Christmas was coming! There was a nip in the air, frost on the ground and little girl excitement abounded. Even though she was an old woman now, she remembered how it had been in the before time.
This year, she took a picture of her house and had it mounted on a special card. She sent it to all of her children with an invitation to come visit and enjoy the wonderful memories of their youth.
“Come spend the holidays with me and relive the days when you were knee-high to a grasshopper. There’s lots of room and you can choose from the pink room, the green room, the blue room, the yellow room or the white room. All will be adorned with decorations and the spirit of Christmas! There will be presents to open, apple cider to sip and dinner to feast upon. I’ll be expecting you around noon. Love, Mom.”
Day after day she lugged bins filled with ornaments into the house. Most of the trees were in cumbersome boxes and were three or four feet taller than she, but with her rickety old step-ladder, she could conquer even the tallest. Often, she would stop and laugh as she said to herself, “oh, land. My blood pressure. What was I thinking?”
She tried to ignore the nagging thought that maybe she was getting too old to do this sort of thing but she had missed it terribly. It had been so long since the before time and this year, she felt like she could decorate again.
Every room had a tree with a different theme and the ornaments matched the color of the room. Stockings hung from every mantle and Steinbach nutcrackers stood guard over them. There were hand-knitted stockings that her mama had made for the children, silk stockings that she had purchased, cross-stitched stockings that she had made, and old, felt stockings rescued from her mama and daddy’s attic, that still bore the faint smell of her daddy’s cigarette smoke.
Her finest handmade quilts covered holiday-themed flannel sheets on each bed and soft feather pillows beckoned a weary traveler with the promise of a wonderful night’s rest. Balsam scented candles filled each room with ambient lighting and that fresh-cut Christmas tree smell.
Hand-cut paper snowflakes, strung together with fishing line, served as temporary curtains in all the bedrooms and each room had its own “Elf On The Shelf,” moved to a different place every night.
Characters who held candles in arms that moved back and forth had been with her since the children were little. There was Mr. and Mrs. Clause, who for thirty years had stood on the main fireplace. There was Mr. Scrooge, the Lamplighter, four elves and several carolers. There was a little girl with blonde, curly hair who wore a red checked dress and reminded her of her daughters.
In front of the window at the top of the stairs, a tree was heavy laden with speaking ornaments from the movie, “A Christmas Story.” On a table beside it, was a full-sized famous Leg Lamp, the bunny slippers, a porcelain replica of the house, a bobble headed Ralphie and of course, “the old man.” It was one of her favorites.
Lighted garland wound its way around the banisters of the stairs, intermittently boasting a large red bow. Old world Santas that she had collected over the years, stood on the each corner of the twenty steps.
All of the artwork on the walls had been replaced with smiling pictures of Santa, and a basket overflowing with a collection of “The Night Before Christmas” books sat in the foyer. A large old world Santa stood beside a sleigh, filled with antique toys and represented a step back into her time as a little girl.
The outside of her house had wreaths with red bows on all thirty-eight windows and a large twig snowman, complete with carrot nose and top hat, held a welcome sign on the front porch. Sleigh bells on a leather strap, hung from the doorknob.
In the living room, her handmade Twelve Days Of Christmas quilt was draped over the sofa and in the chair was her hand embroidered pillow that said “The Bell Still Rings For Me.” Cinnamon pine cones lent an aromatic smell to the room while an old, scratched 45 record of White Christmas strained to play on her childhood phonograph.
In the kitchen, stood a replica of the famous tinsel trees of the fifties, complete with the color-wheel that cast several different hues. It was full of red and white candy canes, red glass balls, ornaments shaped like peppermints and miniature retro appliances.
Even the bathrooms had their own trees, each decorated with a different theme. One had miniature purses, high-topped boots, pointed high-heeled shoes and feathered hats. Another had hand crocheted snowflakes, coupled with silver balls. The third had firefighter ornaments and village fire houses stood proudly around the base as if ready to answer a call.
Her finest china and crystal graced the dining room table and beside each place setting, was a special gift. Over sized Santa hats covered the tops of each chair and The Polar Express Train encircled the base of the large tree that stood in the corner.
A six-foot tall dancing Santa, who let out a boisterous “ho-ho-ho” when someone walked by, was poised next to the fireplace. He had gotten old as well during the last thirty years, and sometimes needed a slight tap to make him wake up and start moving.
Christmas day arrived and she was up at the crack of dawn. By noon, a turkey was warming in the oven, buttered rolls were in a special basket and a freshly baked chocolate cake with white mountain icing waited under a special covered plate. Her famous macaroni and cheese, a favorite of her children, rested in a dish for them to devour and fill their bellies.
She sat and sipped the freshly made warm apple cider while she waited for her children to arrive. She listened to Christmas songs being chimed from the church bells and thought about how beautiful they sounded.
Having made certain that everything was perfect, she closed her eyes and smiled as she reminisced about Christmases of long ago. She remembered her children’s squeals of delight as they opened their presents and once again, thought of how very much she missed those days.
When nighttime fell, she carefully put the china and crystal back into the hutch and gathered up the unopened gifts.
No one came.