Thursday, December 25, 2008

What I remember about Christmas...

As with most kids growing up, Christmas morning was always the best morning of the year. I'd never be able to sleep in. Five am and I was up and awake, but cruelly forced to stay in my room until Mom and Dad awoke. I'd try to pass the time by reading short stories in this book of fairy tales I had in my closet - one of those big hardcover books that someone must have given me at one time or another The type with the real stories - often gritty - rather than the happy Disneyized versions. The one I remember most is The Little Match Girl. So sweet and tragic.

After what seemed an eternity (but was probably really six am) Mom and Dad got up - and would...INSIST ON TAKING SHOWERS!! Before presents! Oh the humanity. So my brother and I would sit at the top of the steps, waiting to go downstairs, dying to know what Santa had left us.

Finally they'd be done getting dressed and annouce it was time to go downstairs. My dad would always have to go first. He'd walk slowly down the stairs, step by step, as my brother and I held our breaths with anticipation. Then he'd, without fail, gasp loudly and say, "Oh, oh!"

My brother and I would look at one another. Oh, oh?"

"I think Santa made a mistake," he'd say, slowly and dramatically. "And left...TOO MANY PRESENTS!"

That was our cue to come barreling down the stairs to see for ourselves. And sure enough, there were piles and piles of gifts under our tree, all colorfully wrapped. But one gift stood out amongst them all. The one we had asked for.

You see, in our house we weren't allowed to make Christmas lists. We could only ask for one thing. And whatever that thing was (within reason) - we'd be guaranteed to get on Christmas morning. I remember it being agonizing to try to decide what to ask for each year. Three presents stand out in my mind today. A Cabbage Patch Kid (the year they were impossible to find), a Little House on the Prairie Colorforms set (an inexpensive request, but man I love that thing sooo much!), and this special doll from the Sears catalog that came with a ton of outfits and baby furniture. (It was so freaking awesome, I wish I could find a picture to show you.) Looking back, I actually like the no-list rule. It made that one gift so special.

But now was not the time to open presents. First we had to march into the family room and open our stockings. My parents were good at stocking them to the brim with fun stuff and, of course, lots of candy. They were really health conscious and so getting candy was a rare treat for us. My secret hope, every Christmas, was to get a stuffed animal in my stocking. Which oftentimes I did.

Now it was time for breakfast. Mom would usually cook soft boiled eggs or something easy like that. We'd eat as fast as we could, washing them down with egg nog, then rush back to the living room for present opening time.

We'd open presents one at a time, my brother being the youngest going first. We'd marvel over each gift and thank the person (or Santa) who brought it. The trick was picking presents that weren't socks or mittens first, leaving them for last. For some reason, I always ended up with a few extra presents after everyone else was done. My parents insisted they spent the same on each of us, so I'm not sure why. But I always secretly hoped for it just the same.

After that, we'd play with our toys while Mom started dinner and Dad put on Christmas music, preparing for our company. My Grandmother (Mom's mother) and Uncle Chuck would usually show up first and we'd open their presents and then my other Grandmother would come by a bit later. (She'd always have given us our presents beforehand, so we'd have them on Christmas morning. At the time I thought she must be rich because she always gave the best, most expensive presents.) And then lastly my aunt and uncle and cousins Jennnifer and Maria would arrive. That was the best part because now we had two more people our age to play with. We'd show each new guest our gifts and then Mom would announce that dinner was ready.

Dinner was always turkey pies and they were soo good. My mom claims now it was just because she's not a good cook and they were really easy to make, but I don't care. To me, they'll always be the best Christmas meal ever. Hot turkey and gravy, swaddled under a flaky pie crust. Yum! This year, I'm attempting to recreate this here in New York for Jacob and Liz. Cross fingers it comes out as good as Mom's always did.

After dinner we'd usually play with our cousins some more and pose for photos. We have this one photo of the four of us cousins sitting on the couch that we took year after year after year. It become lovingly dubbed "The Cousins Couch Picture" and we still take it if we're ever together to this day. I wish I had a few to show you - all my copies burned in my house fire. (Anyone family member reading this have one I can post?

And then everyone would leave and Christmas would officially be over. We'd play with our new toys and then eventually go to bed. Always thinking to ourselves as we drifted off to sleep - this was definitely the best Christmas ever!!



klunker said...

What a great version of Christmas! Mike has explained it to me nearly every year, but I didn't know about the no-list rule. Merry Christmas! I hope the turkey pies turned out well (Mike mentions those whenever we cook a turkey).

Dorothy said...

Nice memories. I do have a few of those pictues. I'll scan them and send them to your email.