Thursday, December 07, 2006
Precious Memories ~ Repost
When I was a kid, Christmas was my favorite time of year. I remember fondly waking up at the break of dawn (if we could make it that far) by the sounds of my brother and sister calling my name so that we could go into the living room and see the splendid display that Santa Claus had left for us.
We would go quietly into our parents room and wake them up enough to get permission to go into the living room just to view the tree and the gifts wrapped and placed underneath. My mother was always the one that we would wake up. Usually she would say yes and we would high-tail it into the other room and gasp at the beauty that lay in vast array in front of us.
My brother, Keith, was usually the one that would pick up the first present. We looked through the presents to see which one belonged to whom. We would then put them back and wait for our parents to stumble, bleary-eyed into the room so that we could begin the gift opening extravaganza.
I remember the scent of fresh evergreen as I sat on the floor by the tree in my floor length Laura Ingall’s style nightgown. My brother would be to my left, in front of the tree as the official gift distributor and my mom would be to the right of me. Usually I would lean against my mom and soak up the comfort of her embrace. I loved this morning. We were all together with no place to go.
The first item of business was the stockings. Everyone had their own, special stocking. My mom’s had her name on there in felt letters with some decorations on there. My brother had a green knit stocking and mine was made of burlap. We always had an orange in the toe of the sock. Every year. No matter what. Then we would have some mixed nuts still in the shell including walnuts, pecans and other assorted nuts. Small gifts would be hidden in there as well. A fresh bottle of nail polish along with clippers and a nail file. A coloring book and brand new crayons were my sisters favorite part of her stocking.
My dad would start a fire in the fireplace. Now, this was a real old fashioned fire with kindling, paper and logs. No electric or gas fireplace for us. He would then turn on the stereo and put on one of his Christmas albums. Alvin and the Chipmunks was a favorite along with Bing Crosby.
While all of the rituals were taking place before we could open the gifts, I would gaze at the tree. It always had colored lights. This was back in the 70’s when you kept your lights from year to year. We would have to untangle them, find the broken lights, replace them and hope that they would work. Some were the same size as the lights that we have today, some were bigger. About half of the lights would blink on and off while the other lights were steady. Completely disjointed but at the same time, absolutely beautiful.
I would look at the ornaments. Most of them had been there for many years. We had the plastic white pinecones that had originally been coated in glitter. After years of being lovingly (and sometimes not so lovingly) displayed on the tree, most of the glitter had worn off. We had the plastic tear drop shaped ornaments that had a plastic 3-D version of the nativity. The 2 pound pink Santa Claus face that I made with my hand that had to hang from a very sturdy branch by a frayed red yarn string. The reindeer that was made from a hanger and panty hose, popcorn strings and construction paper chains. It was a tree that displayed the time and love that we invested into these small, inexpensive but ultimately priceless gifts that were saved from year to year.
Finally it was time to open gifts. This was a ritual in itself. There wasn’t a frenzy of opening gifts. It was a slow process that was savored by everyone. My brother would hand each person one gift and we would open them in turn, oohing and ahhing as each person would display the gift. We would stretch it out as long as possible making sure to thank each other for the thoughtful gift that we received.
One year I had the biggest gift under the tree. Well, not quite under the tree, more shoved to the side as there was no way that this behemoth of a box would fit underneath. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to find out what kind of incredible present would have to be placed in such a giant sized box. In reality it was probably a box that a desktop monitor would be shipped in but to me (at the age of 8) it was the biggest, most wonderful box in the world. I agonized for days trying to figure out what my brother could have gotten me that was so big. I bragged to my brother and sister that I had the biggest gift for days before Christmas.
Then the day came. It was time to open the gift. I waited to open it until it was the last gift left. I wanted to stretch out the anticipation as long as possible. I slowly removed the wrapping from this box, which was not heavy at all, and carefully folded the wrapping paper and handed it to my mother. I then folded back the lid of the box and looked inside. All I saw was butcher block paper. Where was my enormous gift? Surely that butcher block paper was only covering the gift. So I removed it. And then I removed more and more and more. Finally at the very bottom of the box I found a small wrapped package. It was about 3-4 inches square. My brother had a huge grin on his face, proud of the fact that he had surprised me.
I had no idea what the gift could be. I had been dreaming of big things, not small items. This time I wasn’t going to wait to find out what it was. The anticipation had reached a fevered pitch. I tore off the paper and inside was one of the coolest gifts that season. A Rubik’s Cube. I didn’t care that they had pulled a prank on me that is still talked about to this day. I had a Rubik’s Cube. I was officially a part of the IN crowd. I could proudly strut into school and brag that I had received on of THE COOLEST gifts of the season.
I look back now to the childhood Christmases that I shared with my family and realize that we didn’t have very much money wise. We usually would get 4 gifts each. One from each sibling, one from Mom and Dad and one from Santa. We did get other gifts later in the day from grandparents, but they were different because they weren’t part of the early Christmas morning ritual. Although we weren’t given a lot for Christmas, we were blessed beyond measure. Being able to share the holiday with family. Receiving gifts that were thoughtfully and lovingly chosen. Seeing the big smile on my mothers face when she opened the gift that I had agonized over, never knowing that the fake ring I had bought with all of the money that I had would turn her finger green.
I remember receiving the Fashion Plates that I had begged for from Santa one year. Punching balloons that brought endless hours of fun. A green corduroy winter coat that my mother had sewn. They weren’t things that cost much, but they were given in love and in turn were loved by me then and are still loved by me now and the memories and moments will always closest to my heart.