I was reading my daughter's blog this morning. She was telling about helping her 5 year old write his first letter to Santa. It made me start thinking about some of my Christmas memories.
When I had kids, I resolved to make Christmas a big deal because my parents put a miniscule amount of energy into Christmas. Thanksgiving was another story. Since my dad was a chef and baker by trade he went all out for that. One time he even closed his restaurant and had the whole extended family come to dinner. There were enough people to fill the restaurant. But Christmas was another story. We had a tree, but I remember being 5 or 6 and my brother and I decorating it. This always included burning my fingers on the old-fashioned lights that got so hot they would melt the icicles....and skin! I think this was the exercise that taught me to swear. But I still love those lights even though they're dangerous as hell. I also remember putting up a string of snowball lights across the fireplace mantle. I loved those lights and have looked for some like it ever since. I hope to find them in an antique store someday.
These days, Christmas stockings are a huge deal. It's all a huge deal actually. From making the cookies, to looking at Christmas lights, to wrapping presents, to watching White Christmas while decorating the tree, to hiding the Christmas Pickle (do a Google search) and on and on. More time often goes into stuffing the stockings than buying the regular presents. There always has to be; a slinky, silly putty, a back-scratcher, candy, Swenson's gold coins, a various other fun stuff to reach in and find. When I was a kid, our stockings held a 50 cent piece and an orange......every year.
I do remember gifts like the huge (at least it seemed so) Mickey Mouse cardboard clubhouse that my brother Mike and I sat in to watch the Mickey Mouse Club show on TV until it finally disintegrated.
I also remember a baby doll one year that accompanied me to Canada and was in my hands practically the whole trip. That was the only time I played with a doll. I usually wanted my brother's bb gun and army men instead.
I think my fondest memory though was one Christmas morning when Mike came into my room and woke me up very early and we sneaked downstairs together to check out the Santa stash. It was one of those few moments spent with a sibling that stays with you. I know my kids have a similar memory of running a string from one room to the other and putting a bell at the end so Jen could tug on the string and wake Mark up so they could sneak downstairs to check out the presents. But Jen evidently tugged a little too hard and the bell fell on Mark's head.
I also remember one Christmas when I was about 12, my parents were working at the restaurant and hadn't even bothered to go buy a tree. So Mike and I walked to the nearest tree sales lot, picked out a tree, dragged it home and put it up and decorated it all by ourselves. We were incredibly proud of that tree. There were several years when my brother and I were at odds and it has occurred to me that my fondest memories of my brother are mostly centered around Christmas, probably because we were pretty much on our own.
The best part of Christmas every year was going to my grandmothers on Christmas Eve. This is what Christmas should look like; lots of family, lots of kids, lots of food, lots of laughter, and my grandmother holding court instructing who should open which present next and the kids (20 grandchildren in all) not-so-patiently waiting for their turn. It was always awesome and more than made up for the stark reality at our house.
So, to say my folks weren't the best parents when it came to holidays is an understatement, but the holidays were always special nonetheless.
I guess it's like anything else. If you wait for someone else to create your joy, you will often wait a very long time....sometimes forever. Moral of the story....make it what you want.
I hope I've made up for their indifference with my family. I'm pretty sure I did because Jen is already counting the days until next Christmas!!!