It’s Christmas morning as I sit quietly with my cup of coffee. Always an early riser, I sit in a chair in my front room. If affords me a view of our Christmas tree and the world outside to the street in front of the house. This used to be my usual morning spot, but was replaced a few years ago by the room with a fireplace and a cozy recliner.
Today, however, I’m drawn to this room, and more specifically to the tree, adorned with ornaments that stir memories of my life. Not all of the ornaments but many of them have a story. Quite a few were given to me by my mother when I first moved to Colorado many years ago from Pennsylvania. Gratefully, some of them are dated, giving me a bit of insight to their history.
After our son was born in 1995 we began gaining ornaments that signified a family unit, I remember a few years ago, after our son left for college, Pam and I decorated the tree and Pam decided to not hang either the Batman ornament that had a photo of Ben or perhaps the shiny, awful Grinch ornament. I immediately texted him to tell him of this development.
“You put those ornaments on the tree!” he texted back, probably with some kind of threat of which I can no longer recall.
Many ornaments have come from travels around the country and world. This creates a sort of map on the tree, going from the Grand Canyon to New Zealand to the Colorado Trail and various other spots. Oddly, we don’t have any ornaments from our time spent in Romania, which were two of the fonder Christmases of my life.
Then there is the stocking that my grandmother made as part of one of her sewing groups when she was still alive. It’s not particularly pretty, but it was crafted of material from graduation gowns where I went to high school. I can’t tell you the why or how around it, but it sparks memories from my hometown and my grandmother and I like that.
There is one ornament that takes me back to a seven year period of my life, of which I look upon rather fondly. It was the time that I was a milkman. I had left one part of my life, was married and had no college education. I’d seen an ad in the Denver Post for a home delivery driver and ended up being a milkman for seven years of my life, five with Royal Crest Dairy and then two more with Longmont Dairy.
It was a hard job. We delivered Monday through Friday regardless of weather and regardless of whether there was a holiday. If Christmas fell on a weekday, we delivered the milk.
It made for challenging times when my son was young. I had to finish my route and be home before he was out of bed, for little boys have a hard enough time waiting for Santa much less daddy to come home from being on the milk route.
Milkmen love the weeks before Christmas. They run the same route for a year, giving the best service that they can and reap the benefit during the week of Christmas when each milk box turns into a treasure box. Many would be filled with cookies, and quite a few would have a card. Frequently inside that card was cash.
My first year delivering milk I had a tough semi-rural route in a place called the Pinery, south of Parker, Colorado, nearly a 40 minute drive from downtown Denver where the dairy was located. It was 1993, before Ben was born, Pam and I having been married only two years. I think I pulled something like $1600 in tips that year and we had a Christmas like we’ve never had since, being young and foolish and having a good time.
It was during that first year that I delivered milk to a box and found this little ornament waiting for me. It was set up just like I have it pictured in this post. There was a five dollar bill nestled in among the little wooden milk bottles and I thought that was the neatest thing in the world.
The ornament has traveled to three different houses now and survived storage while we lived abroad. I’ve held on to that ornament for the past 26 years, a memory of a past life, with many interesting and sometimes crazy stories delivering milk.
This Christmas morning, now 54 years old, I become a bit more nostalgic and misty eyed looking at the tree. The history, stories and memories cause me to reflect upon a life lived and enjoyed, with many chapters yet to be written.