My mother and I always spent Christmas Eve at my grandparents house. My grandfather, wearing his special red felt Christmas vest, would decorate the tree in the living room by the fireplace. I always loved the ornaments from his childhood, especially one he called Mr. Wiggly (or maybe it was Whiskers). My cousins and I were sent to the couch which spanned the whole of the front picture window, told to kneel with our elbows on the back, and watch out the window for Santa. Of course, this put us with backs against the room so he could then fill our stockings with apples, nuts, and tangerines (my favorite) and a few tiny toys. I remember the flip books the best. Then he would set up the electric train set on a circular track around the bottom of the tree. I always thought it was from his childhood, but I recently discovered it was actually from the early 1950s . . . something he bought to entertain his own daughters. I would load up the cattle car with burnt out tree lights, pretending they were colored cows and sheep. Then we drank egg nog with cinnamon on top.
On Christmas morning, my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins would come to our apartment, bearing traditional German stollen for breakfast, to open presents. In the years when it snowed, my cousins and I would bundle up and go across the street to a small hill where we'd take my grandfather's old flexible flyer sled while the folks cleaned up the mounds of wrapping paper, bows and tags. I still have my grandfather's Christmas vest and his flexible flyer, and the glass ornaments my grandmother bought over the years, but my grandfather sold his heirloom ornaments while I was away at college. Things lost aren't always things forgotten.