December 26, 2004

Christmas Reflections

Christmas Day, for me, is always so bittersweet. The preparations alone for this day are a maddening series of spending, planning, shopping, rushing and wrapping. All of that deserves a separate entry, and if I have the energy, I might make a stab at it sometime soon... but for now... Christmas Day wins out.
The kid in me can never sleep well on Christmas Eve. I find myself checking the clock about every hour and a half ~ as if I might actually miss something or oversleep. Out of bed way too early, I drag myself down the stairs, eyes only half open and hair obscenely disheveled. I take the time to check and see that nothing's been forgotten and everything is in place beneath the tree. I tend to overdo this day. Presents never seem to fit "beneath" the tree.
Once everyone is awake, we share a quick breakfast consisting of cinnamon buns, juice and coffee or tea. Then we get down to the business of opening gifts.
This process takes a few hours, after which we're all exhausted once again.
Now we can all go off to our little corners and play with our new stuff. This year, I sat on the sofa with two new books, switching back and forth between them to decide which one I'll settle into first ~ a fresh cup of tea in hand to help me choose.
Everyone's quietly inspecting their take... I love this time of the day. It's a great time to reflect on Christmases past.
I remember as a young girl, my parents always made Christmas very special. The night before we'd go to the obligatory midnight Mass. Before I knew any better, I really liked this activity. I saw it (as a very young girl) as a time to meet up with all the neighbors in the huge church we all belonged to, sing lots of Christmas hymns and carols, and close up the night singing Silent Night in the softness of candlelight. I don't ever remember praying at all during this event, though, I suppose that's what we were supposed to be doing. My mind was way too busy to get religious on me.
On Christmas morning, we would get up at the crack of dawn, make our way down the stairs and sit before our breakfast, which we kids could never manage to eat no matter how hard we tried. Christmas morning breakfast is a waste of food for little kids. I often wondered how my mother could be so stupid to think it would ever change!
We would dive into our presents never skipping a beat until all had been opened. My poor father always ended up being the almighty assembler on this day. Sometimes we wouldn't see him for hours as he toiled away in another room nailing parts together or reading schematics. Occasionally we'd hear him swear ~ loudly.
After everything was opened, all we kids wanted to do was play with our new toys all day and eat all the home-baked goodies that we had been kept from all week long. Our parents had other plans.
Much to our disappointment, we'd all be hurried off to our rooms to get dressed for the visit to grandma's house. Ugh. Don't get me wrong, we loved our grandparents, but we JUST opened our presents and wanted to play, damn it. Every Christmas it was the exact same... until we had our own cars and could say "I'll meet you there later."
Going to grandmother's house on Christmas Day was a trip. Not in distance but in essence. There were twenty-seven first cousins in our family. Every last one of them showed up, (except the lucky few old enough to have their own cars or to live in Florida). Grandma was very old for all of my little life. I never remember her being the least bit spry... in fact, I have only faint memories of her standing at all... she was usually on the couch under blankets, with bottles of pills on the table next to her. Poor grandma ... probably the last thing she ever felt like at that point in her life was a house full of screaming kids! Still, it was tradition. It was expected.
So we'd spend the rest of our day waiting for Christmas dinner to be ready... running in and out of all the rooms in their big old house, arguing with each other and trading off the one new toy we were each allowed to bring with us. For some odd reason, maybe since we lived so close by, mom always figured we should be the last ones to leave at the end of the day. Great.
Once we got home again, we were allowed to stay up a little later than usual and play with our stuff. By then, we were almost too tired to fully enjoy this privilege.
I've asked myself dozens of times why it is that I still reflect on those olden Christmas days with a smile on my face. In spite of the drudgery of racing off to grandma's house and the hours spent waiting to return home again, there was something quite warm and snuggly about being a kid on Christmas Day.
I still feel warm and snuggly inside on Christmas Day, but now I tap those feelings while watching my daughter enjoy her new gifts for hours and hours without ever having to leave the house. The little kid left in me just likes to kind of curl up on the couch with a book and reflect a bit.

3 Comments:

Blogger Swifty said...

I have my own slant on Xmas, a helluva lot shorter than yours of course, but please look it up. I believe you've already got my blog address.

Don

12:32 PM  
Blogger Swifty said...

I thought I'd plunder your archives to see if my memory of them is true. I'm pleased to say, it is. This is a gem of a piece, and do you know why? Apart from the usual high standard of writing, you are describing my christmases past, especially the tradition of taking the kids to their grandparents. Nowadays thought, they tend to take themselves, but we do try to keep the tradition going.

I notice my original comment was brief and serves only to pimp my own blog. Forgive me. It took a while, but eventually I learned to put a little thought into the process.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Swifty said...

I thought I'd plunder your archives to see if my memory of them is true. I'm pleased to say, it is. This is a gem of a piece, and do you know why? Apart from the usual high standard of writing, you are describing my christmases past, especially the tradition of taking the kids to their grandparents. Nowadays they tend to take themselves but we do try to keep the tradition going.

I notice my original comment was brief and serves only to pimp my own blog. Forgive me. It took a while, but eventually I learned to put a little thought into the process.

5:44 AM  

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