Every year at this time, I think of Christmases when I was little. A part of me can feel what it was like there at Ebenezer Crossroads so many years ago.
I can feel the excitement of the first glimpse of the presents Santa left us by our Christmas tree in the living room. I remember the almost overwhelming excitement of looking at each of the Santa gifts with my sister – and then opening the gifts our parents gave us.
Santa didn’t wrap presents. I guess he didn’t have time to wrap presents for all of the children in the whole world. But our parents did wrap presents. That’s how you could tell which were from Santa and which were from Mama and Daddy.
Then we had the exiting, most-fun-of-all day when we crossed the road to Grandma Effie’s. There gathered our abundance of aunts and uncles and cousins for our typical Christmas Day. We had dinner at 12:30, the Seckinger-extended-family dinner time for decades. We opened presents mid afternoon.
Before dinner, after dinner, and after opening presents, we children played.
Christmas was the best day of the year for playing. We all wore outfits we got for Christmas – cowboy and cowgirl outfits, football uniforms, turtlenecks, plaid bell bottom pants. We wore our new clothes, and we played with our new toys. Even in the new clothes, we ran wherever we went . . . until one of the adults yelled at us to stop running!
We played inside if it was cold or rainy, outside if it wasn’t. We played nicely sometimes. We fought some, too.
It was a glorious day of toys and games and exuberance that had been building for a whole year.
But the main thing I remember is that we were together. I remember very few presents I received, though I know I received many. I remember little about the food we had (well, except for ambrosia, made of oranges with some banana and coconut and pecan, a concoction that Daddy loved so much).
Mostly I remember the people. I remember us all gathering in the living room, Grandma in a chair surrounded by stacks of presents and her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Aunt Madge would be next to her, with a stack of presents just as big. The rest of us filled the living room – on the sofa and in the living room chairs plus chairs brought in from the dining room, with most of us younger ones sitting on the floor.
We drew names (all but Grandma and Aunt Madge did), so each of us got a gift. Two or three of the aunts or uncles or older cousins distributed the gifts. We had to wait until each one of us had his or her gift in hand – then we tore into them. What a cacophony of shredding paper and shrieks of excitement!
And after seeing what we’d gotten and saying “thank you” to the giver, the younger ones of us would throw the torn wrapping paper into the fire in the fireplace to watch the paper burn in lovely colors – red and blue and green flames.
I don’t remember the end of Christmas Day at Grandma’s, the leaving, the saying goodbye. I know we must have done just that, but I don’t remember it.
So in some wonderful way, those Christmases still go on for me.
It’s as if I never actually left.
Even now, all of these decades later, as I sit in front of my laptop in a house on a hill outside Chickamauga, a part of me will always be at Grandma’s house at Ebenezer Crossroads on Christmas Day in a house full of relatives and good food and big stacks of presents.
A full house that was even more full of unspoken love.
That’s where a part of my heart is each Christmas Day.
And so it will continue to be until I join Grandma Effie, Aunt Madge, Mama and Daddy, all but one of my aunts and uncles, and a few cousins on the other side.
Here in my memories, we all are.
And we all are together.