Every year I allow myself to get sucked into the memories of “Days of Christmas Past.” And the older I become, the more distorted the memories get and the more “artistic license” I take with the reality that was Christmas.
This year I’m enjoying fond memories of my loving family, sitting happily around the beautifully decorated tree, under which hundreds of perfectly wrapped presents are left waiting. There’s a warm fire crackling in the background and Bing Crosby’s, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is playing on the record player. There’s a huge turkey (with all the fixins) roasting effortlessly in the oven and as I look out the window, I notice that it has started to snow and Everard Street is now covered in a glistening, white magical powder. Norman Rockwell would be pleased.
In actuality… that wasn’t really Christmas at our house, we didn’t even have a fireplace! No, our Christmases were better than that, and they were nothing if not total bedlam!
(My brother Charlie, “patiently” waiting the “go ahead” to open the rest of the presents)
I remember I used to wake up at about 3-4 on Christmas morning and tippy toe into the room where my brothers slept. I’d wake them and the three of us would go scampering through the freezing cold kitchen, into the small, crowded somewhat less cold, living room. The tree, which looked a lot like Charlie Brown’s tree, never stood quite straight and always seemed like it was going fall over at any moment! There were lots of presents under it, but it was always disappointing when we realized that amongst our presents, were gifts for relatives and family friends too. There would always be one big, fat, beautifully wrapped package… unfortunately addressed to “Aunt Honey and Uncle Charlie,” or “Grandma & Grandpa Grassel.”
The three of us would start out quiet enough… whispering and consciously trying to contain our excitement; trying desperately not to wake Mom & Dad (who’s bedroom was about 10 feet away!) The whispering would never last long though and soon one of us, overjoyed at the sight of that coveted new gun or doll, would begin shrieking!
(Charlie and me with what appears to be the cockpit of a fighter jet!)
Mom would soon be standing at the living room door (trying not to look annoyed) and trying desperately to corral us back to bed. The deal was always the same, we’d be allowed to take one present back to our bed, with the promise that we would not be seen (or heard!) until it was light outside!
(Choosing the perfect gift to take back to bed, was always difficult!)
The craziness started again, in earnest, at about 6:30-7:00 and it was a free-for-all. Mom made the much needed coffee for her and Dad and the house filled with the smell of biscuits! Meanwhile back in the living room, the three of us went nuts! There would be wrapping paper everywhere and shouts of, “MOM! Look what Santa brought me!” “Dad, Dad, Dad, look at this!”
We may not have always gotten everything we wanted for Christmas, but somehow my parents, who had nothing, were always able to able to give us at least one big thing we had asked Santa for and a bunch of little stuff.
(Mom with my brothers. I didn’t understand, until I became a mother, why she always looked so tired.)
I have the most amazing memories of Days of Christmas Past. I can still conjure up the sights, sounds and smells of that special day. I smell the strong fragrance of the evergreen tree and can feel the cold kitchen floor on my bare feet. The sound of wrapping paper being ripped, torn and crushed under our feet and the tinkling of the glass ornaments as they touched each other as we brushed against the crooked tree. The smell of real coffee percolating in the coffee pot and of burnt toast because we were so busy with opening presents!
Later in the day, I’d follow my Dad and the turkey into the pantry, for the official carving event… I’d continually steal bits of meat and skin and and Dad would pretend to mistake my fingers for turkey meat. I’d laugh and squeal at the same time.
Ahhh, the memories; they unfortunately turn bittersweet when the realization hits that many of the people I love, are gone. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and yes, a brother…
Yup, there it is, that twinge of sadness, the down side of the “Days of Christmas Past” creeps in like Ebenezer’s ghost.