Here it is, almost December and the season is upon us. For some (read: me) it’s already here. For others it is soon coming. For you Grinches – never mind. It will come whether you like it or not.
I like it. I am a true Christmas girl and I like it. I like starting it early. For that matter I like ending it early. I could quite easily take down all the festoons on Boxing Day and fly south. But the lead-up to December 25, I love.
This year I am feeling extra sentimental. We moved (again) in 2019. For me, this is move #7 in 15 years. Christmas in a new home can be fun (where the heck will we put that tree?) but every time you move, an old tradition evaporates, forcing new traditions to evolve. And the thing about traditions is they are, by their very definition, “born of the old”.
So I am thinking a lot these days about my childhood in Waterloo. And those random Christmas memories flood in like eggnog on Christmas Eve.
(For the record I don’t like eggnog.)
When we were quite young, my mother would give my sister and me some money to shop at the local Five and Dime. In the days when things really did cost five or ten cents. We had 13 cousins and it was our job to purchase a present for each. She gave us $2. You read that right – two bucks and 13 gifts. And we did it! We did it joyfully and excitedly and argumentatively (hey, it was my sister) and with much gravity too. Because this was serious business! We were in charge as Santa’s helpers. And my mother left us alone. It was OUR responsibility.
Oh, how I loved that special Saturday morning in December. Even more so when she (eventually) upped our account to $5. Oh yeah, we were big spenders.
What I loved even more was watching my cousins’ faces when they opened these handpicked gifts on Christmas Eve. After an early church service (more on that in a minute) whoever was close by would convene at my grandparents’ home. There would be zwieback and sugarbuns and I don’t remember what else. Except for that tiny box of chocolates that we each received from our grandma. A tiny box of Pot of Gold. It truly was gold to us. So luxurious. So grown-up. So very special.
Much like the Oh Henry bar we got at church. Because after the Sunday School program (always ending with a raucous chorus of “We Wishhhhhh You A Merry Chrissssssstmas”) each child was gifted with a brown paper bag filled with peanuts. In the shell. Maybe a walnut or two. A clementine. And a full-size Oh Henry Bar!
Can you imagine the delight? The enchantment? The peanuts?
Can you imagine our children (these days) being gleeful over the same?
But I digress …
As I got older (with an allowance) I started facilitating Christmas on my own. I treated myself to my first-ever very own personal Christmas decoration. A skinny Santa. Perhaps I already knew that a skinny anything would be on my Christmas list in years to come? But I saw that Santa and I just knew he had to come home with me.
I bought my own box of Christmas cards. My best friend and I exchanged them daily throughout the month of December. We wrote long notes and shared our Christmas dreams. Oh, how I looked forward to that post every day (delivered at school).
I didn’t have a lot to spend but oh (again), how I loved buying gifts. Especially for my mother. I think I already had it pegged that she might be in cahoots with Santa so I wanted to personally bring her some surprises on Christmas morning. I spent hours at our nearby K-Mart, counting my change, doing the math (the only arithmetic I was ever good at was counting money) and deducing what I could afford. I still remember some of those gifts. Gifts I bought for her with my own (read: allowance given to me by her) money. A gold satin pillow (for the blue-flowered velvet sofa). A candle in a jar covered in plastic wicker (I think it was red, you know, to match the couch and pillow). And the most magical? A pair of clip-on earrings. They were gold with fake emeralds. They were very expensive. Like maybe $8? I would have to forego the stuffed reindeer that I really wanted to buy (for myself).
I forewent. (what the heck is the past dense of forego?)
And on Christmas morning my mother awoke to an exceptional pair of gold clip-on earrings with fake green emeralds which her younger daughter had purchased with hew own (kinda) money so that she would have something spectacular (in my world) to wear with her fancy blue dress (blue and green match, right?).
I had actually forgotten about those. Those earrings. Until this last year when my sister, having purged the final installment of my mother’s belongings, offered to me a small treasure trove of jewelry. We had already gifted the good stuff so this was the fluff.
The cheap stuff. The fun stuff. The souvenirs and the memories. And the clip-on gold earrings with fake emeralds that her younger daughter had gifted her with one Christmas morning many, many decades ago.
I guess I miss those good old days. I guess my rose-coloured glasses are firmly in place. I guess I am getting old.
I still have the skinny Santa.
I still have many of the ancient ornaments that bedecked not only my family’s tree but my grandparents’ tree.
I have two handmade stockings (one made by my mother, one by my aunt).
Damn, I have no idea what happened to that gold pillow and red candle.
But I now have the gold and fake emerald earrings. (Pretty sure the gold is fake too.)
I also have a funny little beeswax candle surrounded by a fake wreath that my son made for me in kindergarten. Yes, that comes out every year too. The circle of life.
Honestly, I am not a “good-old-days” kinda gal. THESE days are my good days. Today is my best day. Tomorrow will be even better. But I think a little nostalgia this time of year serves us well. We are reminded of where we came from. What shaped us. What we learned, what we gave and what brought us joy.
My son is also a Christmas guy. At the ripe old age of 26 he makes no bones about his love of this season. This weekend we will chop down a tree and decorate it with all those fragile and still beautiful ornaments that have been passed down through three generations. He will delight in unwrapping each one (so will I).
Skinny Santa will waiting in his room. His new room that he has never seen. So will those stockings. And the beeswax candle.
And maybe … just maybe … when we carve the turkey on Christmas Day … I will wear those earrings.
Or maybe I will pay them forward.