Christmases in California are a far cry from those Christmases I remember as a child. For one thing, growing up in New York, we had a far greater chance of having a white Christmas. Like, my chances of having such an occurrence in California are zero percent.
We had other differences, too. Christmas wasn’t something you even started mentioning until Thanksgiving had been sufficiently buttoned up. There was no Black Friday—unless, maybe, it was the leftovers a whole week and a day after the big Turkey Day.
People didn’t start putting up their holiday decorations in November, either. They waited a respectable amount of time before moving into decorating mode. It was like there was a buffer around each holiday—sort of like a sphere of influence around each event. Or maybe a “demilitarized zone” where you didn’t let one holiday bump up against another. Each day got its due recognition.
That, of course, meant you could go shopping for a presentable tree for Christmas oh, say, after the tenth of the month—not like this year, when an unexpected business trip in December short-circuited my best intentions to get the tree up before leaving home. Let me give you a big hint: I was actually lucky to find any trees available at that point in the month, this year. I can remember, even as late as my post-college years, flying home for Christmas to find out my mom had changed her mind at last minute and picked up a beautiful Christmas tree within days of the big event. Not any more!
The former way of doing Christmas also meant you didn’t see your neighbors hauling their used Christmas trees out to the curb for trash pickup at noon on Christmas day—you know, that precise moment when the radio stations stopped playing Christmas music because Christmas was “over.”
Back east—or was it “back then”?—people left their holiday decorations up through the full week between Christmas and New Year. It made that time such a peaceful respite—more treasured because the snow turned that glistening season into something even more magical.
Perhaps for that nostalgia, I still keep a buffer zone around the Christmas week. It’s my haven of peace. A bridge between the old year and the new. A time to look ahead to the New Year, certainly, but also a time to reminisce, a while to savor the memory of family and friends who have been so special to me and my extended family.
So, even though there is no snow on the ground around this West Coast home, I hope you will indulge me this week as I continue to unearth Christmas mementos from the family history cache I’ve accumulated over the past few years.
Today’s keepsake is one I fell in love with, the moment I saw it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t scan well. The digital translation didn’t do the colors justice. Imagine the deepest blue for the sky—a color so vibrant that it hasn’t faded despite the many years since it was made. Picture, too, a border of glistening gold, matched by the shiny stars painted in that same gold substance.
The card’s reverse explains the source for the picture:
Looking at the card itself, I can hardly discern that it is a photograph. Perhaps it is a photo retouched by an artist, from that age when such a skill was more commonly practiced.Photo of Statue of the infant Jesus used at Grotto of Bethlehem in Holy Land
On the reverse, a handwritten greeting is added:
Agnes, of course, would be Agnes Tully Stevens—the one who saved all the material I’ve inherited for this task of preserving that family’s history. The surprise comes with the signature. Auntie Lu? I’ve yet to figure out who that might be, which tells me I have much more to uncover about this Tully family’s history.
Perhaps that discovery is a gift—a gift of direction for next year’s research project. While there are always so many directions to turn in seeking more family information, it helps to find a focus and pursue it. Add this one to my list of goals for next year.