Wednesday, December 16, 2015

First Christmas Memory

Last week I attended a wonderful Christmas Tea for the ladies in our neighborhood. What a lovely event! We have lived in this house for well over twenty-eight years. During this time, we have gotten to know many of our neighbors quite well, especially those at our end of the cul-de-sac. I was thrilled to receive the invitation from Pam for this special afternoon event and even more delighted to be retired and able to attend.

Each year, our end of the street holds an annual Christmas party for everyone—the guys included. The tea was the first occasion for all the ladies to get together, not just from our street, but from the other two cul-de-sacs and the street entering our small tract. I had seen most of the gals around and knew a few, but the party was a chance to meet some of the others.

After we enjoyed the yummy goodies and carried on some terrific one-on-one conversations, Pam asked us to sit in the family room, decorated festively to enhance the holiday feel.

She passed out strips of paper with different questions for everyone to answer so we could get to know each other better. Mine said: What is your earliest Christmas memory?
I didn’t have to think very long to answer. Those of you who know me are aware that my brother and I both are blessed with incredible memories. We sometimes surprise ourselves with the things we remember.

My earliest memory is from when I was sixteen months old. (I turned two at the end of August, and this was December.)

I remember being lifted to stand on my grandparents’ dining room table. (My grandfather must have been responsible for putting me there, as my grandmother would never have approved of my standing on the furniture.)

I remember the look of my black patent Mary Janes and the feel of my starched, ruffled, and ironed dress. I looked up to see a sea of adult faces.

When prompted (I assume, again by my grandfather, who doted on me), I began to recite:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap…

I rattled off the poem like a rapid-fire machine gun, pausing only every two lines to take a deep breath. I finished the poem—all of it, and everyone applauded.

I remember feeling very accomplished, but not a bit frightened.

The story became something of a family legend. My mother wrote about it in my baby book, and various friends of my grandparents told me about it for years, so I know it’s true. I also have snippets of memory of having done it.

My grandfather read to me every single night. He came to our little house (built behind my grandparents’ big one) as soon as he got home from work. I had a whole drawer full of Little Golden Books. Grandpa let me pick out whichever one I wanted him to read. When I found a favorite, he’d repeat it over and over. I became obsessed with A Visit From St. Nicholas (the real name of the poem, by the way). He read it so often I memorized it.

I tried it again the other night, and I still remember every word. As a kid, I became annoyed when anyone said the wrong words—like “Merry Christmas to all” instead of “Happy Christmas to all” or called Donner “Donder.”

I learned a few things from my memory of this performance.
  1.   I came by my mouth naturally.
  2.   I’ve always loved the sound of words.
  3.   Even from such an early age, I always felt comfortable speaking in front of other people.

No wonder I became a writer.

Do you have an early Christmas memory? If so, what is it?


  1. Replies
    1. My brother has an amazing memory as well. We frequently did reality checks when my mom was alive. She often said things i remembered didn't happen. I'd check with my brother, and he'd remember details i'd forgotten. Since Mom had senile dementia, I'm grateful to still have my memories.