Christmas Memories

by Caroline Grossmann


Our family lived at 355 Camden St. in the third floor apartment right under the roof. The middle room, a bedroom, had one window facing out on an alley and another about 7 feet up at the very top of the opposite wall.

It had "bathroom door" glass so you couldn't see clearly what was on the other side. The window faced out onto our hallway and flat up against it was a ladder that led to the roof.

One year at Christmas our mother told us that if we sat on the bed and look at the window that we would see Santa Claus. We sat and waited and, sure enough, all at once we saw Santa in his red suit climbing up the ladder. We raced the twelve feet or so into the hallway but, by the time we got there, Santa was gone.

Many years later, our mother told us that Santa was her rather rotund uncle dressed in red long johns.

We lived with our grandmother who was a wonderful baker. Although our kitchen, the only room that was heated, was limited by today's standards, she turned out delicious cake and cookies. This was especially true at Christmas.

The baking would go on for days and resulted in beautiful Springerle cookies from molds now over 100 years old, Stollen, butter cookies, cinnamon stars, anise drop cookies, and kisses. The cookies were a constant lure. To keep them from being raided, my grandmother hid them in the wringer washing machine. Little did my cousin know that they were only a few feet from his bedroom door.

Another fond memory was shopping for Christmas presents at the 5 & 10 with our own saved money. This was very special. As children we did this on our own, with care. It was an early experience of the joy of giving.

Our house was only one door in from Springfield Ave. then still paved with Belgian blocks. If we had snow at Christmas we would be treated to the sound of "bells" as traffic went up and down the avenue. It came from the traffic's tire chains hitting the stone blocks. The avenue, always bright with neon signs, was decorated with Christmas lights spanning the street from light post to light post every 20 feet or so.

Our tradition was to open presents on Christmas Eve. This was much more peaceful and beautiful than opening them on Christmas morning, something I didn't do--and then only a few times--until I was an adult.


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