The Last Christmas

By Michael Goings
When I was growing up in Newtown, the time beginning with Thanksgiving and extending through Christmas into the New Year was the most anticipated and joyous time of the year.  This time of the year was unrivaled with festive events, gathering of family, and other things that were uniquely associated with this season, of which Christmas was the undisputed King.  Perhaps my greatest memory of Christmas occurred when I was 12 years old.  This particular Christmas was destined to linger in my memory for quite a few reasons that I will proceed to share.

The Last Day Of School
Before The Holiday
Back in the days when I was growing up and attending Gordon Elementary School, the Christmas season was actually initiated and highlighted by the participation and display of each class.  Every classroom back then was decorated with something that reflected the season, such as Christmas trees, wreaths, or decorative papers on the scenes of the season, such as the nativity or wise men. Then there was the Christmas party that each class would have on the last day of school before the holiday.  I will never forget those parties that would include exchanging gifts, music, and of course, desserts like ice cream, cookies, and the hot dogs from Bill’s Korner.

The Hunt For
A Christmas Tree
Due to the fact that we could not afford a store-bought real or artificial tree, my brothers and I would set out on a search for a Christmas tree that was not really a true Christmas tree, but a regular pine tree that was young and fully developed to do the job.  Rarely would we find a tree that had limbs evenly situated in its girth.  There were only a few spots where such trees were plenteous that were open to the public.  Our favorite spot where these young pines were in good supply was a stretch of land that ran adjacent to the railroad tracks, located about two miles from where we lived.   With an axe in one of our hands, we would strike out on our quest.  Once we had arrived, it would not take long to find the tree which would be cut at its base and tugged home.

The Smell of Christmas
After the smell of my mama’s perfume, there was another pleasant smell that only came once a year, which rates as one of the most memorable smells of my childhood.  This smell had many different aromas, fragrances, and scents blended together as an integral part of the most joyous season of the year.  What else could I be referring to but the smell of Christmas? The smell of Christmas, when I was growing up in Newtown, would start with the aroma of cakes being baked in our gas oven.  My mama would start at least two weeks before Christmas Day with her cake baking.  
She would bake several cakes, such as pound cakes, nut cakes, chocolate cakes, and many others.  One of the things I always loved about Christmas baking was the opportunity to lick the batter from the bowl or pan.  Oh, how delicious it was as well as a foretaste of the finished product!  
Then there was the scent of evergreen from the pine tree that permeated our entire little, four-room house.  By the time Christmas morning had arrived, the smell of Christmas had intensified by the addition of tangerines, oranges, apples, peppermint sticks, other candies, and nuts.   Of course, there was the most invigorating smell of all, which was the smell of new toys and clothes that Santa had left!  
By this time, the smell of turkey cooking in the oven had given its aroma to the tantalizing atmosphere that filled the house, arousing our palates to an extreme degree.  The smell of Christmas, with its bouquet of aromas, fragrances, and scents, was the undisputed greatest sensation of every year!

The Penalty Of
Growing Up
One of the great disadvantages at Christmas time occurs when you grow up.  In our family, the age of 12 was considered the last year.  The last year was the final year when Santa Claus would bring you gifts and toys. After the age of 12, my father would give us $20 each to do whatever we wished.  You could save it, waste it, lose it, or buy someone else a gift with it.  
It was yours to use as you saw fit.  To be perfectly honest, I knew the truth about Santa a few years before my 12th birthday.  However, due to by vivid imagination and fancy for fiction and fairy tales, I made myself believe in spite of the truth and schooling efforts of my older brothers, who had long since been weaned from the milk of myths and make-believe.  
As I had done on previous Christmas Eves, I went to bed early and slept in much suspense and anticipation.  I had asked my parents for a B.B. rifle, and they had not said no to my request.  Knowing that this would be the last Christmas Eve that I would go to bed with great expectation of awakening in the morning and finding a gift in the front room, I slept soundly.  When I got up early the next morning, I found my brand new B.B. rifle, a few pieces of new clothes, some fruit, nuts, and candy in my area of the room.  I knew it would be the last time that I would experience the magic and thrill of having St. Nick favor me with a visitation.  It was good while it lasted, but growing up had its rewards and regrets.  
Although I would retain my fancy for the fantasies and live vicariously through my younger siblings during the ensuing years, I will never forget the last year that I was eligible to have Santa Claus bring me toys on Christmas Eve.  I would continue to enjoy the yuletide season for the rest of my adolescence; however, things would never be the same as they had been before.  
I can think of no other Christmas season that had such a lasting effect on me as this one that marked the end of one stage of my life and the beginning of another.