What is it about the holidays that make one travel back in time? The other day I was reminiscing about spending time at my uncle and aunt’s house when I was eleven. I grew up in a house of seven to nine children (some left before others were born), so you can imagine how lost in the crowd a child might feel.
Spending time in their house, as my aunt was just expecting her first baby, I felt like a princess. Suddenly, my opinion mattered. People cared what I had to say and what I wanted to do. I look back quite often with gratitude, as this was a wonderful gift to me.
Today, I woke up with my ex-boyfriend of almost thirty years ago on my mind. I lay there in bed thinking – why am I thinking about him? Then I started to worry – was this a premonition? I had recently heard that he is on kidney dialysis for a genetic disease. It makes me so sad. He was an extreme outdoors man; I can’t imagine him being stuck in a bed. I did the only thing I could do. Said a prayer and started my daily routine.
Later in the morning, as I stood on my patio waiting for my dog to do her business, I had a flashback of my oldest son, not quite two years old at the time, sitting in the red metal car that my (now) ex-husband and I had given him for Christmas. I had found that antique at a garage sale and put it in the storage cage in the basement of our apartment building till Christmas Eve. I wonder if I can find that picture….He was the cutest little towhead with blue eyes. Sigh. Those were the days. He’ll be bringing his sixteen and twelve year old children up this weekend for our Christmas celebration. I’m excited to see them!
Christmases with small children are the best. Children get lost in the magic of Christmas, and it is contagious! My dad, who has been gone over five years now, loved to see the children open gifts, but he thought adults buying for each other was stupid. He said, “If you want something, why don’t you just go buy it?” Yep, a real romantic. Not! He was conservative and practical. And Mom says that’s the way she liked it. I’m not sure if I ever believed her, but I guess she just appreciated Dad for the provider he was and didn’t need the show.
In 1987, when I was a single mom of two children, I was living on a very meager income. Abigail was six and Drew was two and a half. My oldest sister and her husband bought us a Christmas tree and gave us their old Christmas decorations for it. Then they bought a bunch of presents for the kids and wrapped them. They put the gifts in a big cardboard box and put it on my front porch. I told the kids that Santa left it there. This story is one of love and generosity. My sister, Kathy – and my other siblings, for that matter – has always had a generous heart. She loves to buy and give – even when it’s not Christmas. Her own kids were only fourteen and twelve at the time, and she still took the time and money to make sure my kids had a good Christmas.
Right before the Christmas of 1988, the guy that I was just thinking of this morning broke my heart. I was hurting pretty badly. My little sisters, Carol and Amy, and my niece, Marie, who were only fifteen and thirteen years old at the time, bought me a beautiful scarf and a Swatch brand watch.
They didn’t want me to not have any gifts to open for Christmas. It brings tears to my eyes thinking back. I still remember that scarf. It was so soft – navy with white flowers. The Swatch was multi-colored with that plastic see-through band they came with. Having gone through a divorce in 1987 and then having my heart broken in 1988, their undying love brought joy to my aching heart.
My husband, Mike, is horrible for figuring out what I bought him before Christmas. And he always lets me know that he knows – or he tricks me into telling him. I could never understand why he would want to ruin his surprises. But one year, I got him! I bought him the rolling tool box he was wishing for. I hid it in the shed behind our house. Just so he wouldn’t get suspicious at no gifts for him under the tree, I took an orange and wrapped a note around it telling where to find his gift and wrapped it in a coffee mug box. He thought I gotten him a softball! That was my best success at surprising him!
A few years ago, Mike proclaimed that he wanted rain gear (for fishing in) for Christmas. He showed me exactly the jacket and pants in the Cabela’s catalog. He wanted them so badly that he kept bringing it up. Of course, I ordered what he wanted, but every time he mentioned the “rain gear,” I said, “Did you say reindeer? You want reindeer?” The kids were grown by this Christmas, so I got them in on my plan. I told them to buy their dad some type of reindeer and wrap it up. I hid his rain gear in the back closet. On Christmas Day, every gift he opened was a reindeer – one was a little stuffed ornament, one was the stuffed guy that sits on the table and sings, “Up On the Rooftop,” and another was a hard resin knick knack. Every gift he opened, I would say, “You said you wanted reindeer, remember?” By the time he opened the last gift, I think he was truly wondering if he got his rain gear.
My daughter, Abigail, lives in Arizona and has for five years now.
I send them a box of gifts and goodies each year. She works in the retail business, so chances are, she’ll never make it home for Christmas. I try not to dwell on it and anticipate our yearly February visit with her!
My youngest son, Alex, is now engaged and expecting his first child. Next year, we will have a little baby to buy gifts for!
I’m sure I could go on with memories past, but it’s time to focus on the present. I’ve still got baking and preparations to do at the house.
So I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. And if you feel like sharing your favorite memory with me – holiday related or not, I’d love to hear it!