Friday, December 14, 2018

Memories of Christmas Past

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “naughty.”

In 1996, my sister Jennifer and I worked with our siblings, Bonita, Michael, and Vanessa to publish some of our “treasured Christmas memories” for our parents. We included photos, some of our favorite holiday recipes, and one grandchild from each family drew a family picture. In this blog post, I’ll share some of those memories, along with some Christmas photos from years past.

Early in their marriage, Mama and Daddy lived in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. While living in West End, Bonita remembers being a star in the kindergarten Christmas play. We moved from West End to our home on Macon Drive in Southeast Atlanta shortly after I was born. Both houses were probably a 10 to 15-minute drive downtown since we were close to the interstate. If you grew up in Atlanta, you probably remember going shopping at the Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta. While there, you had to ride the Pink Pig, a small train that rode around the roof of the Rich’s building. Rich’s was housed in two multi-level buildings that sat across the street from each other. The Christmas season officially began on Thanksgiving night when they lit the Great Tree that sat “on top of the multi-level glass skybridge connecting the main downtown Atlanta store with the Store for Homes across Forsyth Street” according to Wikipedia. Each floor had a choir or music group there to perform. As each group performed, their floor would light up until they got to the top floor which sang “O Holy Night.” Near the end of the song, Rich’s lit the tree and all of the lights from the other floors came back on as the choirs finished the song. It was a beautiful tradition for the city.


Bonita on the right

If we didn’t go the Rich’s on Thanksgiving night, we decorated our Christmas tree which was almost always artificial. Jennifer remembers at least one live tree that Daddy cut down from some property he owned in Union Point, Greene County, Georgia. I remember having one live tree that all the needles fell off before Christmas day. You could hear the constant tinkle as the needles hit the packages under the tree. I remember it was completely dead on Christmas day to the point that you didn’t dare turn the lights on for fear it would catch fire. We probably never watered it. We often took the tree down on Christmas night or the next day. When Christmas was over, it was over!

We anxiously waited for the yearly showing of Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Unlike now, it came on once and if you missed it, you had to wait a year to see it. The photo below isn’t from Christmas, but I imagine it’s how we watched these Christmas specials.

Jennifer, me, Vanessa, and Michael

We couldn’t leave the presents alone and constantly rearranged them. I remember unwrapping my presents at least once before Christmas and then had to make sure I got the tape back on just right so Mama and Daddy wouldn’t know they had been opened. Yes, I was naughty! The photo at the beginning of this post is of Bonita standing in front of our Christmas tree one year. If you look closely, you’ll see a playpen around the tree. Were we that naughty that Mama had to do that? I guess so.

Jennifer, Denise, Bonita, and Michael


The Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center was near our Macon Drive house. They had a big Santa that waved to all who passed by. The picture below is my family with Santa in the background.

Jennifer, Bonita, Denise, and Mama holding Michael. Mama is probably
pregnant with Vanessa in this picture.

Denise and Michael

Santa at Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Bonita played the clarinet in our high school band which played concerts at the shopping center. The photo below may or may not have been taken during one of those concerts but it’s definitely Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center because I remember the Lerner Shop.

Bonita is in the back row, second person

On Christmas Eve, my Granny and her husband Hoyt drove down from north Georgia to spend Christmas with us. Vanessa remembers she always brought a coconut pie and a carrot cake. After Mama got home from work, we’d sit around the table nibbling on a Christmas ham. Mama kept a wooden bowl in the middle of the dining room table filled with oranges, tangerines, and assorted nuts. Before we went to bed, the five of us got a knee sock from our drawers (we didn’t have traditional stockings) and picked a spot in the living room for Santa to leave our toys. The next morning, we ran to our spot to see what Santa had left us. Lo and behold, our socks would be filled with oranges, tangerines, and nuts and the wooden bowl on the table would be empty. Jennifer remembers that one-by-one we’d empty our sock into the bowl until it was full again. We were able to play with what Santa left but not open any presents until we ate breakfast and the dishes were washed. Mama and Granny cooked a full breakfast of biscuits, meat, eggs, grits, and gravy. They took their time too, dragging it all out. And just when we thought it was time to open the presents, Granny would have to go “move her bowels.” Then Daddy would finally pass out the presents and everything would be over in 10 minutes. They tortured us, but I know now it was just Mama’s way of making her rocking chair memories.

Hoyt Vest, Daisy (Shields) Vest, and Jennifer

  1. Holiday traditions, Rich’s (department store);
  2. Summerlin, Donnie, Christmas at Rich’s;; December 15, 2010.


  1. LOL How many years did it take to realize the oranges, tangerines and nuts in your stockings came from that bowl in the first place? Wonderful memories!

    1. I don't remember Laura but thanks for reading!