.....mom began our Christmas preparations one minute after the last dish was dried
and put away on Thanksgiving evening.
My father, all our uncles and two old friends would have been dressed in their flannel
plaid hunting shirts following that turkey feast and after the last piece of pumpkin pie
was washed down with a final cup of deep, dark coffee, the men would give their
kisses and hugs and all pile into dad' s Chevy to make the trip to Franklin,
Pennsylvania, to hunt bear.
THAT was our (mom, my sister and my) okay to begin making Christmas lists to be
used in the marvelous time of shopping beginning the next morning following the
drive to Pittsburgh.
When we were just little girls, my sister Paulette and I would be dressed in winter
coats made by our aunt Ethel, usually with matching hats, (she loved sewing woolen
tweeds that felt as soft as velvet) and mom always provided black patton leather
shoes (Maryjanes) and we always wore white gloves.
Mom always took route 65 to Pittsburgh and in the late forties and early fifties,
sis and I twisted our necks in watching all the activities going on along the highway
The factories and steel mills spouted gray billows into the air and by the time we
arrived home our gloves were speckled with the air pollutants.
During those times, however, the powers that be in that large city began a royal
cleanup they called a renaissance.
Piles and piles of steel lined the riverbanks and refuse was taken away to provide a
clearer, cleaner view.
(It just occurred to me that the term Black Friday, the first shopping day after
Thanksgiving, could well have referred to the state of the dark skyline in Pittsburgh,
before the immense cleanup of the environment over the years since the fifties.)
Pittsburgh's department store windows held mechanical displays depicting everything
from Santas workshop to Victorian era vignettes and into the Holy themes of the
celebration. Themed windows held scenes with angels, shepherds and the Nativity.
That annual treck to Pittsburgh is an integral part of my Christmas memories.
I feared elevators so mom would take us on the escalators that led from one floor of
shopping to another, within the fabulous department store worlds with names like
Rosenbaums, Kaufmans, Hornes, J. C. Penneys and of course, the giant five and dime
world of Woolworths, where we picked and chose the candy filled glass creations
that have become the collectors items shown on Antiques Road Show today.
In those days, the "charge card" was not a plastic card that swiped across the monitor
on the desk by the cash register.
When one charged an item, the cashier would write up a slip have the purchaser sign
it, place the paper in a tiny metal cup, then push a button and as we watched the
ceiling, the cup zoomed up to the third floor, made an angle and ended up in the
hands of the "office lady," who noted all the information, set the transaction into
movement and sent back, in the descending motion, mom's receipt.
This activity in itself was most fascinating to me.
Mom loved shopping in Pittsbrgh because she could have everything "sent" to our
home and after a day of shopping, believe me, we welcomed the drive back home
and the anticipation of going through our purchases within the next few days. It
gave us the joy all over again and I always pictured the faces of our relatives when
they opened the gifts we gave.
The shopping was only the initial part of our Christmas season. The joy of wrapping
and the happiness the giving part of the season afforded just carried it all through
the family and friend sharing that followed (usually with mom inviting everyon to our
house for at lest a short visit. (She was in dismay when she found someone who
would be alone during Christmas and soon changed that situation.)
Even as a child, my favorite part of Christmas was participating in the Christmas
pageant, singing in the choir and attending the midnight candlelight service at
Change is so evident all through life but the lingerings of things gone by, memories,
that come to light each year when we return to the celebration that seems to bring the
opportunity to share what comes from within, give the chance for a renewed