I spent my childhood in Metairie, Louisiana, during the 1960s. I was the youngest of three daughters, enduring seven and five years age difference between me and my sisters. Cindy being the oldest got a room of her own, and Terry & I shared a room until Cindy went to college (Ole Miss). I got to move into her room at the ripe old age of 11!
We had an interesting mix of cultures on our street. A family from Mexico lived to the left of us, a family from France lived to the right of us, while Texans lived across the street. My best friends lived catty-corner, and their dad was from Honduras. Naturally, native New Orleanians supplied adhesion to the mix. I think my parents, my best friend’s mom and one other family were the only Mississippians in the neighborhood.
Christmases back in those days were fantastically magical. Mama and Daddy took us to Canal Street where we would gaze at the animated Mr. Bingle (snowman ad campaign) in the store front window display of Maison Blanche. One year, my sisters and I got to buy ornaments all our own to hang on the tree. My trio of elf ornaments have been hanging on my Christmas trees ever since.
Decorating the Christmas tree was always a family affair — well, an affair for the females family members anyway. Daddy took us with him to help pick out the tree. He bought it, brought it home and then watched his girls decorate it. Mama used Ivory Snow Flakes and a bit of warm water to whip up frothy “snow” in a big bowl. We dipped our hands in the white foamy mixture and slathered the tree limbs, covering each branch until the tree looked like it belonged in a scenic wintry postcard. Once the “snow” hardened, we could decorate with lights, ornaments and tinsel. Yes, each year we undecorated and frugally kept each sliver of tinsel to reuse the following year! I’ve never met anyone who used Ivory Snow Flakes to “snow” their tree like we did, and now Ivory Snow Flakes are a thing of the past. Can’t find them anywhere.
I do not remember when the tradition began, but at some point, my sisters and I each had our own special Christmas candle. I think Cindy had a Christmas Tree, Terry had a caroler, or a Santa, and I had a candlestick. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner was spaghetti, only took us about 10 minutes to serve up, eat up and clean up, because afterwards, we opened gifts from friends and from each other! Going to bed was a mite easier than most other nights, but getting to sleep was almost impossible!
I remember waking up during the night and carefully peeking at Terry’s watch. The numbers and hands on the dial glowed in the dark. One o’clock, three thirty, four fifteen — WHEN would morning come??? Eventually, Terry’s watch would read 5:00, or 6:00, and we would bound out of the bed and head for Cindy’s room. She always pleaded, “Wait!!! Let me get my glasses on!” Seemed like an eternity! Still laugh about that today! We would light our little candles and tiptoe down the stairs. The candlelight gave just enough light to see that presents were under the tree, but the spectacle was not completely evident until the tree lights were plugged in. A beautiful sight!