Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memoires: Holiday Travel

For a brief period of time of about five years, my family meaning my husband and children traveled to Montana on Christmas vacation. We left on December 26th for four of those five years.

One fateful year we decided to leave on Christmas morning. I had the day perfectly planned. We had the first flight out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I arranged for a three-hour layover time in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our connecting flight would get us to Montana in plenty of time for a lovely Christmas dinner with dear friends. Dinner reservations had been made at Bucks T-4 Ranch in Big Sky, Montana at a table in front of their roaring fireplace. It was a perfect plan.

We arrived at O’Hare Airport early that Christmas morning and waited eagerly for our flight to depart on time. It was the first flight of the day! What could possibly detain it? As things go, the pilot was late, very late. We suspect he was enjoying Christmas morning with his family leaving a planeload of people sitting in the airport for hours and hours. His tardiness resulted in our very late arrival in Salt Lake City.

To rub "salt" in our wounds, so to speak, we missed our connecting flight. Salt Lake City Airport was in chaos. You know you are in trouble when the “Red Coats” appear. I can best describe these gentlemen as crisis managers! Yes, they had a flight for us in first class the next day. We spent Christmas Day in the Salt Lake City airport with children crying and exclaiming that this was their worst Christmas ever!

That cozy dinner with friends in front of roaring fire never occurred. Christmas dinner that year consisted of a soup in a bread bowl and Cinnabons. Those sweet, cinnamon buns didn’t ease my children’s pain.

We pleaded our case and eventually boarded a flight to Montana at about 11:30 that evening. Our weary family eventually arrived at our final destination in the wee hours of December 26th.

It is a Christmas we will always remember.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Holiday Foods

Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts,
That’s The Way the Holiday Starts!

My children sang this song in their Holiday programs at school and it has remained stuck in my mind ever since. Christmas cookie baking was an annual event in our home that ultimately led to sugar and flour scattered throughout the kitchen. This Christmas ritual repeats itself through the generations and is the one holiday food constant.

Mom was particularly good with the cookie press. She loved to bake peanut butter Scottie dogs, wreaths, trees and ribbons. My husband’s Aunt Flo had a talent for making butter rounds decorated with sprinkles. They were delicate and baked to perfection.

It takes a talent to bake cookies to perfection. My skills are far from perfect for a variety of reasons; lack of patience being one reason. That cookie press that Mom and Auntie Flo mastered with such skill is a source of frustration for me. Each year my husband must come to the rescue and magically press those cookies on my behalf!

The Dreaded Cookie Press: Will I ever master this beast?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Day of Advent: Oh, Christmas Tree

My Mother and Father loved Christmas. They had one hard, fast requirement for their adult children and that was our presence on Christmas Eve. They earned the well-deserved nickname of Mr. and Mrs. Christmas.

These children of The Depression loved watching their children and grandchildren open mountains gifts around the Christmas tree.  Mom and Dad had two Christmas trees. The nicest tree could be found at the living room picture window. Mom’s favorite ornaments and carefully arranged garland would grace that tree. It was Mom’s “Good Tree.”

The lesser tree would be placed in the basement. The large space accommodated our family in a comfy way. The basement tree was a hearty and artificial for it needed to withstand dashing children, airborne balls, darts, and other flying projectiles.

It seemed that Christmas Eve celebrations around that basement tree would never end. But end they did as all good things sometimes do.

My Father passed away December 5, 2005 and Mom passed away September 6, 2008. Each Christmas season I place a small Christmas tree at my parent’s grave. Yesterday I made my trip to Town of Maine Cemetery to visit and decorate their grave with their Christmas tree.

As I made my way, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” played on my car radio and there were the words . . .

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow. . .

If the Fates allow . . . I never imagined Christmas without my parents and it is the reason why each Christmas season I place a small Christmas tree at my parent’s grave in memory of all the love that surrounded a lifetime of Christmas trees. 

Mom and Dad's Basement Christmas Tree waiting for the grandchildren to arrive!