This morning I heard a Christmas song that truly took me waay back to Christmases past. Where I received my first talking doll…Chatty Cathy, made by Mattel. I have to share this interesting fact about how Chatty Cathy talked. As it turns out, even mute the dolls are worth $300 – $1,000+ in today’s market….such a girl ahead of my time, right??
Mattel based all of their talking dolls in the 1960s on a pull-string mechanism. Chatty Cathy’s mechanism was truly innovative–it allowed the doll to say a phrase completely at random when the string was pulled. The internal system consisted of a needle, small turntable, and record. Now that’s what I call innovation….in the 1960’s no less!
I can clearly see and feel the pull string in the back of her neck and hear her ask me to brush her hair, take her with me, ask for a cookie and tell me she loved me…I was in heaven! When my sisters (there are 6 of us in all) were being mean to me (and it seemed like they always were) I had my own Chatty Cathy who loved me! I literally could not believe that I had received her!!
As memorable as the gifts I received each year were, the traditions that were made with my Mom, Dad, 7 siblings and Grandfather were better. Funny thing about traditions – you don’t even know you are creating them until you look back on them and realize it was repeating the act year after year that created the tradition…or the notion of holding onto a previous time.
Here are some of my most memorable traditions for which I still hold on to. I am sure my siblings all have their own, but I think we will all agree (a rarity in our clan)…these were some of the best that have since evolved into wonderful, loving, and meaningful memories.
- Like opening one Christmas gift every Christmas Eve from our great Aunt’s Helen and Elizabeth from Chicago…they seemed so metropolitan to me. It wasn’t so much the gift as that it was from these far away, exciting, Aunts who we knew better through memory and tradition than we did in person.
- Our neighborhood had a tradition too – first house to plug the Christmas Tree lights in(sort of like the early bird gets the worm concept)…we didn’t win anything….except bragging rights which were very important, but again, all about the tradition. Still so vivid all these years later.
- Creating our wish list from the Sears Catalog….is there still a Sears Catalog?? LOVED sitting with my 5 sisters looking over this GIANT catalog filled with opportunity and promise. As I look back, it was the searching, selecting, and consulting that I loved…almost as much as the gifts themselves.
- Stringing popcorn on thread to decorate the tree – some of which was a bit sparse from eating the popcorn, but so much fun…aside from the tiny needle pricks and little round band aids on the tips of our fingers :)
- Singing along with Mitch Miller and LOVING the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause”…I never get tired of that song and bust out in the biggest smile you can imagine when I hear it.
- Christmas Church Fairs. So many items for so little $$.
- Riding the public bus from Windham NH to Lawrence MA without our parents…when times were simpler and life seemed safer. This was a BIG adventure and we literally shopped until we dropped.
- Mid-night Mass at St. Matthew’s Church…not sure I can tell you much about the service, but it was such a cool and grown up thing to do!
- The plastic Christmas Manger that our dad put up every year. I loved that manger more and more each and every year…or as I realized years later – the tradition of putting up with him; everybody taking a corner, making sure it was straight; hot coca after…sigh!
As we all grew and married we started our own traditions with our spouses and children…some of them traditions carried on from our childhood and others that became traditions over the years. Now many of us have grandchildren and have even newer traditions….some still in play, others replaced.
Here are some of my favorite, grown-up, modern traditions …not as many as with my siblings yet… but they haven’t been around as long either.
- Letting the grandkids open one Christmas Present on Christmas Eve. Handed down from me to my kids to the grandkids…ahhh….tradition!
- Letting the grandkids decorate the tree – their way – and not changing or fixing it – no matter how lopsided the ornaments are. There are 8 or so specific ornaments that must be played with before they go on the tree….no matter how old the kids get, they always play with the same ones year after year and reluctantly put them on the tree before they leave.
- Setting up the advent calendar – where they want it and watching them dash in the door when they visit to take the days that have passed off. We have had the same advent calendar for them since Christmas 2004 and they still, at ages 13+ and closing in on 12, enjoy it! My kids had one too, but they got to take each day off as it passed. Ahhh….tradition.
- The small, inside manger…perhaps a tradition from days past? This one belongs to my granddaughter and she will not let it go. She has been taking this manger out of the box, and playing with it for hours, before she decides on just the right spot to assemble it, since 2006.
- The annual Hess Truck sets. Been buying these for all 5 grandkids for the past 3 – 4 years and they still love them…although the 2 eldest are “so over them” (they are caught playing with them when they think nobody is looking) – the 3 youngest are still loving them.
- Christmas Eve at eldest son’s house – putting out milk/cookies for Santa, staying to help wrap and assemble gifts…the love and pride of watching him with his family – pure joy. A new tradition has taken its place, but these memories are in the vault!
- Family Christmas dinner at our house – used to be traditional Turkey dinner, but this will be our 2nd year serving Crown Roast – a new tradition in the making??
- Toasting to my dad who will be missing his 19th Christmas with his beloved family this year.
And more,more,more! Plus more news ones to begin – truth be told, I was very resistant to changing traditions and for good reason – they meant so much to me and I thought letting go meant letting go of the memory… but I have come to realize that my traditions and memories are just that….mine and I have to warm up to the new possibilities…..sort of :)
BUT the ones I have will stay buried deep in my mind, in my heart and in my soul for eternity !
Merry Christmas To All and To All A Good _____________fill in the blank.
Much love, lightness, peace and warmth,