Step 43 - 80s/90s Holiday Memories: Part 2 - Jennifer, Joy, Halley & Charlene
Join Nikki & Brooke (Brooke is BACK!) as they discuss more of their holiday memories and traditions. We'll also here some holiday stories from our friends Jennifer, Joy, Halley and Charlene.
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Jennifer's Holiday Memories
Hi, I wanted to send you a story of how I grew up during the holidays! I have always loved Christmas and when I was little it always felt so more magical than today somehow, I guess it’s because I was little the 1980’s were so different than time is today.
When I was small we always had fun things leading up to Christmas day, we would plan or wouldn’t plan to go Black Friday shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I never understood why my mom didn’t ever want to go on that day but now I do. I am very sure the chaos wasn’t as bad then, but it is stressful for me in crowds, my mom is the same way. We would always go to the nearby biggest town even though my dad hated driving in busy traffic. We would go to the mall to shop and then see Santa and then grab a hamburger at Krystal Hamburger Restaurant (we always seemed to go there in that town). I remember one year we went to town with my mom, aunt, grandma and cousin to Toysrus and my aunt asked my mom if she was getting “the kids Santa gifts there?” I was so upset because I saw what my brother and sister got from Santa.. she had no idea I still believed in him. It was kind of upsetting, but I still wrote Santa every year up until maybe 8th grade. I would always be in plays or small music concerts at my school and church every year and we would always go to our tiny town’s Christmas parade. I always thought it was such a big deal to be in the parade and loved it when I was in one.
One Christmas Eve I remember my brother and I helped my dad haul off tree limbs and put them in a pile (he was cutting pine trees) in our yard so I would be tired and go to sleep fast that night when Santa came. I was always terrified on Christmas Eve because I knew Santa would peek in my room to see if I was asleep. Just the thought of some strange man coming in my room and looking at me made me sweat bullets! I know my parents felt so bad for us! My parents always told us if we got up too early our presents would disappear because they were magic. We always made sure it was at least 7 a.m. before we woke my parents.
Every Christmas Eve night around dinner we would all go to my grandparent’s house to eat and open gifts. My aunt and uncle and cousins were there, we had so much fun with all the different kinds of food, we would play, shoot fireworks and then beg to open gifts. The kids always wanted to pass out the gifts, so the adults chose who would give out the gifts every year. We always waited for everyone to open their gift before we tore into ours because it lasted longer. I remember getting many things through out the years..dolls, books, I got a little Avon perfume set one year, Annie doll and a pj set among other things. I loved going here at Christmas and every time I get the chance.. my grandparents were like my second mom and dad. After presents we drank green punch and everyone went home. I remember watching the Christmas lights on the way home and listening to Christmas music on the local rock station, I used to get so mad at radio stations for not playing Christmas music on Christmas Eve and Christmas! We would go home, get in our pj’s and maybe open a gift from our parents and they would open one from us. I remember getting my dad a Bart Simpson mug one year and my brother got some cheap perfume in a fancy bird container for my mom they loved their thoughtful gifts. My mom and dad would usually stay up and wrap gifts while we went to sleep, I use that excuse today (which I really have to usually wrap gifts)!
On Christmas morning we would wake up my parents, we wouldn’t go into the Livingroom without them ( I guess we were scared our gifts would disappear). My parents were “oohing and ahhing” our gifts that Santa brought. One-year Santa left a note for us and I said, “Dad, he writes just like you (my dad is a leftie)” Sometimes our gifts had price tags left on them and my parents said that Santa shopped at the stores sometimes. We always got great gifts, I always remembering getting a tea set every year when I was smaller, I got a preemie Cabbage Patch doll one year named Marcel (I still have him), a tape player with a Cinderella tape and on the back you could record yourself (I thought that was the coolest thing, I recorded myself singing and talking every day on it. I still have that tape! I got a huge stand up chalkboard one year, I loved playing school with my dolls, a baby skates, I always got board games at Christmas (Operation, Candy Land, Sweet Valley High (later on) and Girl Talk). Everytime my friends spent the night with me we always played with these! In the early 90’s I got a Joe doll and my sister got a Donnie doll, I was super obsessed that year with the group. We had a Christmas stocking party at my church that year and the Sunday School teacher who drew my name crammed it with New Kids everything!!! It was amazing!
At lunchtime we would walk over to my grandma’s house next door and have lunch. I always had to get the ice for the tea glasses every year, that was my job. My grandma wasn’t the best cook but we enjoyed our meal and loved opening gifts. One year I wanted a Cricket doll, she was finishing up cooking and I kept asking her if she got it for me… she never said anything. When it was time to open the gift, I was so disappointed. I got a Princess Diana Bride doll. I wasn’t into Princess Diana and she was porcelain, so I couldn’t really play with her. She was beautiful, but she didn’t talk! I still have her but from moving from place to place every 3 years her body is no longer all there (she has a broken leg and a lost earring).
My grandma always wanted everything to be “just so” at her house when we would get together. She would have my dad sit at the head of the table, we would eat on her china and we would eat in the separate formal dining room. She had pea green carpet, a white gold couch and a white Christmas tree with pink ornaments. I (being a girl) loved the white and pink! Later she had a green tree in the living room and the white one in the formal living room. I used to complain about going over there but now since she is no longer with us I miss it so much.
