LESLIE CRISS: Childhood’s first sign of Christmas a treasured memory

By LESLIE CRISS / NEMS Daily Journal

“Like snowflakes, my Christmas
memories gather and
dance – each beautiful,
unique and too soon gone.”
– Deborah Whipp
“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
– Larry Wilde
These days, there are reminders of the holiday season as early as August in some places, thanks to the crass commercialization of Christmas.
But it wasn’t always that way.
I can recall a time when “slow as Christmas” was a sound and suited simile. It seemed Dec. 25 would never arrive, and the child I was grew antsy, wearied of waiting.
The Criss family Christmas tree tale added a great deal to my childhood discomfort. My father and his father before him never failed to share stories of how they waited until Christmas Eve to go out, chop down a holly tree and decorate it. Holding out that long for a Christmas tree horrified me.
But that was before I discovered
an important truth: The anticipation holds its own wonders.
Looking back – far back – to the Christmases of my childhood, I still count one memory among the dearest.
It’s nothing profound or powerful, not mysterious or mythical. Yet, to me, it was the thing that stirred my little girl hopes that Christmas would, indeed, come.
On the south side of the square in my hometown of Grenada sandwiched between The Corner Drug Store and Heath Bros. stood Lickfold’s, a jewelry store.
It was into the window of Lickfold’s I would gaze each time I passed, watching and waiting for my first sign of Christmas.
And finally, one day in early December it would appear.
Truth is, I heard it before I ever saw it. Christmas carols piped from an organ played by none other than Santa Claus.
This was no living, breathing Kris Kringle. But it mattered not.
Probably no more than a foot tall, Santa was dressed in red velvet. He sat at a small pipe organ, and his hands, reflected by a mirror, danced up and down the keyboard.
The “chubby and plump, right jolly old elf” moved his body, too, along with the music.
I would stand, watching and listening, as long as my parents or my grandmother would let me. It was magical.
Lickfold’s is long gone. As is much of the downtown of my childhood. But I’ve wondered what might have happened to that Christmas memory, that carol-playing Claus.
By today’s standards, that old Santa Claus at the organ would likely not measure up. I’m sure it would be passed over for a large blow-up Frosty or a giant Santa with his sleigh.
But I’d give just about anything to see – and hear – that little Santa Claus again. Just one more time.
Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@
djournal.com or 678-1584.