- Stockings. Dad affixed nails into the stone wall, so our stockings always hung by the chimney with care, and each year they held an orange, an apple, and some walnuts. Usually some chocolate Santas, too. Opening to stocking was awesome. They were made of green felt, an original Patricia Bieritz design, and they rocked.
- Decorating the church. Times have changed, but back in the day, decking those halls was the sign that Christmas had come. Hanging roping around the choir loft, putting up the mitten tree, putting red satin balls on the big tree up front ... with every addition, the place began to fill with the scent of pine and the spirit of all that is good within us.
- The year I figured out that, on Christmas Eve, I'm pretty. The rest of the year, I may be a sow by the side of the road, but there's magic to Christmas Eve. One year, when I was a teenager still stuck in a horribly long awkward stage, I had a red velour dress to wear to church at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve night. I took a bath, did my hair, put on my face and looked in the mirror ... and the young woman who looked back was strangely familiar. I saw me, but I also saw beauty. This was a first ... and it happens every Christmas Eve. I don't know about you, but I think that night brings out my absolute best.
- Midnight parties. When we were children, my parents used to invite the entire church over to the house after the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Doesn't sound like a huge deal, until you realize the service started at 11 p.m. and got out at midnight. Beef sandwiches, relishes, that incredible punch, a big platter of cookies ... we had guests until the wee hours, and no one seemed to mind; even Mom and Dad, when we were up after only a few hours of sleep!
- Nana's coffee cakes. It was wonderful living in a neighborhood that shared treats with one another, and our neighbor Nana made these incredible coffee cakes. We looked forward to them every year. She taught my sister Jenn how to make them, and my mom learned, too, so the legacy lives on.
- Magi, with a twist. Back in 1993, I was out of work. Circumstances sucked, and two of my favorite gifts - a plaid taffeta skirt for myself (oh, shut up; it was cute on me in the 90s!) and a camel hair jacket for then-boyfriend Stu - had to go back. I had less than no money; I couldn't afford them. On Christmas night, Stu came over for dinner with my family and we opened our gifts. Mine were meager, because I had no job and was starting college in January. We had just finished saying our thank-yous when two additional packages arrived. His contained his jacket, and mine contained my skirt. My sister Kathie and my mom conspired to fulfill Christmas wishes that had been abandoned. It still makes me cry when I remember how thoughtful that moment was. And trust me, I was adorable in that skirt.
- Rice's first legal drink. My best friend and brother, Mike Rice, turned 21 on December 20, 1996. (That was the year, wasn't it?) Anyway, I was still at school wrapping up stuff before heading home for the holidays, and Mike was back in Jacksonville, IL. And it sucked, because he was turning 21 and there was no one with whom to celebrate. Well, why not? I jumped in the car and headed his way, as any good sister would. I loved being in that house at Christmastime, and I loved being able to make my dear friends birthday a little more special, even if it just meant flat beer at a townie bar.
- The opal. Years ago ... years and years ago ... my friends and I used to exchange gifts. Many were homemade. None were extravagant. Except for the year when Kelly, Patrick and Darrin gave me an opal ring - the very ring I had admired in the window at Page jewelers. I should have known, when Kelly insisted I point it out to her ("is it that one, Margaret?") over and over again, that sometime was up, but it totally flew past my head. I still have that ring. It still gives me great joy, because of the thoughtfulness behind it.
- Christmas Eve with Diane. When we were in college, my friend Diane Schmelzel and I realized that we were heading "home" to places near each other - I to Montgomery, and she to Naperville. So we agreed that every Christmas Eve, because we would probably always venture home at that time of year, we would share breakfast or lunch together. We've missed a year or two due to illness, but it is a most welcome tradition to share with an old friend.
- The year Mom bought Dad a new saw. She drove to Morris ... through a blinding snowstorm ... and tried to tell the story over the din of Christmas morning. It always makes me giggle to remember her shouting over our chatter, "IS ANYBODY LISTENING TO ME???"
- Bonus reason! Not that it's a memory, really, just a feeling I have. I bet, somewhere back in the old house, where my dad, brother and sister still live, there are Christmas gifts, unwrapped, in plastic bags, hidden so well even Mom couldn't remember where she put them. She was very good at that.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
My Top Ten Christmas Memories
Growing up Bieritz was not the stuff of opulent Christmases. There were never mountains of gifts under the tree, but Christmas was magical all the same. You want proof?