Memories of Christmases past | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | December 23, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: December 20, 2017 at 1:54 pm
The Mardell Family
During our early years, several weeks before Christmas, the melodious voices of my sister and two brothers resounded in our home as we sang with harmony “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Having no radio, we were always singing with each other.
Our favorite tunes in addition to my brothers’ favorite “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” were songs such as “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “Jingle Bells” and my brothers’ deep-voiced performance of the famous line: “I am Dreaming of a White Christmas.”
Our household was always on high alert for the arrival of Santa. We were true believers of Santa, at least that’s what my brothers and sister told me.
We often heard the reindeer hooves on our roof and my oldest brother would almost swear that he spotted Santa drinking the milk and eating the fruitcake that I left each year.
Once, after going to bed, I courageously peeked out the window and saw what I thought was our neighbor putting things on our porch; my brother scolded me and said that I could have possibly scared Santa away! That was a night of much anxiety!
Several months before Christmas, we knew the gifts we wanted, so we were on our best behavior.
I was ecstatic when my brothers asked me to accompany them on one of their traditional searches in the woods near our home for our pine Christmas tree. They actually chose the tree that I pointed out. Now, I know that they were trying to “be nice” to their little sister, which was an act that was few and far between.
My sister was always the lead decorator. Each year our decorations consisted of angel hair, snowflakes, silver tinsel, two strings of colored lights, and 12 red, green, and gold ornament *****. Topping the tree was an angel with a wide halo and silver wings.
Our annual kickoff for the holiday season was complete. We were ready for Santa’s arrival and the festive season in celebration of Jesus’s birth.
Sadly, one year we thought that our annual kickoff for our holiday season would not happen. At the ages of 15, 13, 10 and 6, during the month of August, we were awakened during the early morning hours to the announcement that our daddy died — 15 days after my birthday and four months before Christmas.
Psalm 91:11-12 Living Bible (TLB) “For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will steady you with their hands to keep you from stumbling against the rocks on the trail.”
My momma was a stay-at-home mom. She was now sole provider for a household of four children. As I later reflected with my older brothers and sister, I now see the angelic characteristics of Momma.
She was authentic, strong-willed, wise, patient, joyful, modest, sensitive, compassionate and holy/righteous; God was always an intricate part of her life.
She never skipped a beat in sustaining the loving environment that was always a part of our home. A month after Daddy’s funeral, our household became one of a faith walk. The roles of each of my siblings changed, but Momma was like an endless ‘Energizer’ bunny.
She was determined to allow us to be children first in the midst of our changing responsibilities. She found a job at the Ideal Laundry in Walterboro, and walked a mile each morning to connect with her ride to her job — and a mile on her return home.
Our first Christmas without Daddy was a priority for Momma. She worked fulltime and baked late at night, preparing our favorite foods, especially fruit cakes with nuts for my brothers and without nuts for my sister and me.
She sewed throughout the night, making curtains with matching dresser scarves, pillowcases and other items to beautify our home for the holiday.
We were happy because Momma appeared happy. Even now, we do not know how Momma connected with Santa Claus to get the top items on our Christmas list: a doll baby, a bicycle, two BB-guns, the stylish extra full and swingy short coat for my sister and a blue Motorola radio for the house!
Even the 15-year-old was kept out of the Santa loop. Momma wanted to see those childlike, enthusiastic expressions of surprise when we saw what Santa left each of us!
Now, we know that Momma understood the need to ensure us that our future without our loving daddy could be bright and successful. What wisdom!
What an unforgettable Christmas! From my 6-year-old perspective to my present retirement age, I realize that Momma was our “Christmas Angel.”
Colleton Museum Director
Back in England, Christmas is undoubtedly the largest holiday of the year and one which compares differently to my Christmases here.
There are many different traditions: for example, our English one you could set your watch to — it was an intimate family affair.
We ate our roasted turkey and vegetables and for dessert, a Christmas pudding would be doused with a glug of brandy, a sixpence inserted for good luck and set alight to “oohs and aahs” of the on-looking family.
The sixpence would appear in someone’s slice and guarantee them good luck for the following year.
Afternoons were filled with movies, playing with our new gifts, naps, more food and then the traditional family Christmas game.
