Growing up in a large family, with parents both from large families you would think my memories would be vague and cloudy trying to recall them...
Actually somehow they are separate yet together and each character gives texture to my watercolor of memories that swirl and give me goose bumps every so often.
Christmas of course was golden, always happy and never once did anything “bad” happen on this day. It was like time and troubles marched along and sidestepped this event in my life and it remains a safe haven when ever I need to chuckle. My mind’s retreat from unstoppable worries and changes I have no control over. Christmas. And it was always a Turner Christmas...my mother’s side...well they had somehow made up their minds that we were one too many gifts to share the event with. But my father’s side...well they just could not stay away...maybe it was because there were so many of us, maybe it was because they knew my mother actually had 9 children living at 228 Vernon Avenue...and she was married to one of them!
Like every family we had our traditions. We had tree trimming and decorating...cookie baking and gift-wrapping and Christmas music playing on my father’s Hi-Fi. We also had an added event that was so unique that I’m not sure I can accurately describe it.
The moment that came after we tore open our gifts and became like toy-stupored zombies who suddenly had no appetites and lost our sense of hearing as parents tried to call us for photos or help in the kitchen. This was usually when IT happened. Just as you're counting up your booty and finally tearing your eyes away from your own toys to see what your siblings are shaking in your face...the car horn would blare.
They’re here! We all squealed...they’re here!
They, being my father’s sister Ruth, our Nana along with Uncle Harry my dad’s best friend, and husband to his favorite sister Blanche. An onslaught of gifts had just arrived being announced by my Uncle Harry, the one that got his arm “shot off in battle” as my father would always remind us, leaning on the horn with a smile that was priceless.
Now... not many people have a back porch that is really called something else. This wonderful slab of concrete, the one I was always jumping off and adding to my collection of scrapes bumps and bruises, transformed each Christmas into what my father and his family referred to as ...
THE LOADING DOCK
Yes, yes I know and unusual name for a back porch but that is what it was named after all. It all came about because of the mountains of gifts that were off-loaded from Uncle Harry’s car. The one he drove with his knees on the steering wheel, a pure delight to all of us as we thought he was steering it magically.
So many packages were crammed in, that I don’t know where they sat. Nana was brimming with goodies, sweets, candies and cookies! Aunt Blanche was hugging my parents and saying over and over again...“What did they break... anything broken yet?” A standing joke in our family as one year her oldest daughter Gail came stomping in the front door and stepped right into my brother’s new drum!
Aunt Ruth, well she sort of hung back clutching her purse, after all we were noisy and excited and we might get her dirty...
She also brought gifts though; she just had a different way of presenting them. They always came with some long explanation. “Now children this gift is very special, now take very good care of it”
...and it was bubble bath.
Usually an Avon product of some sort...always something to do with cleaning us up and making us smell better...
And so we sat on the floor in a circle anxiously waiting, as they would pull out gift after gift calling each child’s name. Now, it took us a few years to catch on, but it became a sort of silent nod between us that we would wait until we received our gifts...this was due to the fact that each girl always got EXACTLY the same thing only perhaps in a different color. Always, always some article of clothing, and we were thrilled. New clothes in our house were very rare and we looked forward to this special pouring out from my father’s family. Nana would give us the same thing every year… a new robe and slippers. She must have had visions of all of us kids freezing in that cold damp house with the buckets scattered about catching the rain from our leaky roof. “Thank you Nana” was the chorus we sang.
“Do you like them?”...would be her reply...“Really? You really like what I picked out for you?”
“Yes, Nana it’s perfect”... and it was.
She never bought anything but silky satiny fabric, no flannel always very feminine and lovely. Every item had little bits of lace and ribbon here and there. And as we sat and enjoyed this special moment a loud boisterous roaring of laughter was usually coming from the Loading Dock.
The place where my father and Uncle Harry were bringing in their gifts....to each other.
Now Uncle Harry was a teacher, and every year he and the rest of the students had their school photos taken. One year he wrapped a box of a gazillion school photos of himself for my dad. Another year he went and collected and saved, I still cannot believe he did this, all of his tiny poodle’s droppings and wrapped them in foil and placed them in a candy box! The big standing joke in our extended family was the amount of items consumed, 4 gallons of milk a week, 6 loaves of bread and so on. The most talked about item that got the most laughs was the amount of toilet paper our family used. And so to the howling laughter of our relatives, my father unwrapped what appeared to be long tubular rolled box, which had a carpet label on the outside and found a case of toilet paper! Yes, the loading dock was ever famous and for years this event was a steady tradition.
Somehow it just felt right. Toys everywhere, laughter loud and hearty and our parents opening one gift. Yes, one gift. Santa never seemed to bring anything for them. We children of course made them pencil cup holders covered in painted macaroni, which we made in school, but no, there wasn’t anything I ever saw them unwrap in those early days of my childhood. I remember it well as I thought Santa must think that they misbehaved. I of course got loads and so this theory worked out well in my mind. One gift given by Blanche and Harry made them laugh all year long. They shared this humor with friends and neighbors and they would laugh harder at the retelling of it.
Perhaps that was the best gift. Listening to them laugh. Free from the usual frowns and briskness of the business of raising children and meeting our needs. That was priceless. That special day watching them just melt into laughter and hug Uncle Harry and Aunt Blanche, while Nana was at the sink bustling around dishes...and Aunt Ruth was perched on a chair, sort of sitting, but not looking like she was completely touching the wood. Maybe she was afraid of kid germs, maybe some child left a half eaten cookie on it....knowing us anything is possible! But there she sat with her bone china tea cup clucking her tongue at the men in the kitchen as their voices and laughter rose among the choruses of “Thank you Nanas.”
The loading dock is gone now. But the mountains of memories remain. And if you close your eyes and sit very quietly and listen hard enough you can still hear the laughter, smell the cookies and see Uncle Harry and Aunt Blanche unloading that car. Nana with her hands loaded with sweets and Aunt Ruth, purse clutched in her best clothes saying Merry Christmas...did you break anything yet?
As I write this the heavenly scent of pine surrounds me and I can just hear the giggles of my sisters and brothers...memories so sweet as if they are a cloak that is brought and wrapped around me. Meditation often gives me images, sounds and smells that reawaken my deepest memories unlocking their love. It is with this love energy that I write. I am currently writing a book on meditation and hope to make it available very soon. Drop me a line if you would like to be notified when it is available.
To learn how to begin this wonderful simple 15 minute daily meditation please read How to Begin http://meditationapathtohealing.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-to-begin.html
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