Holiday memories fueled by variety of experiences

Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

What are the pieces that compose the collage of memories that you have marked “Christmas and holiday season?” What are the sights, the sounds, and the special places that they take you in your mind at this time of year? In the middle of all the frantic juggling of schedules and budgets, where do you go to in your memory to find respite?

Christmas shopping with my dad is a memory too early to have a time frame or an age attached to it. We lived in the small town of Avalon, on the Ohio River, which means that it was prior to my eighth year. Avalon actually had a downtown shopping area, like most small towns in the pre-mall era, and we would go in the evenings, the week before Christmas, to trade my stockpiled quarters and nickels for presents for my mom.

I kept my Christmas money in a red and white checkered doggie bank. If I remember correctly, I also bought presents for my brother, which means I was older than 5. The Christmas lights on the streetlights, all large bulbed stars and reindeer, stand out in my mind, and the belief that it was always snowing (which probably was not the case).

We have nothing to compare with Avalon; river towns are no more a part of life here than are border towns in Pennsylvania. (Well, Avalon is near the Ohio border…)
We do have access to another memory from the dim past, though — ham and cheese sandwiches on rye bread, wrapped in foil, then heated in the oven. It means Christmas Eve with my mom’s extended family, a family that has scattered to the four directions now.

I remember, in the earliest sequence, my older cousins Janice and Jeannie would curl up with me on the couch and read me “Rudolph,” “The Night Before Christmas,” or something like it. Was it the teenagers’ way of helping out the mom by putting the little kid to sleep? Probably …
The trip in to Pittsburgh was made with the sole purpose of seeing the heavily decorated department store windows. Horne’s, Gimbel’s, Kaufmann’s and others all competed for major display attention with animated elves, Santa figures, glittering trees and, of course, holiday clothes, which I now understand were the focus of the ad campaign — and the reason my mom loved the trip. Dad liked to take us to the toy sections, which were as appealing at Woolworth’s as they were at the major stores.

Did you gather greens, and make your own wreath ? I have kept this tradition my entire life, though greens are a little harder to find in Clovis than in the part of the country where I have my roots. The wreath should not be put up too early — it will dry out — and it is perfectly acceptable to construct a second wreath for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It all depends on how warm the season is and whether the first one goes, literally, to pieces.

Fruitcake: Hey guys, don’t ever consider fruitcake a gag gift in our family. Janice and I love it, and her mom and Amanda find it quite tasty. I don’t know what Greg thinks of it, and we haven’t tried any on Jason yet, but fruitcake is not only a memory, it’s a treasure. My mom makes her own, and I’ve never understood why people joke about it.

Trains: Dad has always, and still does, put up a working O Gauge set for the holidays. The oldest of the trains in the display dates back to his childhood, and still runs. We do not have a train in our home; back in the ’80’s I opted to go with a Snow Village setup, which I still add to occasionally. It really was an issue of floor space as the Snow Village sits on an elevated board. It gave me a laugh to see Jason, my grandson, all excited about putting out the little animals and people in the display. That used to be my favorite part, too.

So what fuels your holiday memory video?

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: