My mom is so awesome! She sent us this awesome Christmas box, which made me want to reminisce about Christmases past. Or, as they say in the Christmas carol "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," I want to tell tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago...
Budleadoo~ budleadoo~ budleadoo~
Christmas in my house has always been big. I'm talkin', you can't reach the Christmas tree 'cause there's too many presents in your way. Word has it that this year is no different. All of us, my mom's children, that is, are in our 30's, I'm not home and one of my brothers is going to Maryland with his wife, and there are still presents overtaking the living room. Growing up, it would look like there was an avalanche of presents spewing from under the tree, if you could see the bottom half of the tree. On Christmas Eve night I would beg to open one present and we would fight about the tradition; Did we or did we not open one present on Christmas Eve night? I believe we did. On Christmas morning, I would usually wake up first, being the youngest, to find my stocking outside my door or next to my bed, and I would run and knock on my brother's doors to tell them to get up and open their stockings. My mom reminded me the other night that when we were young, before my grandma Mary passed on, we couldn't open our presents until she got there around 9am, and she was settled into her red leather arm chair.
Every year, I'm always surprised by how much stuff my mom gets into our stockings. Our stockings were always stuffed with more than a stocking looks like it can hold. Our Christmas stockings usually produce socks, candy, lottery scratch offs, maybe a stuffed animal, in the old days- tapes- more recently- CDs, little games, small electronics, soaps, and almost always a manicure kit. I can hardly think of all of the things I have gotten in my stockings over the years. That's what is so amazing about them; They contain so many things that you didn't know you wanted, but are really happy to get. Occasionally, there would also be a gift card in there. Sometime after stocking discovery, we would make our way out to the living room to open presents. My brother, Ted, would hop out in his sleeping bag, zipped completely up around his head, so just his eyes could peer out and he could stay as close to a state of sleep as possible until he had to free his hands to rip wrapping paper. My brother Timmy joined this tradition as he got older. The sleeping bag people and I would open presents together with my mom and grandma every Christmas morning. Was Jason there, too? I can't remember if Jason, a family friend and honorary member of the family, in my opinion, got there for presents, or a little later.
Every Christmas was perfect, except that one year when I was 13 and Timmy and Ted seemed to get everything they wanted and I got lots of things, but I didn't get the one thing I asked for, a certain watch. I cried and acted like a brat. That leads me to think of other Christmas mishaps, like the year that we picked out a Christmas tree that just happened to have a crooked trunk, and my mom, after spending hours trying to get it to sit up straight in the stand, threw it out the front door while screaming at whoever happened to be around.
Probably the most expensive Christmas mishap happened one year when my brothers both got skateboards. Christmas night, we were all in the family room, playing with our new stuff and watching TV. This room was a converted garage, so it was pretty big, and Timmy was rolling around and balancing on his new skateboard, when it flew out from under him and right through the glass door!
One year, when Peter and I lived in LA, we bought a Christmas tree only a few days before Christmas. We got a great fake tree at Home Depot for 50% off, and when I took it to the register, they took an additional 50% off, which I pointed out, but they didn't care, so I got a 7' tree for $15, which we still have and is up in my mom's house as I type. Anyway, when I bought this tree, the entire county of Los Angeles was sold out of tree stands, so we had to basically hang it from the ceiling with wire and hooks, while the post rested on the floor. We didn't hang it upside down or anything, but I still kind of felt like an anarchist, for some reason. You couldn't even tell once a few presents were placed around the base! That year our dog, an Italian Greyhound named Ralphy, knew what one of our presents was before we did, and we came home to a dog who had ripped open a package and eaten a lot of chocolate. He died. Just kidding! He was ok.
Another Christmas mishap, which I really don't think anyone cared about except my mom, happened last Christmas, when I messed up the family drawing. I thought I had my brother Ted, but I was actually supposed to get a gift for my brother Timmy, so Ted ended up with 2 presents while Timmy had none. Well, I thought Timmy would like the gift as well as Ted would, so I just had him open it anyway, and he did like it, so it was fine. However, my mom is still upset about it, almost 365 days later. I'm sure there are many more stories, tragically lost by my memory.
Things that remembering Christmases past has made me think of... The red and black carpet we used to have in our living room, the fireplace and the mantle I used to tap dance on as a little girl, the gold fireplace with a really cool wood bin that had a door to the outside so you could load it, and a door to the inside right next to the fireplace so you could use it, throwing wrapping paper into the fire to make red and green and blue flames, getting that silly brush that was so expensive that my mom wrapped it in gold and saved it for last, pictures of my nephew Josh opening presents as a kid, my grandma living with us and sitting on the side of the table closest to the TV room for Christmas dinner, Aunt Millie, wonderful cousin Ann, Jason and how happy he always is to get a big barrel of pretzels for Christmas, and thick socks, the fiber-optic spinning Christmas tree that played Oh, Christmas Tree and changed colors, the one gingerbread house I ever made with my family, and how Ted put an anarchy symbol on the roof in white frosting, angry parking at the mall, Ted testing out his new fishing pants on Christmas morning by wading into the pool with them on, my brothers trying to give us a white Christmas by spraying the lawn down with the hose and hoping it would frost overnight, fires in the fireplace, always, even if it was 70 degrees out, soy chai lattes in red and white cups, hot chocolate elitism, the year we had 2 trees - one regular with multicolored lights and all of our homemade ornaments and tinsel, and one with an Asian fan theme, new bikes and riding all day on Christmas, egg nog, quiet Christmases in LA, white elephant with 30 people on Peter's side of the family, making Christmas cookies and breads, and that one year, did I sleep on a borrowed single bed stuck behind the Christmas tree?
I kind of believed the talk about Americans having no culture. Now I understand that I just couldn't see it because I was so engrossed in it. I had never gotten any distance from it in order to be able to recognize it. I love the culture of Christmas. I love that every American knows that Santa lives at the North Pole. I love that I know the reindeer's names and what the elves do. I love that I've gotten to experience all of the books and movies (Home Alone!!) that have grown up in and around the holidays in America, and that I'm from such a creative and expressive country. I never did before, but now I love that stores start selling Christmas stuff and playing Christmas music so far in advance of the holiday. My dad always said, "Showing up is 50% of being successful," but never expounded upon it. I like the holiday season because I feel that we are all participating in something positive and good-spirited, together, and I have come to believe that participation is a very important factor in living a healthy, happy life, and in contributing to those same factors in other people's lives. Showing up really does make a difference, and I can tell by how much I miss this season that people do show up and participate, and that's why I have so much to miss, and that's awesome.
Marketing or no, the cards and the ribbons and the colors that adorn our lives from Thanksgiving to the new year create a penumbral phenomena of good energy that makes our holiday culture rich, warm, and lasting. The more we do together, and the more details we pay attention to, the better are our experiences, and therefore our memories. (Maybe I should leave this out of my warm, fuzzy Christmas reflection and commentary -although I have mentioned anarchy twice-, and I'm probably, HOPEFULLY, jumping the gun here, but it has occurred to me that at some point we will have more memories than we have life left, so let's make sure they are great -I suffer from the opposite of taking things for granted. I don't know which is worse.) Sometimes it seems like a pain and a waste of money, but I've decided that, for me, it's worth it to spend a little more time and a little more effort to make the moments great, and to enjoy and indulge in the wonderful culture that we are so blessed to have.
Thank you, Mom! for being instrumental in making this Christmas just as special. You have outdone yourself again, even from the other side of the world. But I'm sure, as usual, this is the last Christmas you will go all out. Even though you never read my blog, I love you.