This week, we all have moments we probably recall fondly. Or maybe they're those ones you don't ever want to discuss again? Perhaps they may be the legends of family history? Perhaps a tale about trees and pets or that gift that kept getting passed on from one generation to another... Somewhere buried deep is that fruitcake you could never face, right?
For more than a few folks, there is the guilty pleasure of Jean Shepard's "A Christmas Story". My own father always gets a chuckle, as he was the proud owner of the Red Ryder BB gun many years ago. As a baby boomer, I share some of the moments from it, especially the school scenes. My first elementary school, St. Joseph's, was all too much like the one in the movie, or at least that's some of how I remember it. The playground scenes and the dare always take me back to fond memories of kids I lost touch with over the years.
My mom has one tale that I always enjoy. Seems that one year, she and he sister were helping her mother with the family holiday dinner. When it came time for the turkey to come out of the oven, they both were using the required oven mitts to hold on to the roasting pan. And just at the appropriate moment, their uncle walked into the kitchen, to watch at they both lost their grip on the pan, with the turkey sliding across the kitchen floor. Gasping in horror, my mother and aunt scrambled after it. Their uncle, chuckled and commented, "Not a problem, I'm sure you have another one already to go." He closed the door and left them to their task.
When it was served later, not a word was mentioned, and their uncle just smiled knowingly.
When my mother was young, the highlight of her holiday season was a ride from San Francisco to her grandparents home in San Luis Obispo on the Southern Pacific's famed Daylight trains. The bright orange and red train was a special way to travel, and especially so if you were young. A meal in the dining car offered children a special menu all their own.
A highlight of that visit would be the Christmas eve meal. My mother has very special memories of enjoying a meal of enchiladas, tacos, beans and rice. So much so that she decided to carry on this tradition with her family. It was not uncommon when I was growing up for this meal to require much of the day to prepare and serve.
Then it struck her clear as a bell. Her grandmother never cooked any of this. The reason she served the meal she did was because she sent out to some one and had food delivered. My great grandmother simply did not want to cook two big meals for her family and guests.
While we still enjoy that meal on Christmas eve, it's not the chore it once was.
And we all have our Santa stories to tell.
I have some great photo's taken with the man from some classic visit's at the Emporium on San Francisco's Market Street. I was always amazed that he seemed to know just the right questions to ask. These were things that I thought no one knew about, but me! If there was any reason to believe, it was because he really knew what went on!
Now, flash forward more than a trio of decades, and I'm filling in as one of Santa's helpers at a railway museum. I always had the smile down, even under the beard, and was just right in voice for the shy little visitors. I even used a musical bear as an ice breaker, always asking if I can take him back to the North Pole with me.
But, there always seems to be the one kid, who is on the fence as far as Santa is concerned. He's the one who doesn't really think Santa exists, but there may room for doubt.
So... taking a page from my own experiences, I asked the young man if he kept his room clean. "Yes!", he said. "And what about all those clothes stuffed under the bed?" , I replied. The look of shock was a classic; the trout with the mouth open waiting for the hook.
Another little girl was sitting with her young brother, who also displayed the look of disbelief. I asked her is she always got along with her brother. She smiled and gave the impression that she always did. I asked, "Even when mom and dad aren't watching?" An amazed blink and smile... Ah, Santa mind games. Nothing like 'em.
There was one year where my mom had really put up with a lot from my siblings and I. So much so that when we all came out for Christmas morning, we all found nothing but a potato in our stockings. They were all reclaimed and were served as mashed potatoes that evening.
So at this time of year, let me wish one and all the best of the season to you and your families.
And be sure to share some of those classic family holiday moments. What is oral tradition for, if not to keep bringing these things up year after year after year...