Posts Tagged ‘family Christmas’

When Anderson, my oldest grandson, was about 18 months old, he spent a lot of time at my house.  When Christmas season came around, I bundled him up one night and put him in the car and went driving around town looking at Christmas decorations.  At first I wasn’t sure if he could see them from the carseat but very quickly I found out that he could.  He loved (and still does) lights, all sorts of lights, so when I was driving around that night, from the back seat came a tiny little voice “yites”.  I looked in the rearview and sure enough, he had a big smile on his face and his finger was pointing out the window.  He could see them!  We drove around for about an hour and a half before coming home.  The next night we did it again, driving to a different neighborhood from the one from the previous night.  He loved it.  So that year, every night I would take him, just the two of us, driving around different parts of town to see Christmas lights.

The following year, we happened upon a neighborhood wth lots of lighted decorations for Halloween so we went every night in search of more lights, just Anderson and me.  It’s a tradition that he and I have followed year after year (well, this is the fourth year) for both Halloween and Christmas decorations.

Last night we included the little one, Spencer, who is 19 months old and just a couple of weeks ago got his carseat flipped around so it is now front facing.  I fixed hot chocolate for them both and put it in sippy cups and put them in the car and off we went.  I was a little hesitant about Spencer because he’s so young and I thought he might get bored and start crying and we would have to come home, ruining it for Anderson.  I should not have worried.  He loved it too and although he isn’t talking very much, by the end of the evening, I could make out “der summore” and “yook at dat” coming from his carseat right behind me.  And the best part was that Anderson didn’t mind sharing this special time with his little brother.  He enjoyed pointing out the lights to him and checking to make sure he could see the lights.

Tonight we went again and I guess it’s clear that I have inadvertently started a tradition for the boys and me to enjoy all on our own.  I think that Anderson will never forget because he’s done it with me enough times and I’m hoping before I have to stop these drives, Spencer will get it imprinted on his memory and won’t forget.  Yup, I’m at the point where I wonder, often these days, how much longer I will be around and how much “my boys”  will remember about their Nana.

I hope they remember.

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When my kids were little, we lived in southern California and each year, we would drive to nearby Pasadena to look at the Christmas decorations at the Balian Mansion (the Balian family owns a creamery with a locally well known ice cream) and then on to Christmas Tree Lane (where the huge pine trees are decorated by the neighborhood and lights strung across from one side of the street to the other for three or four blocks) and then on to a church that performed a live drive-thru nativity each year.

The drive-thru nativity was done only over one weekend each year and was a hugely popular attraction.  We would line up each year, sometimes three or four blocks away from the entrance and wind our way until it was our turn to drive-thru.  At the entrance we got a program with the narration for each scene.  As we drove through at about 4 or 5 miles per hour, there was plenty of time to stop at each scene and read the narration from the program so the kids would know what was going on in each scene.  When we finished, we would stop for cookies and hot cider at the end of the parking lot and sometimes, if the line was not too long, we would get at the back of the line and drive through a second time.

The kids loved it and looked forward to it each year.  I liked that it let us all focus on the true meaning of Christmas at least for a little while each season.

Now I want to start the tradition with my two grandchildren.  Today I spent hours looking online for a drive-thru nativity but I couldn’t find one.  I’ve looked each year since we moved here in 2008 but I’ve not found a drive-thru event other than the one at the Portland International Speedway where you drive through to see lit up Christmas decorations/scenes.  That’s not really what I want.  I want the Christmas story experience.  Tonight I did find a couple of walk through nativity presentations that are near us.  The catch however is that we live in Oregon where December is very wet most nights and when it’s dry, it’s freezing!  Our overnight temperatures this December have so far been hovering just above and below 32 degrees.  So I don’t know if I will be able to start the tradition with them this year.  They’re little, 4 and 1, so we might have to wait a year and maybe take the older one first and wait a few years to take the younger one.  But I do want to do this with them.  I think it’s important.  And traditions, old or new, are so very important for families.

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I moved from California to Oregon in the summer of 2008 so last Christmas was my first here.

Our plan for Christmas was to have my son and daughter fly from the SF Bay Area up here to Portland.  My daughter was flying on the Sunday before Christmas and my son had to work until the 23rd so he would fly up here right after work.  My other daughter lives here so she only had to drive from across town in Beaverton to my house.  All was set.  Sort of.  I still had to do my shopping.  I had no gifts purchased.  The forecast in the second week of December was for bit of snow.  That was pretty exciting for someone from California!  My son and daughter were excited about the possibility of seeing snow in the area when they arrived for the holiday.

On Saturday, December 13, I went across town and got all of my supplies to make tamales.  Then I waited my turn at the tire store to get my snow adapters on my wheels so that, should I need them, I would be all set.  I have what’s called Spider Spikes so once the adapters are on the wheels, the spikes can come on and off as needed throughout the season.  So I was set. I had asked my daughter to stop and get some chains for her tires, at my expense, but she ran out of time.

