Saturday, December 8, 2007
Going back in time...
Ahhh...its Christmas time again. Nothing else takes you back like the Holidays (except maybe a Delorean)- The snow is coming down hard out there and Harry Connick Jr. is singing from my family room. We have decked the halls, trimmed a tree and I have done all my shopping. Now I sit in Yule time coziness and remember the good old days at Storey Lane; helping dad paint Christmas windows at local shops, the roaring fire on the high hearth, the giant, haphazard tree- with the large colored lights, hairy and sparkly with fake icicles, (sometimes my little brother and I were allowed to pick the tree because we both had December birthdays), the paper nativity when I was very little and later a fancy, porcelain one, the large, half melted candles wreathed in fake pine, handmade ornaments from aeon's of childhood crafts and school projects and other ones- each with a story ( ie; the fancy mirrored ornaments Heidi gave Mom one year and the paper ones mom bought at the Willows on a shopping trip with me when I was little- the the one Sarah was grounded from- I remember crying because she could not come. The painted, sculpted clay ones of Santa and stockings from Tim, and the Styrofoam snowmen the older kids made when they were little ), our record collection- beloved and familiar, the perfect soundtrack to the season. There are too many little details to put them all down...I can see it all very vividly.The big kitchen always cluttered with Holiday baking filled the house with delicious aromas. Our family would deliver goody plates and carol for hours and hours- and there were some people we visited whom we would only see annually as we caroled to them. I remember Christmas Eve, fraught with the intense excitement of childhood...we would sit around on the orange, rust shag by the fire, listen to Mother read a Christmas story and Dad read the Bible account of Christ's birth with a resounding, deep voice, trembling with emotion. A large felt tree on the wall had a pocket for each of us with our names on it, and by Christmas Eve they bulged with notes, service coupons and sweet thoughts from all of the family members. Very often my offering to my parents would be a coupon like - "Will do my chores without complaining for a week!" "15 minute foot massage" or "Free hugs"...I can't remember ever being asked to make good on those or ever really collecting on any I received- but the expressions of appreciation often included were wonderful to read. We all sat around reading them, glowing inside because it felt good to be loved and told so. Hanging stockings,(which for many years were my Dad's long, white, tube socks) on the metal hanger Dad made and putting out a plate for Santa, were the last things to do before being ready to all zoom upstairs and snuggle together in one room for the night- some of us in sleeping bags. It was thrilling to cram together and try to sleep, hearts pounding, imaginations running wild, while the older sisters sang and told stories to help us sleep. Some how, even with the distinct jingling of bells on the roof, we found a way to sleep at last. In the morning , too early, we ran in a stampede of joy, down the stairs and waited in a wiggly mass at the sliding door to the kitchen/dining area, which led to the family room. It was the only day of the year the hollow, wooden door was pulled shut. My parents materialized like staggering ghosts and opened the door...entered first, to set the mood with Christmas music and to stand waiting with a camera. For some reason I have a distinct image of my Mother in a faded pink night gown- squinting against the light, but smiling. Youngest to oldest we ran through the dining room into the family room. What wonders to behold! The tree, lit up, fire crackling, stockings in a long row on the stone face of the fireplace, which were now gloriously and magically lumpy and corpulent and the floor was nearly invisible under an impossibly large and colorful array of gifts. What followed was the disemboweling of the stockings and taking turns, tearing open the presents, and ooohhing and awwwwing for each other. Always enthusiastically thanking the giver whether it were a pair of socks or something really cool inside the festive wrapping. In the background a wonderful breakfast was being born under the guidance of expert hands. It was a day of laughter, hugs, giving and fun and food. The rest of the day the extended family gathered to feast and play- new toys and things to show and share, every year the same, every year a little different, always Christmas.
Being a December baby I love this time of year all the more. My first Christmas I was placed under the tree two weeks after I was born...I guess my siblings could consider me one of their best gifts- tee-hee!The presents recede into the fog of my recollection, except the magnificent hand made ones by Dad- a big rocking horse, a boat...But, mostly I remember the feeling, the belonging, the predictable, surprise of it. Now, I try to pass the delight, love and stability of Christmas on to my own children, and I relive my past through their present joy. Traditions bring happiness back to the future. Happy Holidays, everyone!