Family Christmases

Early Christmas morning, we six children would get up, rush to the living room and the pile of beautifully wrapped presents under the decorated tree, tearing them open and then ‘oohhing’ and ‘ahhing’ over them. Eventually, we’d carefully thank the person who’d given this or that to us. Finally, we’d have breakfast, attend church and get ready to go to our maternal grandparents’ apartment in New York City. Six children and a pile of gifts really filed up our 1940s station wagon. Usually, the traffic wasn’t too bad going into the City around noon; coming home was another story.

Arriving at the City apartment, we’d be greeted by earlier relatives. We’d shed our coats and politely greet our grandparents. Then we’d have a sit-down dinner in their formal dining room before gathering around the big, decorated Christmas tree in the living room. Papa, our grandfather, would distribute the mound of gifts, one-by-one, calling out the names of the receiver and the giver. He’d then pause, while the gift was opened and the receiver whooped out their delight or quietly said, “Thank you”, before Papa went on to hand-out the next gift. You can imagine how long this took with over 20 people.

All the children had to have a gift for each of their cousins. One of my uncles was a toy buyer for Woolworth’s, the five and dime company, so we always got some small gifts from each of his four children. In later years these were better presents.

I remember one year my aunt - the toy buyer’s wife - received about 20 expensive handbags from some of my uncle’s toy suppliers and we could have our pick of them.

Eventually this group, which now included in-laws, numbered over 35, so we changed to just a gathering of the immediate family. Long distance travel was eliminated and we could all dine at the same table. I remember those days as a delightful time for all of us.

Lois Learned
Southbury, CT © 2015

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