Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Place Where Santa Came Down the Chimney

No matter how old we are, when it comes to Christmas that little child within us goes back to a place we keep tucked away in our hearts-a place we called home when Santa came down the chimney; a place where we'd put the cookies and glass of milk and sugar for the reindeer out-then hurry to bed but hardly to sleep.

I remember such a place. It wasn't in the country with those four houses in a row. Rather it was a few miles away in th
e small town where I grew up. Occasionally I'll drive by; feel a little anxious as down the hill I go,slowing when approaching the place still sneaking into my dreams. I can visualize my mother sitting on the front steps-smiling and waving-looking beautiful-watching me and my brother cross the road to play with neighbors who remain young in my mind. Although it is no longer a pale yellow and a 2-car garage stands where lilac bushes once bloomed, that house sitting next to the lane is where Santa made every Christmas magical for me. Somehow he came down the chimney although we never had one. My parents did put together a cardboard fireplace; the kind where you fit a tab into a slot and instantly you have a teetering fireplace complete with cardboard mantle,logs and flames. It was ok for me and my brother. We we were able to hang our stockings on it before running up the backstairs to bed.

The house had a double living room separated by a wide archway. The tree was always in the front nudged into the corner by the window. After my father meticulously hid the huge,blue lights back between the banches and the ornaments from the 5 and dime were in place, my mother would take over-covering every inch of the tree with strands upon strands of sparkling silver tinsel. My mother loved the stuff. She'd buy whatever Woolworth's and Newberry's had to offer. By today's standards it'd probably be condemned as I bet it was full of lead. But no one cared about that kind of stuff back then especially with Christmas approaching.

There was a smaller area off the second living room which my mother used as a dining room only on Christmas Eve. She'd set the table the same way every year-with linens and china, tall-stemmed, etched crystal glasses and a silver soup ladle for serving her oyster broth. Red taper candles sat in polished holders. Her parents and sister would come for dinner; usually later than normal and then we'd all go to midnight mass. Now that I am the adult I wonder what time my parents went to bed for after mass they still had to bring us home and get us upstairs and quieted down; making sure we were asleep before assuming the role of Santa Claus. Kids don't ever think of such things. That is the blessing of childhood.

My brother was usually up first; making just enough noise so that I'd follow right behind. Rushing down the front stairs that creaked with age I'd pause at the bottom before looking into Christmas.Cinnamon was coming from the kitchen; stockings were overflowing-sitting on the floor lopsided beside the cardboard fireplace. Piles of presents from Santa were in front of other gifts wrapped in tissue paper. Those were from our parents. As the heat came through the old registers and the snow fell ever so softly I'd rush into that front room in embrace of Santa's visit.

I was in third grade when we moved to the country. Although so many wonderful Christmas memories of family followed I still feel a twinge when thinking back to that pale yellow house with its small stoop and screened-in side porch.I remember being so excited when I'd bought my brother a 5-cent pack of Wrigley gum. I mulled over what wrapping paper to use; couldn't wait to see his expression when he opened it. While he liked the gum it was his Hopalong Cassidy radio that stole the show that year. It didn't matter for he shared the pack of gum with me.


  1. It's wonderful to look back on our childhood Christmas memories. Reading yours brought my own to mind. Thank you. Memories are truly a blessing.

  2. I agree-memories are truly a blessing-and a pack of gum was 5 cents!