The rambling gray house on Pearl Street, that house I grew up in, boasted fourteen rooms and was still busting at the seams. That old house, with the black rubber marks ground into the white porch railing from our matchbox cars and the green rug burned black the shape of an iron, screamed life from every nook and cranny.
And at Christmastime, the whole thing all lit up, white lights shining under every eave and glowing in every window facing the road.
The laundry baskets were never empty and you might trip on toys strewn across the living room floor, and almost every winter there’d be at least one time dad would come home and walk up the basement steps hollering that “If you kids don’t get down to the basement and hang up your wet snow clothes properly you won’t be allowed back outside!”
We’d tumble out of the corners, down the stairs so fast, and soon those hats and mittens and pants would be dripping from clothesline hung across the cellar ceiling.
I don’t have one childhood memory my mother wasn’t carrying a baby on her hip or in her swollen belly and that gray house on Pearl Street was far from immaculate, but there were certain things that happened, every year, at Christmastime.
No one thought twice about it.
It was just what we did.
This tradition is less complicated than the advent calendars.
The best part, for all of us spinning in more than enough Christmas craze, is that this takes zero preparation.
You know all those Christmas cards and letters you get in the mail every December? The ones you open with delight and then aren’t sure what to do with when you’re finished reading the Jones’ yearly update?
Starting January, we’d pull a card from the basket and place it on Dad’s plate at the supper table. Sometimes we forgot, but that was unusual since the basket of cards served as the centerpiece.
When we sat down for supper, my father would open the card, read off the name of the sender and pray a special prayer for those people.
Friends, relatives, neighbors, fellow church goers, people far and wide, some I knew and some I didn’t, were fondly thought of and prayed for at least every Christmas, every year.