A Magical Christmas memory

I grew up in a mixed religion household which meant essentially we followed a bland Protestant interpretation of the holiday season. My father was Jewish in the US army which was rare at the time, and so we crafted our spiritual upbringing on my mother’s side, but barely. The magic in Christmas was left up to “others”. When we lived in Germany, my grandmother, Oma, delivered that magic. She had a small 2 bedroom apartment in a non descript apartment building that sprung up after the war. I remember writing about it in 6th grade, and my mother essentially censoring it and not allowing me to hand it in. Why? The magic was too overwhelming for her. My Oma, who at the time I thought was ancient, was probably my age. She wore all black, and had her hair pulled back in a severe bun. Mutti (my mother), was always brightly colored and contrasted with Oma. Oma’s apartment had cold water only, she used a coal stove on which to cook, and had to heat her bath water. She didn’t have a refrigerator, but a cold box in which she kept her butter. And, she had a zillion clocks hanging all over all the walls of her apartment. Her bed was a giant featherbed, into which I would creep to keep warm, and listen to the ticking ticking ticking of all of the clocks. I was also fascinated by the “busts of women” not unlike on the bow of wooden ships, that held open her wooden shutters on her windows during the daylight hours. She also had a bedroom into which we were not allowed. It was shuttered every day against our prying eyes except for one. Christmas Eve. You see, she rented that room to a student, who was attending the local college, and when he left for the holidays, she used the room exclusively for one purpose. The Christ Child’s birthday. We would come over for Christmas Eve, Mutti all bedecked in reds and golds, my father appropriately attired by Mutti, and my sister and I usually in identical outfits, and mostly lovingly crafted by Mutti. Bearing gifts, giggles and smiles, we would approach Oma, who outwardly appeared stern and reserved, and bedecked in black. After having our meal, it would be time to enter the chamber. St. Nicholas had arrived, and the live candled table top Christmas tree, broke the darkness, and lit up our faces. We never expected piles of gifts, because afterall it wasn’t our birthday, but always received one special gift each. But to me, it was always the sight of the tree with live candles blazing in the darkness that was the magic. You see, I always thought of Oma at that moment, how dressed in black, having endured a war, losing her husband, friends and family, living in the rubble, she managed to find light and hope in the darkness.


3 Responses to “A Magical Christmas memory”

  1. Veronica Says:

    What a beautiful memory – thank you for sharing. I miss the Christmas Eve dinners at my Babci’s house, where we celebrated our Polish heritage and came together as a family, albeit more-than-slightly dysfunctional. How precious these memories are, even as we create new ones.

  2. Rach Says:

    Lovely post! Thank you.
    PS- I found your blog from Kate’s Eat the Damn Cake site. Just so you know. 🙂

    • rtlvr Says:


      Thanks for peeking at my blog. It isn’t as provocative as Kate’s, and it’s mainly like me falling in the forest without anyone hearing me, but I indulge myself nonetheless. LOL

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