I began putting up Christmas decorations yesterday evening. While doing so, I searched the guide to see what was coming on and found Rudolph on at 8pm. My A/C was going full-strength, it was in the 80’s outside, and it was about to rain. I sighed deeply. Then I smiled as I watched the beginning of Rudolph. It always takes me back to when I was a kid and the awesome childhood memories I had growing up in New Jersey.
My mom and dad left Orlando when I was five years old and moved to South Jersey to a little town called Egg Harbor City. It was there that I grew up and experienced – well, just about all my childhood memories. I lived there from the time I was five years old until I was twelve. My mom and dad divorced when I was ten; about two months into my seventh grade year, my mom packed up my brother and me and we relocated to South Florida…where I’ve been ever since!
However, some of my greatest memories growing up were during the holidays. The weather would experience a bit of a chill some time in late September, early October. The leaves from the trees would change – bright yellows, oranges, and reds. The air would change. It would go from a stale, humid feel to a dry, sweet smell. The sound of the leaves rustling down the road when a brisk wind came through was euphoric.
Watching my dad rake the leaves in the front yard was a great memory. He would make several large piles and call on us to come out. We would run, top speed and dive head first into the pile. Then he’d rake them up and we’d do it over again.
The most exciting moments were coming home after being in school and seeing the house decorated for Halloween. The windows were open with slightly cool breeze circulating throughout the house. This was also back when we would set the clocks back an hour in October – BEFORE Halloween arrived.
Then Thanksgiving would come. The air would get colder. I remember one year, just before Thanksgiving, it rained for a couple days and then a cold front swept through. There were icicles everywhere. And on the alley about two houses down, there was an area of the neighbor’s driveway that always held a good amount of water, especially after it rained. We called it the mud-puddle. And when it froze over, it was fun because we could run and slide across it.
Then came Christmas. Downtown Egg Harbor City was notorious for being a small city that decorated. I always looked forward to driving down Philadelphia Avenue and seeing the street lights and store fronts all decked out for the holidays. Also, driving around in the neighborhoods was fun as you would begin to notice all the homes putting up their decorations.
One of the best parts of Christmas was going out to get a tree. We would go to the local lots. The air was cold and crisp and the smell of pine from the trees was very strong. You noticed it before you even walked up. Once we picked out our tree, we would stop by Long John Silver for chicken tenders and fries or McDonald’s for a happy meal (they had the best Christmas stuff back then). Then we’d head home, put the tree in the stand, eat, and decorate while watching Christmas shows that we either taped on our VCR (that’s Video Cassette Recorder if you have never heard of it) or watched on television as it was the special of the night. I actually still have a VHS tape of all the Christmas specials from 1984. The commercials are hilarious. I forgot how many Christmas commercials they once played.
Then there was my favorite night of the year – Christmas Eve (still is!). It would be very cold outside. We would take our normal trip to get Chinese food or eat at the Diner. Then we would drive around looking at Christmas Lights. When we got home, we’d get some hot chocolate or eggnog, eat some Christmas cookies, and watch Christmas shows. Then we would set up cookies and milk for Santa, celery and carrots for the reindeer, and off to bed we’d go.
I miss the cold weather. I miss the feel of the holidays when the air would change. I miss the change of seasons. One day I will experience it again. But there will never be a time, especially this time of the year, where I will ever forget those feelings. That’s what keeps the spirit alive. I try and make sure my daughter has those feelings. She does. She reminds me every year. And I love that she knows that. Even though she didn’t grow up in the north, she loves the feeling just the same.
I look around my room, decorations hanging, lights glowing and I get that wondrous feeling. It’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
I sighed deeply because even though I’m still in shorts and t-shirt, it doesn’t change that feeling, especially when the Christmas shows come on. I’m immediately whisked back to those times and reminded how much fun and how exciting this holiday truly is. I would love to trade in the heat for the cold air and a fireplace, but regardless…it is still beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
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