The residents where I work started reminiscing about Christmases past. As I listened in, I started to walk down my own memory lane. I’m out-of-town next week so I doubt I’ll be doing any blogging so I’ll make this my Christmas post and help you get in the spirit of things by creating a list of my top holiday memories.
1. The Christmas Tree: Growing up we had a fake tree and putting it up was my Dad’s job, one that he
took seriously. My Mom was in charge of putting the hooks on the ornaments. My sister and I got to help put the ornaments on the tree. My Dad did everything else including adding tinsel one strand at a time in just the right spot. This was a much longer process than necessary. Many years later in Chicago things were much different. My roommate, her girlfriend and myself would walk down to my favorite nursery, Gethsemane Garden Center. There we scoured over all the live trees; the tall ones, short ones, short needled ones, long needled ones, skinny ones and really rotund ones. . .I had no idea there were so many choices. After much debate and price comparing, we selected our tree. My roommate would get the top half of the tree and I had the other end and together we walked our prized fir home on our shoulders. Meanwhile, we had loaded the girlfriend down with all the other items; wreaths, garland, a tree stand if we needed a new one along with any other Christmassy item we just couldn’t live without. Every single year while maneuvering over 6 feet of holiday decor up the three flights of stairs to our apartment, you could hear us cursing, questioning our selection and swearing next year would be different. By the time we had the tree upright in the tree stand ready for decorating all three of us would be covered in needles and sap. That was the time we cracked open some beer or started on the eggnog. Good times!
2. Sleeping Christmas Eve: My parents let my sister and I stay up later than normal on Christmas Eve to watch the meteorologist on our local news track Santa’s sleigh. Once that segment ended, that was our cue to go upstairs and climb in bed. This night was the only night of the year my sister let me sleep with her. One Eve we sat below her window trying to catch a glimpse of Santa. Another Eve, my sister kept sending me downstairs on ‘errands’ to steal a peek at the gifts under the tree but my Mom caught me each time. Once I got older, I preferred to stay in my own bed in my own room; it was the closest to the stairway and my parents had to walk past the bottom of the stairs in order to take the gifts from their bedroom and place then under the tree. One particular year, as my Mom brought out our gifts she described each one to my Grandmother, who always spent Christmas Eve night at our house. Before I fell asleep I had a pretty good idea of the gifts that awaited me. I believe that was the year I received a soccer ball and cap gun rifle.
3. Bad Gifts: A Barbie doll. What the hell was I supposed to do with that? Second worse, a bean bag chair. I requested a bike, my sister a bean bag chair. Christmas morning I found a bean bag chair with my name on it while the bike I asked for had a bow and name tag with my sister’s name. We thought a mistake had been made. This was the only explanation we could think of as to why we received each other’s gift. Upon inquiring, my Dad explained that since the bike was the more expensive gift my sister should get it because she was older. Therefore, I, the youngest, should get the cheaper present. And that was it, no more questions. My Dad could be such a prude some times.
4. Family Get Together: We always went to my Great Aunt’s or my Grandmother’s house, the other Grandma, not the one that had spent the night. I never wanted to go because I didn’t want to leave all my new toys. I wanted to stay home so I could play. I didn’t want to risk my new toys being broken so I would take something I didn’t really like or an older toy. And we never got back home early enough for me to have some play time before bed. I had to wait until the day after Christmas to really get any solid or quality time with my new favorite toys..
5. Money: A month or two before December my Mom would ask my sister and I to make our Christmas list for the things we wanted. I scoured the JC Penny and Sears catalogs for toys and when I got tired of looking at that, I browsed the ladies bra/underwear sections. Each and every year my Mom would warn us about the family’s money situation and not to set our sights too high. “Now girls,” she would start off, “your Father and I don’t have much money this year, things are tight.” I kept that in mind and then I came down Christmas morning and saw all the gifts under the tree and I would always think the same thing, “I thought you said you guys didn’t have any money. . .” It wasn’t until I went back to school after the break that I realized my Mom was right, we didn’t have that much money. I listened to my friends talk about all the great things they got. I was usually quiet while this was going on but one of them would eventually ask me what I got for Christmas. I always told them the best or most expensive gift and then mumbled something about getting other stuff but I didn’t dwell on that because I wanted to seem excited about that one great thing. Luckily, my friends were self-absorbed so went right back to talking about their loot and quickly dropped interest in mine.
6. Breakfast on Christmas Morning: My Mom would make an overnight coffee crunch cake on Christmas Eve. In the morning, she would put a on pot of coffee and start baking the coffee cake so while we were unwrapping gifts the smell of coffee would float in followed the sweet cinnamon aroma of coffee cake. That was the only day of the year we had that cake for breakfast. This is one childhood tradition I incorporated into our current holiday ritual. It is so yummy!
