The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

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December 23, 2013

Christmas has always been her favorite

TARBORO — “Christmas has always been my favorite holiday,” said 87-year-old Gloria Vaudo, as she gave a tour of her Tarboro home, which was brimming with Christmas decorations and memories.

Every room of Vaudo’s 1850’s-era home is decorated for Christmas in varying degrees.

“She starts at least a month and a half to two months before Christmas decorating the house,” Vaudo’s oldest son Leonard said.

There’s the 8-foot tree in the living room full of family heirloom ornaments collected over the years, the white Christmas tree upstairs in Vaudo’s room that she plans to decorate with ballerinas, the eclectic “elephant” Christmas tree that was the vision of her late husband Albert, an avid elephant collector, and the pre-decorated Christmas tree in the upstairs hallway that grows to full height with the push of a button on a remote control.

Then there’s the Christmas tree in the “aviation room” that Vaudo plans to decorate with ornaments representing objects with wings – birds, planes and the like. The tree is dedicated to the family’s rich history of aviation; Albert was a member of the Army Air Force.

Vaudo’s eyes light up as she continues to make her way through her fantastically adorned home, showing off her animated Christmas characters, from a singing Santa Claus to a dancing Nutcracker to the paper dolls she received as a Christmas gift from her grandmother Matilda Hubbard as a child.

“She’s a kid at heart,” Leonard said.

The dolls transport Vaudo to Christmas as a child in northwest Louisiana during the Great Depression. A Christmas that sticks out in Vaudo’s memory is the one that her grandmother let her go out into the woods and pick out a Christmas tree for the first time. She was about 10 or 11 years old.

“The first year, it was a pine,” Vaudo said. “You walked the railroad tracks to get them and climbed over a barbed wire fence…I had a hatchet and I knew how to split wood.”

Vaudo had a mishap with the Christmas tree decorations that year.

“I had a little black tomcat,” Vaudo recalled. “The cat climbed right to the top and panicked and wouldn’t come down. The whole tree was swaying, balls were coming off. I didn’t have any decorations on the tree that year, except a paper roping.”

One of the main decorations that Vaudo remembers adorning the Christmas trees back in those days was a candle clipped to the tree. One year the paper roping on the tree got too close to the candle, and it caught on fire. Vaudo’s grandmother said, “No more candles!” and threw them away.

Other decorations on the tree were blown-glass ornaments. Today, Vaudo said egg-shaped ornaments decorated “Fabergé-style” are her favorite kind.

Dolls were a typical gift for a little girl during Vaudo’s childhood, and she remembers a Shirley Temple doll being placed on layaway for her one year.

“I said, ‘Oh, I just hate that Shirley Temple!’ So I got a very ordinary doll with hair (that year),” Vaudo said.

Vaudo didn’t like Shirley Temple because she was “too goody two-shoes. She didn’t get dirty, she didn’t play marbles.” Vaudo was somewhat of a tomboy as a child, and enjoyed playing marbles and football.

As a child, Vaudo said she loved everything about Christmas, from the presents to the music and the food. When asked what was the typical Christmas dinner during her childhood, Vaudo replied,

“That hen that didn’t lay any eggs last week.”

Along with the hen, her grandmother made cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, green peas and potatoes. Dessert completed the meal.

“My grandmother always made fruitcake. She would peel an apple and put it down in there. She always made that and ginger cookies,” Vaudo said.

Vaudo’s favorite Christmas carol was “Silent Night,” but a Christmas Eve sound from her childhood that she will never forget is “Jingle Bells.” The sound came from bells attached to a leather satchel worn by the brother of her grandmother’s friend. He came by the house to escort her home after she spent time with Vaudo’s grandmother decorating the Christmas tree, because he didn’t think she should be walking home by herself after dark.

Later in life, Vaudo made Christmas special for her three sons, Leonard, Kenneth and John. Leonard remembers going to the marketplace to pick out a Christmas tree when the family lived in Boston.

“Going there, that was an adventure, just haggling with the vendors. You’d spend a long time trying to find the ‘right tree,’” he said.

These days, the trees in Vaudo’s home are artificial, but the memories of Christmases past are very real, and her decorations stand as a testament to her favorite holiday.

 

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