Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Past

Most of my memorable Christmases were in Red River, NM. Although RR would seem to be a fairytale place for Christmas, it is often not for those who live and work there. Life in a resort town is about making tourist happy which usually means that you are working your tail off on holidays. Still, with the snow and the mountains and the small village atmosphere, Christmases were pretty magical.

My parents owned the Green Mountain Lodge when I was younger. The lodge had a large lobby area with a fireplace and several sitting areas. We usually put up a good size Christmas tree in the lobby next to the picture window facing Main Street. On Christmas Eve, many of us town kids gathered at the lodge to go caroling. Walking down Main St. in the snow with a bunch of kids laughing and singing almost sounds too picture perfect, and it was. Later, we would make our way back to the lodge to drink hot chocolate and play games. Sometimes we picked up a few tourist kids on our way and made new friends. My family got up early on Christmas morning to open presents. I still have a hard time sleeping on Christmas Eve – too much excitement. Stockings were my favorite things, because my Dad got a big kick out of finding very odd things to put in the stockings including fruit and candy. We were usually finished with the presents quickly, and then we went skiing before the ski area got too crowded. The ski season usually got going on Christmas Day. As soon as Texas schools let out for the holidays, the town of RR filled up. The week from Christmas to New Years was unbelievably busy. The town of RR is about 300 people year around, but it swells to 3000 during Christmas. Town folk do not get to ski that week – they are busy in their lodges and restaurants or working at the ski areas. With the town full of people, every year the electricity would go out about 5:00 PM on Christmas and New Years. Why? Because everyone in town got off the slope and hit the showers, drying their hair, fixing dinner or getting ready to go out to dinner. It was too much for the electric lines. I think I was 20 something before that little glich was fixed. It made for an interesting time at the local restaurants.

Most of my Christmases as a teenager/young lady were spent working. I usually worked as a waitress. It was a way to make some money to ski and be in RR. It was also the way to work yourself through school. We used to joke that Bill Gill at Texas Red’s Steak House probably put more kids through college than most college loan businesses. The town of RR used to have lots of college age kids working there – ski instructors as well as restaurant help. Often, we would get together after hours for our holiday parties. That was a wild time in River City.

As a grown woman living in RR, things changed somewhat. The caroling days were over. Christmas was mostly work – the beginning of busy season. Skiing with the crowd was not my idea of fun anymore. Toby ran a garbage company – can you guess what the busiest day for trash was? Christmas week was also one of the coldest times of the year – can you guess what the cold did to a trash truck? But RR did have one Christmas tradition that I absolutely loved. A week or so before Christmas, the whole town of RR came together for a potluck dinner at the Community House. The Women’s Club provided the meat and decorations while the people brought everything else. The place was packed to the rafters with tables, food, and people. People that you might not see any other time of the year came out for the town Christmas dinner. The school kids put on a Christmas play and Santa showed up to take pictures and make a list. One year Jesse played Mary (she was five years old). She got in a bit of a squabble with Joseph who was giving her some instruction which she did not particularly care for (some things do not change). We caught it all on video. Bo, being a few years older, usually had a big part in the play, and he was always perfect in his part. Those are some great memories. You know how I love a party and how I love friends. The town dinner was just awesome and one of the things I miss about living in the pines.

Last year after Dad died, I encouraged Mom to go to the Town Christmas dinner in RR. She did, and had a great time. Seeing all of those people, who loved Dad and her, was just healing.


Dale said...

Lou, I remember when ya'll were those Texas folks heading to RR during the school break. Oh how always wanted to go with you guys, and probably could have if mom would have ever let me.

I know you realize how blessed of a life you have had. Good for you to encourage mom to go to the Christmas dinner. Is she going back this year?

inpassing said...

It's hard to imagine Jesse (at the age of 5) being Mary. But picture this...I'm in gradeschool, taller than any boy in the small church we attended. Yes, you guessed big debut was as JOSEPH!!

Buck Pennington said...

Great story, Lou. Again, and as always.

Your experiences and insight are so very interesting, especially when viewed from the tourist's perspective. I always wondered what "the locals" did when the tourists went home, and how they viewed a life lived in paradise. Now I know.