Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 12 Memories of Christmas: Ding! Ding!

I was right. In waiting for UK's Saturday tip-time, I've reflected more in the last day and a half than I did in the last 33 years. What I've realized in all that reflecting is that my cup of Christmas memories runneth over. What I've also realized is that there are 12 days between today and December 25, making the conditions of the cyber soil absolutely perfect for my very first blog series - a sequence of entries I'd like to call - drumroll, please ... drumroll - "The 12 Memories of Christmas." Don't ask me how I came up with that.

What is it about Christmas memories that makes us wax nostalgic? I mean, WAY nostalgic. I mean, I don't remember LAST Christmas (though I do love that song). I remember Christmas 24 years ago. I don't think of 2005. I think of 19-85. I don't think of the year Mom and Daddy gave Sissy and me new MacBooks; I remember - though I've tried to forget it - the year they tried to slide by with Jockey Lot knock-offs, because they were too broke to buy real-deal Cabbage Patch Kids.

I also remember the Conley Choir.

It's fitting that this aptly-named "12 Memories of Christmas" series should start here, for the Conley Choir was the Johnny One-Note of kin-folk chorales. We - myself, my sister, and our cousins Janet, Sabrina, Missy, and, later, Tara, Holly, Savannah, and anyone else who'd stand still long enough to sing along - had a single, jolly madrigal in our holiday repertoire. What song were that, ask ye? Why, 'twere one beffitin' this 'alf-'earted brogue I've inexplicably adopted. "The 12 Days of Christmas" 'twere it.

Why we only sang that song, I don't know. Ask Janet. As the eldest of this choral collective, she probably got to call that shot. For whatever reason, though, that's what we sang, and we sang it every year, costumed in whatever matching pajamas Granny had given us just seconds before the concert started.

Granny giving us all matching pajamas was as much of a tradition as my family's annual treks to the Bluegrass State. In fact, for us Stultzes, Christmas meant Kentucky. No matter where we lived (usually South Carolina), come the 21st or 22nd, Mom, Daddy, Sissy, and I would hit the highway for a week or two at "home." The earlier we arrived, the harder it was to wait for the Big Day. As you can probably remember from reflecting on your OWN Christmas memories, the suspense of staring at wrapped gifts with your name on them can quite nearly kill a girl.

When Christmas Eve FINALLY came (it felt like we had to wait a WHOLE YEAR for that ONE NITE!), we'd carbload on Mayme's baked spaghetti and open presents from the Stultz side before hightailing it to Granny's house for a visit with the Conley's.

Granny's house was very different from Mayme's. For instance, Mayme served baked spaghetti. Granny, on the other hand, always had a house full of candy, made by her and my aunts. Knowing Granny, she probably made everyone dinner, too, but by the time we arrived, Uncle Bill had already finished it all off, leaving us with holiday-themed, plexiglass plates full of candy. Naturally, none of us minded. I remember walking into Granny's. There, we were the latecomers. Everyone else had gathered hours before and were comfortably stuffed in chairs from the kitchen to the living room. After a welcoming eruption of hellos and hugs and "Where have you beens?" we got down to the business of digging in to that prodigious pile of gifts. We never knew what was waiting for us - well, I sorta had an idea in later years when I got brave enough to peek into the gift bags Granny'd taped shut - we were certain, however, that we would always get a fresh costume for the floor show, long-awaited, that would come when all the packages were unwrapped.

Another difference between the two houses was that Mayme used stretched cotton to simulate snow on her artificial trees; Granny, on the other hand, went in for icicles. A lot of icicles. Like, clumps of icicles that, had they been real and, through some sort of unforeseen interaction with an overheated string of twinkle lights, melted, these bad boys could have caused a worldwide flood of cataclysmic proportions. Granny must've tossed them on there like a child tossing confetti at a wedding reception. As a result, these stringy strands weren't just confined to the general tree area. They spread throughout the house, the pollen spores of holiday decor. In fact, five years after her death, I'll still find stray silver surprises stowed away in old suitcases. I always know it's not just rogue asbestos. Instead, it's another relic of my grandmother's mid-century Christmas aesthetic.

