When the nights are long and the air is cold a little jingle begins to play in the air. The snow begins to fly and we snuggle inside our homes for warmth. It is then that my mind goes back in time to when life was innocent and the best time of year was Christmas. There was a tree in the corner with gifts all around and the lights twinkled as they nestled in the branches. The anticipation of gifts is all that a child thinks about, especially me.
My parents were not big on celebrations and they definitely didn’t get excited like my brother, sister, and I did. We always opened our gifts after supper on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day we had a big dinner. The dinners were not the normal ham or whatever is supposed to be traditional for the holiday. We would have BBQ ribs with whatever sounded good to Mom that day. The rest of the holiday we lounged around and enjoyed having the day off.
When my brother and I were about three feet tall, nothing really got past us. If something was hidden in a low place we were definitely going to find it. In the mid 60’s, when fire engine pedal cars were all the rage, we “found” our Christmas present in a hall closet. For some reason Mom thought that if she buried the pedal car beneath some blankets we would not find it. One day when my parents were still in bed, my brother and I decided to uncover the pedal car and take it for a spin. We rode in it up and down the hallway. Mom heard all of the noise and got up to find out what was going on. “Hey Mom, look at what we found”, I said. She was not amused. I really don’t remember what happened after that. More than likely she made us put it back in the closet until Christmas.
Observing all of those presents piled high all around the tree was so thrilling when I was a girl. I remember that there was one particular present that I just had to know what it was. Each night while no one was looking, I would pick up the package, shake it, and then put it back down. Eventually, my fingers gently made their way to the taped edge. Maybe the tape will give way without mom noticing that I have been picking at it. The tape never budged and the more I toyed with it the worse it looked. Curiosity got the best of me and I poked a hole in the paper. I brought the package up close to my eye and I still couldn’t figure out what the present was. So, I buried it in the back and decided to wait until Christmas to see what it was; Besides Mom would be really mad if she saw the hole in the pretty paper.
Dad bought Mom a food processor in the early 80’s, I was a 20 something year old then. When Mom opened the box she was thrilled. Dad and I then started pushing buttons while the machine was on. Then it stopped running. Dad and I laughed, but Mom cried. He took it back to the store the next day to get Mom a new one. The funny thing is I don’t remember her using it very much after that. But I was in my 20’s then and probably didn’t pay attention to what she did.
I know that Christmas isn’t all about the giving and getting of presents. I decided to bake a birthday cake for Jesus. It was a white two layer cake with chocolate frosting. Jesus had to like this cake. Who doesn’t like chocolate frosting? I asked my family to gather around the table and we sang happy birthday and blew out the candles. Then we ate the cake for Jesus and told him how good it was. When my nieces were small we carried on the tradition of baking a birthday cake at Christmas. Tiffany and Heather still talk about it.
The year my father passed away we were so poor that we wouldn’t be able to give any gifts. My mother was collecting widow’s benefits and I was only making $3.50 an hour working at the 350 Shop on Broadway. My church decided to adopt us as their “Christmas family”. Each of us received a gift plus my family was given a food box. My present was a turquoise sweater, which I kept for a very long time. I was very thankful for what the church did for us. I felt as though people still cared for us during our time of loss.
My oldest niece, Tiffany, wanted what she called a “Garbage Patch Doll”. Scott’s grocery had a contest to be able to win one. I wrote my mother’s name down and put the entry blank in the box. I prayed and prayed to win that doll for my niece. We wouldn’t be able to afford to buy her one for Christmas. A few days later my mother received a call from the store saying that she had won. Thank you God! This was a Christmas miracle.
Many Christmases have come and gone since then. Gifts have been given. Elaborate dinners have been eaten. But the best part is when we get together and reminisce about “The good ole’ days”. The pictures come out and the stories are told all over again. To me, this is what Christmas is all about. Family is what we are put on this earth for, to love and be loved, there is nothing more than valuable than this.