Sunday, December 19, 2010


"Deep in December it's nice to remember ... and follow!" Ed Ames sang mostly in remembrance of earlier parts of life when he was "a tender and callow fellow," and the days when "no one wept except the willow."

Here we are, deep in December of the year, nearing Christmas and, yes, it is nice to remember, and nice to follow.

What do we remember? Suzy remembers her childhood Christmases when all the family would gather at her home for the holiday. Great Aunt Kate, Great Uncle Hoyt, Great Aunt Anne, Nanny, and of course Suzy's Mom and Dad. After the big Christmas Eve dinner, all the presents were under the tree, and she had her stocking hung by the chimney with care, the adults brought out the poker table and the drinks. Suzy got to sit on laps, as long as she didn't talk about the cards, and she got the maraschino cherries from the drinks, which guaranteed a good night's sleep before Santa would arrive.

There was always a fire in the fireplace. One particular year, during the poker game, they heard sirens, and someone was pounding on their door. They were told there were sparks, big ones, flying from their chimney! Suzy's Mom rushed to the fireplace and grabbed the big log she had recently added to the fire and hauled it out onto the hearth - with her bare hands! The family sat outside on the lawn while the firemen checked out the big house for safety.

Jerry remembers the food from Christmases past. Pork pie, from Grandma Rosalie's French-Canadian heritage; Swedish pastry rings his mother made from scratch, and sliced oranges sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with a maraschino cherry.

From Christmas Memories
The week before Christmas, the kitchen was a beehive of activity, and part of the fun was Jerry and his brother Chuck helping to make Christmas candies: fondant, plain or colored red or green, rolled into balls, topped with pieces of walnut or candied fruit; red and green gelatin candies; homemade marshmallows with toasted coconut; and of course fudge.

We would go Midnight Mass, Mom and Chuck and Jerry, at St. Ignatius Church in Portland, then come home and Dad would join us for egg nog and some date bread spread with cream cheese. Chuck and Jerry would pour a glass of milk for Santa and put it by the fireplace, along with a plate of cookies and a carrot for the reindeer. In the morning, the glass would be empty, a few cookie crumbs and the stub of a carrot would be all that remained on the plate.

Suzy also remembers the year she and her Mom walked the several blocks to a religious good store. They looked at all the Nativity scenes, and her Mom selected the finest one there: besides Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the scene included an angel, three Wise Men, three shepherds, six sheep, a donkey, a cow, and a camel, with a big stable (some assembly required each year!). When Suzy asked why they hadn't picked one of the smaller sets, her Mom replied, "Because this one is more real!" It had set her back $39, a mighty sum in the late 1940s!

This is the only photo we can find of the old Nativity scene.
This year, our 51st Christmas, we bought a new Nativity scene, at Costco. It's bigger, but certainly not better.

One year when our girls were young, Suzy made these huge stockings to hang by the chimney, one for each of us in the family.

What fun it was to find them stuffed with wonderful things on Christmas morning. There would be toys for the girls, maybe some cute new socks, school supplies. The essentials were a quarter in the toe, followed by an orange or two. One year when wallets were especially thin, our girls awoke Christmas morning to several colorful inflated balloons in their stockings, as well as the quarter and some oranges. They were just as happy as if there had been Nintendos, if Nintendos had even existed in those days. They played with those balloons for hours!

Another year we all worked together to make these "Three Kings" banners. Suzy cut the felt pieces, the girls got to help choose the trim and jewel decorations, and we all got glue on our fingers. Again, these banners have been displayed nearly every year at Christmas, and once in our parish church!

"Deep in December it's nice to remember ... and follow." We followed many of these memories with our children as they were growing up, and with our grandchildren as long as we were together. And until we retired in 2002, we set up that same nativity scene Suzy's Mom bought so many years ago. Somehow that old nativity set has faded into mystery, as no one in the family seems to know where it is any longer.

Every year we still have pork pie for Christmas breakfast, except now Suzy makes it with turkey sausage instead of pork sausage.
From Christmas Memories

From Christmas Memories

And our daughters' families continue some of the traditions, with changes of course, but we know they remember when deep in December. We just spoke with daughter Kathie: she and her daughter Renee are involved in "baking day" today" -- seven pies and five pastries!

What do you remember, deep in December?

Wishing you a very wonderful blessed Christmas, the birthday of our Savior, the reason for the season, from Jerry and Suzy, living ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. What fun to read about your Christmas memories, Suzy and Jerry. A good time was had by all, or so it sounds. Balloons in the stockings--that's a new one and a good one! Do you think it would work for my 21-year-old? ;) I enjoyed seeing your food, your wise men banners, and your nativity sets. Nativity sets are a favorite of mine, but Dave and I still like the one we bought (for cheap at a dime store) in 1979, the year we were married.

  2. Great reflections and pictures. This is a great time of year to remember the good times from days gone bye.

  3. What great memories. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas to Suzy and you.

  4. Great post. Our Nativity scene was a little different. My parants had purchased the best one they could find, had all the figues along with the stable animals and the camels with the wise men. I didn't like the stable building, it was made of cheap cardboard. So every year that I spent Christmas at home with my parents, I would build a stable out of Lincoln Logs.

    Thanks for the memories.

  5. A lot of great memories and traditions from Christmas' past. Looks like you'll be adding another year to those traditions this year as well. That 'breakfast pie' sure looks good.

  6. Jerry and Suzy, it was very pleasant to read about your past Christmas memories and to learn of your family traditions. Merry Christmas to you!

  7. Well, like I always say, 'the only thing better than right now will some day be the memories of right now' which of course makes past memories todays pleasures & tomorrow's hope. And, by the way, I really like those colorful red Christmas balls in your deader picture:))

  8. What nice memories of Christmas! It's great that you two have commemorated the holiday in a sacred manner, yet with such color and flair!

  9. I think of my Boy's a lot this time of the year. It was a great time around Christmas then. I was always up way past midnight putting together what we got them so they would be surprised Christmas morning....Yes fond memories, but I was a State trooper then and was working a lot of the time, but always made sure I was there to see their BIG eyes when the got up that morning....
    Now all the delisious FOOD, you too made me hungry!! Guess I'll just have to go EAT something!! LOL
    Good Blog, Jerry. God Bless you guys and the Merriest of Christ"masses" to you!

  10. I hope you have had a Merry Christmas.
    Many wishes, for an happy new year to all, from an Italian reader, since two years ago, of this very nice blog.


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