18 December 2007
12 christmas memories: part II

Yesterday the first installment of my 12 Christmas Memories meme revolved a lot around my grandmother. Yes, that wonderful lady was always a big part of what made Christmas so special, and here are some more family memories.

3. Christmas Lights with Pap Pap

You may remember my grandfather from this post. There I mentioned he was curmudgeonly, but if there was one thing that melted his heart in addition to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it was Christmas.

Lights in particular.

Christmas lights on Corso Umberto I, Badolato, Calabria, Italy
I don’t really know when it became tradition, but for as long as I can remember, every year around the big day, an hour or so after dinner to make sure everyone had their lights on but weren’t in bed yet, my Pap Pap and I would drive around the area admiring all the displays--and yes, I do mean DISPLAYS of lighted trees, reindeer, Santas, bear, snowmen, candy canes, wishing wells, you name it and someone within a 20-mile radius had it on the lawn or hanging off the house.

We never did the outside of our house quite so Griswoldesque (no complaints from me on that one!) but I always appreciated the time and effort that others put into it.


And that was something I shared with my Pap Pap, every year in fact.

4. Christmas Eve Footsteps

Remember yesterday when I talked about the Christmas Eve tradition in which everyone came to my grandparents' house after church?

Well 1998 was our first holiday season without my grandfather who had passed away that June, and it was business as usual at the house on Christmas Eve. My brother and I were seated side by side at the table, eating more than necessary I’m sure.


Suddenly, simultaneously, he and I turned our heads toward the back door to our right, expecting someone to come in. We had obviously both heard a noise outside, but didn’t say anything--I figured it was the wind, and I’m sure he did as well--and just went back to eating and talking.


A few minutes later, our heads did the same thing toward the door, and when no one came in, my brother looked at me with a raised eyebrow.


“Did you hear that?”


I sure did.

Nearly together we blurted out that we had heard twice, minutes apart, the unmistakable sound of someone stomping snow off of their shoes on our wooden back porch, preparing to come into the house. Something that was pretty connected to our grandfather in both our minds; he certainly never entered the house quietly in the winter.

Only that night, there was no one there.


No one that we could see anyway.

Christmas star in lights, Calabria, Italy
5. Dad’s Family Movie Light

Last year for Christmas, my brother and his wife got our old family movies transferred to DVD. Honestly it’s rather strange to me that my family even has these because it’s just so out of character--hard to explain why but it's in the "We're *so* not The Waltons" category. Trust me. It’s odd.


Anyway, from 1970 to 1980, our family is documented. I had never seen any of the movies before they were on DVD, and watching them for the first time was so emotional for so many reasons that I’ll probably write more about that at some point. But right now, sticking on-topic, the point is that one of my favorite Christmas memories has to do with my dad's documenting those family moments.

Every time he wanted to take video, he also had to set up a huge, blinding spotlight alongside the camera for adequate lighting. And so, my every early childhood memory of a major event involves squinting into the exaggerated beam, feeling its heat envelop me, and fighting the urge to just look away, pout, and throw a tantrum. I used to be big on those.

And, lest you doubt it, Christmases were *the* main event of our family movies.


Every year up until I was probably five or six years old, I'd put on my (new) pajamas and get ready for my close-up. We made a literal production of hanging our stockings and putting out cookies and milk for Santa --and some pretty cute video emerged if I do say so myself.


And then Christmas morning? Rubbing the sleepies out of my eyes while plodding down the stairs, one hand on the railing to balance me?

LIGHT!!!!!!!!!!

And of course filming continued throughout gift opening, catching each and every ooh and aah face (no sound you know) along the way.

And that light was *always* on.

But now looking back, the shocking brightness doesn't seem nearly so bad--the extremes always do fade with memory, don't they? In fact after watching those movies, I kind of wish that light could make a comeback just for one more Christmas.

I'd even buy new pajamas for it.

My stocking, Christmas 2007
P.S. Thanks so much to all who voted for me in Write from Karen's Photo Contest: Holiday Cheer!

My photo didn't win, but a fabulous, kitty-themed photo did--check it out at My Life as Mama Jodi. Congratulations Jodi!

