This time of year always takes me back to childhood memories of Christmases spent in Germany. From ages 11-15 we lived in Landstuhl, Germany in government housing, or quarters as we called them. Landstuhl was on top of a hill and was about as close to a picturesque German town as you would find.
It had woods and forests to explore and an old historic tower to climb. The caretaker sold little drinks like Capri Suns for a few pfennigs. Landstuhl had the largest military hospital in Germany. In fact, many of the military Dads were assigned to the hospital or to local artillery batteries (my father was one of them). At Christmas the post would be lit up from all the Christmas lights and decorations on the balconies. My mother would prepare for the holidays in early December, baking dozens of cookies that she put away. Of course we would sneak a few to sample. A fresh tree was put up with tinsel and old-fashioned bulb lights about a week before Christmas. Oma, my German grandmother, usually made the trip by train, arriving in her fur hat and coat, for once not wearing her everyday apron, bearing gifts for all of us. Christmas music played throughout our house from my parents’ stereo and to this day Jim Reeves Christmas album is one of my all-time favorites. The house was filled with family and friends. The air was full of joy and anticipation. Our Christmas gifts were simple, but plentiful. New pajamas; a sweater from Oma, books for me, games and puzzles, and one year, a guitar that I’d been longing for. We hoped for snow on Christmas day, so all the kids who got sleds would head to the “hill” to go sledding. We didn’t come home until the dim hours of the afternoon, brushing off the snow and ready to thaw out.