Cambrian: Slice of Life

Magical memories like these make Christmas special

This house on Cambria’s Wood Drive is decorated to the hilt, with lights, penguins, candy canes, an inflatable polar bear, an igloo and much more.
This house on Cambria’s Wood Drive is decorated to the hilt, with lights, penguins, candy canes, an inflatable polar bear, an igloo and much more.

As a former caterer and party planner, I can assure you that anybody who contemplates hosting even a small party has panicky moments of wondering, “Why am I doing this to myself?”

And then there’s Christmas.

With all the gift buying, cookie baking, home adorning, menu planning, guest accommodating, light-strand unsnarling, tree finding and decorating, children corralling and the seemingly endless present-wrapping, bow-tying and mailing chores, the month of December can feel like one long, giant party run amok.

So is it any wonder some of us think wistfully about mid-January and a lonely desert island?

Really … beyond its religious importance, why is Christmas so important to us?

It’s those magical memories of family, friends and fun. That’s what we want to create, especially for our children and their children.

But no matter how much or how little we do, there’s no way to know ahead of time what our kids really will remember years later.

So, being a perpetually curious (aka nosy) person, I asked.

Here are some of the answers I got to the question, “What is your favorite memory of Christmastime?”

The responses included:

▪  Nancy’s mom’s recipe for fruitcake.

▪  Janice’s Toni doll (complete with full doll wardrobe, including bridal gown, hand sewn by her grandmother).

▪  Karen, Curt and their kids delivering to their store’s customers customized, decorated baskets of homemade goodies.

▪  Renee’s dad “dressing up for his grandkids as ‘Tata Claus,” singing classic Christmas songs in a funny way.”

▪  Dan’s recollection of giving his girlfriend diamond earrings as a Christmas and engagement gift — they’ve been married for 37 years.

Starr remembers “candlelight midnight services at our log-cabin church in New Jersey and walking out to snowfall afterwards” and watching Alastair Sim’s “A Christmas Carol” and “A Muppet Christmas Carol.” She said, “Popcorn and eggnog are a must!!”

xmas claus
Visitors to the Cambria Christmas Market wait for a visit with Santa earlier this month. Stephen H. Provost

Patty thinks fondly about stringing lights on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and “Christmas morning at my grandparents’ house,” with cousins, aunts and uncles. “Grandpa would be in the kitchen making breakfast. Christmas music on the phonograph and the most beautiful tree … every package was a piece of art.”

Stan remembers 1952 and “the first time I ever had an orange. Santa threw it to me from the back of the Kettle Falls Washington Volunteer Fire Truck. I was 4. The snow was deep. A logging truck had dumped a load in the middle of town and torched it. Talk about a red-neck Yule log!”

Diane recalls longing for a three-speed racing bike at the age of 12. But her brother Rod, at 8, needed his first two-wheeler and 4-year-old Michael needed a tricycle. She agreed that the boys’ needs were important, “but I still wished for my own bike. And wonder of wonders, Christmas morning, there were three bikes next to the tree! How my single mother pulled that off, I’ll never know, but oh, how I cherished my British racing green, three-speed gift!”

Within the Tanner family, Caity remembers that “in a home that didn't feel like home, you and Papa showed up to Dad’s rental house in Davis and decked it out in a bunch of Christmas things.” She also loved “ALL of our baking and cooking times together” and, on her first date with boyfriend Shane, “getting ‘the wimpiest Charlie Brown tree’ from the lot across the street so it would fit in my house. (It definitely did not fit.)”

Chrissy’s favorite “is my first memory of food. We would bake cookies for the neighbors and the carolers that would come by.”

When she, her mom and sister arrived in Cambria, professional baker “Grandpa asked me what cookies I wanted to make for the carolers. ... then he showered me with 5-POUND containers of cookie dough (chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, sugar cookie and oatmeal raisin). And honestly, what is better than Grandpa and cookies?”

Pat remembers 2 a.m. one Christmas, when the adults “were struggling to assemble that funny little plastic jungle gym” for Chrissy. “Part A didn’t want anything to do with Hole B. Finally, we lined everything up and held it, and then John ran across the room and did a belly flop on top. The house shook, but the jungle gym snapped together!”

Unfortunately, not all standout holiday memories are good ones. December birthday girl Jennifer said she remembers “being told by my classmates at the age of 5 that, indeed, Santa Claus and Christmas were not about my birthday ... it was about Baby Jesus! I was stunned and confronted my grandmother, who first told me it was all for me. … We both cried.”

And Laura? Talking about “the worst Christmas present you ever got,” she mentioned three: 1) a set of golf clubs from her now-ex, even though she’s never golfed, but how amazing. The clubs were “exactly right” for him; 2) a leaf blower (they lived in a condo); and 3) “a full-length fur coat” that the giver had bought at a garage sale. Laura lived in San Diego at the time.

To her credit, she can laugh about it now.

So, may you make wonderful memories this and every Christmas and holiday season, and may you always be able to laugh about the gaffes and goofs. Happy holidays, everybody!