not be Christmas without one. Another "daddy" package contained an assortment of Old Spice products. I'm not sure if this was intended for my daddy, my mother's daddy, or my cousin's daddy, but there was always a sound of great appreciation. The Old Spice assortment contained what appeared to be 10 products. I did not know of any daddy at that time who used more than 2 or three grooming products, so I cannot imagine what all of those products were for. My sister and I received something flannel, and usually something quite bizarre from my great aunt. The "mother" packages often contained stockings (NOT pantyhose, heaven forbid), or a 3-month supply of AquaNet hairspray. At some point during the evening, we would walk around the corner to my "daddy's daddy's" house. My father's parents divorced when he was a child. We never called this man our grandfather, but we had to visit him and his wife for a few minutes every Christmas Eve. The house always smelled like vegetable soup and seemed to be littered with things that elderly people needed but should not display. If we were lucky, we could sample some of the soupy smelling substance and afterwards see any new additions to the gun cabinet.

After a 15-minute ride home (unlike the 6-hour one I endure now), my sister and I would crawl happily into bed in our new flannel. I would sniff my new flannel deeply until I fell asleep.

The next frenzy would begin about 6:00 am. Puzzles! Games! Socks. Underwear. Tinkertoys! Then my mother's blueberry coffee cake. I endured it then, I was so anxious to consume my chocolate Santas and coins. I love it now. Then the phone would start ringing because my father's mother and stepfather were anxious for us to come to their house. A 5-minute drive would land us at their house amid another group of great uncles, aunts and somewhat strange cousins. I can never remember what we ate, because I was always thinking about dessert. Boiled custard. MMMMMMMMMMMM. My husband cringes when I try to explain it. Recipe lost to history. I can only eat it in my memory. Damn, it was good. More presents. More older people exchanging gifts of undergarments. Candy candy candy. My grandmother made candy. Lots of it. All colors. All kinds. The only requirement was the candy had to have enough sugar to make you wince.

Pleasant. No drama. Little chaos (at least where us kids were concerned). Every now and then a bit of a surprise. One year, a drunk (my mother's people lived near the "bad" side of downtown) in a Santa suit paid the family a visit on Christmas Eve (this might be the last year I believed in Santa). Uncle Jimmy's blessings could make a politically-correct diner's eyes bulge. Another year, a Christmas card house caught fire & the house would have burned down on Christmas Eve if my Dad hadn't run the flaming thing out the back door. Other than that . . .

So no matter what holiday you celebrate, I hope it is a good one. Full of family, friends. And if not that, full of something good, something meaningful.

We are going for a six hour drive to visit my family for 2 days, then a 4 hour drive to visit my hubby's family. Hectic, yes. Pleasant, quite possibly. Perhaps my daughter will write about her wonderful holiday experiences one day.


bb said...

Ah, you bring back warm, cozy holiday memories. We used to get handmade flannel nightgowns every Christmas, too. My step-grandmother would make matching ones for all the girls, and pajamas for the boys. I loved those nightgowns.

paula said...

kim, hope you all have a warm cozy safe good smelling good tasting time!
merry christmas,paula

Ellen said...

How I do wish I could put on flannels like that again and not feel like my mother in law.

Hope you had a happy Christmas and YOU'RE the mom now, the one who has to MAKE Christmas happen. It's hard to keep that sense of magic alive but I bet your daughter will look back and see it just as warmly as you do.

Now matter what happens, my daughter says, 'this was the best Christmas ever!' every year, makes me realize I must have done something right with all the fussing.