The major difference between Mayme's and Granny's, though, was that choir. Never once, in all my years of Christmas'ing on Riverside Drive, do I remember a spontaneous eruption of song. At Mayme's, that came later - during the annual New Year's Eve celebrations staged by Lori, BJ, and me. At Granny's, though, it was me and my cousins, dressed alike, arms wrapped around the others' shoulders, laughing, as we looked to Janet to remind us what day we were doing and for Sabrina to add her signature "ding ding" after every "partridge in a pear tree."

As I think about those days, I can't remember my "true loves" giving me a single "goose a laying" or even a "lord a leaping" (in fact, I'm STILL waiting for one of those!). Nope. Instead, on all those "first days of Christmas," my true loves gave to me "a heart full of mem-o-ries."

(Cue Sabrina: "Ding! Ding!")


  1. Wonderful! The Mast General Store tree at the Hyatt has icicles that Gran would be proud of. I had a fit over them when we walked through the Parade of Trees this year! If I knew where to find them, I think I would start adding them to my tree... they definitely add sparkle and pizazze!
    Ding! Ding!

  2. Put ya money where ya mouth is, SUCKA.


  3. Christmas was always worth the travel and the time it took to get home. But you are right, Mom was mistaken to believe cotton lining those trees looked like real snow on the tree we'd just bought at Applegate's downtown grocery store. And Granny's icicles were evidence of just how tired she was after decorating the tree and her desire to get it done! I probably have some of those icicles in my suitcases too. Still, the genuine counterfeit clone of a Cabbage Patch doll did come with its own birth certificate, compliments of the composing room at The Anderson Independent-Mail. Wonderful memories. Thanks.

  4. Sissy, I want to point out that the icicles to which I linked have "NO LEAD" (says so right on the box!), so they've got THAT goin' for 'em.

  5. I don't know why, but I always get teary when I read your posts...love 'em...

  6. @Daddy - no, no. Thank YOU!

    @Taj - and thank YOU:) Can't wait to hear about your big trip to Disney! I've already told Stevie, y'all had better Instagram many pics, now that I've "kissed Facebook goodbye." :) We have GOT to get together when y'all get back in town!

  7. What a great story Kristin! I am ready for day 11!!!

  8. What can I say, Ding! Ding! (Am I allowed to say anything else? It would probably be mute.) And let me add, that I am NOT the Ding! Ding!, I only SING the Ding! Ding! Love ya Kris!

  9. I am quite jealous of you and your memories. If I didn't have the memory of a gnat I might be able to conjure up a few of my own.

    Two thing that must be said about this entry...
    A) Your knock off cabbage patch doll, though quite impressively similar to the real deal, looks angry. Could it be that even the doll knew she'd never be as good as her authentic cousin?
    B) Please stop using such big words in your blogs. Between my ADD and the constant stopping to Google the meaning of a new word, it takes me approximately 1/2 a day to finish each entry.

    Aside from that, what a great way to kick off the 12 days of Christmas. I've come to learn (especially this year) that the time spent with our loved ones is both a gift and it is never enough. Far more precious than material possession are the ties that bind our hearts to one another. Merry Christmas!

  10. @Leri - thanks:)
    @Sabrina - love you, too:)
    @Les - as Kramer sold his life stories to J. Peterman, so I would be willing to sell my memories to you. For a fee. Make me an offer I can't refuse.


  11. Thanks for the gift of helping us refresh our memories of these two wonderful families and two great ladies, Mayme and Grandma. They taught us so much about life and love and family.

    (And thank Dad for getting me online)

  12. I do believe that I have the cousin to your knock off Cabbage Patch.

  13. Erin, I bet you DO :) They probably got a bulk rate on them:)