The hustle and bustle of the holidays are in full swing. Gifts are being bought, wrapped and stashed under the tree. Christmas morning verses Christmas Eve for the exchange of gifts is being debated as impatient children wait for the carnage of brightly colored paper and ribbons. Christmas morning was the designated hour for gifts in the Hill household.
Waking up early I would run up the stairs to my brother’s bedroom yelling, “Santa Claus has been here!” at the top of my lungs. My brothers would run down the stairs sometimes bowling me over in the process. I tumbled down those stairs many times both with and without help. I got good at it because you see; I wasn’t allowed in the boys’ bedroom. Not that I ever let that stop me when they weren’t home.
I don’t specifically remember many of the gifts from my childhood. I remember the year I got a new bicycle as I had outgrown the second-hand one my brother Brian bought me. It was a small blue bike frame with a couple of used tires and a seat and chain scrounged from somewhere. It took me days and many scraped knees and elbows to learn how to ride it. The new bike was aqua green with hand brakes.
My best memories are the fun times we spent as a family. When Daddy was off work, he took us to Fish Camp to play in the snow. We hosted big family dinners with all the aunts, uncles and cousins.
My mom overheard her sister Clara Banks tell a friend in response to how she planned to spend the holiday. “Oh we’ll probably go mess up my sister’s house again this year,” she said.
Holidays meant special dishes only seen during these Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts. It wasn’t quite Christmas dinner until the banana pudding or the weird Jell-O salad with the fruit made an appearance. My aunt Clara made a chocolate pie that was to die for. I was so tickled in recent years when her daughters served it on holidays. One cousin said that it was just chocolate pudding on a piecrust with whipped cream. That didn’t matter to me. The taste brought back Christmas dinner memories that were all but forgotten.
I remember the cans of black and green Oberti olives that we balanced on our fingertips before we ate them. I remember stalks of celery, spread with cheese or peanut butter. Banana pudding made with vanilla wafers and sliced bananas.
I was fascinated by the concept of meringue. Egg whites and a little bit of sugar beaten with mom’s electric mixer until it turned the consistency of whipped cream. Just before serving the meringue was spread on the bowl of pudding and put under the broiler just long enough to turn it golden brown.
We usually had a couple of those big fruitcakes in the round cans. Quality Dairy sold those during the holidays along with eggnog. To motivate the sales staff, the dairy offered prizes for the salesman who sold the most of a given product. In the summertime, the product was the half-gallon cartons of fruit punch, brand name Jungle Juice. I hope this isn’t offensive but my dad could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. He won the sales contest every year.
People knock fruitcake and make it the punch line as an oven-baked doorstop. I really like it, always have. If anyone has a fruitcake that needs to find a home, let me know. I’ll take it off your hands.
Time spent with my daddy was so special to me. He spent a lot of time taking my brothers to sporting events or fishing. I spent so much time cooling my heels stuck in the bleachers or the grandstand watching Rocky and Brian, bat, kick or pass one ball or another.
Daddy took me fishing one time. The most boring activity I ever had to endure, in spite of the fact that I had begged to go fishing many times. I remember I liked the snacks and sodas we bought for the trip. I had one of my brother’s bamboo cane poles in the water for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then I abandoned the fishing pole, found a shady spot and read the comic books my dad had picked up with the snacks. He foresaw this coming but figured I needed to decide for myself if I had the patience it took to fish. I didn’t, still don’t. I would rather be hit in the head with a hammer than go fishing! Nevertheless, the memory of spending the day with my daddy, all by myself is a very special one.
Make some happy memories with your family this Christmas. It is the memories of time spent with family that we take with us as adults.
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