Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Dad's Camera Captures Christmas Morning

Merry Christmas morning!   Hope your present is under the tree.   And that you remembered to buy batteries for the kids' toys.

Ah, kids' toys.   I had a few back in the day.   And, luckily, my father's Argus Technicolor camera captured the view...even if those photos are now weathered by age and badly in need of a TCM restoration.

As you can see from the above picture, Christmas was a huge deal when I was about four or five. Packages were exquisitely wrapped. The tree, albeit artificial, was beautifully decorated. Train tracks and a winter village were underneath it. Toys were plentiful. By the time I was ten, the holidays became a bit more robotic. In fact, Mom and Dad tired of the tree decoration activity. Instead of "taking it down," they simply put a plastic bag around it and stored the thing up in the attic. The very next year, the tree was completely restored in the space of five minutes. A cup of hot tea took longer to do.

But, in the early days, it was all about watching me open my gifts and then pose for pictures. My father was quite enamored of his new Argus Technicolor camera. I was asked to hold each present or toy up and then smile. Or, as this photograph shows, try to smile. By the way, I will go on record by saying that I have never been able to read music. I have no idea why that sheet music is open for me to play, as if I'm either Ferrante or Teicher.

When I was finally done surveying the loot in our second floor abode, I'd head downstairs to see what Santa brought me at Grandma and Grandpa's. Usually, the Santa that stopped there simply made a quick cash run at the bank. There was usually an envelope containing five or ten dollars underneath their artificial tree, which really only made an appearance for a year or two. They essentially gave up with the stock excuse patented exclusively by my family.

"It's too much trouble."

Well, at least, they were honest. They didn't bother. Unlike the folks upstairs who stowed away the tree along with the winter coats. Ours was the only Christmas tree in the neighborhood that had to be vacuumed every year.

By noontime on Christmas Day, we would all gather at some relative's house for the usual feast. In my family, there was some complex grid that showed who had hosted last year and who was due to host this year. Thanksgiving and New Year's also played into the rotation and I vaguely remember that Albert Einstein had to be consulted on this mechanism at some point. I dreaded the days where we would stray from our own home. Think about it. I had just met all these great new toys and I was immediately pulled away for several hours. The earliest vestiges of my separation anxieties.

Dinner would usually be turkey, ham, or even roast pork. At some point, somebody would say the wrong thing to somebody else and the latter would spend most of the mealtime sulking and smoking on the back porch. 

Eventually, Dad would call for a truce and a concurrent photo opportunity like the one shown above. That's Grandpa in the foreground, looking a bit forlorn. Had he just attended his own pity party on the back stoop? Perhaps. Mom is clearly positioned right behind, holding up a drink and probably hiding a cigarette behind her back. The photo itself is a little fuzzy, but, at this point in the party, so was the vision of most of the folks in this snapshot.

The other problem for me when we were forced to spend the day at somebody else's house was the need for me to dress up. And go outside. Unfortunately, my mother pretty much dressed me in whatever was that year's fashion from the little boy pages of the Spiegel catalog. You really couldn't make the most of the holiday by fooling around or playing. These were your "good clothes." I couldn't get them dirty at all. Heck, my mom would flip out if a crease was mussed.

But, on those Christmases that we hosted, I could go to town. Or, at the very least, the back yard. With fresh snow. As an only child and with cousins that were older than me, I desperately needed somebody to talk to. This snowman sufficed. At least until about two weeks later when the temperature hit 40 degrees. That's Grandma peering out of the house window. Probably making sure that I'm not fooling around with anything in her rhubarb garden.

Kudos to my dad for contributing to this piece with his photography. You see, the pictures did come in handy. I can see his voice right now.

"What the hell is this internet thing?"

But, thanks to him, everyone shown here is alive again. At least for one more day.

Dinner last night:  Reuben panini.

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