7. Our First Christmas Together: Prior to meeting sk, I gave up on dating or ever finding that special someone due to reasons I won’t go into right now. Then I met her. Sk and I met on a January 31st, so by the time Dec. 25th, of that same year rolled around we had been together for almost one year. We weren’t ready to move in together but we were both pretty sure our relationship was the real deal. It’s a very powerful feeling to realize you are with someone who loves you for you. . .no matter what. So I finally had that significant other to share the holiday with and to exchange special little somethings. Our first Christmas together and so the gift should reflect the significance, right? Well, what does a pair of winter boots and dress shoes say? Because that’s what my ever logical thinking love of my life gave me.
8. Santa: One major holiday memory that is missing is Santa. I don’t believe I ever sat on the jolly man’s lap to tell him what I wanted. There is no memory along with no photo. Even though I did not ever meet Santa, that did not sway my belief in him. Let me just precede the following by admitting that I once was a very gullible little girl. Year after year I left a plate of sugar cookies along side a glass of milk in the living room and year after year, nothing was left but a few crumbs and dried milk residue in the glass. When my older sister spilled the beans about the man in red, my response was, “Oh yeah? Well then who eats the cookies and drinks the milk?” Ha, I had her there. She paused then admitted she didn’t know but it didn’t matter because that didn’t change the fact that Santa didn’t exist. Hmmm, I took more time to think this through. I finally got up the nerve to ask my Mom. She excused herself to have a little talk with my sister. Then, she came back to admit that it was my Dad who helped himself to the refreshments. This was devastating news to me. Not because a wonderful giving man whom I counted on for my Christmas gifts wasn’t real, instead I was faced with the realization that my father had a hand in the delusion. Keep in mind, not too long before this my belief that my father had magical powers was proven also false. Up until then I thought my Dad was a magician because he was the only person I knew who could drive a car AND turn on the dome light at the same time. I giggled many times with delight while riding in the car at night and then ta-daa, the dome light would come on. . . as if by magic. I’d say, “Do it again, Daddy, do it again!” This same man fooled me again. No magician, no Santa. .what next?
9. A Christmas I Don’t Remember: A few years ago I found myself alone for the holidays. Sk decided to go home for her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary and I had to put my cat to sleep on Dec. 6th, due to kidney failure. Needless to say, I was a little down that year. Like many other major metropolitan areas, it seems as if few of the inhabitants are originally from that city, and so it was with the majority of my friends. They left the city to celebrate the holidays back home; with the exception of two. This couple invited me over for Christmas dinner and would not take ‘no’ for an answer. At the time, I really did not want to go. I was not in a celebratory state of mind and I did not want to be a third wheel but on the other hand one of them was a chef so I knew the food would be delicious. I soon found myself at their dinner table with the wine pouring freely. I don’t drink wine, not even back in my drinking days but that didn’t stop me from partaking, not on that night. Before I knew it, we had two empty wine bottles on the table. One of the guys only had one glass with his meal so that left the two of us with doing most of the drinking. The last thing I remember is riding in their back seat as they drove me home. Now I don’t recommend drinking to forget your pain or sadness but I can’t say I haven’t done it. If you do find yourself on that path, just know the journey is much more pleasurable if you let others join you even if you won’t remember it.
10. Odd Christmas Moment: I was maybe three or four and we were all gathered at one of my Aunt’s for Christmas day. My Aunt had recently given birth to her fourth child, a beautiful (Aren’t they all? No.) baby boy. I was too young to hold him but was curious nonetheless. Thinking it would be funny, someone had stuck a red bow on his forehead. So there I was, standing beside him, while my Grandma held him, and was peering down on this long legged creature. I don’t remember how I got ahold of a piece of gum but I did because I remember chewing it. Chomping on it to be more accurate, maybe that’s why I’m not too fond of the substance now. But there I am, staring at my newest cousin and munching on my gum. I must have forgotten to concentrate on the it because all of a sudden my gum plops right between baby’s eyes. Without missing a beat, I bent down, plucked it off his face and popped it back into my mouth. That’s when a picture was taken and the reason why everyone else in the photo is laughing except my baby cousin and myself.
Memories are great but they are also subject to each individuals perspective. That is why my wish this holiday season is for the young siblings of those children gunned down in Connecticut. I wish their parents, or guardians, who will never have a ‘normal’ Christmas again, will be able to make this year as traditional as last years; one full of awe and wonder. I hope the gunman did not negate the Christmas spirit of the siblings, many who are too young to fully comprehend the magnitude of the situation.
I will be away next week so to all my readers:
Whatever you find meaningful. . .whatever is beautiful. . . whatever brings you happiness, may you find it this Holiday Season and throughout the New Year. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Peace.