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Isn’t it amazing how we can be wishing to turn 16 and get a driver’s license and then wake up a short time later and 30 years have disappeared? Something about this time of year always kicks the nostalgia into high gear, so bear with me as we look back on Christmases past.
The first 10 years of my life were spent in a white, wood-framed house that was completed in 1912. It had the typical high ceilings, no insulation and was oriented just right to catch a summer breeze.
Summers weren’t so bad but the winters were brutal. The only heat came from “tin” wood heaters strategically placed in the kitchen, the living room and one bedroom. The rooms with heaters were sauna-like. Frosty the Snowman would have survived just fine in the rest of the house.
The Christmas tree always went in the room we called the “hall” that connected the front door to the living room. My brother and I had the job of finding the perfect red cedar tree to serve as our holiday centerpiece. That meant traipsing through lots of old pastures and forestland that had been recently cut to find a young victim.
Red cedar, which is actually a juniper, is one of the early succession plants as Mother Nature tries to convert the cleared land back into forest. In Warren County, there were plenty of old pastures to pick from.
Unlike the Fraser firs of today, a cut red cedar became a fire hazard after a couple of weeks inside, so the tree always went up on my sister’s birthday—Dec. 19—and was removed on Jan. 6, which my father called “old Christmas.”
That old house burned to the ground in January 1972, one day after my dad’s favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys, won the Super Bowl by defeating the Miami Dolphins. Those same Dolphins would return the next season and go undefeated and capture the title by shutting down the Washington Redskins. My folks had $3,000 in insurance. Neither ever completely recovered from that experience.
In the northeast-facing dining room lived a Christmas cactus of undetermined age that always put on a fascinating (at least to a little kid) profusion of pink flowers in early December. Comments on its beauty typically brought the offer of easily rooted cuttings. Who knows how many plants got their start from that obscure corner of my mother’s dining room?
Today’s Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cacti are even better and make great gifts.
As you reflect on the years past during this holiday season, I hope you’ll attempt to re-capture the unbridled anticipation of Christmas Eve you felt as a child, and I hope you take the time to be fascinated by simple things like the flower of a Christmas cactus.
I wish each of you a joyous and safe holiday season. Thanks for continuing to read my ramblings here each week.