Christmas elicits memories of bygone days, no matter how much time passes

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Talk about the best laid plans … The last column was about Thanksgiving and the risk of writing ahead was well demonstrated. Yes, Dorin came home, bringing a terrible cold so she didn’t dare come here. Dinner at Judy’s was fantastic, but the next morning I got slammed with the current stomach virus and the rest of the week was one sick disaster I prefer to forget!

So let’s get on with today, as Christmas gets closer by the minute.

Days gone by

Last December I saved a column from the Boston Globe titled “Merry Retro Christmas” and saved it because I thought it said everything about nostalgia and memories.

As you know, I don’t often dwell on yesterday but the column’s writer, Renee Loth, so aptly described our feelings: “These are the high holy days of nostalgia when the ache we feel for days gone by is almost pleasurable. We look back in rosy reminiscence and take comfort in the familiar, drawn powerfully in this season to the rhythmic certainty of tradition.”

I’ll share with you a bit of my own nostalgia in these last few days before He arrives. Christmas at home was always preceded by much baking, rustling of paper and whispering, and Barbara and I were banished to the cellar.

There we sat at card tables holding little jars of gold and silver paint, little paint brushes, scissors, construction paper of all colors and Christmas seals to be licked for decoration as needed as we made our very own Christmas cards. I can still sketch a Christmas tree and a star and a poinsettia …

Baking

Up in the kitchen we were allowed to help cut out cookies with metal cutters of animals and trees and more (I still have those cutters) and when they came out of the oven we hoped some would break and we could eat the pieces.

Then came the best part: frosting each one with tinted icing, placing little silver beads on the Christmas trees, cinnamon candies for eyes on the animals and sprinkles of red and green sugar on the rest.

My most favorite shopping trip, accompanied by Mother, of course, was to Glicksteins pet shop on West Federal Street, where I was allowed to choose the best collar for our dog, Liza, whom I considered my dog.

Every year the choice was the same — red leather studded with shiny “brass” buttons. It would be gift-wrapped along with the rest of the family’s presents.

Tradition

Always there would be a car trip to Cleveland to see the wonderful animated displays in the big department store windows. And the holy ambiance of the Christmas Eve service at church where we sang in the choir. Those carols can still bring tears to my eyes. Talk about nostalgia …
There is so much more to remember as we lose the past and create new traditions. One of my favorites is, no matter how tired or sleepy on Christmas Eve, to go to the barn at midnight to hear the animals talk, as legend has it.

This year there is only Toby, who is feeling much better after an undiagnosed ailment, but we can carry on the traditional conversation, wishing one another a very merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Winnie, Bingo and I wish all of you the same.

Bingo’s latest curiosity at which she gingerly poked, was, of all things, a big frog. How it got into the house — swam up the sump pump? hopped up the stairs? — I haven’t a clue. The cellar is wet from all the rain, but surely not all that wet. I rescued the poor fellow and took him to the hay stall so he’d be snug for the winter.

Happy Holidays!

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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