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Cheers! It’s Throwback Christmas

S&C staffers remember ghosts of Christmas Past

We were feeling nostalgic for the Christmases we remember from childhood and wanted to share some of our favorite memories with you. Santa’s beard? Cookies and a carrot on a plate by the fire? Share in comments below.

Trapeze

Jen Violi

Jen Violi_trapeze Santa ornament

I’m not sure why I love this Christmas toy so much. Maybe because it’s been around for almost forty years, so it’s close to as old as I am; we’re peers. We grew up together in Pennsylvania, and he even came with me on moves to five different states. Maybe it’s because he comes out once a year, ready for flips and festivity, without expectation or judgment. He doesn’t care if I put the tree up on the first of December or on Christmas Eve. Maybe I love this toy most of all, because Santa Claus gets to be a trapeze artist, which one would never expect from Father Christmas. I just have to squeeze the two white buttons on either side of the base, and a rather fit-looking Santa swings and swirls on the bar.

Okay. Confession time. The thing I wanted to be when I was little? The thing that, as with Santa Claus, no one would ever have expected from me—writer-reader girl who lives in her head and lacks physical grace and flexibility? A trapeze artist. So I guess, as per usual when I’m writing, I find my way to understanding. I do know why I love this toy so much: it’s a reminder that enacting the unexpected is not only possible, but delightful. Not just for Santa, but for me, too. And I’ll tell you what, that’s enough set this writer-reader girl’s yule log ablaze.

Handmade

Nanea Hoffman

Nanea Hoffman_70s handmade Christmas stocking

I’ve had this stocking for as long as I can remember. I think my mother must have made it from a kit, but you can tell it took a lot of work—lots of stitching on sequins and teensy, sparkly beads. My sister had one with her name on it. We hung them on a fake cardboard fireplace that had a little rotating light bulb to simulate flames (in Hawaii, Santa comes in the screen door, not down the chimney). This stocking has traveled with me through eight moves, two of them overseas, and I still love to take it out every year.

In 2007, my mother went through chemo after being diagnosed with colon cancer, and though the treatment was successful, it left her with poor fine motor control. It’s hard for her to use her fingers now, but I look and this and remember how she crafted so beautifully. Her art was making things. This stocking reminds me not just of childhood Christmas magic but also of the joy in making.

Matching Dresses

Julia Park Tracey

Julia Park Tracey_sisters matching dresses

In this photo my sister Nancy and I are wearing matching Christmas dresses. My brother George is goofing around, my mother is looking on, and my Grandma Bailey is encouraging us as we open this shared gift. Something about this photo speaks to me. It reminds me of when I asked Santa for roller skates and when I got them, skated down the long bedroom hallway and fell, my new skate leaving a black mark on the wall. Christmas dresses, candy canes, and screwing in new light bulbs on the long string of colored lights.

I remember the gifts my grandparents used to give, so different from gifts of dolls and clothes and games from our parents. My grandparents gave books—about animals, about adventures. I still have some of those books: The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, a Russian folk tale, was one. And Animals You Will Never Forget, a Readers Digest compendium of their best animal stories, still sits on my shelf. The whole set of Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books, gifted another year, have been well read and loved. In every book, an inscription: “To Julia, from Grandma and Grandpa Bailey, Christmas 1970…” Books to be read and loved forever.

Buffy

Barbara Sirois Doyle

Barbara Sirois Doyle_Buffy ornament

The Lucite angel Christmas ornament hangs on my tree every year. It has since it was purchased in the early ’80s at a Things Remembered store in a local strip mall, where it was engraved with a slightly shaky hand by a bored and overworked clerk. The name it bears? “Buffy.”

I was born in 1970, an era with not one by two famous Buffys—Buffy Sainte-Marie, the singer/songwriter and social activist, and Buffy of Buffy and Jody, the adorable brother-sister twins on the show, “Family Affair.” Rumor has it that since my father had no sons and could not bequeath his nickname, Buddy, to a girl, Buffy I became. I used to hate it with a fiery passion, especially since it was often the name of people’s elderly dogs. Then Joss Whedon made it cool when he named a cheerleader slayer with it, a fact I always wish I’d thanked him for when I sat behind him at Comic-Con.

The older I get, and the longer I am Barbara, I realize that while I never really felt like a Buffy at all, I no longer despise it. I now think of it as a loving term—like calling me Honey, or Dear—an exclusive privilege to those who knew me as the awkward girl I was. Buffy transformed, but she is still in me and always will be: A girl full of possibility with the strength to survive, who still believes in Christmas miracles.

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