Dec. 2, 2012
It seemed to me that the more tired my Mom was, the earlier I was tucked into bed. When winter evenings darkened early, I didn't really mind the early bedtime. On cold Minnesota nights, settling in to sleep first required warming the cold mattress and bedding up to a comfortable nesting temperature. After quickly donning pajamas in the chilly bedroom, I'd hop under the layers of thick quilts, quickly pull them over my head and tuck them around me. Then the wiggling would commence. I'd wiggle my flanneled self against the mattress to speed it's warming. Sometimes I would create enough friction and static to produce tiny blue sparks in the dark undercover. By the time I couldn't bear to breathe another stale breath under the covers, the bed would be warmed to my satisfaction. I'd then slip my head up just far enough on the pillow for my nose to draw the fresh chilled air. My preheating ritual worked pretty well. It stayed comfortably toasty under the heavy, wool-batted quilts.
Although cold wafted through the aged upstairs windows, I liked to have my bed beside one. Condensation caused a frosted layer of ice to build up on the glass inside the window frames. I have pleasant memories of how I'd lay in my bed and etch words on the frosty glass. The colder it was outside, the larger my ice tablet.
My frosty Etch - a - Sketch was even more enjoyable after the Christmas lights were strung. This allowed for the window art to be back lit by the 1950's Clemco's primary colors. Some nights the window portrait held a thinly frosted sparkling layer of feathery swirls. On other nights the frost clung thickly creating a mossy white velour. Regardless of what the frost fairies painted, those primary colors glowed beautifully through nature's artistry. Some years you'd get a blue bulb outside your window. I loved the blue bulbs for the soothing hue they created. A green bulb was nice, as was yellow. If the lights were strung j u s t r i g h t, you'd get two colorful bulbs outside your window. That was the best!
|Guilty of Terrorizing Small Children|
As much as I looked forward to my lighted bedtime fun, there was one thing that caused major angst for me as a child. When it came time for Dad to put up the Christmas lights, I would pray that a red bulb wouldn't end up outside my window. Honestly, a red bulb made me so anxious that I'd have to pull the thick quilts up over my eyes to get to sleep. As a small child I was afflicted with what I now call, PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Santa Disorder.
I attribute my childhood aversion to the color red as a result of being too young the first time I was sat upon the lap of a red clad, loud, smooshy bellied man wearing a ghastly white and pink stinky rubber Santa mask. I can't recall any time in my childhood when I wasn't terrified of Santa.
There aren't enough adjectives to relay how frightening this character was in my juvenile mind. I remember looking up into Santa's awful face, that hideous mask sucking up into his nostrils when he inhaled. The molded and wrinkly rubber lips bubbling with each exhalation.
The snapshot below was taken at a 4-H Christmas party held at the old school house just down the road from the farm. I can still remember somebody giving the reluctant me a hearty shove toward Santa who eagerly scooped me up onto his lap. Stiffening with resistance, I quickly slid my feet to the floor, which left me leaning against him like a board. Whoever played Santa that year has no idea how close my 7-year-old bladder came to leaving him with a wet and warm memory.
|Family Christmas 1964|
There's a few family pictures that captured this particular childhood anxiety. This photo was taken at a family Christmas party.
I'm the baby with the red-rimmed eyes and pouting lips.
Chances are that was the very night I experienced my first close encounter of the Santa-kind.
It appears that my mother is trying to comfort me. Dad must have been praying that the night would end quickly.
From the looks of it, brother Tat tied his own tie. Brother Doodee and sister Kat appear to be experiencing holiday ecstasy. Lucky them.
Dig all that tinsel on the Christmas tree in the background.
It used to freak me out when static would make the wiggly tinsel jump off the tree and
cling onto my nylon girlie tights.
God knows that made me cry too. My poor mother....
I think I was about 9 years old before I finally separated my Santa fears from reality. It happened one afternoon when I was bored and snooping around upstairs. Shoved deep in the back of the hallway closet I discovered an unfamiliar garment bag. As I unzipped it, my heart began to race and anxiety grabbed my throat as a white-trimmed woolly red suit was revealed. I swallowed hard to stifle a shriek. In the bottom lay a lifeless, deflated mask with a grotesquely shaped nose and lips protruding between two cheaply rouged cheeks. In that moment it all came crashing together in my psyche. Santa was NOT real ! What a huge relief ! Bravely touching the stiff red fabric, I suddenly recognized the familiar garb. It was a the same "Santa" costume that was used to terrorize me annually at both the 4-H club and family Christmas parties.
|"All I want for Christmas is to get the HELL off your lap."|
Good Lord in Heaven. My parents owned that awful getup? As an adult, I have no doubt it was purchased with the best of parental intentions to create a magical childhood experience. But on that day of discovery I was mortified to realize that for 363 days out of the year the macabre red shroud had been stored just a few feet away from my bedroom. That was just plum old sick and wrong.
Obviously many years have now passed. I'm nearly 50 years old. I have felt a tad bit embarrassed to publicly share such silly, but honest childhood recollections here. Nevertheless, I've received unexpected dividends from the responses of blog readers who have helped me realize that my humbly scribed stories have opened doors to to their own treasured memories. Thank you for the encouragement.So let me bravely tell.....I still find wiggling about in a cold bed until it's warm a comforting routine. Although now the cold leaves my aged fingers aching, I'm still inclined to stop and trace designs on frosty window panes. Christmas lights, even the red ones, still make me feel like a happy child.As for the status of the old family Santa suit, I want to tell you that it mercifully "disappeared" around 1995. The newest family Santa costume is made from lovely red and white velour fabric and did not come with a freakish mask.
Nevertheless, even after all these years, I still give Santa a wide berth, even when I'm at the mall during Christmas.
Heart-warming and humbling are the remnants of childhood.