This year marks the 40th Christmas I will have had in my life. That's a lot of Christmas. I certainly don't remember them all, but there are a few that really stand out in my memories and I wanted to share them.
I've found that the leaner the holiday, the better it was, so I'm hopeful that this year will be a good one. We've never gone without, but we've been so close on many occasions to having nothing at all and those were the times that we witnessed real miracles.
I don't remember even one Christmas before I lived in Pennsylvania. We moved here when I was 4 and shortly after that my parents separated and eventually divorced. Prior to that we'd lived in North Carolina, Indiana and the state I was born in, Michigan. Although there were 5 of us kids, not long after mom and dad's split two of my brothers went to Michigan to live with dad and 3 of us, oldest, youngest and middle-child, all stayed here with mom.
My oldest brother took on a sort of fatherly role that he has never quite lost for his siblings and was a very large part of every Christmas. He was allowed to hole up in mom's room and wrap gifts until his fingers cramped. He was quite good at it and he took charge when it was time to hand out gifts. We always exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve and always one at a time. He also helped with the tree - always a 4 foot tall tree that sat on a small round table in our front window. Mom and Bobby would decorate painstakingly so that everything was symmetrical. The house was decorated impeccably, the food my mother made was nothing less than perfect; Christmas was looked forward to very much in our home.
I still remember the year I got my favorite doll, My Baby Beth - it was also the year my youngest brother, Sean, got his Spider-man action figure and helicopter. Really cool stuff for way back then. One year in particular I wanted a Barbie styling head. I wanted that more than any other gift ever. I was not a child to ask for things over and over or to let it show that I was upset if I didn't get what I wanted. So, when the gifts had all been passed out and she was not there, I did my best not to do exactly what I wanted to do - cry.
Just as we were cleaning up, my brother came down the stairs from mom's room with another unwrapped gift. Mom said, "Oh, look! I guess we forgot a gift." I was swoony over that silly plastic head of hair, but just like My Baby Beth, I can still recall the way it smelled and how soft the ultra-blonde hair was and how not-as-easy-as-the-commercials it was to get make-up on it.
My childhood Christmases were never of the too-much kind. We didn't have a lot and mom sometimes just did as much as she could with what she had. She had remarried, but my step-dad was a steelworker and didn't make a king's wage. Other than that baby doll and doll head, my two other favorite gifts were a beautiful pink sweater my mother had actually gotten at a thrift shop and then packaged beautifully for me, and a clear cased Mickey Mouse watch. I really wish I still had all four gifts, but what I'm really grateful for is the memories I still have of them.
I'll be sharing a few more stories soon, so please check back.