Sunday Scribblings ~ Tradition

December, 1960, I’m sitting on the floor in our living room, my back pressed against the wall next to the fragrant evergreen tree dripping with silvery tinsel and glittering with multi colored lights.  My short legs extend before me, the red corduroy pant legs slightly worn at the knee.  My feet are shoeless as usual, encased only in the white anklets I wear every day.  Beside me lies Ginger, our placid little spaniel, snoring peacefully.  On my lap – a book.

December 1970, I’m lying on the floor in our living room, my head underneath the silver branches of our aluminum Christmas tree, beside me the color wheel whirring relentlessly, casting its red/blue/green/orange glow on the walls of our darkened living room.  My bell- bottomed Levi’s cover all but the tips of fuzzy red slipper socks.  Beside me, our plump cocker spaniel, Honey, keeps a vigilant eye on the kitchen.  Open before me – a book.

December 2008,  I’m curled into the corner of a large overstuffed chair.  The house is dark, save for the warm lights on the small decorated Christmas tree atop the table beside me.  Candles illuminate the mantel, dressed with garlands of greenery and my collection of angel ornaments and figurines.  Beside me lies Magic, my ever vigilant and over protective shih-tzu, while his sister Molly dozes contentedly on the ottoman at my feet.  On my lap – a book.

It would seem my most vivid Christmas memories have virtually nothing to do with gifts or parties, but with the aura of peace and contentment surrounding my reading rituals under the Christmas tree. Reading by “tree – light” is one of my oldest personal “traditions,” one that began when I was barely old enough to hold a book, and I suspect the “reading” was simply a recollection of words that were read to my by doting parents and grandparents.   But I eventually became a ravenous reader for real, and the tradition grew to include certain volumes which must be read every Christmas.  My signature was scrawled on the library card for  Little Men, Louisa May Alcott’s sequel to her famous story of the March sisters, every year from 1964 to 1969.  There was a biography of Isadora Duncan in our school library that was also a must read every December.  And an illustrated rendering of The Nutcracker also came home with me each year for Christmas tree reading.  And I re-read each volume of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books that I owned, in anticipation of the new one I would receive as a gift from my cousin Cora.

My parents would likely be surprised to know how deeply ingrained these memories have become, how every year I recall those rooms and those times when I was surrounded by the warm, comforting glow of white lights and evergreen branches, where I could escape into the world of my favorite books and live a fantasy life for just a little while.  Of course the Barbie Dream House and Easy Bake Oven made a fleeting impression.   And the purple sting ray bike was rather nice.  But the world of books and the power of reading is everlasting, and has grown rather than diminished with age.

There’s no way to predict which traditions our children will recall most fondly, which will become cornerstones of their existence.  Perhaps it will be the family gatherings with Grandma’s famous chocolate cake and caramel frosting, or placing cookies and milk on the table for Santa each Christmas Eve.  Maybe the music you play on the stereo while decorating the tree, or the annual drive through the most fabulously decorated neighborhoods in your hometown.

Or maybe it will be the tradition they create for themselves, the special moments they spend in the comfort of their own presence, doing something that brings a sense of peace and fulfillment to their life.

How about you?  Do you have a favorite holiday tradition that belongs to only you?

For Sunday Scribblings

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9 thoughts on “Sunday Scribblings ~ Tradition

  1. Becca, this is such a beautiful post, and it really got me thinking about what it is that I remember about those Christmases. I, too, loved reading my tree light. Such a beautiful light, isn’t it? The house just seems transformed by it. When I was a child, growing up in Florida, my mother was transfixed by the idea of snow-laden trees, and so every year she would whip up Ivory Snow (yes, laundry detergent)–boxes and boxes of the stuff, and then she and my father would drape it across the tree’s branches, so that it looked just like a heavy snowfall. It was really beautiful, but quite a bit of work! I still remember the excitement of getting to help with that massive project–I was the one who carried the bowls of whipped detergent from the kitchen mixer to my father in the living room, and each and every year I always tasted it once. It looked just like the most luscious whipped cream that I couldn’t quite believe it was going to taste just like soap!! Hope springs eternal, you know. Anyway, thanks for bringing up the memories…and also thank you for your kind words about Jordie. Your blog is such a treasure to me. (And your shih-tzu is adorable!)

  2. Cocker spaniels were all the rage when I was young. I loved them. I’m assuming that Honey and Ginger were blonds. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a dog and I told my husband that I’m thinking about a cocker spaniel. Funny how dogs come in and out of vogue, but I always loved those spaniels.

    Special memories, indeed. Thanks for sharing, Becca.

  3. this was really interesting way to look at the holidays, the kind of peace they bring back to us,kind of rituals we would want to go back to..there is nothing as soothing as reading..loved reading this

  4. Beautiful memories, and thank you for sharing them. I’ve only been reading books by the tree since we bought our own house 6 years ago ~ and it is a truly, lovely experience. With a cup of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows of course!

    Our newest tradition that we share with our daughter is that she and I spend Christmas night sleeping under the tree on the blow up mattress. We also celebrate Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7th, so she spends another Christmas night under the tree with her dad. She anticipates these special nights all year long. Have a great Sunday!! xo

  5. Such a lovely post! My mother loved to read and passed that love down to both her daughters. We always received at least one book for every birthday and Christmas. I had the Little House books and plenty of Louisa May Alcott books, too! I’m carrying on the tradition and getting Little Men for my daughter this year–she, too, likes to read. It is truly a gift that lasts a lifetime!

  6. I loved going back in time with you. 😉 My brother wants me to find a color wheel for our tree. lol You made me really think hard with that question.

    I was the sibling that would search for where the presents were hid. I felt like Nancy Drew (my first book set)and knew every item under the tree. lol Of course I’d tell my brother. 😉

  7. This is a delicious description of the evolution of your favorite holiday tradition — beautifully written! For me, I think it’s baking cookies and playing Christmas music. Somehow can’t separate the two…

  8. Your description of the trees sounded so familiar. You could have easily been at our house. Although I was an avid reader, I don’t think of books at Christmas but of the time spent decorating the tree. I would always listen to music and one year I had purchased the 45 rpm of The Sounds of Silence. Like I did with all new records, I let it play over and over again. That year it played the entire time I was decorating the tree. My yearly ritual now contains a late-night wine salute to the lighted tree in a darkened room while I listen to Simon and Garfunkel once again. For years I did it the night the tree was put up but in the last few years it’s been so late and I’m so tired that it seems to be more appropriate on some other night but I always do it sometime during the time the tree is up. It isn’t Christmas without the glass of wine and my special music all alone in the dark.

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