Reminiscing about Christmases past

Have you ever experienced a smell, taste or sound that takes you back to childhood? I haven’t, but I often think back to those good ‘ole innocent pre-adolescent days.

With Christmas now over, I find myself suffering from the occasional onset of nostalgia. Not just of this Christmas but those of many Christmases past. Under the freshly-cut, sweet-smelling tree would be packages containing Lincoln Logs, Tonka trucks or a train set (surprisingly, none of us three brothers ever became a logger, heavy equipment operator or train conductor). Playing with Lincoln Logs.

Christmas was easier back then — we didn’t have to buy gifts, only receive them. And boy, did we look forward to the receiving.

The old cliche “like a kid on Christmas morning” describes anticipation perfectly. I recall one of those jolly mornings when my two brothers and I raced into the living room, stopped dead in our tracks and had the most genuine, exciting looks of wonderment and merriment on our faces. At that moment, unbeknownst to us, our mom, located somewhere in the room, snapped a photo. However, the flash didn’t go off on the contraption she called a camera.

Of course she told us to go back up the hallway and enter the room again. The family photo album wouldn’t be complete without the annual Christmas shots of the boys seeing Santa’s gifts for the first time. Have you ever noticed those phony, posed shots of people? This second shot was the textbook example. It shows the three of us looking at the camera, pointing to the tree with looks that just about scream out, “Enough of this Hollywood acting, now let’s get to those #$!!%#$ Lincoln Logs and Tonka trucks under the tree!”

During those times of year when Christmas wasn’t happening, we’d either be splashing in the crick, exploring in the bordering woods or playing kickball or football in the yard.

The many trees in our one-acre yard became interesting obstacles while we endeavored to play. In a pickup game of football, which would have involved teams consisting of us three boys and Dad, I recall throwing a pass to my older brother. My quarterbacking skills were perfect, equal to his receiving skills. At full tilt, he looked back, made a great catch then turned and ran directly into a sturdy ash tree. He had braces at the time and we could actually see his teeth marks in the bark after the falling leaves cleared the air from the impact. I believe every tooth in his mouth loosened but it was nothing the local orthodontist couldn’t handle.

In the same vicinity of that incident, I recall my first solo bike ride without training wheels. I was 17. Actually, I was probably only 3 or 4. My dad took the trainers off and gave me a push down the slight slope in our backyard. I was doing just fine until the approaching grove of three trees positioned in a tight triangular shape came at me at warp speed (somewhere around 2 to 3 mph for a youngster on his first bike).

I believe if you walked a bike on the same route you would not have made it through those trees without having the handlebars hit a trunk. I somehow managed to maneuver the bike through the maze unscathed, most likely due to the fact that my eyes were closed. But usually, we ended up more scathed than unscathed and have many scars to prove it.

Even though our grandparents lived less than a half mile up the road, we would often take the long way there (over the hills and through the woods, literally) and come out in their backyard. We always managed to arrive right around lunchtime and my grandmother would ask if we wanted to stay for lunch. We never refused.

In those days, we felt we could get lost in their huge garden or on their 3-acre plot of field and woods. Back then our bones were more like cartilage and if we fell out of a tree, we usually bounced to our feet. Today, some of us fear our bones will snap like dry twigs if we sit down on the couch too hard.

Oh well, mid-lifers will be mid-lifers.

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