As long as I remember, Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I have the best memories of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as a kid. My parents always made sure my siblings and I had a magical time.
One particular Christmas, Teresa, my younger sister, and I got up in the middle of the night and started playing with our new Barbie’s and Barbie Motorhomes that Santa had given us. My mom and dad, obviously hearing commotion in the living room, came in and made us go back to bed. I’m sure they were disappointed they had missed seeing the look of joy and wonder on our faces when we first laid eyes on the carefully set up display of toys.
Sleeping was always hard for me on Christmas Eve and, because I shared a room with my younger sister, I made sure she didn’t sleep much either. J
Gifts from Santa were never wrapped at our house and we always had Christmas stockings filled with an orange and unshelled peanuts, Brach’s Pick-a-Mix candy and, when Teresa and I became teenagers, usually a piece of jewelry sitting at the top.
For the most part, I tried to keep traditions that I grew up with alive for my own children. Don and I didn’t include peanuts in our kid’s stockings, but we did throw some Brach’s candy in along with other treats.
While living in Oregon, Don and I started our own Christmas traditions. One of my favorites was taking our little family to Friendly Street Church to their annual live nativity. We also picked out a Christmas tree from Madsen Tree Farm each year, drove around the city looking at lights and décor, attended church Christmas dinners and, on Christmas Eve, exchanged gifts with Don’s family.
Christmas Eve 1995 really stands out. Don’s dad flew to Oregon from South Carolina to spend Christmas with his kids and grandkids living in Eugene. (At that time, Don only had one sister that still lived in South Carolina.) On Christmas Eve day, Don’s dad went to his youngest son Jeff’s house for a few hours, but when he returned, dad told Don and I not to eat the turkey that April (Jeff’s wife at the time) was cooking for our big Christmas Eve get-together. April was not the best housekeeper and I don’t remember exactly what dad told us she did to that turkey, but I'll never forget him insisting, over and over, "Whatever you do, DO NOT eat the turkey!" That night we loaded up and went to Diane’s (Don's sister) house and our little family did not dare even nibble the turkey for fear of getting sick or upsetting Don’s dad or both! The Donald Lancaster family ate a lot of ham that Christmas Eve.
The time spent with my father-in-law that holiday was priceless. My kids came to know their grandpa Lancaster and it was the last time we saw him alive. I have great memories of him chewing my caramels. I had over-cooked them and they were hard that year, but he enjoyed eating them anyway, or at least he made me feel like he did. Dad Lancaster was very kind to me.
The movie Toy Story was released that Christmas, so Don and I took his dad and our kids to the theater. Dad had not been to a movie for quite some time and he told us he would buy our treats if we bought all of the tickets. Believe me…he ended up spending a whole lot more money on popcorn and drinks than Don and I did on admission. Watching Pixar’s first movie that year with our children and their grandpa was a real treat and a great memory.