Tuesday, December 9, 2008
When the weather turns, the air gets crisp and fall comes to a close, I find myself fumbling thru memories of my childhood. Time has clouded much of the early years, but there are things that have left lasting impressions on me to this day.
One thing I remember most clearly was the smells. My mother was a homemaker and she was always crafting something, but this time of year brought about tamales, which are a staple where I grew up. Tamales are a very time consuming process - it takes HOURS to cook the meat (pork, chicken , beef) and then season it to perfection. Masa must be made, corn husks must be soaked, the tamales must then be assembled and rolled just so and then the finished product needs to be steamed for a few more hours. Dozens upon dozens would be made, sorted and wrapped for delivery during the holidays and these were primarily only made during the 'cooler' months in hell (november/december.) Each day I would arrive home from school to find pots of meat on the table, steamers on the stove full of tamales and my mother covered in masa as she continued to make more. The house would be warm from the cooking going on in the kitchen (no we did not have central heat back then, only a little space heater) and you could smell the food long before you even opened the front door.
I may not live that far south, but this is a tradition I have brought with me wherever I go. Just a few weeks ago I cooked up a batch of tamales for the family and friends - it was so very time consuming, but so yummy too. The change of seasons just makes me want to cozy up in the kitchen and cook.
Another memory I smile at during this time of year is the decorating for the holidays. I can remember the day after Thanksgiving going out in the garage and digging out all the boxes of christmas stuff. Decorations (mismatched and mostly handmade), multicolored christmas lights that played music for the tree, patchwork quilts, cross-stiched wall decorations and tinsel by the handfuls would be spread about the house in hopes of brightening everyones spirits.
Outside I would loveingly adorn our 'Lone' tree and massive bush with strands of lights from years past. Some would blink, some would stay solid, some were 'tiny twinkle' lights and some were the old school 'screw in light bulbs.' Rarely was anything uniform, it was typically som type of incoherant christmas mess, but it was as festive as a childs imagination could make it.
One of my more funny decorating memories is the year I decided to decorate my fathers 1976 Chevy Pickup truck that took up permanent residence curbside in front of our house. This truck had easily lived thru better years and my father would not part with it. It was loud (could hear him coming down the road 6 blocks away) had an am radio, windows that didn't always roll down (manual crank) and often times did not want to start. That season, it found itself parked and I decided (in my youthful wisdom) that it should be decorated. So I tied ribbons and bows to it, wreaths to the front and back, garland (cheap, non weather resistant garland) along the sides and then took shoe polish and wrote "Merry Christmas" upon the windows. It was definitely a sight to behold...but one thing about my parents is that they never said a word.
The memories I have are more than items bought for me - they are experiences that I was fortunate enough to have. Childhood goofiness I was able to relish in and little moments that have stuck with me thru the good and bad. I look back now and realize that while there weren't family traditions instilled in me(singing christmas carols around the tree), fancy family vactions to look forward to each year, or expensive presents to adorn the tree - my holiday memories are none the less happy. Yes, perhaps there are those memories that have been tarnished with time and perhaps still, some have been broken or lost - but I can say that the ones that meant the most to me have stuck with me thru the years and can be dusted off each time I need a smile. I just hope that I can help my own children to have the kind of memories they too will look back fondly on one day.
What is YOUR Holiday memory?