On Christmas night we would all gather in the car and look at Christmas lights, I would always cry because I didn’t want Christmas to end but my mom always said, “It’s still the holiday season, it isn’t over!” I try to think about that when I feel like the season is gone. I cherish my family memories and I hope that my kids have wonderful crazy stories just like I do!
Joy's Holiday Memories
First off I want to thank you for the "my wish book" memories. I loved looking at the wish books from my childhood days. We usually didn't get much, but the fun of going through the wish book was always a highlight of the Christmas holiday.
So, my story does not include the wish book, but this Christmas memory still gets me choked up tothis day, but it was the best gift I could have ever received.
My family moved (that might be a story for The Move podcast!!!)when I was 10 years old from California to Ohio. My dad was from Ohio and always wanted to go back. Unfortunately, they picked a very bad time to move because unemployment was at an all time high and the economy had tanked. It was July 1982. They had told me that Ohio had snow and I had never seen snow so I was very excited about this move. I was so disappointed when we got to Ohio because it was July and there was no snow!!! I thought I had been lied to!!
Anyway, my dad didn't have a job for an entire year. Not for lack of trying, so our family of 5 lived on his Navy pension check that year which meant no room for anything "extra". It was my mom's desire for us to go to a Christian school, but we had no money. My mom worked out a deal with the school that she would clean bathrooms, be a lunch monitor, and run reading groups for 1st and 2nd grade and that would pay for our tuition. Welfare was not as highly publicized back then and it never crossed my parents minds that we would even qualify for it. Us kids used to go around our run down neighborhood looking for pop bottles to exchange for money. We , as a family, had a paper route, and would get up at 3:00am every Sunday morning and walk door to door and put coupon mailer bags on every door knob in the worst neighborhood in town. All for $15.00 a week!! This is where we got any "extras" from. "Extras" meant two gallons of milk instead of just one. Just a background on how poor we really were.
The church we went to provided us with presents that year. They brought the gifts to our house in early December and mine was the biggest gift. I was so excited and could only imagine how wonderful this Christmas was going to be. Each day (and if I'm honest, several times a day) I would pick it up and shake it and try to imagine what it might be. But then, 2 days before Christmas, a man from the church came and apologized, but said the gift for me had been given to me mistakenly and that it wasn't anything I would like ( I later found out it was a set of pots and pans) and he took it away with the promise that he would come back the next day(Christmas Eve) with another present. I cried and cried. I just knew that night that nothing they could bring me could be as big and as beautiful as the present I had been eyeing most of December. The next day, the man did return. He brought my gift to me: an envelope. My heart sank. I graciously said thank you but in my heart I was devestated. The man said I could open it, but my parents told me I could not open it til Christmas because that was my only gift.
I remember crying myself to sleep that night and not really wanting Christmas to come in the morning. But Christmas did come. Mom had saved up to be able to make us pancakes with sausage (an extra) for Christmas breakfast and I really enjoyed it. I thought maybe Christmas wasn't so bad after all. Then it came time to open our one gift. My parents let me go first since I was the youngest. I opened the envelope and inside was a $5.00 book of McDonalds coupons. I cried again, but maybe not for the reason you may think. You see, this private school we attended did not have a cafeteria and you had to pack your lunch every day. But on Wednesdays, you could pay and order from McDonalds and they would deliver it to the school. Of course, this was way beyond one of the "extras" so I was the only child in my class that packed on McDonalds day. It was so embarrassing and hard as a 10 year old child to watch other children eat a Big Mac as you would choke down the same old peanut butter and jelly that you had every day. I hated Wednesdays!! But this $5.00 book of McDonalds coupons meant that for 10 Wednesdays, I could finally be like the other kids and order a hamburger ( costs 50 cents back then) on McDonalds day.
This truly was my best Christmas ever.
I try to remember how little we used to have and am so thankful for all things now. As a kid, I never thought of being poor as a privilege , but as an adult, I really did have an advantage that my kids will never have, but I still try to instill in them. And that is to be "Thankful"for ALL things!!
Halley's Holiday Memories
Both pictures are from my 1st Christmas in the Detroit "area" Michigan ( my dads family lives there). In the first one, my mom in the (grey sweater) me, my Aunt Lori is holding me, my mom is showing my very 1st Christmas ornament which I still have 😊 In the second one: my mom, Aunt Sally (my dad's youngest sister) & my dad's sister-in-law Aunt Sue (married to my dad's older brother). I should also point out I'm first grandchild on both my moms & dad's side. Enjoy the cuteness overload
Charlene's Quick Mini Story
I have a mini story for you about Christmas. Since I have brownskin and black hair my mom always bought me that Teresa Barbies. She didn’t want me to think I had to have blue eyes and blonde hair. The year that the Cabbage Patch kids were super popular, all of the toys stores was completely sold out. That year I did receive a Cabbage Patch doll and she had blonde hair and blue eyes. I later found out it’s because my mom bought it out of the trunk of some guy selling them on the side of the road