Our family has long played Trivial Pursuit. Our blood runs thick with competitive nature and so often, games are abandoned for the sake of family harmony!
Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is often filled with laziness and plates full of cold leftovers from the previous day.
One Christmas, in my late teens, we sat down around the tree with our traditional mimosas ready for the family Christmas present opening debacle (don’t worry, the legal drinking age in England is 18!!).
My mum presented my dad with his Christmas gift, unwrapping it to reveal a brand new laptop.
I was in awe and wanted it myself. When the opening was finished and my dad left the room, I jumped over to the sofa put the laptop in my lap and began playing. I reached for my mimosa and took good long sip and as my clumsy nature dictates, lost my grip on the cup, spilling some all over the laptop.
I ran to the kitchen to get my mum to help bail me out. We absorbed most of the orange juice from the keyboard with paper towel before my dad returned, wanting his laptop.
After a while, he complained about the keys not working properly and seeming sticky.
Those complaints continued for about three years until the laptop’s final days, during which my mum and I finally admitted to the massive cover up. I consider the 4,000 miles between my dad and I as somewhat of a safety buffer.
We replicate some of those traditions here with my family now (I appreciate all of their willingness to try the new things!), but we have added our midnight service at Christmas, children of our own and other new traditions.
One thing is for certain, the tradition that beats them all is family.
There is no finer Christmas than bringing all the family around the table for dinner, being thankful for all our blessings, sharing happy times and a smile, letting the kids run wild and free, cold mornings and Christmas radio, hot chocolate and s’mores around the fire pit, stringing up hundreds of Christmas lights to find out only half work, blending families and traditions, your toddler falling asleep in your lap, the festive wafting of a pine candle, sharing a libation with your loved one in the shadow of the tree and taking time to enjoy the simple, but important things in life: friendship, family and love.
Merry Christmas to all of the English Mardells! Love the American Mardells!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Edisto Beach Mayor Jane Darby
As a child, Christmas was all about the family.
Each holiday, the extended family would gather for a large meal, no presents were necessary because the joy of the holiday was spending time with the family.
Before everyone arrived with all their best dishes, our day would begin very early with checking to see what goodies Santa Claus had delivered for us. We considered ourselves exceptionally “good” children.
We would have a stocking filled with store-bought treats, fruit and a shiny silver dollar. Then each one of the three of us would find a present or surprise from Santa.
We did not know at the time that Santa shopped with points earned from purchasing supplies for the store. Later in life, we discovered that Bazooka Bubble gum had the best gifts ever.
At the time, all we knew it was a special time with our parents, who seem to get so much joy from our happiness.
Then came the Christmas when I was around seven years old.
Before this particular Christmas, my dad had begun to suffer from almost constant grand mal convulsions due to a brain injury sustained in WWII.
He was given medication which helped for a while but he could not work or drive. As his condition deteriorated, the decision was made by his doctors to admit him to the VA hospital in Atlanta for treatment.
This Christmas was going to be very different.
Santa Claus skipped the gift, but did bring a very slim stocking. Then we rushed to get dressed because we were driving for an hour to be able to spend the day with Dad at the hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital, we could not understand why Dad had such a big grin on his face because he was supposed to be very ill.
He could not wait to tell us that Santa Claus had made the decision to leave our gifts with him so that he could enjoy our excitement with the present.
Santa had the most beautiful Victorian doll for me and one for my sister. My brother got a shiny red bike.
A day, that had started so sadly, rapidly became one of the best in my memory.
We were all together, Santa had not forgotten us and we brought my dad home from the hospital.
I cherished that Victorian doll, as I had never had such a fancy present or had ever hoped to have one.
Later on, I learned that Santa had elves. In this particular situation, the Grey Ladies Auxiliary at the hospital were the elves — they had come to each patient before Christmas and asked the ages and sexes of their children.
Then on Christmas Eve presents were delivered to each room.
From my memories of this Christmas, I have developed a strong belief that each of us can express our love of our fellow man just by making someone’s holiday a little brighter.
To me, this is the true meaning of Christmas.
County Administrator Kevin Griffin
Some of my most cherished memories are as a young child living in St. Matthews. I grew up living primarily with my grandparents Tom and Matilda Blanton.
