An Excerpt from Chapter 2: Innocence is Bliss
In the spirit of Christmas and holiday cheer, I would like to share the unique way that we prepared for and spent the wonders of Christmas on Coyote Creek. The following is an excerpt from My Coyote Creek, Through the Eyes of Innocence:
Christmas in Coyote was an exciting time and one that always tested our creative sides. One Christmas particularly stands out in my mind. Weeks before Christmas, we would begin scouring the property for resource material from which to make our annual ornaments for the tree. These would be added to a few store-bought ornaments that were carefully stored the rest of the year. We were very lucky; we got to make our own “fresh” ornaments to hang on the tree every year. Mom said that making our own ornaments was a celebration of the true meaning of Christmas. Each year we selected different goodies from the plentiful bounty provided by Mother Nature. That particular year my sister used residual items from the vegetable garden. I picked a pine cone theme and my brother came up with a unique idea of using eucalyptus seeds.
Sharon’s idea from the vegetable garden was creative, to say the least. She had picked numerous ears of corn in the summer and in preparation for the holiday season allowed the corn to dry a bit. Then using her fingernails she picked out each kernel and placed them in a big bowl. Since the corn was dry, it was a fairly quick process to remove the kernels from the cob. Sharon found a large mint bush downriver and harvested mint leaves that she then mixed with blackberries and a little water. After soaking the mint leaves and blackberries in the water she ground them both together, like the Native Americans used to do with a mortar and pestle only she used a beat up old coffee can and a blunt-ended thick stick, then she would add a little more water. Next, she placed the kernels of corn into her self-made dye, waited a few hours for the kernels to get good and saturated with the colorful liquid and then laid them out to dry on a piece of cardboard. Just as the kernels of corn started to firm-up she would string them using a needle and fishing line. Voila! The end result was a beautiful string of man-made pearls of sorts, a wonderful shade of shimmering blue green that smelled delightfully like mint when strung around the tree.
My initiative that year was pretty easy, both mentally and physically. Far upstream, way past Randy and Crystal’s house, were a few medium-sized pine trees that were big enough to produce pine cones doused with sap. I gathered a half dozen small cones and then made a beeline over to Randy and Crystal’s to ask their mom, Doris, if she had any old egg shells that I could have out of the garbage. I crushed the egg shells with my hands which created smaller pieces of shell and from a distance these little pieces resembled snowflakes. I spread out the pine cones on cardboard and sprinkled the egg shells around and between the petals of the pine cone. The small pieces of egg shell stuck to the sap on the cones which gave them the appearance of being covered with snow. They put out a fairly uplifting piney aroma as well.
My brother’s Christmas idea was to go up to the grove and gather a dozen or so eucalyptus seeds. About a mile or so from our house stood a huge grove of eucalyptus trees that were literally 100 feet high with beautiful grayish-blue leaves. And if you’ve ever been around eucalyptus trees you know how stunning their natural aromatic oil is to the senses. We would hike up to the grove, sometimes just to stand in the mist of the mighty trees and inhale… that’s it, just stand there and inhale their aroma and then walk home.
Eucalyptus seeds are about the size of a large marble that fall from the branches. To me, they looked like little space ships from another world. Dave’s idea was to hang the seeds with fishing line from the branches of the Christmas tree. And, Mom did a great job picking out and building the Christmas tree every year. This year was no different. She had taken a huge pine tree limb and combined it with beautiful prune tree branches that she had cut from the orchard and then tied them together in a unique and interesting way. Mom sure did have a creative side; it was exciting to see what she was going to come up with every year. We were all so proud of our ornaments. Not only visually, but we couldn’t wait to add Sharon’s mint corn kernel strands, my snowy pine cones, and Dave’s eucalyptus seeds to the mix of the heavenly smells of Christmas.
Shortly after we would go to bed on Christmas Eve, a Christmas miracle would occur! We could hear something up on the roof. The soft tapping sound always seemed to occur just as we were dozing off, but trying desperately to stay awake to see Santa. We would all hear the same sounds at the same time so we knew it had to be real. It sounded like something was tip-toeing around up on the roof. Boy, oh boy! We were out of our beds in a second. We ran to get Mom, screaming about what we heard up on the roof. Low and behold Mom was always right there as we opened our bedroom doors. She assured us that it probably was Santa and we better hurry and get back to sleep as soon as we could so Santa wouldn’t leave before dropping off our presents under the tree. After reluctantly going back to bed, Christmas morning seemed to be there in a mere blink of an eye. And every year there was always a little something from Santa.
But by far, the best thing about Christmas on Coyote Creek was the way that Mom showed us how to celebrate Christmas Day. We each had a large stocking that was pinned to the window sill, which would be full of all kinds of fun, tasty, and interesting delights on Christmas morning. There was fruit, sometimes hard candy in bright beautiful wrappings, walnuts, hard boiled eggs, and even a candy cane or two. One year we each got a roll of pennies in our stockings. Not just one roll of pennies for all of us, but one roll for each of us!
Our gift exchange with each other was especially fun. We would select, from our own belongings, an item that we knew our brother or sister would be fond of. This meant that we spent many pre-Christmas days trying to figure out what item each sibling would want the most. Then individually we would come up with creative and innovative ways of boxing, wrapping, and packaging that would dazzle the rest with our selection and presentation. Shiny paper, colorful cloth, large leaves; it was all fair game and we became very passionate about the process. I would pick out the two things that I thought my brother and sister would want of mine and then carefully, and with a lot of thought, wrap them and hide them until the tree had been selected and decorated at which time they magically appeared for all to behold.
We never used Christmas cards or name tags to identify the presents when they were placed under the tree. What present was for whom and from whom we wouldn’t know until Christmas morning.
After we were all assembled in the living room Mom would pick up a gift and ask, “Who is this present from?”
The person who was giving the gift would scream out, “It’s from me!”
And then Mom would say, “And who’s it for?”
And the one who was giving it would go over and take the gift from Mom and excitedly hand it to whomever it was for and say, “Merry Christmas!”
After everyone had a gift Mom would yell, “Ok, let’s open ‘em up!”
And the ripping and tearing would begin just like in every other household across the country. After all, it was Christmas morning in America! We loved this aspect of Christmas and we all participated with such enthusiasm that I couldn’t have imagined being happier during those times.
We would all play for awhile with our new stuff and then go back into our rooms and wrap another present or two just to extend the morning happiness. Then we’d wrap the presents that were given to us and we’d excitedly give them back to the person who originally gave them. Wonderment engulfed that entire day and went on forever. It didn’t even seem like our house. No matter what the weather outside, inside the house glowed with warmth and love.
After the morning hoopla, Mom baked cookies and we had fruit and hot cocoa. The hilarious realization at the end of the day was that we had all switched back the presents that we received for the presents that we had given. As it turned out, each of us got exactly what we wanted and loved—our own favorite stuff back.
What a brilliant way to celebrate the holiday! I’ll bet Jesus just shook his head with a big smile on his face as he watched our antics those wonderfully rich Christmas mornings.