I sincerely hope that each and every one of you had a delightful Christmas, or at least a holiday with a reason or two for rejoicing. In our household it has been a best of times, worst of times sort of year and Christmas continued with that theme. Still, we have much to be thankful for. Our celebration of Christmas kicked off on Tuesday evening with what seems to be a new tradition; dinner with KC Keefer and Nancy Barlow. This was the second year for what I hope becomes an annual event. Lively conversation, a few laughs, and good food shared with friends is an excellent way to kick off a holiday such as Christmas. On Christmas eve we continued with that theme, this time with pizza and a house full of family and friends, and friends of friends and friends of family. In spite of years spent in a valiant effort to overcome what passed for family traditions in my childhood home (a bizarre blending of the Adams family and Norman Rockwell), normal during the holidays has proven to be quite elusive. I blended my wife’s family holiday rituals with a bit of the sappy celebrations that appear in grainy black and white Bing Crosby specials but there finally came a time when, with a very deep sigh, I resigned myself to the fact that normal and I will most likely never be close friends or even acquaintances during Christmas.
From Acme Newspictures/My Inwood
So, on Christmas morning, as I am an early riser, I plugged in the lights on the tree, started the coffee, sent a few emails to friends, engaged in some on line discussions with others, and spent an hour or so attempting to organize the latest pile of notes and printouts for the final assault on the current book project. Then my dearest friend and I turned attentions toward the holiday, opened a few packages, and enjoyed a breakfast amply sprinkled with thoughts of the grandchildren. It was mid morning when she turned her attentions toward the cooking of a most delightful Christmas dinner that filled the house with enticing aromas, and I again slipped into the world of stock swindles, murder, various forms of mayhem and malfeasance, cronyism, sabotage, and arson that has consumed a great deal of my spare time and thoughts this past few months.One aspect of crafting a book that I find to be quite enjoyable is the research. As an example of the fascinating discoveries made, please consider the intriguing blog My Inwood, the initial source for this photo and the story behind it. By late afternoon, it had become increasingly difficult to concentrate and so, after closing out the project, I let the mind wander through memories of more than a half century of Christmases. My first memories of Christmas aren’t very pleasant. As it was the year before my little sister was born, it would have been 1962. I spent that holiday suffering through the chicken pox.For at least the first dozen Christmases or so, with the exception of 1962, attendance of midnight mass was mandatory for everyone with the exception of dad. Before 1966, if he was home on leave, he played grumpy chauffeur and had a beer down the street until church was over as mom never learned to drive (long story, don’t ask). After 1966, he stayed home or played grumpy chauffeur. When we lived in New Mexico, church was one block down and one block over, so we walked.
Christmas trees were always interesting when I was a kid. While living in Michigan, and once in Arizona, we often hand cut them. On several occasions this was followed by feats of strength in the form of push starting the car or truck, and on one occasion by digging the car from the mud.
If trees were purchased, dad would wait as late as possible “to get a better deal.” Of course, regardless of price he would dicker. Then we would lash the tree to the roof, and we would push start the car.
If we had a truck, the tree and kids went in the back. Needless to say, in Michigan this ensured a memorable outing.
On more than one occasion we decorated the tree late Christmas eve. Of course, that ensured we were awake for midnight mass.
Dad was insistent that Christmas gifts be of a practical, or at least educational nature. Mom was insistent children have toys. Seldom was the resultant compromise a pretty picture.
Dad liked working on Christmas as “they pay double time.” Mom would insist on making a huge dinner, even though we never had family or friends over. In turn that led to a week of creative ways for disguising left overs.
When my dearest friend entered my life, and later my son, Christmas was transformed. It became something light, cheerful, and warm, a stark contrast to the darkly comedic Christmases of the past. Still, on occasion a dark shadow would tinge the twinkling lights with a hint of grey. A few years ago my mother passed away on December 1, and my little sister nine days later.My stroll down memory lane where my son was still a little boy gleefully scurrying down the hall on Christmas morning came to an abrupt end with a knock on the door. It was the man my son had become and his family, just in time for a delicious dinner of roast, potatoes, carrots, buttered rolls, and a pumpkin cream cheese roll with whipped cream.We closed out Christmas 2014, my dearest friend and I, with a movie after a half hour spent talking with my oldest sister who lives in Texas. Life is good. It could always be better but it could always be worse. So, I will file away another Christmas for next years stroll down Memory Lane, and turn my sites on what promises to be a most interesting new year.
Jim Hinckley's America is a grand adventure on the back roads and two lane highways. It is an odyssey seasoned with fascinating people, and memory making discoveries. As made evident by the publication of fourteen books on subjects as diverse as diverse as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, The Illustrated History of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, Travel Route 66, Backroads of Arizona, and The Route 66 Encyclopedia, I enjoy sharing adventures and helping people plan for their own memory making journeys.