I love the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays. Thanksgiving, then Christmas lights, eggnog, Christmas movies and everyone is happy. As a child, I was one of nine (9) kids. If you needed something such as socks, t-shirts, school supplies, or other items from about September on, my mom would hold those and wrap them as presents under the tree for Christmas. With nine (9) kids, and my mom’s liberal definition of a present, the tree would rise up from a sea of presents. We decorated the tree together, each of us choosing ornaments to hang. We did have some fancy ornaments, but many were made by siblings and I at school or as different projects. We had a real tree with the pine smell. We would take turns tossing the glittery silver tinsel on the tree to look like ice or snow.
The youngest siblings always seemed to wake up first. While you could observe and even shake presents, gifts were only opened when everyone was there as a group. My parents, and then later my older brother Joe, would pass out each kid’s presents to be opened. As the years went by, we would bring our own. We would proceed first for stockings which were, of course, by the fireplace. Stockings were filled with candy, snacks, smaller items and, best of all, gag or joke gifts. One favorite was a talking mounted fish received by my brother Mark.
My mom loved mimosas which were shared with all the kids. There was always a very large box of See’s candy that was passed around. Over the years, we noticed that someone was poking a hole in the bottom of the candies to find his or her favorite. Years later, we discovered that my mom was the guilty party.
As I grew up and left for college and then a life of my own in Sacramento, I always returned to the family Christmas on the ranch in Livermore. One year was particularly memorable when we had an ice storm that covered the property to give us a White Christmas.
As a single dad, my kids would be with their mom on Christmas eve and Christmas morning. That was a pretty lonely time for me which I filled with Christmas movies and wrapping presents. I would then take my kids to Livermore for the family Christmas. We would spend a night or two with family there and then travel to the Resort at Squaw Creek in Tahoe for New Year’s.
In the early years, we would ride “discs” or sleds in the snow and build snowmen and have S’mores at the fire pits. The pool and hot tub were heated and open with snow all around. My kids loved to swim through the steam rising from the pool and threw snowballs at each other in the hot tub. They particularly enjoyed soaking a small towel and laying that on the cold cement to freeze.
As my kids got older, they learned to snowboard while I skied. Usually at least one day of the trip the mountain would be closed due to high winds. We would stay in the room in our pajamas and play board games all day – great fun. One year we watched an eight-hour marathon of Monk – the TV show about the brilliant but obsessive-compulsive detective. We fell in love with the murder mystery show and its unique characters.
This is a very special Christmas for me as my family has grown. My one (1) year wedding anniversary is December 10. I feel particularly blessed that after work each day I go to a home, not just a house. I have not had that for a very long time.
I hope you enjoy some of my family photos below from years past. Wishing you all a happy and wonderful Merry Christmas and Holidays.