Saturday, December 5, 2009

Heart and Home Memories

Today is Pink Saturday, and sweet Beverly, at How Sweet the Sound, has asked us to share a favorite holiday memory with everyone this week.  What a lovely idea, and a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season. I had such great time putting this post together for you!  It was fun looking for images (credited to their sites or photographers), and I included one of my favorite pictures of my beautiful mother, my younger sister, and me,  posing in a fairy wonderland of snow in Germany many years ago. I hope you'll enjoy my recollections of a very special childhood Christmas as much as I enjoyed writing it for you. (I even managed to sneak some pink in, too!) Sit back, relax, and come reminisce with me:

 photo by Bjarki Steinbjørn Mikkelsen

It was the winter of 1965.  My parents knew we would be returning to the United States the following spring, after having been stationed in Germany for five years. They arranged for us to spend a last splendid German Christmas in the snowy Alps near Garmisch. We would stay in the big, old Army/Air Force Hotel at the base of the mountains, near a ski resort and within walking distance of the charming town. With three small children under foot, it must have been quite a task for my mother to prepare for the trip. Nevertheless, she managed to pack all our winter clothing, the wooden sled, their skis and gear, and before we knew it the five of us were piled in the car on our way to the mountains. After driving for what seemed like forever to my seven-year-old-self, we finally reached our destination. We moved into the hotel for seven days: my parents, me, my two younger sisters, and a large and unwielding assortment of suitcases, hat boxes, coat bags and boxes, with bottle warmers, diapers, ski suits, extra blankets and toys, and a few bottles of good wine, tins of sardines and oysters, crackers, cheese, and champagne. My parents made new friends wherever they went, and they rarely traveled without bringing along plenty of supplies for an impromptu party. This trip would be no exception, and they hurriedly went about the task of unpacking and organizing our belongings in the small hotel room.


As a child, I remember being especially aware that we would not be home for Christmas, and I was very concerned that Santa would not be able to find us. My parents reassured me that Santa always knew where we were, and that he would find us at the hotel, no problem. But still, I worried. Besides, Christmas in Germany is a very big deal, there are always a myriad of beautiful decorations and many celebrations, and in our home we took our responsibility to honor Christmas traditions very seriously. How would we have a Merry Christmas in the sterile surroundings of a small, budget, government run hotel room? How would Santa know where to leave gifts if we didn't have a tree? What about our traditional "cold-plate" Christmas Eve dinner, and Christmas morning spent in our pajamas, eating breakfast rolls in our parents' room before we were allowed to venture into the living room to discover our bounty tucked under our always resplendently decorated tree? How could we have Christmas here, I wondered?

 photo of vintage card by cbertel.

I should have known that my parents wouldn't let Christmas go by without our usual fanfare and celebration. When we arrived at the hotel, after the bustle of the unpacking and the settling-in to our temporary holiday home, my mother and the baby laid down for a desperately needed late afternoon nap. My Father bundled my sister and me up and took us out for a grand adventure. We were going to find a Hotel Room Christmas Tree! We walked through the snowy town, our cheeks pink and our breath puffing like smoke from our noses and mouths. In each lot we looked at tree after tree, but eventually discovered to our dismay, that each one was too large to fit comfortably in our rather tight quarters.

What were we to do? My father, in his broken German, explained our predicament to one of the gentlemen manning the tree lot near our Hotel. Quickly, someone was dispatched to the back of the lot, who promptly returned with an armful of lovely tree boughs. Each limb had been trimmed from larger trees which had been purchased earlier in the day and were awaiting their deliveries throughout the town. The man refused payment for the branches, wished us a “Frohliche Weihnachten”, and sent us on our way, our arms loaded down with fresh, fragrant, and, as I remember them, itchy, and very heavy, greenery. We struggled mightily to keep up with my dad as we helped him carry our "tree" back home to our hotel room, trudging through the snow in the cold, early evening twilight. When we returned, we woke my mom and baby sister and got right to work creating a festive and Christmassy ambiance in our room, which would be fit for the finest family celebration.

Daddy carefully arranged the tree boughs in a small waste-basket that he had filled with gravel from the hotel’s parking lot to keep the greens steady, and plenty of water to keep them fresh. He surprised us with strings of white lights he had hidden in an extra suitcase, which he then placed around the room’s large picture window. Mommy had packed gilded walnuts, and packages of foil-wrapped chocolates and cookies strung with ribbons that we balanced on the branches of the “tree”. We strung tiny, real, red apples by their long stems, and my mother very carefully hung glistening, silver tinsel, piece by piece, on the ends of the branches. We placed a Christmas tablecloth on the table in the room, and set out our advents wreath. Out of boxes and bags my parents arranged a small dinner buffet with delicious treats for us to eat. We lit candles and sang carols, and soon it was late Christmas Eve, and time for sleep.

