Friday, December 12, 2008
Christmas time for me as a child was the best time of the year. I grew up in a family that, although we lived in nice house, and drove good cars, didn't have much money. Sometimes I wonder if it was that we didn't have money, or that my parents just refused to spend it. Either way, it was rare for us to get anything new. Growing up, my mother sewed most of my clothing, and in fact I didn't even own a pair of jeans until I was about High School age. I only remember getting one store bought dress as a child, and that was because we went to visit my married sister Nene, and I had forgotten to pack a Sunday dress. My mother even sewed my coats. The only times we ever got toys or presents of any kind was on our birthday, and at Christmas. So for us, Christmas was really magical.
My father is a die-hard when it comes to presents. He had strict rules about not telling what we were giving someone, and he always kept all the gifts well hidden. He also was the one who handed out the presents, and would make sure that opening them was done in an organized manner, and that everyone took turns opening presents. I really think that if I had found a present before Christmas, he would have taken it back to the store. But his values must have rubbed off on me, because I would never even try to look for the presents. I wanted to be surprised. Somehow I gave birth to a daughter who hates surprises, and tries every year to find out what she is getting. But I try hard to keep this tradition, and over the years have hidden the presents in all kinds of interesting places. One year we kept them in the trunk of the car my husband drove to work every day. Another year I hid them in our luggage in the garage. One year we hid them in my father in law's garage. I was thinking the other day that I should hide them in my children's closets....they will never find them in there. ;) One year my brother Sticks came to me and told me there isn't a Santa Claus and he could prove it. He took me to my parents' closet and showed me a "Ken" doll (Barbie's boyfriend) that I was to get for Christmas. I felt a little guilty for knowing, and a little sad to have proof of no Santa, but excited to finally get "Ken". :)
My family lined up in order from youngest to oldest before my father would allow us to come in to the family room to see what Santa brought. I have kept that tradition with my own children, but somehow in recent years they have brought their own spin to it. They claim it isn't youngest to oldest, but smallest to largest. It is only a matter of time until my daughter, who is the oldest child, gets to be at the first of the line.
I know this might sound materialistic, but I thought I would tell my most favorite and my least favorite Christmas gifts. My favorite gift was quite large, so because our family was going to Utah to visit my grandparents for Christmas, my parents told me we had to leave that present at home and I would have to open it when we got back. I carefully felt the present and figured out that it was the doll house I wanted. I could hardly wait to get back to open it. That night we arrived in Texas very late from our trip to Utah, but I still opened my gift. I stayed up half the night playing with it. My worst present was given to me as a teenager. It wasn't something I asked for, or even something I wanted. My father had picked out a "dress coat" for me. It had a HUGE fur collar on it. I was always a little embarassed by that coat because the collar was absolutely huge, but I did wear it many years. The only thing that made that Christmas bearable was that I also got an instamatic camera. :)
One vivid memory I have is of my brother Sticks arranging and rearranging the presents daily. He was very careful as he lifted them to feel for any hints of what was in them. He sorted them by whom they were for, and by color and by every other sorting method imaginable. I'm not exaggerating when I say that he handled those presents probably every day before Christmas.
One last vivid memory is of my brother Twist. Every year my family had a tradition of having a talent show on Christmas Eve. One year Twist made a shadow puppet show. He made a paper sleigh with reindeer and had them strung together. He held them behind a sheet and had a light shining on them to form the shadows. He had memorized "The Night Before Christmas" and recited the entire poem while doing the puppets. I remember that Sticks and I were so impressed that we tried to memorize the poem too. I think I can even still repeat it today.
I have always loved Christmas, and especially having it with my own family. I don't like to go to anyone else's house for Christmas Eve. This year we will do the same. Merry Christmas to you all!