Mary V. Graham Elkins Remembers Christmas

From 1990 until 1996 we put out a family newsletter called the Ruff Draft.  In December of 1990 we solicited Christmas Memories from our readers, who were mostly relatives.  This one was sent in by my mother’s older sister, Mary Virginia.  In the photo are my mother Doris (1923-1982) and her sister Mary V. (1921-2009).  It was taken in their backyard on Detroit’s east side.

Doris and Mary V in their backyard. Detroit Eastside 1929.
Doris and Mary V in their backyard. Detroit Eastside 1929.

I can remember Poppy waiting till Xmas Eve to go and get our tree.  We (Doris and I) usually went with him…and bringing it home to decorate.  He had a stand that he made himself.  We went up to the attic to haul down boxes of decorations that had been carefully put away.  Some very old.  I can remember one little fat Santa that Mom always put in the window, he had a pipe in his mouth.  Doris and I shared a bedroom which had the door to the attic in it.  When we were at the “believe in Santa Claus stage” we thought that once we went to sleep he would tip down the attic stairs and put our toys, etc, under said tree.  I think I laid awake waiting for the old boy to show up.  Of course I never saw him ’cause I went to sleep, but the stuff was always under the tree.  Mom was always busy in the kitchen getting stuff together for Xmas dinner and the house would be full of wonderful odors.  If Xmas fell on a Sunday, we would go to church. And we used to have lots of snow.  Although we came up during the depression, we always had something to eat and something under the ole tree even if it wasn’t what we asked for.  It was a tradition that Xmas dinner was at our house and Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma Turner’s.  Daddy cooked the ole turkey and made the most delicious stuffing.  He could cook.  Mom learned from him.  She couldn’t boil water when they got married.  Dad taught her cause he had worked in restaurants as a young man.

12 thoughts on “Mary V. Graham Elkins Remembers Christmas”

    1. I remember those santa decorations, especially the one that stood in the window with a pipe but there were no photographs taken and I don’t know where they went after my grandparents died.

  1. I found it surprising that people didn’t put their trees up until Christmas Eve, Ive heard the same thing from older cousins. When I was a girl, I think many families put their trees up about one to two weeks before Christmas.

    1. When I was growing up we put the tree up the week before Christmas, once school was out. When my children were growing up, we put the tree up the night before Christmas. Now I’ve been putting it up during the week before Christmas. We left and leave it up until January 6.

      Now people often put it up the day or weekend after Thanksgiving.

  2. Yours is a creative and super-literate family! Your Ruff Draft puts me in mind of the the family newspaper that Virginia Woolf’ started as a girl.
    I love that you have collected these memories, word for word; memories to be treasured like those old Christmas decorations that were taken out year after year.
    In my childhood we also put up our tree very close to Christmas, sometime even as late as the 24th, and like you, kept it until January 6th. I remember waking up one Christmas morning in India to find that “the old boy” had decorated the tree when he left us our presents. (Here’s a story I wrote about it on Tell Me Another: http://josna.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/85-st-nicholas-day/
    And another about my mother’s memories of Christmas in England during the 30s and 40s:
    http://josna.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/70-party-pieces/)

    1. Thank you for the links. They reminded me of the plays my cousin used to write and we would preform for our mothers and grandparents after dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  3. Your family is so wonderful and very creative. Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories. I love reading them. They make me miss my Detroit family.

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