My Favorite Christmas

One of my fondest memories is of my seventh Christmas and the way my mother and father’s happiness bubbled over while we decorated our tree. We lived in Hyde Park, New York then, a sleepy little village about seventy miles north of New York City along the Hudson River.

I can still see my father placing the large-toothed saw in the trunk as we would head out to a local tree farm where he, along with my brother Fran (four years my junior) and I, would cut down a full Evergreen and rope it to the roof of our 1951 Henry J. That has always been my favorite car that Dad owned. The fragrance of that tree made the most significant statement about Christmas… one I have longed for many times since. Upon arriving home Dad would place the lights (those big bulbous lights) around the tree as well as the star on top, then Mom went to work hanging the tinsel. We called it tinsel then, not icicles.

This particular Christmas, Mom wanted only blue lights and Dad always did what Mom suggested… he was very kind that way. Mom would hang every tinsel strand one-by-one such that each limb had dangling about thirty strands. My brother and I would try and help, but were relegated to the lower limbs. We could never get the tinsel to lay like Mom, so we just stood awaiting that magic moment when Dad hit the switch and the tree transferred us into seasonal enlightenment . And then came the bulbs which is where we all participated. Mom always had peanut butter cookies baking throughout the season.

That year, Mom and Dad took Fran and I shopping for a present from one another. Dad took me and Mom took Fran. Upon opening our presents we were delighted to find that we had given each other exactly the same thing. A toy MG car… mine was burgundy and his was green.

When we arose Christmas morning, I was surprised to find my Lionel train set. It was a 2055 model with six cars, (engine, tender, flat car, tanker, gondola, and caboose). The layout was on an 8 x 12 – 1/2 inch plywood board and the track was in the shape of an 8. It included a metal train station, a two-light cross warning, a small booth from where a little man would come out holding a light, and several other things about which I have long forgotten.

I don’t have words to express my happiness with that Christmas. The closest thing I have witnessed is the movie, A Christmas Story. The timeframe was pretty close, the cars, the school, the snow, Ralphie’s clothes, and the special toy (Ralphie’s BB gun was akin to my train.) Whenever I want to bring a smile to my conscience, I think of that wonderful morning when the smell of Lionel smoke filled my nostrils and the sound of Lionel’s famous steam-engine-whistle echoed through the tunnels of my mind.

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