Cowgirl Sass & Savvy: Christmas memories in black and white

Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.

Julie Carter

The photos are stacked neatly in a pile and tucked into one end of a faded old shoe box. They curl in the way that old photos do when they aren’t fastened down on the pages of an album.

A date is stamped in the white margin of each one, denoting a decade of time when full color living was captured in black and white memories. A treasure of days long gone by and a collection of living held now only in my mind.

In a snapshot, in shades of black and gray, stands a 9-foot Christmas tree– a fresh-cut Blue Spruce that filled the house with an aroma signatory with the holiday. Glass beads draped in perfect symmetry and lights strategically located for an even glow.

The ornaments are hung on the branches in careful order of size, tiny at the top to the big globes on the bottom. Tinsel is painstakingly hung one strand at time, one never touching another.

When I look at the photo, instead of the actual monochromatic visual, I see the colors of the decorations and the bright red, blue, green and orange lights from old bulbs that burned hot and bright.

The bottom branches are supported and pushed upward by piles of brightly wrapped packages offering some denial to the financial reality of those times.

The excitement for Christmas generated by four kids kept the air electric for weeks and my mother worn to a frazzle. But her love of Christmas was contagious as she filled the house with the holiday smells of baking cookies, breads and simmering pots of homemade candies.

There was a growing wave of magic that began right after Thanksgiving with the letters to Santa. This was followed by a shopping trip to town (only one), hiding gifts and keeping secrets, trying to spot those pesky spying North Pole elves and finally, the cutting and decorating of the tree.

A week before Christmas on my Dad’s birthday, a collection of family — immediate and extended — would make the short trek from our house at the ranch to the snowy slopes fronting the Colorado mountain range to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Loud laughter echoed through snow-laden stands of trees as children tossed snowballs, slid down embankments, and played games among the evergreens. Moms pointed, assessed and nodded as the men wielded their axes to fell the selected evergreens destined for adornment.

The photos with their glossy finish depict a storybook visual of piles of snow with only the tops of fence posts showing and drifts that tell of winter winds that crafted new shapes to the landscape.

Pulling the chosen trees through the snow to the waiting vehicles, the men would load them up, and tie them down. Gathering up any stray kids that might have missed their ride back to the house, the caravan worked its way back to a continuing celebration that would almost rival the one to come on Christmas Day.

Lifelong traditions were fostered in those simple times. Family rituals that are today as much part of the holidays as the red and green of season.

The sights, sounds and hues of Christmas captured on colorless Kodak paper. However, the memories are as full of color and life as the moment they happened.

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarternm@gmail.comVisit her website at http://julie-carter.com/

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