A Long Ago Christmas
Reflections by the Sea © Betsy Ore Glass
December 07, 2011
I have been preparing my home for Christmas, and my mind has gone back long ago to the holidays at my grandmother’s beach cottage. Things that come to mind are the sights and sounds of an unlatched screened door banging on the side of the house in the gusty wind or the rocking chair that is sticky with salt air. The stiffness of the old hammock whose cords have hardened and dried in the mid-day sun brings back fun times. This time of year, the back porch would be lined with rows of aged firewood with metal buckets of kindling and dried driftwood nearby.
Cutting a cedar tree from the woods and using it as a Christmas tree was the tradition each year. The leftover bottom branches would be often fashioned into a homemade wreath with a makeshift bow or the limbs placed on the mantle. The aroma of fresh cedar would fill the air. Old fashioned large strings of multicolored Christmas bulbs would be wrapped around the tree and if two bulbs of the same color ended up next to one another, it would be swapped out. Sea shells collected over the summer were given new life as they were fished out of pails, pasted with glue and glitter, and tied with twine to hang on the tree. The larger the oyster shells the better. Candy canes and silver tinsel were added last. A branch of mistletoe would be taped over a doorway.
The air was filled with a hint of smoke from the poorly drafted fireplace. When the bricks became dark with soot, my grandmother simply painted them red and outlined the mortar with white paint. The decorating experts of today wouldn’t approve but to me back then, it was beautiful. Only the prettiest glittery Christmas cards would be placed on the mantle and because there wasn’t a lot of room, if your card made that special spot, it was like you had made the Hall of Fame! That is what it was like at my grandmother’s cottage at the beach long ago.
Now 50 years later we use a pre-lit tree and we have lovely ornaments and decorations and traditions reflect our modern times. I am conscious however, that we are making new memories for the next generation to cherish 50 years from now. I hope we capture the spirit of love, joy and happiness in our home to pass down. Our family is joyous as we have received the news that we will have a new grandchild in this coming year. It is my prayer that he or she will know the true meaning of Christmas, have a wonderful sense of family and will someday fondly recall our Christmases as special memories to savor.
God was with us then and He is with us now. Not a Christmas Eve goes by that I don’t stop to stay ‘thank you’ as I look up to the heavens for the Christmas Star. I thank Him for the memories of Christmases past and the hope of Christmases to come, the loved ones I miss, the love given and received and my heavenly Father that stands besides me and sometimes carries me. I thank Him for sending His Son to save us. While our Christmas gatherings and celebrations have evolved and changed over the years, God stays the same. He never changes. He is always waiting for us any time that we seek Him.