I love Christmas and all it brings with it. It has always been my favorite time of year. My parents always made Christmas (and holidays in general) a happy time for me as a child. In fact, my earliest memory ever is of lying under the lit Christmas tree late at night as a baby and looking up at the lights and then seeing my Mama coming to pick me up and smiling at me. I could not have been more than 4 months old, but I can see it as clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday. Ahhh, the good old days.
Even after my parents split up, both of them continued with the traditions. I know the hardest thing for Mama was that Dad got me during summer and at Christmas. But I tried to look at the bright side, and that Santa made TWO stops for me. One in Florida and one in California. I missed my Mom, but I was glad to see my Dad too. At any rate, I made a good haul come Christmas, no? Mama did her best, and I knew I’d get the best presents (the ones I really, REALLY wanted from her.) I always felt sad for Mama alone on Christmas though. I really did. Dad would get me nice things too, don’t get me wrong, but they were more on the educational side or practical stuff with the occasional play toy tossed in. Did anyone ever get a Dataman? I got one. And the spelling version of Dataman also. (I was a sucker for gadgets and buttons. Still am in fact) He was a good one for getting me educational tools and books. But he would also make sure to get me a stuffed animal. A couple of years, he got me but good. This was his famous thing, and he did it to everyone, and he always got you with it, without fail.
Picture this: A 7-8 year old me, who’s main love in life at this point is Barbies and coloring and … Barbies… and… well, you get the idea. I rip off the paper and there is a box for… a model airplane. (In my head: “What the heck did Dad get me????”) Out loud “OH thank you Dad!”, with a big grin. Then I open it… lots of tissue… etc… and there, low and behold, Barbie outfits. WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO!!!! Dad was good sometimes with the surprises. Best thing about Christmas with Dad? The train set. We would set it up together at the base of the Christmas tree and each year, add a car, or more track, or some such. Then, fiddle with it until it worked, listen to Dad cuss under his breath when he cut or shocked himself. Then…. Watch the cat freak out when it was running and laugh like two lunatics that got an extra dose of the “Good” meds at its antics.
The one time we weren’t laughing so hard is the year Dad decided to have a live potted Christmas tree. He figured he’d plant it in the yard after Christmas was over. Nice thought. One problem. This was also the year Dad added this newfangled ornament to the tree. I’m sure you’ve all either had one or heard it. The Christmas ball that when switched on, chirps like a canary? Seems that this year, Tiger the cat, she forgot all about the goddamn train running below. Tiger always was an extremely alert and intelligent cat.(This is the cat that walked through my not-yet-dry watercolor paint set left on the counter where dad TOLD me to put it when we were out of the house, and proceeded to redecorate the walls. Shoulda named her ass Picasso. Multi colored paw prints EVERYWHERE. On the walls. Some of them so high she MUST have taken a flying leap. Then? She knew she did bad, decided “I’d better hide my ass quick!” and somehow climbed up to the top of Dad’s bookcase that was almost as tall as the vaulted ceiling and I will never EVER know how she managed it. She hid there looking at Dad’s red face terrified with the evidence all over her white booty looking paws (yes, all FOUR)….in pink, purple, blue, red and green. The cat didn’t budge for hours and hours and it was really too high for dad to crawl up and drag her butt down) So, she heard that canary noise, the bird chirping and quickly identified the source. She was staring with such intense concentration at the tree, circling round and round, planning what she was going to do, you could see the moment in her face that she realized it was coming from the silver ball. And by the time Dad realized her intent it was too late. One second she was on the ground, the next she was IN THE TREE and the tree wobbled, we both jumped up to right it and take said pussycat out, but it was waaaaaaaay too late. Tree flipped over, cat, pot, dirt, decorations and all.
It took forever to clean up. The chirpy ball thing never went back on the tree again.
I have been decorating the Christmas tree by myself since I was about 12-13 years old (because I wanted to and I was good at it!).
One year in fact, I got it in my head when I was about 14-15 to decorate the bushes outside the little house Mama rented for she and I. Problem was, our landlord, Kassamir, from Lithuania, was Ebeneezer Scrooge reincarnate. He was COMPLETELY against it. His petite and adorable little wife Anna (whom he later drove to suicide with his bitching about the cost of her dialysis twice weekly. I ask you, how can you fight for your life and go on when the man you’ve been married to for over 50 yrs bitches incessantly about how expensive it is for the treatment to keep you alive?) was the cutest little thing you ever did see and quite liked me. Kassamir was about, oh, 6’3 or so, and Anna, about 5’0, if that. But she was a feisty thing that had old Kass by the balls for many other things. I asked Mama and she said I have to get permission myself,so I did what any determined, intelligent young girl with a plan would do when presented with such an obstacle as a Scrooge not wanting you to put lights outside…..
