“Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yuletide excitement is as potent as caffeine, no matter your age.”

The middle of December shouldn’t be this warm. Yesterday set a new record high and today is already in the 50’s. I have yet to see my breath this winter. Santa will probably arrive wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Bermudas.

Yesterday was my most industrious day. The to do was completed. All the presents got wrapped and were put in boxes ready to mail. They’ll go out tomorrow. Gracie and I went to the dump, to Agway and finally to a grocery store so I could buy dinner. Last night I was totally exhausted from all the up and down the stairs and the hauling of boxes and presents.

My mother didn’t drive when I was a kid so I can’t imagine how she got all her shopping done. I don’t remember her ever being missing on a day when my dad was home to drive her. Maybe my mother did mail order shopping as our reference book for Christmas presents was the Sears catalog. My brother and I would look through the toy section time and time again and we’d circle what we wanted. The gifts probably arrived when we were in school. I know she hid them everywhere: the attic, the ironing board closet, the next door neighbor’s and the trunk of my dad’s car. We’d sometimes come across them but not because we looked.

I always did my shopping up town at Woolworth’s, Grant’s or the drug stores. The biggest drug store, the Middlesex Drug, sat on one side of the square. It had a soda fountain which had stools and a marble counter. They made the coke the old way by putting in the syrup then the fizzy water as we used to call it. In the middle of the store was always a display at Christmas. It was filled with perfumes and powders in festive boxes. I always checked them all out, but they were too expensive. I usually only had only a dollar or two, too poor for the drug store but rich enough for Woolworth’s.

Giving presents to all my family was really a big thing to me. I spent so much time walking up and down the aisles looking for something special for each of them. My sisters sometimes got baby bottles for their dolls. I remember the nipples were always pink. My brother was happy with his balsam plane. My mother made a big deal over the perfume I’d bought despite how inexpensive it was. My dad welcomed new handkerchiefs. He always carried one with him. I remember him pulling one out and blowing his nose with a great deal of noise.

I’d wrap my own presents and put them under the tree right in front. I was so proud of them.

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14 Comments on ““Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yuletide excitement is as potent as caffeine, no matter your age.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    Sixty something here in Detroit (temperature and me) and the UPS man was giving me the business that I am not out walking – I claimed boredom and that I couldn’t keep listening to Zep – he was still critical of my lack of effort to keep the forthcoming Christmas LBs under control

    We are going to blow up 100 year old temperature records over the weekend, my new snowblower is accumulating dust and I am not sure if the following is true. However im6 and I agree this is awfully good fun.

    For all you Elves (or Elvis’s) out there, here is the opinion of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

    • katry Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      It is so seldom you two agree I’ll just have to jump on the band wagon as well.

      It isn’t Bing but that doesn’t matter. It is still a great song!

  2. olof1 Says:

    The temperature is actually dropping here now and it will fall to 32 and below for a few days until it gets warmer again. I wouldn’t mind if it stayed a bit on the cold side for a while as long as it doesn’t mean we’ll get snow too 🙂

    The stores to go to here were Grand and NK. Grand was cheaper and had fantastic christmas displays in their windows with affordable things. NK was for the rich and had an even more fantastic christmas display with things one only could dream of buying. We did of course have several smaller stores ore close to home where we eventually would go and buy the presents and they did what they could with their displayes and to be honest, today I think they were pretty good too.

    I can’t remember a single soda fountain when I grew up, to be honest I don’t think we had them here unless they had any in our capital. I do remember the first milkshake though (must have been around 10 years old when they turned up in my home town) and I thought it was the best invention ever. Now I can’t remember the last time I had a milkshake 🙂

    I always wrapped my presents too, some time there were more tape than paper on them 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      It was 57˚ when I went out this afternoon. You have the cold we’re supposed to have this time of year. We’ll have that heat for much of the week.

      We used to go into Boston to see all the windows and to see Santa. The Boston Common, the park in the center of the city, had lights in the bare trees, and they looked wonderful. There was a huge tree right in the center.

