Monday, December 11, 2017

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Please note that if you visited while this was still in draft and accidentally published, it's been updated with more pix and music!

 Maybe it's because I've been doing so much family history research. Maybe it's because my dad died in December and I've been thinking of him. Maybe it's because I've felt a little more fragile and vulnerable than usual lately. Maybe it's just because it's Christmas. (Cue the Music)


But I've been thinking of many Christmases from the past. Mostly good ones. And those ghosts of Christmas past.


I don't remember the photo below being taken. I was (obviously) too young! But this was how I spent a lot of Christmas days in my childhood -- with my grandparents, their siblings and my dad's cousins. They all look like a barrel of laughs, don't they? It didn't get better as I got older, either. As everyone got older!
 

(Christmas Eve with my mom's family full of cousins my age was much more fun!)


I think of the joy of being a little kid and that first Christmas. I think I was about a year and a half in this photo. I wish I still had that little piano. But I still have chubby legs, curly hair and that double chin! Some things never change.


I remember my sweet collie, Major, the most patient dog in the world.


And, I remember the magic of our cardboard nativity scene. I found one like it at an estate sale once -- I still have to put it up. It's harder to find a spot than it used to be!


There were a few Christmases spent at the lake. (Not my favorite. As much as I love the lake, it smiles most at me during the summer!) But it sure was pretty. And look carefully -- those are my turkey plates on the sideboard and that Santa is on my tree today! I just noticed that!


Let's do the time warp and flash forward a few years! There were the Christmases with the cousins, my aunts and uncles. We'd have a contest as to who could create the most original wrapping for a gift. Yes, this was once the "container" for a pair of earrings for my mom from Dad. He won more than once!


And we'd get all dressed up!


Mom just loved this skirt. I still have it. I don't think it would fit, but I should give it a try!


And then, that last Christmas before the Moms (my mom and her younger sister, Grace) died. No family Christmas that year.


Just the three of us for the last time.


The year after was a tough one. But the Cleveland cousins came to Michigan, like usual, and we did our best. Champagne at midnight. Carols at the piano. And I suspect there were more than a few tears in the pillows.


We took all the same family photos. Almost. But there was no photo of the Moms. Just the menfolk.


We did our best. Because it was Christmas.


Flash forward to Christmases with just Dad and me, after travel became more complicated with expanding families. We'd invite friends to fill out the dinner table, do Christmas Eve church, quiet Christmas morning. As I look at the photo below, I recognize so many ornaments now on my tree --and I'm also wondering whatever happened to a few of them.


And then he was gone, too. That was the year my friend Bonnie invited those of us closest to my dad over for dinner. Yet another tough year.


It would be a few years before my Christmas celebrations would feature a new cast of characters, but they were good ones.


And when I say characters, I do mean, "Characters." Please note that in the photo below, Kevin really did have teeth. He just liked blacking them out with that awful Blackjack gum!


With them came a new family member -- Miss Molly -- and new traditions, like decorating Santa's cookies on Christmas Eve. (And yes, we still do.)


Dad never knew the Marmelade Gypsy, namesake of this blog, either. And he's yet another of the ghosts of Christmas past and I miss him every day.


This year,  this little boy will walk into the house with a new little boy, a new member of the family who hasn't yet known his first Christmas, and (like me in that photo at the top of this post) won't remember in the years to come.


But we'll remember. Just as I wrap my heart around all my ghosts of Christmas past.


Oh, I wish they could all be here for Christmas present.


And maybe, just maybe, they are.

29 comments:

Joyful said...

I like to think our loved ones are with us in spirit and for sure in our hearts. I understand the bittersweet memories and the nostalgia when loved ones are no longer with us at the holidays. I enjoyed your look back at Christmases past dear Jeanie and I pray you will feel your mom and dad and the sense they are giving you great big hugs to remind you, you are loved I'm sending big virtual hugs. xx

My name is Erika. said...

