Clare County Review & Marion Press

Postcard from the Pines: Making Memories

Christmas 1954

We are spending Christmas in a new place, both mentally and geographically. We are looking forward to life in this new place with great anticipation. We can’t wait to add to those family memories.
For the first eight or nine years of my life, Christmas was celebrated in the same way We spent Christmas Eve with the Berry’s in Marion, Christmas Day on the farm with the Wards.
Before their families became too large to easily transport and the distance too great to travel all the Berry cousins came to keep Christmas in Marion. When everyone came to visit, Grandma’s little Blevins St. house bulged to overflowing with little Berrys. Christmas was the greatest of our family gatherings, especially if you were a kid and not the cook.
No matter where the day began, Christmas Eve found us all at the Sixth St. home of Uncle Bernie and Aunt Lola. The adults ate sandwiches and snacks, including Uncle Bernie’s highly regarded homemade pickled bologna. We kids played at our plates, picked at the ample sweets and fidgeted, not so patiently, waiting for Santa and the gifts which were to yet come.
After what seemed like an eternity we were allowed to go to the basement where the real tree stood, lit with big colored lights and sparkling with icicles. A silver aluminum tree stood upstairs in the family room window, facing the street, bathed in primary colors. It was under the real tree that Santa put the family’s gifts. The last year that we were all together in Marion, Santa brought a puppy named Penny, for the Indiana cousins. Frank maintains that she was one of the best gifts he ever got.
The bedlam of the tree behind us, our attentions turned to the dog, a favorite gift or more food. Someone got a hi-fi and records and our parents danced amid the Christmas debris and the colored lights. Aunt Lola got out the movie camera and caught all the action on 8mm. Toddlers toddled and dog and kids frolicked and everyone squinted in the very bright lights.
I doubt that she realized it then, but Aunt Lola gave us the best of all gifts. She gave us Christmas memories. Some of them came in packed in stockings, the kind hung by the chimney with care. All who gathered on Christmas Eve found a stocking hanging by the fire, packed with goodies, especially for them. Dad always got his favorite kind of sardines and hard candies, and always a bar of Lava-the hand soap and something sporting to read. Mom and her sister-in-laws found things like dish cloths and towels, cologne, chocolates, hand lotion and jewelry in their stockings.
Uncle Bernie’s sock indulged his love of candies and snacks. He always found a jar of limburger cheese, one of creamed herring and a supply of his favorite soda crackers. Grandma, the professional writer, found that Santa left her the office supplies she found most useful, pens, pencils, small spiral notebooks and stamps. Toddlers got things babies needed and the younger crowd found small cars and trucks or dime store dolls and jump ropes.
About 1960 my cousins, Sandy and Frank and I found a wristwatch in our Christmas stockings. They were genuine, wind them up and hear them tick wristwatches. We were thrilled beyond words with these grown up gifts. Frank’s watch had a genuine simulated leather band and Sandy’s and mine were plated in simulated gold. We were blown away.
These watches, however short lived they may have been, were truly magical to us and a very grown up gift. Receiving a watch in those days was somewhat symbolic, a sign that you could be trusted with the responsibility of having time. We thought ourselves very grown up. Sandy, three years older, received make up. I got barrettes. We both found jewelry of some kind and of course, those candies.
We didn’t know it then but those Christmas gatherings we so took for granted would soon end. For those of us who remember those family gatherings in Marion and the magical stockings, there is no doubt that they came packed with Christmas memories to last a lifetime. They have so far.
Make sure that you hang those stockings with care.You never know what kind of magic and precious memories they will hold.
This is my favorite Christmas with the cousins photo. We are seen here on Christmas Eve 1954, with our beloved Uncle Bernie.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and Peace from the New Pines.

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