Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holiday Memories



Holiday Memories
by Gregory E. Larson

           Childhood memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas, you ask? What are the snippets from my brain? Do I have any memories to share?
          Well, in the early 60s there was always the two-hour-plus ride from Wichita to Emporia, and for a young kid, that ride seemed like an eternity. I’d stare out the window and pretend the little buildings and street lights on North Broadway were part of a model train set. The scenery changed from urban to rural as we drove toward Newton and then on through the Flint Hills where hills and valleys were plentiful. I would catch glimpses of stone bridges spanning the creeks and watch trains rolling through woods and fields. The farms looked just like my brother’s toy farm set and barn he received one Christmas.
          Memories?
          At Strong City, we passed the feed lot and held our noses, then joked that the city was named after the smell. On narrow Highway 50, we’d always get stuck behind some big truck that belched diesel smoke right towards our car. Finally, upon arrival in Emporia, we’d drive past the Farm and Home Supply and the Dairy Queen, before turning toward Grandma and Grandad Beck’s house, the classic bungalow with white clapboard siding and a big porch with railings and brick piers. Yippee! We ran circles in the front yard while Dad carried sacks of food and presents into the house.
          Memories?
          Thanksgiving was one of the two times each year to see our cousins from Minnesota. Touch football games began as rumble-tumble affairs and consisted of a handful of plays which ended up in the leaf piles in the yard. Each year the games looked more like football. We grew bigger, threw the ball farther, and blocked and tackled with a little more muscle, until the year when footballs and kids were bouncing off the cars and the houses; that’s when the dad’s decided we needed to be driven up to the college practice field.
          Memories?
          Dinners of turkey and mashed potatoes filled the plates, and there was so much food that the heat of the potatoes would melt the Jell-O salad to a runny state. There was the time when younger brother Tim fell asleep while trying to eat in the high chair at the kids table and we’d all laugh. He’d roll his eyes and smile, which made us all laugh even harder.
Old Folks Table and Kids Table         
          After-dinner activities for the kids occurred in the basement, with “spoons” being the favorite pastime. It usually ended up with a six-boy brawl, which had to be broken up by my tough-guy dad.
          Memories?
Uncle Stu had to drive his station wagon to the Standard station one year for the repairman to take a look at it. This was a big event for us boys, and we figured we’d get a bottle of pop out of the trip. Any change of venue was significant, especially when lights and decorations were plentiful, even down to the string of lights and garland around the front glass at the gas station.
          Memories?
          Every trip through Grandma’s kitchen would be an excuse to grab another sugar cookie   . . . maybe grab two or three and go outside to run around the yard without wearing a jacket. A chase down the alley brought us to the mom and pop grocery store where we’d pick out some pieces of candy and tell them to put it on the Beck’s account.
Brothers and cousins playing in Grandparents yard.
          Memories?
          Christmas brought colder weather, and we missed seeing the cousins. Grandma had purchased a small electric console organ, and she always wanted me to play Christmas music when we arrived. I’d inspect the Christmas tree ornaments and balls with star-insets and spiral pendants which glistened with the tinsel. Then I’d flip the switch to the organ and begin playing carols. Invariably, Mom would come over and ask me to turn down the volume to allow the music to co-exist with the conversations.
          Eventually we’d open presents of shirts, books, grooming kits, and other exciting stuff!?
          Memories?
          We played card games or Monopoly until it was finally time for bed. After talking until our brains wouldn’t work anymore, we’d fall asleep on feather pillows in the cold, upstairs room in the bungalow, and wake to grandma jostling and banging her pans in the kitchen cabinets. Then we’d stay tucked under the covers until the smell of bacon became too irresistible.
          Memories?
          They’re just snippets, but they’ll always be there . . . as vivid as the day it occurred. I can see the Fiesta ware on which breakfasts of eggs and pancakes were served and taste the orange juice in the tulip glasses that were originally cheese-spread jars.
          Yeah, those are my memories.

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