I enjoy seeing these old photos. It looks like you had (and have) a warm loving family. It's sad to think some of those people and events are gone. We use to do big family Christmas too. Now no one is left except my mom and a couple of aunts (one is 95 and in a nursing home). On the other side I have a cousin but everyone else (besides my mom) is gone. Unfortunately my mom has no short term memory, and although we always have a wonderful Christmas visit, it is different. That's why I enjoy your photos. Thanks for sharing. Hugs-Erika

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Thank you for this post, Jeanie. It was poignant and wonderful on so many levels. I must admit I spent time looking at the backgrounds, the hair, the clothes. So familiar when I think of family photos of ours from years long ago. -Jenn

Stacey said...

I believe they are with us, Jeanie. I've been looking at photos a lot lately. It makes me a little sad to see how fast time flies and people are gone. Such wonderful memories and love created though.

Pom Pom said...

Hi Jeanie!
Such a lovey walk down your Christmas memory lane.
I think there is always a little missing going on.

Barbara Windle said...

Jeanie, you have managed to tug at my heartstrings. It is hard looking back at the way things were. We thought they would never change. We thought parents would be with us forever even as we watched them age and become ill. Where did the time go and when did we become the older generation. Looking at your photos of Christmases past, I realize that, with a few changes, they could just as easily be my photos.

I have boxes of my Dad's slides in the basement. It was supposed to be a retirement project, but, I haven't even opened them yet. My sister has volunteered to help and I think I will take her up on it. I know that when I do open those boxes I will be unleashing a lot of memories.

Dad passed away in 2003. I haven't talked about it on my blog, but Mom passed away in May 2017. She was 99-years-old. Generally, she didn't know who we were for the past few years. She had Alzheimer's a disease that comes with its own set of heartbreak.

Anyway, Jeanie. Thank you for sharing your photos. They are so special and wonderful to see. I just love your beautiful curls in those pictures.

Have a wonderful Christmas. I know you will enjoy that beautiful baby and make lots of memories for the next generation.

Sylvia said...

Jeanie, I loved your old photos. I am so fortunate to still have my parents. Dad celebrated his 88 birthday this week. Enjoy the new little one. Have a great week. Sylvia D.

Pom Pom said...

I meant to tell you that I had a dollhouse like that one!
Oh, and I love your patient dog.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

This makes me want to go look at the Christmas's of my youth to see my Mom, Dad and Brother! How I miss Dad and Richard. Memories are there and for that I am thankful. Hugs!

La Table De Nana said...

Hmm..I am in the same boat..tomorrow will mark 44 yrs since my mom went away..I was 19.. my dad left 6 months later..


Thinking of you..loving all these fabulous treasure photos of yours♥
You're a doll:)Then and now.

Red Rose Alley said...

Jeanie, I just loved this post, and the title was perfect for it. You were the cutest little girl. You really should frame the picture of you and Major. It should be on a greeting card. Eyes wide open filled with wonder - it is precious and a treasure. Your mom and dad seem like such happy people, and that is most likely where you got your cheerful attitude from. And that little piano, LOVE THAT! I often wonder where our small treasures from our childhood go to. I still have a few of mine, like the Barbie doll and the clothes my mom made for her. Oh, this post about your memories was just wonderful, Jeanie. I must come back and see it again!

~Sheri

Deb said...

This post is a little sad but I think the fact that you have so many wonderful photos of your family at Christmas must make it a little better. These are really wonderful photos, Jeanie that can bring back the happy memories in an instant. I wish so much that I had photos of the times spent around my grandmother's Christmas tree in the little clapboard farmhouse that was once on this very property. They would be such a treasure now. I keep asking relatives but so far none have been found. I miss my parents at Christmas, too. And I miss Gary's parents so much. Wonderful, wonderful times were had. I think we are lucky people to have such memories and that's what I hang on to. Thanks for sharing your Christmases. xo

Marilyn Miller said...

Such precious memories all wrapped up in a family. They are the things we treasure during this season.

Tracy said...

Goodness, Jeanie... how the waterworks are flowing! This was such a beautiful walk down memory lane... So many happy moments and smiles... :) And yes, you should try your Mom's Christmas skirt!! If it doesn't fit, maybe you could hang it up--like Christmas art! I pray that all your dears of heart and those still near are filling up your spirit all through the holidays... and every days. ((BIG HUGS))

eileeninmd said...