We awoke excitedly the next morning to an abundance of gifts, all of them carefully wrapped and spilling out of new little red suitcases, one for each of us girls. Santa had managed to find us, after all! We ate breakfast Stollen and fruit, and drank hot chocolate as we opened our gifts, which my mother had so carefully and meticulously arranged and packed away, and managed to keep out of our sight until now. Later, we spent the day outside playing on the slopes in the snow, sledding and making snow men, and enjoying the frosty mountain air. I spent the day trying to stay balanced and upright on my new, wooden, red skis; they were just my size and one of my most wonderful and memorable gifts.

vintage card:

But my strongest memory from that long ago winter trip is the sight of my tall and handsome Dad standing on a chair in a sweater and his winter ski long-johns, as he hung those strings of lights around the window. He leaned his long frame across the window, thumb tacks held tightly between his lips. He tacked up the light string carefully, balancing on the edge of the chair with one foot on the window sill. Then, when he was done, my mother smiled and turned out the lamps in our room. She lit the candles, and we gathered together at the window and looked out into the clear, moonlit night. The snow glistened silver on the ground and on the trees, and the mountains were large and majestic silhouettes in the distance. In our room, our little white lights twinkled and reflected like stars in the dark glass of the window. They lit up our private, family space in the hotel with a soft golden glow, as the candles cast dancing shadows on the walls and floor. I felt in my heart that I had been transported to magical, secret place, where we were all alone, just the five of us. I experienced intense feelings of happiness, wonder, love, warmth and security, during those thrilling moments spent gazing out into the fairy land of the Alps at Christmastime when I was little girl over 40 years ago. When I close my eyes I can imagine myself back in that small candlelit room with my parents and young sisters, and I feel the love and the joy of that moment once again, as deeply now as if I were standing there today.

Me, my mom, and little sister, Germany 1963

Well, there you have it. I feel like I've been back to Germany and revisited my childhood for awhile.  Thank you, Beverly!  I truly appreciate all of my blogging friends , and enjoyed sharing one of my favorite (I have so many!) Christmas memories with you. I'm looking forward to reading all of your stories, too.

I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment, and hope you'll return for another look around Heart and Home real soon.
Until next time


♥Mimi♥ said...

On this first Saturday of December ♥Jappy Pink Saturday♥. I was away for a while and sure missed running around the blogs arnd seeing all of the goodies everyone was sharing.

Thanks for the memory...

It was a blessing for you to make my morning so much fun. Hoping that you and those you care about spend a wonderful weekend making memories that will last a lifetime☺

Claudia said...

Oh, Heidi, you have share the most wonderful story. What an amazing experience it must have been to live in Germany and celebrate Christmas there. Your parents provided you with a wonderful, magical Christmas! They knew that having the family together with some decorations and presents and love was all that was needed.

Happy Pink Saturday!

Glenda/MidSouth said...

What a wonderful memory to have! Thanks for sharing it with us.
Have a great weekend.

The White Farmhouse said...

What a beautiful story! I had tears in my eyes reading it. How wonderful to have a magical Christmas like that to remember.

Joyce said...

Delightful heartfelt story. I honestly felt that I was standing at the window looking out at the mountains with you and your parents and family. Christmas memories are the best. I put a link on my page to this delightful story. I would answer the questions but my life is just boring lately:) unless you count my kitchen disasters this week:)

Anonymous said...

I found you thru Joyce's link. What a heart-warming memory and I love seeing the photo at the end. My parents and I visited Germany at Christmas in 1980 when I was 20. I will never forget the magical views of the snow, the decorated buildings etc. and like you I have such precious memories of just being with the ones I loved. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am in north Georgia and believe it or not, we had a few snow flurries today! Have a good evening.

Peg @ Bloomfield Farm said...

Heidi, I found your lovely Christmas story from the link on Joyce's blog. It was a special treat for me. What a treasured memory! You are a wonderful writer; you made the story really come to life with your magical words. Merry Christmas!!!

She'sSewPretty said...

Oh wow! You'll have to go read my post. It's also about being a soldier's child in Germany in 1965!! What a sweet memory for you!! You'll have to tell me where your dad was stationed. What if we were at the same base?! LOL
Happy Pink Saturday!