I went behind his back to Anna. Yup. I went straight to Anna and she hugged me and told me to put my lights up and leave Kassamir to her. Hrumph! Off I ran and had those lights up in record time! Unfortunately, Kass saw them before Anna saw HIM. He came and was yelling at me and told me why I put when he said no, etc.. and next thing I know, here comes Anna flying out of the house and in between us. He kept screaming and I will never forget what happened next!
She jumped up and smacked him in the face but good. Then she proceeded to tell him SHE said I could put the lights up, and that I can put the lights up for Christmas and to leave “My little girl alone” and then proceeded to continue in Lithuanian. Hah. Mom took a pic of those lights, and still chuckles over them.
Anyway, I still love to decorate for Christmas. My house is always covered with decorations and people LOVE my tree. (Yo! You who have seen it in person, speak up! You know who you are.) I studied merchandising, so I know my stuff, y’all.
Each year, without fail, I always add a little something to my Christmas Décor collection. It’s either an ornament for the tree, or something for the house. What I adore is the 3Ft tall Santa Claus in the old traditional robes that I picked up three years ago. His robes are Emerald and wine colored velvet with a silk cord tie and ‘fur’ trimmed at the sleeves and hem with a brocade sack of toys slung over his shoulder and a filled stocking in his other hand. His face is porcelain and has a beautiful long hair beard. I have an almost identical (considerably smaller) one as a tree top.
I love wrapping presents and singing carols too. There is one thing missing in all my Christmas happiness now that can never be regained.
My Nana. I miss her so much all the time. She was my life. I adored her more than I could ever verbalize or put into words and I know the feeling was mutual. She passed away a few days before Arianna turned one. Nana always did so many special things for me. But there was something she did every single Christmas. She always made certain particular cookies and fudge from scratch and would pack it in a festive tin for me (and a tin of “eat two and you’re higher than Mt. Everest” Rum Balls for Mama) and pack it with the Christmas gifts she sent in a box with more packing popcorn than you ever saw in your LIFE. Every year, the same thing for me. I couldn’t wait for the box. And when they came, I’d dig through each box (there were usually several) till I found it.
It isn’t that I miss the cookies so much. Cookies are cookies. It’s just the sentiment and love behind it that I miss. Plus? Ok, the cookies were damn good, ok? You know what the best Christmas gift I ever got was?
A few years after Nana died, my last Christmas in the US, I opened a Christmas gift from my Aunt Arlene. (Dad’s sister) It was one of the last things I opened. After I finally got the tape off and the paper off (she must have stock in scotch tape, I swear.) it was a plain white box. I lifted the lid and saw that it was a simple Recipe book; the kind you buy in a Hallmark store and write your own recipes in. At first I thought that kind of odd of her. But then, I decided to look through it. It was really quite nice, and tabbed in sections, Appetizers, soups, starters, main courses, meat, chicken, etc.. blah… all of the pages blank. And then I got to the Desserts section and the hot silent tears started pouring down my face. I started sobbing soon thereafter, though.
On page after page, (according to the note included in this section, Aunt Arlene had apparently gone through Nana’s recipe books and marked the things I liked that she would make for me each year), one by one, in my Aunt’s small, neat and very precise handwriting was Nana’s Holiday Cookie Tin recipes. That recipe book is something that I will treasure forever. I keep it hidden in my closet with the potholders that she knitted for me, that I refuse to use. I touch them every so often instead and think of her arthritic hands making them for me and I can’t bear the thought of them being ruined, touch my cheek to them and put them away again.
She loved Christmas too and made a big deal out of it. Much like I do. Like my Mama does too. My Mom always has said that my Nana was the best Mother-In-Law anyone could ever dream of and she (mama) was always grateful to have Nana in our lives. Mama loved her so much too.
Well, it seems that my Christmas post lead me straight through Memory Lane all the way to Nana’s house. Hmmmm. I think it’s time to put up my Christmas tree now. Yes indeedy.
Excuse me please. I need a tissue.