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Posts Tagged ‘presents’

With Christmas only a week away at this point, I am often finding myself reminiscing about the Christmas’s of my past — really, I’ve been thinking about the presents.

I take motherly pride in attempting to grant my kids all their wishes at Christmas. Within reason, of course. Each child gets to ask Santa for three presents — Santa then chooses whether or not the present is a viable option (we like to keep things systematized at my house). But, they seem to be happy each year, so I guess Santa’s choices are ok.

I had some great Christmas gifts when I was a kid. There are a few though, that I really remember . When I was probably around four years old, I have a distinct memory of getting an umbrella for Christmas. It must have been the greatest umbrella in the world because I still remember it. I remember seeing it wrapped under the tree — and, I’m pretty sure the shape of it didn’t give it away to my four-year old self because it was the excitement at opening it as opposed to just seeing it that I remember the most. It was purple. There were polka dots.

When I was around nine, I got the most ridiculously cool race track. It came with three cars. My sister and her husband stayed up on Christmas Eve to assemble it for me (I learned this later in life). I played with that track so often that the metal clips holding it together wore out. My father, being an engineer, replaced the metal clips and attached the whole track to plywood. I was in college before I finally let my mother throw it out.

I also have distinct memories of the presents that weren’t under the tree. Two come to my memory immediately — an Atari and a moped. Oh, how I longed for that Atari. My best friend had one and we would play for hours. That little maze game was the best. The moped, well, I still haven’t let that go. My best friend and I were the only ones who did not have a moped. We had to watch all the other kids ride around the neighborhood and out to the lake — hoping someone would let us get on the back (there really wasn’t a back to moped’s when they first came out — it was more of a stand up on the pegs thing). I vow, every year, to buy myself a moped and ride it around the neighborhood.

I think it’s important to keep some things the same. The Christmas after my grandmother died, some fourteen years ago, we all still got gifts from her. And last year, my mother put her and my father’s name on all the gifts — and told my kids it was from their Poppy. I know what my mom would want me to do this year, she would want to have her name on some gifts. So, I think I will pick out some special ones and make them from her. Maybe the kids will remember those presents as they get older — maybe the memories won’t fade.

One of my father’s biggest fears was that his grandkids wouldn’t remember him — he was afraid they were too young to hold on to the memories. So maybe a gift from him for a few more years will keep his fear from being a reality — for now.

It’s strange how the memory of certain gifts stay with us… make the memory that much more real. Sometimes our memories are tied to the presents, and that’s ok. Especially if you are a kid, waking up on Christmas day.

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Perhaps it’s a little early for Christmas stories — but, I’ll take my chances. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. I envy those among us with such lack of self-resolve that they are able to pull off those masterful house renovations. You know, the people who decorate every inch of their home with wreaths, chair covers — down to the toilet paper. Their roofs are perfectly strung with lights and their bushes are ever so bright.

I know with very little encouragement, I could be that obnoxious with my merriment. (Everyone can thank my husband for putting the kibosh on those tendencies.) The need to over-exaggerate the holiday festivities goes way back for me. Christmas has always been filled with too many gifts and too much food. I know I’m risking being very politically incorrect talking about excess at Christmas — but, as I said earlier, I’ll take my chances.

For as long as I can remember, Christmas morning has always followed the same routine:

Open stockings,

Wait for everyone to arrive,

Invade living room,

Trash living room,

Eat.

This is a routine that has been repeated every Christmas — for as long as I can remember. The anticipation of the great reveal was so intense, so enormous — my parents living room had a door on either end. The kids would gather at one door while the parents would sneak in through the other door with cameras at the ready. Then the kids door would open and in they would run — eyes wide, mouths gaped open, arms raised in sheer disbelief at the bounty before them — before us. The presents would make a huge circle in front of the tree, so big that we had to creep over the bounty to find a place to sit.

My parents bought their house in 1965. My mother sold it last summer after she was diagnosed with cancer and it had become apparent that she would not be able to live there, alone. This house was the only home I had ever lived in — a fairly strange phenomenon I think. There was rarely a Christmas that we all did not gather there to celebrate — even as we became adults with children of our own. The majority of our Christmases were spent at this house, and all of our Christmases have been spent together. Last Christmas was the first time that Mom and Dad’s house was not ours to celebrate in. But it was ok, we were still together — and Mom was feeling fairly well.

I distinctly remember one rare Christmas that we all had gathered at my grandparents house. My sister and I were probably around six and eight. We had pleaded with our grandparents to let us sleep under the Christmas tree — we had hope beyond imagination that we would catch Santa as he came down the chimney. They agreed and we began our night of trying to stay awake. It didn’t take long before we had both lost our battle and had succumbed to sleep. But, very emphatically, we both woke up at the same time. And then we heard it — a thumping sound on the roof above us. We were both so rattled and excited that we hid our heads under the covers, scared to peek out until eventually, sleep won again. The next morning we awoke to that huge circle of gifts, surrounding us, and a story we could not tell fast enough. We have retold that story of the thumping on the roof for years and I’m not sure if anyone believes us. But, I swear to this day, that is a true story.

My father was the master photographer and videographer. I remember the camera he used to record our Christmases when we were young. I don’t know anything about cameras but I know this one had no sound and we had to watch it with a film projector, on a screen. My father was very particular about who was allowed to run the projector because if it got stuck for too long in any spot, it would melt the film. He had a lighting set-up that most Hollywood studios would envy — he had attached a large string of lights to a post on a stand, and if you looked at them for too long, they could burn a hole right through your retina. One Christmas a few years ago, my father had gathered all the old films of us growing up… first steps, vacations, Christmases. He put all those special memories together for each one of us kids and transferred it to a DVD. It was an incredible gift. And there were the presents, surrounding the Christmas tree, as wide as the room.

But this Christmas, we’re on our own — for the first time in our lives. Just us kids, forced now to be the adults. Hoping to continue those excessive memories for our own children. Hoping to recreate those certain foods that when the smell of them permeate throughout the house, you know its Christmas. Hoping to have so many packages under the tree that no one can walk near it without tripping. Hoping that Santa doesn’t lose his way because we all need the joy.

In a few days, I’ll start pulling out Christmas decorations. Just a few at a time so as not to draw concern from my husband. But, before it’s all over, I hope to have bright lights on the house, Bing Crosby crooning from the CD, “It’s A Wonderful Life” playing on the TV, and a living room filled with more presents than any one tree should be allowed to display. I want to always have the excesses of Christmas.

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