Christmas Eve was always the big night for us. Being of German descent, we always had a wonderful meal, and we would open gifts on the night before Christmas. St. Nicholas came on December sixth, so my sister and I had already been treated to a preview of goodies. Except the year of tantrums. My sister had been especially bad, and she got a lump of coal in her shoe that year. To this day I wonder where it came from.
In any case, mom would always send us out with Dad to take a drive and look at the Christmas lights. Yes, even way back in the early sixties, the tradition of lighting houses and businesses existed. The bulbs were painted, you heard me right, painted with a thin layer of opaque lacquer. When they’d rattled around in the box where we packed them away after the holiday season for a few years, you could see tiny white rays of light leaking through the flaked surface. Even Christmas lights have evolved, colored glass, flashing timers, and other interesting gadgets have made my passion for lights deepen over the years.
But back to Christmas Eve the year my sister turned two. Mom chased us out of the house as soon as the sun was down. “Go, get out of here, so I can finish getting things ready for tonight.”
Dad loaded us into our creamy beige 1951 truck. Would you believe a Mercury truck? They quit making them in 1968 and ours made a trip to Mexico one summer. No car seats, no crew cab, just a bench seat with room for all of us, because we were small and could fit between our parents. We got the station wagon a few years later. That truck had an old home built camper on the back, and I can’t count the number of times Dad came to pick us up from kindergarten in the bitter cold of the winter after this one.
But I digress again. This Christmas, my sister was learning how to talk, and I distinctly remember some of the words that gave her trouble. As we drove from one neighborhood to another oohing and aahing at the love colors reflecting in the snow, my dad kept repeating beautiful. My sister would try in her baby voice, and it came out bootifur every time. I would giggle, dad would laugh and correct her, but the next house with lights, her delighted squeal was followed with bootifur once more.
Those light tours with Dad happened every year, until I was old enough to stay home and help mom, my sister was four years younger than me, and she got to go out with him for some special father daughter bonding time for another couple of years. I’m pretty sure she got the better end of the deal but learning how mom created the traditional meal we enjoyed, and the work that went in to getting it ready made me appreciate the beautiful miracle of Wienachten (Christmas) even more. Your goose is cooked, had a whole different meaning in our house.