Mollye said...

Oh Heidi, This story was just magical and I loved every word of it. What amazing parents you had and your Dad.........well what a guy that would go to the lengths he did to make a wonderful special tree for his family. Merry Christmas. Warm hugs, Mollye

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Oh Heidi...
Happy Pink Saturday. I love your story. You write so vividly I can just see you all out looking for the perfect tree, and trying to make it up the hill behind your Daddy with the branches in tow. How very precious they were to make it such a beautiful memorable Christmas for you and your siblings. It doesn't get any better than this.

Thank you so much for sharing with me tonight. I have so enjoyed this story. I hope you will write again soon.

Country hugs and love, Sherry

Tricia said...

This is such a lovely story. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I can just imagine how wonderful it was. It was wonderful of your parents to make Christmas so special for you. Happy Pink Saturday.

Fairy Footprints said...

What a wonderful story. Its sounds like a precious time there in Germany that will be in your memory forever.

Its lovely to meet you, my names Heidi too lol.


My Carolina Kitchen said...

Heidi, what a lovely Christmas story about spending Christmas in a hotel in Bavaria. Your mother was one clever lady to be able to wrap and hide your presents from the three of you. Your father was a genius to come up with the "tree" and all of the lights. Your parents sure knew how to travel too - good wine, champagne, oysters. My my.

My husband, my sister and I spent Christmas in Germany in 1984 after the death of my parents earlier that year. Somehow Christmas at home didn't seem right with them, so we went to Munich first, then on to Garmish-Partenkirchen where you were. It felt so cold there because we came from warm and sunny Houston, Tx. You are right; Germany makes Christmas really feel so special and magical. I'll be posting about our trip and drinking Gluhwein next week.

I love the vintage card. My grandfather had a cousin in Berlin who used to send similar cards to us at Christmas when I was young.

I really enjoyed your story and I'm so very glad you stopped by my kitchen to invite me over. I would not have missed this for the world.
“Frohliche Weihnachten” to you too.

someplace in thyme said...

Oh Heidi, you brought back so many memories for me. My husband and I spent 30 yrs in the Air Force and 3 of the most perfect years were spent in Bitburg, Germany during the early 90's. When I saw the picture of what I think is a smoker, I have the same one. You are so right, Christmas in Germany is over the top gorgeous, lots of craft fairs, gorgeous keepsakes to be had and the best food ever. I have been to Garmish many times but Berchesgarten is my favorite. I think that holiday with your parents was perfect, all the love of family and new friends being made, not being able to speak the language all told made it memoriable, looking back, I am sure you have so much love for those times, Happy Pink Saturday, Char

Maggie B said...

I so enjoyed reading about your Christmas in Bavaria it brought back so many happy memories of Christmases that my DH & I enjoyed whilst living there in the '80's & '90's.
I've never seen snow as lovely as the snow we had every Christmas back then.

Mary said...

What a wonderful holiday that must have been, Heidi. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful memories with us. I hope you are having a wonderful day and are looking forward to the holiday to come.

J.James said...

Lovely memories, yes i believe sweet memories are the asset not only for me but every living person.

Becky K. said...

A very lovely story. Your parents must have worked very hard to make that Christmas so special. Happy Memories!

Jemsmom said...

Oh, I just had tears in my eyes reading this beautiful and very well written post! I adored Christmas in Germany. Our last year there, we waited until right before Christmas to get our tree. We always got our tree from the farmer a few houses down. We waited so long that year that there was really nothing left, but a Charlie Brown tree. I really do mean Charlie Brown tree. The farmer looked at me when I said I would take it like I had lost my mind. We carried that home and decorated it with straw stars and real candles. It was so spindly, I wasn't really worried about fire! Our neighbors came to look as I had always done one of my elaborate trees and were shocked. My dearest friend there actually said to me that it was the most pitiful tree she had seen, but you know what? I loved that tree. I will never forget watching it snow out the window while looking at our tree lit with real candles. Thank you for reminding me of my own story and I love your story. What wonderful parents you have that made it so special for you. Ahhh, now I am ready to go back!

Pinky said...

What a beautiful and wonderful story!!! Thanks so much for sharing it. Your Mom was much better than me: we spent many Christmases in Fl. at my in-laws when the kids were little. Every year I packed all their gifts and hauled them all down there (then back) BUT one yaer the cat was out of the daughter opened up one of her gifts from SANTA and looked at me and said" I saw this in your suitcase". The gig was up then. I cried, and still get sad at that memory!!!! XO, Pinky