Time for laughter, love and memories

When people ask me about my favorite Christmas memories, the answers never center around presents. In fact, while I can look at something and remember that someone might have given me a particular gift, I can’t just randomly recall any gifts I’ve ever received aside from the time our parents took us to Disney World for Christmas when I was in the 10th grade. You tend to remember trips, but even then I remember just as much that we stopped at Ruby Falls outside of Chattanooga, Tenn., on the way down because of all the billboards along I-24.

It’s not that I’m not grateful or thankful for the gifts I’ve received, but for me the gift exchange has always been about giving. My mom and I had a running joke that when she would ask me what I would like for Christmas I would say “socks and underwear.” Without fail, I got socks. Let’s face it, a person can never have enough socks — dress, athletic and otherwise. (nowadays I prefer argyle).

I don’t know if the memories get better as we get older because some of them are priceless to begin with. I think that when it comes to the holidays, family and sharing laughter and love is all the memories we need.

When we were living in Caseville, my mom really wanted a new vacuum. Now remember, back in the 1960s there probably was a lot more gift giving from a practical standpoint than there is today. My dad took a broom, put it in a box with just the tip of the handle exposed and tied an extension cord to it. My mom laughed, but she knew what it meant — she was getting a new vacuum. I was the only one of the three kids who was old enough to understand the joke at the time but I remember mom and dad laughed pretty hard.

When we lived in Mancelona I eventually had a bedroom in the basement. We had a large family room down there as well as a laundry room. We had a very 1970s fireplace — it was metal, round, cone shaped and sat on a metal pedestal. It might have even been red. We would open our Christmas gifts upstairs, which also had a very 1970s fireplace, until the fireplace was installed downstairs.

One year my dad came downstairs early and I heard him, but before I could get out of bed he told me to stay put until the fireplace had a chance to warm the basement a bit. Apparently it had been cold enough outside that the fireplace had frost on it. Looking back, maybe I should question why my parents put my bedroom in the basement.

The very next year a few days before Christmas, as the gift pile under the tree was growing, I went to bed but I kept hearing a muffled chime. I went upstairs, told my dad that I was hearing what sounded like chimes about every half hour but there were more sometimes and fewer other times. He came down to “investigate” and as it turned out the place where my dad had purchased the clock he bought my mom failed to do whatever it was they were going to do to keep it from chiming. For the rest of the time before Christmas my mom kept asking me about the chiming I heard. I guess she suspected.

Having spent nine years living on the other side of the state in the snow belt, I never gave much thought to what it would be like to not have snow for Christmas. The first year after moving to Alpena, I found out.

My parents and grandfather had purchased the Best Western and our first Christmas was 1982 when it was in the mid 60s. My brother and I threw the football around outside, just in shirts and jeans. I guess I could get used to not having snow and the temperature warmer. It was odd enough having Christmas dinner in the lobby of a motel, but having strangers wander into the family celebration took it to the next level. It was just a twist we never had before.

This will be the first Christmas for our family without my parents as dad died in September, so I’m sure there will moments for all of us where a bit of sadness creeps in. The entire family won’t get together until next weekend at brother’s downstate, but I’m sure that while there will be some sadness there also will be laughter, love and memories. That is what it’s supposed to be about.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and have a time to laugh, love and create your own memories.

Steve Murch can be reached via email at smurch@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5686. Follow Steve on Twitter @sm_alpenanews.