Spirit of Christmas still going strong

By Karl Terry: PNT managing editor

Looking back on Christmases of my youth they all seem to have been bright times. Even the years when there wasn’t a lot of money we had great Christmases.

It was important for Mom to give us kids the best Christmas possible and in our eyes back then that meant presents. She used a combination of layaway, Green Stamps and her sewing machine to make sure we always had plenty of packages under the tree.

After the crops were all in, Dad for several years hauled cotton out of the gin that used to stand on the corner of Main and Fir, across from where Allsup’s is now. Or he would haul sweet potatoes and peanuts to Albuquerque or El Paso for Bob Gore at the Sweet Potato Association. Those jobs weren’t much, but I realize now that it provided a little extra cash at the holidays so we could have all the “stuff” we craved for months after the Sears Wish Book came out every year.

I don’t remember too many of those Christmas presents but there are a few that stick out in my mind. First and foremost is the Daisy BB gun. Yeah, I know, sounds just like that movie, “A Christmas Story,” but it’s true and maybe why that movie is my favorite Christmas movie. It so accurately portrayed the childhood fixation on presents and the excitement that slowly built toward Christmas morning that was present in our household.

I also remember an electric slot car set, a small pool table and one of those vibrating electric football games. There were tons of other presents from Santa Claus over the years but most of them have faded from my memory. The excitement of Christmas morning remains, along with the memories of the noise and flying wrapping paper, the lights on the tree and the smell of a ham in the oven.

Most of my childhood Christmas memories were made in a little two bedroom farm house west of Portales but I do have one memory of another home east of town. We lived there when I started school and not too long after that.

I remember everyone decorating the Christmas tree that year, a pinon purchased in town somewhere with sweeping branches. We had lights on it that had been handed down to us from my grandmother. They were the big, old-fashioned bulbs and some of them flashed. Just seeing them on the tree the first night brought the excitement up several notches.

Like a snapshot in my memory I can recall that we shut off the lights after the decorating was done and with Dad stretched out on the couch, we went into a Terry dogpile atop our resting father. Lying there watching the lights flash we declared it was a good job.

Mom always told us to believe in Santa Claus and the spirit of Christmas. As long as we did that, she said, Santa would always come. I’ll admit, there came a time as I grew up that flying reindeer began to seem pretty implausible. But what she said about believing in the Spirit of Christmas served as good substitute.

Santa Claus never stopped visiting our house. The Spirit of Christmas is still important to my mother. These days making sure there are packages under the tree for each of us is important to her but having her family around the tree together is the thing we all anticipate most now.

Karl Terry is managing editor for the Portales News-Tribune. He can be contacted at 356-4483, ext. 33. His e-mail address is: karl_terry@link.freedom.com