      Soda fountains were all over the place, in all the towns. I think my town had two I remember and maybe more I’m forgetting. They made great frappes (what we in New England call milk shakes).

      I bought a few more today I now need to wrap!

      Have a great evening.

  3. Richard Says:

    To use a ‘N’Awlins’-ism, “Yeah, you right” … it shouldn’t be this hot this late in December. I think we hit low 60s today followed by light rain this even proceeding to flood stage by Sunday … Death, where is thy sting … ?

    I like that word: ‘Industrious.’ Has a good, solid sound to it. A worthwhile word. Full of vim, vigor, and (dare I say it?) … Vitalis! Hey, no one remembers Vitalis, and I’ll never have another chance to use it. Just like ‘Brylcreem’ – “A little dab’ll do ya!” … I always suspected something other than the plain meaning was being transmitted in secret ‘adult’ code with that slogan …

    Finally cooked the mirlitons (‘MELLA-tawns’) which are mistakenly called ‘chayotes’ here in Cordova. They play extremely nice with onion, garlic, tomato, tomatillo, shallot, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, and a bit o’ parsley. Since I also had some andouille (ahn-DEW-ee) in the fridge, that’s in there too. I sometimes think it’s a tossup whether I like cooking or Photoshop better …

    As far back as I can remember – and confirmed by photos in the family albums – Mom was a Driver! … she always told anyone getting in the car with her that they shouldn’t get in if they had to be home or at a certain place at a certain time. Time and space didn’t exist when Mom was behind the wheel.

    Your mention of Woolworth’s and Grant’s brings back memories. We had a Woolworth store about 12 blocks from our house, but if we wanted a lunch counter, we had to ride the bus to Canal Street to the BIG Woolworth’s. That’s the store where ‘sit-ins’ were held during the civil rights days. Before that time, we’d just hit it up for a good breakfast for not much money.

    Grant’s was there, too, but Woolworth’s was the Big Time. So was the downtown Walgreen’s – it had a second-level seating area in addition to the first-floor lunch counter stools. The second floor had waiters ‘n waitresses – it’s where the ‘swells’ ate. Or at least the ‘semi-swells’ … and then there was us.

    Christmas then was – or so it seems – so much simpler. Seems there was always a big square flat box that had the Dreaded Monogrammed Handkerchiefs in it … those handkerchiefs were the ones Mom used later to tie the 7¢ bus fare in. The two fares were in tiny knots on opposite corners … these days I think the cheapest fare is $1.50, and I’m pretty sure y’ no longer get a transfer to a connecting line with that price.

    • katry Says:

      Richard,
      Boston may have hit 60˚ today but here by the water we’re always cooler which is great in summer, not so great in winter.

      My mom got her license when I was a senior in high school. She had her own car a few years later. Nothing ever stopped her.

      The Woolworth’s of my childhood had no counter. Later a large Woolworths build in a small development of stores, and it had a lunch counter. I loved the women who worked there. They had lacy handkerchiefs usually in pink attached outside the pocket of their uniforms. I loved shopping in the store.

      We never had a Walgreen’s, but many years later one was built. I don’t think the Cape has one at all.

      My father got the handkerchiefs but we never did. The only bus we ever took was the Medford bus, the next town over, but it went by the skating rink so we’d take it as far as the rink which was several miles from my house. When I was older, I’d take the bus to Sullivan Square to catch the subway into Boston.

      The square of my town is totally changed, but it is still vibrant.

  4. Bob Says:

    On my way home from work I drove with my sunroof open as the temperature was in the high seventies. I noticed that the leaves on the trees are turning color as autumn has arrived in North Texas. The long range prediction for the next couple of months is a cooler and wetter winter due to a huge El Niño in the Pacific.

