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Hallmark of a Home for the Holidays

December 23, 2015

 

Hallmark of a Home for the Holidays

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

With or without snow, our family home in Blanford, Indiana, was a hallmark of a home for the holidays. That house, near the top of the knoll on the cut-off road, is still a house full of beloved Christmas memories for me. For this December 23 blog post, I merrily share a few precious Christmas memories with you and hope that these recollections help you to remember some of your own Christmas memories.

 

Built by my maternal grandfather in 1914 as a house for rental purposes, our Blanford family home became my parents’ home after my dad’s military service in World War II. My mother and dad lived in this wonderful home for approximately 54 years. While some remodeling of the home was done when my parents first moved there, a second major remodeling took place around the time that I was seven years old. At this time in 1957, a superb carpenter and family friend Charlie Procarione (of Clinton, Indiana) made a significant addition to the south side of our house: the large back porch became a “family room,” and a landing with a short flight of six stairs provided an indoor entrance to our stairs to the basement. During December, this “new” room became a Christmas room, as well as our new dining room. Since the knotty-pine room had windows all along the south and west walls, we placed a live Christmas tree in the southwest corner of the room.

 

On the east side of this family room was a door with four panes of windows to add even more light to this room. Although this door went to the landing, we always decorated this door for the holiday season. A couple of feet to the left of this door was originally a “cubbyhole” or inset in the room’s design. Although my dad was certainly a “Jack-of-all-trades,” carpentry work was not his forte; nevertheless, he made for my sister and me a splendid wooden hutch, rather than a toy chest. The hutch fit perfectly into the cubbyhole. The back of the hutch had two long shelves while the lower portion had two cupboard doors which led to spacious shelving for our toys and games. What I most remember about this hutch was its being the place we put our Nativity set.

 

How I loved that manger set! My dear Aunt Zita “loaned” us the beautiful ceramic nativity set, complete with a wooden manger. First, we covered the top of the hutch with a blue cotton blanket which was festooned with silver glitter (rather large pieces of glitter, by today’s standards). Then, we added two sizes of artificial evergreen trees around the setting. Like many Nativity sets, this one included Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, shepherds, lambs, cows, donkeys, the Three Kings and their camels; however, this manger set also had an old innkeeper and a dog. Thus, for many years in the early part of December, my sister and I carefully unwrapped all the statues and appropriately placed each; but we did not put the Baby Jesus in the wooden manger until late on Christmas Eve. Of course, one year, my sister placed the Baby Jesus in the manger; then, the next year was my turn to put the Baby Jesus in the manger. Well, can you guess what I did? During a year when my sister placed the Baby Jesus in the manger, I, later when no one else was in the room, took the Baby out of the manger and took the honor of placing the Baby Jesus in the manger again.

 

Besides the Nativity set and our Christmas tree, I recall another decorating tradition for this family room. Perhaps, the first year that we celebrated Christmas in this new room, my dad had a decorating idea that became a holiday tradition for the next few decades. He displayed many of the Christmas cards which we had received all around the room. Since my mother was postmaster of our little town and since my parents had many friends, they sent and received about 150 to 180 Christmas cards each year. (Yes, I counted the cards.) After my dad’s first season of decorating with Christmas cards–my sister, my cousin Carole, and I sometimes pretended we were selling cards at a card shop: of course, the “card shop” was our family room. The playing card shop faded with the passing years, but the decorating with cards continued. We placed cards on the top shelves of the hutch; we taped the cards around the door to the landing, around the door frames to the kitchen and bedroom, and on the knotty-pined walls. On the wall between the kitchen door and the bedroom door, I liked making a display of cards in the shape of a Christmas tree–an idea borrowed from my Aunt Kathy.

 

To accommodate all around our table, all leaves were added to our dining room table; and then, a card table was added at the east end to create one long table. Sometimes, this room with all of its windows was a little cool; however, with all the family and friends (and one dog) gathered around the table, I remember only the warmth and love of this home for the holiday meals. Someone always said, “Mary Elizabeth, will you say grace?”

 

After we all made the sign of the cross, my older sister began, “Bless us, oh, Lord, and these, thy gifts …”

 

 

Enjoy all the gifts of this Christmas season with your family and friends!

Merry Christmas!

Alice and Zoe

 

December 23, 2015, Wednesday

 

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6 Comments
  1. Alice. What a wonderful stroll down your childhood Christmas. I can picture the Christmas card tree. The tree in the South West corner must have looked magnificent. Thanks for another magical post. Happy Holidays from the North East. dp

  2. Fran Rayce permalink

    Our homes were modest by today’s standards but filled with enough family joy to be mansions. What a wonderful remembrance!

  3. Carole permalink

    Great memories were created in your home place, Alice! Thanks for sharing the delightful details!
    Merry Christmas with love,
    Carole

    • Carole–Thanks for your comment. Real winter is finally on its way to Milwaukee tomorrow. Happy 2016! AZ

  4. Thanks so much, Alice, for reviving in every detail the happy holiday hours spent in this special room of our home. You allowed me to revisit the time and to rekindle warm memories.
    Love, Mary

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