Hello, wonderful photos and memories of Christmases past. The holidays are hard missing all of the family members who have left us. I like the photos of you with the piano and the collie. You have a beautiful family. Have a happy day and week ahead!

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, this is such a sweet post of memories of your life. Yes, it is hard thinking of all those who are not with us now, I miss my mom and dad especially at Christmas. You have such a wonderful collection of photos and I enjoyed seeing them and hearing how you spent your Christmas with your family. Mine past is similiar only it was mom, dad and me. I was an only child until my little sister came along when I was eleven. That was such joy to me, having a little sister. Such wonderful pics of you, I love the one with your collie and the one with the navitity. What a great post!

Wandering Wren said...

Well, there's your Christmas challenge we want to see you in the Christmas bauble skirt next to your tree! Wishing we were closer and I could scoop you up for coffee or a wine and have a good chin wag! loved seeing all these gorgeous family snaps!
Wren x

Victoria Zigler said...

What a beautiful post! You have some wonderful memories to look back on... Thank you for sharing some of them with us.

I'm sure those you've lost will be there with you to celebrate. If nothing else, they will be in your heart and mind, and that counts.

Rita C. said...

Oh my, Jeanie, this has me in tears (and that music, whew). You're so beautiful, from childhood through the years and now....
I love Christmas so...I love the memories of my family, and love hosting them. I hope they never stop coming, and I hope the numbers just grow until the house almost bursts at the seams. This year we'll have 29-32 (last count) on Christmas Eve, and I think my Mom and Dad will smile from heaven. I'm so happy you have your family with Rick and how it's growing....
Okay, happy comment now....find that skirt and either put it on, or put it on a mannequin! Challenge on!

Lynne said...

Oh my . . .
What treasured memory pictures . . .
Loved the dress up . . .
Your dad’s red pants, mom’s pretty skirt . . .
And soon a new little one will be in his first Christmas photo . . .
I hooe you’ll be playing the piano for him . . .

Joanne Huffman said...

Christmas is so full of family memories - old ones and making new ones.

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, what a beautiful post and yes I am crying. I miss my precious Mother so much, but I still have my 87 year old dad! You are beautiful inside and out. Maybe there will be a bit of cheer if you want to look at my blog post today! Sending hugs your way!

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

Just like a movie! So many wonderful, wonderful photos. You are so fortunate to have so many wonderful memories. Warms my heart!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Jeanie....the older I get, and the less people in my life from my past, I can only think of Christmas as a memory. Christmas IS about making memories, and opening them up once again later, when you start to depend on your memory. To me, the best Christmas gift to open are those memories. The other day, I smelled a familiar aroma from my Christmas past, and I was immediately transported in my long-term memory to a specific space, emotion, vision when I was about 5 years old. As I see your photos here, I remember the era, when all us cousins, our aunts, our uncles, or friends, would gather, just as your photos show here. Thank you for sharing your beautiful family.

Barbara Fisher said...

Dear Jeanie, I’m crying and smiling as I type this comment. You’ve just summed up my past without even knowing it, so many family members gone but never, ever forgotten. I so wish I could express myself as beautifully as you do. Hugs Barbara.

Jeanne Washburn said...

Such a magical post filled to overflowing with Christmas memories...the best kind of memories. Wishing you a joyous holiday filled with special new memories. :)

My name is Erika. said...

I'm glad I came back to check out all these photos now that you have the post fixed. These old photos are filled with lots of love and joy. I know what you mean about old photos at the holidays. They are bittersweet in so many ways. :) Hugs-Erika

Katie Mansfield said...

What a sweet post. I enjoyed seeing all your Christmases of the past. It can be a bittersweet time can't it?

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

What a bitter sweet post. I am glad you have so many wonderful memories and photos of your parents, but how sad that you lost them both when you were so young. This is a tough time of year for those who have lost loved ones as there are so many memories to reflect on and celebrations really remind you of the absence of those you love. I know Christmas hasn't been quite the same for Phil and his family since his dad passed.

It will be so fun to have Baby Grand at your Christmas celebration. There's nothing like new life around the holidays! It provides a breath of fresh air and a brings back that sense of wonderment!

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