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13 Comments:

Blogger Jeni said...

Wouldn't we all trade the sun, moon, stars -galaxies, if we could, to return to some of our childhood Christmases? The last Christmas of my Grandfather's life, my one uncle made tape recordings of the family opening presents (this is strictly audio, not video stuff) and he also did an "interview" of sorts with my grandparents. My uncle's daughter has that tape somewhere but hasn't been able to find it and I would give my right eye tooth to have a copy of it - just so my kids could hear their great-grandfather's beautiful bass voice. Such sweet memories there ya know.

Blogger La delirante said...

Hello Sognatrice, I found your blog through Farfallina's :) Feel free to visit me if you wish.

I liked your post very much. I have been thinking about past Christmas and I also have nice-sweet family memories especially regarding my grandmother.

Have a nice day,

Blogger Giulia said...

"...but I always appreciated the time and effort that others put into it."

I totally agree with you! Some people put countless hours into getting their homes decorated for the holidays. The kindest (and simplest) thing to do is to appreciate their efforts. :)

I got a chill reading about you and your brother feeling your Grandfather's presence. Another reason to believe that angels really do exist. :)

Anonymous Carla said...

Michelle,
What lovely memories you have. I know EXACTLY about the "huge, blinding spotlight" for the old video cameras! In fact, I have similar home videos of us kids squinting the entire time and then eventually smelling the light burn, which then we knew it was time for the video to stop or at least take a break. :-)

Michelle, I am loving this series. Brings back such fun memories.

Blogger Karina said...

Another great batch of memories. I loved the story of the "footsteps at the door". There are some things that need no explanation, you just know.

These memoirs of yours keep making me so sentimental.
Tis the season for hot cider and tissue...

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

OpenID susiej.com said...

This is lovely. I brings back so many wonderful memories, and even adds to my imagination new things to try.

Blogger Ryan said...

makes me want to write about all my christmas memories...but i think i would be here forever so I think I will just share with the world my family's traditions on Christmas that I love so much and cant wait to go home to in 4 days! Thanks for the inspiration and I am very excited to hear the rest. You are putting me even more in a Christmas mood... :)

Blogger witnessing am i said...

"I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams . . ."

Blogger Taffiny said...

Ah more wonderful memories.

Touching about the footsteps.

I can't help but want to see a bit of video of little Sognatrice. (tantrums? But you seem so sweet now)

There is a house a few blocks away that goes all out for the holidays (music too), and we go and get in line, to drive past it.

This is very good, thank you, helps put one in a good christmas spirit.

Blogger Zandria said...

You certainly have a lot of memories about the Christmas holiday! At least it speaks well of your memory in general, I think...I tend to forget things pretty easily. (Hey, at least I can admit it!) :)

Blogger sognatrice said...

*Jeni, indeed. I hope you find a copy of that tape by some miracle. What a wonderful thing to be able to have!

*La Delirante, ciao, welcome, and thanks for commenting! I will certainly visit you :)

*Giulia, I know a lot of people think thousands of lights is a bit of overkill, but when I think of how much planning and work has to go into such a display, I can't help but admire it. I mean I curse enough with just one or two strings of lights per year ;)

*Carla, too funny! It's kind of hard to forget such a light, eh?

*NYC, I'm so happy to know that you're enjoying it! I'm really loving writing about these memories and I can only hope that others enjoy reading them :)

*Karina, exactly. And I particularly loved that it was just my brother and me who had heard the noise and no one else. Just something between us three :)

*Scarlett, sentimental at Christmas? No better time I say :)

*Susie, glad you enjoyed and thanks for commenting!

*Ryan, 'tis the season! Can't wait to read your family's traditions :)

*David, sing it my brother ;)

*Taffiny, if I knew how to get the video from the DVD onto YouTube, I'd definitely do it; I looked up directions quickly, but it seemed a bit beyond my technological capacity (especially since I was hoping to do it within an hour or so) ;)

I am happy to hear that these writings are good for the Christmas spirit. It's far too easy to get down during the holidays--these are helping me stay "up" too :)

*Zandria, I do generally have a pretty good memory, you're right. A lot of these, though, were things that happened every single year--those are hard to forget :)

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