I started thinking about memories and Christmas and immediately knew what my first memory was of Christmas. I was 2 (to turn 3 in February). Santa gave me a cloth doll with legs so long she was as tall as me. She had yellow yarn hair and was dressed in red and white. Her face was plastic. And, amazingly enough, I’d seen her in the Sears Catalog!
I asked my brothers what their first memories were, and both of them said age 3 (they are twins), but their memories were different. Jerry remembered it because they got a train set, and Gerry remembered it because of the electric candles we had in the living room windows and he could barely reach the base of them to touch.
I asked my Mother. “I know it was at Granny’s, and I seem to remember a doll, homemade, of course.” She said “I am sure Granny made it.” Mother was born in 1929, so this was probably in the early 1930s.
I asked Husband: “I was 6 and I got a bicycle!”
I asked Daughter: “We put the tree up in the sunroom instead of the living room. I was 8. I decided to sneak down to see what was under the tree. I went all the way through the house in the dark to look. I was scared to death, and I never did that again!”
A few other Christmases that stand out for me: The year my twin brothers were born on Dec. 1. I was 10, and it seemed to renew the wonder of Christmas for me.
Then a Christmas when I was about 14. My boyfriend came by. I was babysitting my brothers while my daddy left to pick Mother up from work. Now, I wasn’t supposed to let my boyfriend in if a parent wasn’t at home. I was going to make an excuse, but I don’t have one. I let him in. I was distracted and my darling 4-year-old brothers turned over the Christmas tree. It was a real tree and already drying out, so of course pine needles went everywhere, and Christmas ornaments broke and scattered. I was furious as well as scared. The boyfriend, who is the oldest of four boys, thought it was hysterically funny. But he helped put the tree back up, I swept up broken ornaments and pine needles while he put unbroken ornaments back on the tree. I know my parents must have noticed, but they never said anything. I threatened my brothers with their lives if they said anything. I also remember my first Christmas after David and I married. We bought a live tree. We didn’t have much money so we purchased cheap ornaments, but they were colorful. I still have a few 37 years later, and they still go on the tree.
Of course, the first Christmas after we became parents stands out in my mind. She was 6 months old. She didn’t care (or really know) what she got, but I remember how much joy David and I had that year.
Well, I was having so much fun reminiscing; I decided to ask friends and other family members for their first memories, but usually they gave me the Christmas that stood out to them, not necessarily their first.
My nephew, Eddie, remembers the Christmas he was 7, because they had a live tree for the first time.
My niece, Jesse, says her first memory was the year she was 3 or 4 and she got a “Check Up Doll” which came with a doctor’s kit. She called it a “ketchup doll.”
My sister-in-law, Michelle, says for her it was the year her baby sister was born on Dec. 2. They dressed her in red and placed her under the Christmas tree. She said there wasn’t much money that year, but it was a great Christmas.
My first cousin, Robyn, remembers in the ‘70s when toe socks were popular. She was a snoop and found two pair that her mother had purchased her, but the two pair were identical. Robyn had purchased a pair for her friend, so she exchanged that pair with a pair her mother had purchased for her. Her mother didn’t mention noticing the swap.
Here are some other memories that folks shared with me. I’ll use their first names only, as I didn’t get specific permission.
Kay said when she was in the third grade, she got a jewelry box with a ballerina inside, coloring pages that were in a scroll, and an autograph dog. Her mother let her go to the neighbors to get signatures.
Cathy said, “I remember a Christmas with snow on the ground in Ellijay. I received a little cast iron wood stove that was similar to my grandmother’s. I must have been around 5. I still have it!”
Margaret remembers: “My fondest memories of Christmas from my childhood are the ones where dad and I would find our tree. We would go to the woods and find, by today’s standards, a scrawny tree. Mom and I would decorate it with balls, the big fat lights and tinsel. It was the prettiest tree I’d ever seen. Still today my tree with tinsel is the most favorite of all the trees I put up. The best thing to me though was the time I spent with dad. I will cherish those memories as long as I live.”
Joan remembers: “Best Christmas….got basketball and boot skates (with a case). So happy!”
Jeanne tells: “Circa 1950s….There was a new boy doll out named Jackie and I wanted him so bad. My Dad said I was too old for a doll so I knew I wouldn’t be getting him. My parents and my grandmother went shopping, and all three ended up at the store at different locations around the counter. When they saw each other, they all laughed, and I got my Jackie doll (only one of course) for Christmas!”
From Johnnie: “One of my favorite memories was when I was around 6 or 7 years old and it was Christmas Eve… we heard a loud sound of a cowbell ringing on our side porch. My sisters, mother and I all ran to the door, and when we looked out Santa had left our toys on the porch. We were sure we heard a Ho Ho Ho and were so excited.”
From Sylvia: “The memory that sticks in my mind the most was when I was 6 or 7. I started questioning if Santa was real. My Dad assured me he was. Every Christmas Eve my Dad’s whole family would get together at my Aunt Margaret’s house. We went as usual. It was very late when we got home. When I walked in the door, Santa had been there! It must have been Santa because my parents were both with me! So it preserved my childhood belief for one more year that there was a Santa.”
Shane remembers: “I think I was 3 years old. We were having some kind of Christmas get-together with Mom and Dad’s friends. Mom had just gotten a new umbrella; it was clear with dots all over it. I had gotten a ‘Doctor’ set as a gift and I was trying to listen to Mom’s heartbeat while underneath the umbrella with her. I remember her grinning and chuckling at me.Those days bring back such precious memories to me.”
Marsha says: “When I was 7 my Mother and I went across the field to the woods and cut our Christmas tree down. It was the year I realized she could do anything, fix any broken things and manage with whatever we had.” Hilda remembers: “I can’t quite remember what I got, but I recognized my mother’s handwriting that Santa supposedly wrote thanking us for the milk and cookies!”
Sherry tells: “I was 5 or 6 and had just gotten the most amazing doll in my young life. Her name was Peggy Anne and she came with an entire wardrobe of clothes and a suitcase to carry them in. I thought it was amazing!!! At the same time I remember my little brother got a tricycle. He must have been about 4.”
And there you have it. Childhood memories that warm our hearts or make us chuckle. Fond memories from all. I hope it makes you pause a minute and think of something significant that helped you grow up with fondness in your heart.