That evening I set about making tamales and my daughter and her boyfriend came to help (and eat)!  They left to a party and I stayed here.  I don’t think any of us believed that it would snow.  I settled in to watch a DVD and I fell asleep.  When I woke up around1 am, it was snowing!  It was very exciting.  I went out and took pictures and walked in it for a bit but not a lot because I didn’t have appropriate shoes!  I only had flip flops and Crocs!

So it snowed all day Sunday.  And it snowed all day Monday.  Tuesday it began to melt but it was very slippery/icy where I live and because I live in a mobile home park, which is private property, the roads here were not plowed.  We would have to wait for the snow to melt.

Then it snowed again on Wednesday.  And Thursday.  By then, my son got online with me and ordered all of our presents from Amazon.com with free two day shipping.  I was sooo glad I had deposited a check at the bank before coming home the last day it had not snowed!  A lot.  And Friday.  By Saturday, things were a mess and flights were being canceled, both in and out of Portland International Airport.  The forecast was for continued snow.  And still I had done no shopping.  And by now, there was an accumulation of about 4 feet of snow on the streets where I live (remember, it isn’t plowed here).  I couldn’t get out of my driveway.  I began to look for a taxi service to bring Susie home when her plane arrived the next day, if she could get here.  The forecast was now for snow through the 22nd.  Panic is not a word I use lightly but that’s exactly what we began to do.

I was stuck way out in the east side and my daughter way out on the west side.  She had no chains for her tires because none were available any place.  So she couldn’t drive in the snow.  I had the appropriate equipment for my tires but I couldn’t get out of the driveway.  No one was able to in the mobile home park, except those with four wheel drive and because I was very new here, I didn’t know anyone in the park (I still don’t and it has been almost 16 months since I arrived).

On Sunday my daughter’s flight was canceled and we could not find her another flight as everything was now sold out.  I was really upset that I couldn’t get my then  18 y/o here for the holiday.  To keep busy, I set up the artificial tree all by myself.  It’s quite big and bulky.  It took me hours and hours but I got it done.  Finally, late Monday night, we were able to get Susie on a plane up here but she would have to fly from Oakland to Lake Tahoe and then Lake Tahoe to Portland.  It was the last flight out on the 23rd.  That was the best we could do.  So I prayed my 18 year old would not find herself stranded in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, by herself on Christmas Eve.

It kept snowing.  Then it stopped but it didn’t warm up so the snow did not melt.  Then we got freezing rain on top of it.  Not good.

In the end, my daughter’s roommate stood in line at the tire store for four and a half hours to get chains for my daughter while she was babysitting.  So my daughter ended up going to PDX to pick up both her sister and her brother.  Both flights were delayed and Susie’s got out of Lake Tahoe about ten minutes before that airport was closed.  About 2 am I got a call saying she had found both Tony and Susie and they were on their way home.  The drive from the airport is normally about twenty minutes.  They didn’t get here until 3:30.  It took that long to get here in the piled up snow.  Apparently, it took them 20 minutes getting from the highway to my driveway and that’s only about a half a mile.  They couldn’t get near the house because of the snow so she just dropped them off and Tony made trips with luggage across the snow.

We could not get out of the drive way on the 24th either.  Susie baked after a neighbor offered to make a grocery run for everyone on the street.  Tina got the groceries for Christmas lunch after work.  She was lucky enough to get to the grocery store about ten minutes before they closed the doors.  She wasn’t able to make it over here on the 24th so we made her promise she would be here by 8 am on the 25th.  And she was.

We had an early lunch because Susie had to be at the airport to get her flight back.  She had her original flight back home although she hadn’t gotten in until four days after she was supposed to arrive, but she had to work on the morning of the 26th so she had to leave on Christmas Day.  But she had gotten here.  We had been together.  And we had all survived.

That was last Christmas.

This Christmas is supposed to be better but we are already getting grumblings that it may not work out as planned.

Oh, and this year we are skipping Portland for Christmas.  We’re heading to the San Francisco Bay Area instead.  Gives a whole new meaning to A Moveable Feast.

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The Mighty Mo

I grew up in a large family.  There were seven kids plus my mom and dad.  My dad was the only one who worked, as was the norm in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My dad drove a fork lift at one of the local canneries.  The only way there would ever be any money for Christmas gifts was for my mother to save money in a Christmas Club account at the local Bank of America where she made a weekly deposit.

One year my brother David, who was about eight years old that year, fell in love with a toy he saw on a TV commercial.  It was a cannon that shot hard plastic balls.  It was called the Mighty Mo.  The commercials showed the Mighty Mo crawling over and through rough terrain all on a miniature scale, of course, but it looked really neat.  The clincher was the footage of the cannon balls launching out of the Mighty Mo!

