December 14, 2011

Christmas memories remembered

SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — Only 10 more days until the magic of Christmas Eve, followed by the traditions of Christmas Day.

I recently found some photos of Christmas plays and family times in Westville, Trout River and Malone. I remember many happy Christmas days and a few sad ones, prosperous and lean Christmas times, but I can never remember a year when we didn't celebrate Christmas together as a family.

Some memories never fade, such as the years and years I played a Christmas angel at the Methodist Church in Trout River.

No matter how cold or snowy it was, we would have a play or Christmas Eve service at that little country church. As one of the teens, I dressed as an angel quite often — you can stop laughing now. The costume consisted of a white choir robe, fabric-covered cardboard for wings and shiny silver and gold tinsel in our hair for a halo.

It was never easy to talk the boys into being angels. They didn't know the meaning of the word. But Lyle Wilson always gave in and wore the angel garb.

One year we were walking in from the back of the little church, toward the choir chairs, when Lyle's tinsel "halo" slipped down over his eyes, and he couldn't see. He tried to act like nothing had happened, pushed it back up, and the picky tinsel stuck in his nostril, which made him sneeze. When he sneezed, his wings slipped sideways.

His sister, Elaine, and I started to laugh and got a lot of very nasty looks from the elder church members. Can't imagine why they didn't think that was funny.

When I was younger, the church ladies made up little Christmas boxes for the children, about the size of an animal-cracker box, filled with nuts and candy. We also got a small present and an orange, usually from Santa, who would come in at the end of the worship service.

Many times Kenneth Rockhill played Santa. He was tall, slender and often had a thinning, but real, beard. One time he stood up, and the pillow in his red jacket slipped down. I remember saying to a friend, "That isn't Santa. That's Mary's husband. She needs to fatten him up!"

Little did I know that Mary was in the pew behind me. I felt a very sharp poke in my back. When I looked around, her facial expression said it all without one word. Needless to say, I was quiet the rest of the service.

I appreciate larger churches in larger towns, but that small country church will always hold a special place in my heart. Many lifelong friendships were made there. I attended baptisms, weddings, funerals, strawberry socials and spring-cleaning days with my parents. The foundation for the faith I have today was built there, one Sunday School class at a time.

Constructed in the mid-1800s, I believe the church was torn down in the 1960s or '70s. There were no microphones, no overhead projectors for hymns, no softly cushioned seats, no central heat and definitely no air conditioning. The pews, stained glass windows and altar were sold to who knows where. It can all be taken away, but nobody can ever take away the wonderful memories.

To anyone who celebrates Christmas, can I suggest you get out there and sing carols, volunteer to help somebody, smell the balsam boughs of a fresh Christmas tree, or bake an apple pie? If you are alone, visit a nursing home or hospital on Christmas Day, help serve a community meal, or give someone the gift of a smile. Don't let Christmas become so commercialized that you forget the reason for the season is love, through the birth of a Savior to rescue a sinful world. That Savior is Jesus. It's our responsibility to spread the love around. I pray for a blessed and happy Christmas to all.

One last thought, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at