My grandmother, who is now 94 years old and still of sound mind, would always have a big Christmas Eve meal and we would have all the aunts and uncles and cousins over to gather for fellowship and open gifts.
My grandmother, whom everyone would call “Ms. Til,” would spend all day preparing the meal which would include all the fixings from turkey and ham to congealed salads and my personal favorite: macaroni pie.
Not to mention the three or four different cakes and pecan pie she would make as well. She would never let anyone do any of the cooking because she wanted it just right.
I remember well grandmother working away in the kitchen always singing her hymns as she worked. She always sang as she did any of her cooking and it was the sweetest music to my ears … because I knew she was cooking up something good!
My grandmother, like many others, was the best cook I will ever know. She could make anything taste good and I am not sure I ever saw her use a measuring cup or a recipe.
Meanwhile, I would spend the day helping my granddad, “Mr. Tom,” get the yard sparkling clean, all the pine straw raked, and all the chairs and tables out for the oncoming barrage of family — meanwhile, sporadically checking the Christmas tree to see if any new packages had my name on them and making sure my sister didn’t have any more presents than me.
As the afternoon would come and the cousins would show up, we would have our annual show down of pickup football or baseball in the front yard while the adults mingled.
After getting first aid for whatever injuries occurred during the ball game, we would then be called in for the meal which the kids were served first — we would eat as fast as we could to make sure we were the first to get to the desserts.
Then it would be on to the Christmas tree as the gifts were exchanged between us, the aunts, uncles and cousins.
Once that was over, the adults would stake their claims to the leftovers and the evening would begin to wane.
It was then that my Grandfather Tom would go to his room and put on his Santa robe, which was a bright red Christmas robe, with his red and white Christmas pajamas.
He would come back down the hall and head to his favorite reclining chair and light up his pipe.
He would have every one of the grandchildren gather around him for each of us to tell him whether we had been naughty or nice and what we wanted from Santa Claus.
He would usually then read or tell us a story about the true meaning of Christmas to be sure we knew it wasn’t all about food and gifts.
When that was over, like clockwork, my granddad would say “Til, I think these kids are ready for a milkshake,” and we got a milkshake from Mrs. Til or at least another piece of cake or pie to finish off the evening as we got ready to watch Joe Pinner at 9 p.m.
For those who do not know, Joe Pinner was WIS-TV 10’s (Columbia) weather reporter and also had a Saturday morning kids show called Mr. Knozit.
We would settle in front of the TV and all the kids would watch with great anticipation as Joe Pinner would do the weather report and somehow, he was always able to find Santa’s sleigh on their weather radar. Then Joe would tell all the kids watching that they better get home and get to bed because Santa was already in the area, and that would be the cue for everyone to head home and get to sleep.
The memories of those times as a young child have always stuck with me as what a wonderful time of family and fellowship should always be.
I am fortunate enough now to be a part of a wonderful family, but I will always remember that my grandparents then set the tone for what a family Christmas should be.
Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Shane Roberts
Christmas time has always been a wonderful time of the year for me.
The days after Thanksgiving, my dad would put up the Christmas tree and my mom, brother and I would spend the evening decorating it.
My grandmother would get a Sears-Roebuck catalog in the mail and my brother and I would flip through the pages searching for the toys that we would want Santa to bring.
We would tell mom and dad about all the toys we wanted. They told us to write a letter to Santa and be sure we were good.
During the days leading up to Christmas Day, my mom and I would be traveling in the car and singing Christmas songs. We often burst out into laughter when we would get to a part of the song and didn’t know the lyrics.
While the lyrics of the song were improvised, they still made the holidays filled with cheer.
On Christmas Eve, my parents would finish their last minute shopping and we would then begin visiting family.
As kids, we spent the entire time playing and laughing. As it became later in the evening, we would head home. My dad would be driving and my mom would be sitting close to him with his arm around her. My brother and I, exhausted from playing, would fall asleep as we stared up into the sky to see if we could see Santa and his reindeer.
On Christmas morning, my brother would wake me up in excitement because Santa had been to our home. We would run down to our parent’s room, telling them the good news.
My mom and dad would follow us to the living room and watch us as we ripped opened the gifts that Santa brought.
Laughter, joy and thankfulness filled our Christmas morning.
While most of the gifts have long been forgotten, it is the memories of my family being together that I will always cherish.