David had to have one but we were taught to not ask for anything, not even for our birthdays or Christmas so he couldn’t ask for one.  We lived a block away from Safeway and my mom used to send us on daily trips for the odd supply she needed before the next week’s big grocery trip.  Safeway carried a few toys then.  They placed them on the shelves high above the produce department as those shelves were normally empty.  On one of the trips to get something for my mom, David was thrilled to discover that Safeway had about two dozen Mighty Mos on their shelves!  After that day, David volunteered to go to Safeway every single time my mom needed something.

Every day David returned from his Safeway run to report exactly how many Mighty Mos were left on the shelf and every day, as the number dwindled, he gave my mom his report in a sadder and sadder tone.  First there had been two dozen then only eighteen.  Soon there were less than a dozen and when there were only four left, David was really sad. About three days before Christmas, David reported, with tears in his eyes, that there were no Mighty Mos left at Safeway.  When Christmas arrived, David was the only one of us that was not excited about it.  We all wanted him to be happy like we were but nothing got him excited.

On Christmas morning, we got up and my big brothers helped us girls get dressed and ready to go upstairs to open presents.  That’s what we did each year because it gave my parents a little extra time to get up.  When we got upstairs, David was the last one to go into the living room where the tree was with our Santa gifts unwrapped.  When he came in he found us all with huge smiles on our faces and our eyes intent on his face.  He didn’t know what was up until he looked under the tree and found his Mighty Mo with a big red ribbon on it!

We all enjoyed that Mighty Mo for several years.  David especially liked to shoot the cannon balls out of the Mighty Mo from the top of the stairs in the back yard.  It was a fun toy.  I only wish my brother David was still around to tell the story himself.

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When I was a little girl, my parents would take the seven of us kids to look at Christmas lights. We would pile in the car and just drive around different neighborhoods, near and far. In those days, for the most part people didn’t have elaborate holiday displays. It was the late 50’s and early 60’s. Most yards had just colored lights around their house or some houses would put the lights only around their windows, like my family did. Some houses would get lots of ooohs and ahhhhs for having just one color of lights instead of multi-colored lights.

Although we lived in California, we would bundle up with coats and gloves and hats when we went out because the evenings did get cold, or at least colder than the usual warm weather we were used to. We always needed to bundle up too because my father would sometimes drive us up into the mountains where the more affluent homes were. There was no telling where we would end up when we set out to look at Christmas lights. When we went into the “better” neighborhoods, it was a special treat because those people had lights on the trees and shrubs in their yards and most of them also had some kind of display, like a nativity scene or Santa and his team of reindeer. When we found a cluster of homes with neat yard decorations, we would park the car and walk from one yard to the other, taking our time at each yard.

Usually there weren’t a lot of other people that got out of their cars but once in a while, we’d find a house with such elaborate decorations that it would cause a traffic jam and people would just park their cars and walk around the neighborhood. I remember one house in particular that had animated decorations in their yard; Christmas carols were playing and if you stood there and waited long enough, there was some kind of machine that made it snow in the yard about every fifteen minutes. There was always a crowd at that house. We would stand there and watch the gingerbread men with moving arms and legs. Their decorations were embellished with colored lights. Giant candy canes and gum drops whose glow lit the way in the otherwise darkened streets put us into a trance, broken only by my mother’s insistence that we move on or go back to the car before our hands and feet broke off!

One time we went back to that same house on Christmas Eve and there were so many people that we had to park a couple of blocks away. When we walked to the house, we all walked holding hands. My older brothers were in charge of us younger girls. I usually held David’s hand and he was always very careful that I didn’t get hurt or trip or that I didn’t cross the street at the wrong time. That night there was a bus full of people and many families, too. When we got nearer to the house, we could hear singing that wasn’t the same as the one coming from the speakers in the yard on previous visits. The police had roped off the sidewalk and people were walking by the house slowly but no one was allowed to stop for very long. In a way, that was better because the singing was coming from a choir that had set up in the wide snowy driveway of the house and when you got past the house, there were people handing out hot chocolate and candy canes. It was more exciting that night than it had been on previous nights, perhaps because of the number of people there. People weren’t pushy or loud or rude like they can be these days. The kids were all well behaved and everyone seemed to be happy to be there. It was a good feeling to be in the same place with so many happy, smiling people.

Now I think back on the simpler days when a family could jump in the car and drive around getting true enjoyment from looking at simple Christmas lights and being together with each other. It didn’t take expensive movie or theater tickets to please us. It didn’t take a visit to Disneyland. It didn’t take a lot of money. It just took being together and enjoying the magic and the simplicity of the holiday.

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