...The house smelling like pine tree, gingerbread, and my mom lighting candles all around the mantle, shelves, tables. That rare Christmas Eve that loaded us up with snow to where you could barely see the street lights outside except for the glowing halo of the lamp and the diagonal-blowing snow in the wind. Maybe, if the wind let up we could see those fantastic trees outside of the VA Hospital all decorated and lit up, from the corner of our block.
The next morning hearing the crunch-crunch of boots on all that snow as my Dad woke up early to go shovel snow - somehow foolishly thinking he'd be able to get it done before us kids woke up (at 5am, naturally) and stormed the living room.
Rushing Mom and Dad to hurry, hurry, hurry and go pick up Grandma so she could come over and all of us enjoy opening presents together (and yes, we had to have our Ovaltine first thing in the morning).
Paper everywhere, toys piled left and right, Mom's Christmas music playing on the record player in the stereo console (You have to listen to Burl Ives, Jose Feliciano, and TransSiberian Orchestra on HIFI, you know).
Kids scurry off to corners of the house so they can play with toys properly before church starts (making sure to sneak a tiny toy into your coat pocket to take with you, of course). Grown ups finally getting some coffee and breakfast.
The neighborhood was that special kind of quiet - the kind of quiet that hid the fact that there were a lot more people around but they were all inside those glowing, frosted-over windows doing roughly the same things we were. Whenever we'd cross paths coming or going on Christmas there was a few extra smiles and waves.
For some reason the snow seemed fluffier and deeper, the lights twinkled a bit brighter with more colors back then.
Of course, the Consumer Safety laws saw an end to some of my favorite Christmas decorations. No more bubbling liquid in a tube with a light bulb wrapped in paper leaves and carved wood berries and pine cones.