    When I was a kid my mother didn’t drive until we moved to Texas and my father gave her driving lessons and bought her a used car, a Kaiser. The only thing I remember about it was that it was the only Kaiser in the neighborhood and it had a read leather interior.

    My parents never wraped our Chanukah gifts. Each night a different gift appeared from somewhere in the house after we lit the menorah. We always received our big gift on the first night and smaller gifts as the week progressed.

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      Wow, we don’t get that hot until June. I’m excited at being in the high 50’s in mid-December. You are close to 3 months behind us.

      I saw a huge article in the paper talking about El Niño and its affect on the snow. I saw anywhere from 81 inches to just over a hundred. I don’t think we can survive with as much snow as we had last winter.

      I would have thought to start out with the small gifts and work up to the big one.

      My mother’s friend gave her driving lessons. I thought my mother was being gutsy getting one so late in life.

      • Bob Says:

        You must remember that we are on the same latitude as the Sahara desert. 🙂

        Not many kids can wait seven nights of small gifts for the big one. 🙂

        My mother was probably 32 when she learned to drive. When we lived in Brooklyn NY there was no reason for her to drive. My grandmother lived a few blocks away and all the stores were within a block or two of our apartment.

      • Kat Says:

        Bob,
        The small gifts would have my attention. The big one if it were last would build anticipation.

        My mother was 37 when she learned to drive. She grew up in the city when she was younger, moved a small town with buses to get you where you want to go, but the Cape back then had no buses at all. If you didn’t drive, you were stuck.

  5. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    I saw my breath this morning while out with the dogs. It was foggy and damp and just cool enough.
    On the other hand, I’m still walking around in my summer flip-flops. Yesterday I drove around town with the windows down and the heater off.

    My mother drove when I was a kid but usually she did not have the car so we walked or took the bus. Once in a while, in summer, my father would leave her the car so we could go to the beach.

    I also did all my shopping at Woolworth’s and Grants. I had a fondness for ceramic animal knick knacks and presented my mother with many over the years. They were cheap but they looked good. One or two of them may still be around here somewhere.
    There were several drug stores in the downtown area and they all had soda counters. But I preferred the Colonial Spa, which was a soda shop cum candy, magazines, newspapers and novelties. My usual order was a vanilla coke and sometimes a brownie. After that, I’d peruse the comic book section.

    Sunny for awhile today but the clouds returned. Warm though.

    Enjoy the evening.

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      You are so much earlier than I you still have some of the night temperatures. I went out shopping but it as after 1.

      I just had a long sleeve shirt on. My sweatshirt was in the car but I didn’t need it.

      I think knick knacks were really big back then. Lots of people had them on shelves with mirrors.

      I loved vanilla cokes and usually ordered them as well.

      I loved the day!

      Have a great day tomorrow!

  6. Jay Bird Says:

    Late post here; apologies; must have skipped this day.Your comment on your mother not driving really struck a chord with me.

    My mom didn’t drive either, voluntarily. Odd part was, she claimed to have been the second female in her home town to get a driver’s license… at age 16 in 1927. She had her own car in college and was famous for piling all her friends in and driving 150 mi. to New York City for a cup of coffee, then driving right back home! Quite the liberated lady.

    But she gave up driving (and quit a good job as Director of Testing for a large public school system) when she married in 1939. Proper married ladies of those days didn’t drive or work. Tut, tut. I don’t think my dad would have objected (I wasn’t born for another 8 years), but my mother lived by strict social mores, even if they were damn stupid.

    I tried to get her back on the road after my dad died, but she was pushing 70 by then, hadn’t driven in 40 years and couldn’t handle the stress.

    The 40’s and 50’s were good old days… unless you were a woman or minority.

    • Kat Says:

      Jay,
      My mother was a bit younger than yours having been born in 1927. She had women friends who drove so there wasn’t any reason for her not to drive other than by choice. When we moved to the cape, she really had to learn as there were no buses and everything was too far away for walking. Her friend gave her driving practice and my mother was quickly on the road!


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