I'm happy to recall that, when I was a kid, Christmas around the Oleszewski household were terrific. The photo here shows Christmas morning 1969 and it was great. Now, I know that some folks out there had unhappy childhoods and really sad Christmas memories- my dad was one such person. When he was a kid, all of his family were heavy boozers and they all went out on Christmas eve and drank themselves into a stooper while he was left home alone with a single toy that he had been allowed to open in order to keep him entertained. On Christmas morning, all of his family were too hung-over to be at all festive, or for that matter- to cook breakfast. When dad had his own family, he made sure that such a Christmas would never be a part of it.
On Christmas eve, normally, everything happened at our house and dad spent ever dime he had and some that he did not have making sure that fun was had. Since we lived in mid-Michigan, we normally had a white Christmas. My memory is of friends and family blowing in through the front door at or Lexington Street house followed by bursts of snow. Normally, my maternal Grandma stayed over at our house so she could be there for Christmas morning- this was because out of her 8 kids, only my mom was willing to host her for Christmas, that act would pay off later for my mom.
Christmas morning was a real hoot. We three kids would be up before dawn, not knowing that Santa had just completed work an hour or so earlier. The first glance at the tree revealed what still seems like a mountain of gifts. In fact, most of the boxes contained stuff in the 49 cent range with only a couple of higher priced (in the $10 range) items. It did not matter at all, as it all made up a huge pile which is likely not much more than a huge memory. My best gifts were space models- anything rocket or Apollo related, but I was always a sucker for a 29 cent bag of "Army men." The folks sat back and watched as we ripped away at the paper that Santa had applied just a few hours earlier. Then, after the gift frenzy, mom would cook a huge breakfast and we'd eat as fast as we could in order to get back to the new toys. For some reason, mom and dad always looked exhausted.
We did our best to keep up the traditions after we kids went way to college, but it wasn't easy. Soon I had a wife and a flying career, which does not know holidays and the other members of the family were equally on their own. Mom and dad only spent one Christmas alone, which was 2003. Dad passed away in early December of 2004 and I took it upon myself to see to it that mom, by then a granny herself would be at my house for every Christmas morning. Now she get to see my kids dig into the mountain of cheap gifts that are well wrapped by Santa plus the few high value items.
Now- I wish you all a merry Christmas as I excuse myself to be with my family. My dad's here too... trust me.