Earlier this week we were at my sister’s house to celebrate a combination Christmas/Jonathan’s first birthday. Christmas just got that much more interesting. My sister and I reminisced on how excited we would get before Christmas — Christmas Eve was always the longest day of the year, we never could sleep so the night went that much longer, and that final jump of excitement as we ran down the hall to see if Santa had come. I loved Christmas as a kid and it’s still my favorite holiday. However, instead of being insanely excited for Santa, now my sister and I look forward to watching our children go nuts.
The first Christmas I vaguely recall was when I was five. We were still living in Memphis, and I remember my great excitement in that wood-paneled living room when I saw what Santa brought — a Disney train set. The next Christmas we were in Georgia and I recollect that one better. Cathy and I both got Real Baby dolls. That was the beginning of our yearly baby doll from Santa. I’m proud to say I still have my Real Baby, dubbed Andrew after Mom ripped off the really crappy wig. In fact, Andrew is currently on Lydia’s bed.
After that year, we moved to Alabama, so the Christmases blend in together somewhat. At some point around 3rd or 4th grade it became impossible for me to sleep on Christmas Eve, so I ended up roping Cathy into staying up as well. We tried in vain to speed up the time by playing Christmas with our Pound Purries all night, with each cat receiving a bunch of presents to open under their little twelve inch tree.
By then, Cathy and I had gotten into the horrible habit of venturing out around 1 or 2 a.m. to see what Santa had brought. I never thought much of it at the time but now that I’m a parent, I recognize how my own parents missed seeing our reactions when we walked into the living room. One year, Dad got smart and left the TV on all night. This kept Cathy and me at bay for quite some time, or at least until the television station went off the air and the TV was left with static. Those were the days, man. Using Cathy as a shield, we silently sneaked down the hall to see if Dad was truly watching television. When we got in the foyer, I nudged Cathy into the living room where there was nary a father to be found. Next year, my parents finally thwarted us by decreeing we were not to come into the living room until 7:00 a.m. That rule stood until high school.
We had a few more-eventful-than-normal Christmases as well. One year we woke up to an incredibly cold house. We had power and gas, but our heater was completely out. We gathered close to the fireplace as we unwrapped presents that year. I got a fluffy plush snake — Kaa from The Jungle Book — and I kept him wrapped around my neck like a scarf. A few days later when we were able to get someone to come out and have a look at the furnace, it turned out we were really lucky. The pilot light had somehow malfunctioned and was too big, eventually burning a hole into the computer board which in turn shut off the furnace. If the furnace had not shut down, there was a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. We were very fortunate indeed.
Another Christmas I wound up getting sick. I’m sure my sister would say I got sick every Christmas (and thus avoided doing all the pre-Christmas cleaning), but this was different. My asthma had flared up and I was content to sit still and not move unless I had to. I received a Calvin and Hobbes comic book, and I would read it and laugh, then COUGH COUGH COUGH, then read it some more and laugh, then COUGH COUGH COUGH. Despite being sick, I do have fond memories of that Christmas. By that evening, though, my parents decided to take me to the E.R., where I received a breathing treatment and steroids as an extra Christmas bonus. There are super weird people in the E.R. in Christmas, let me tell you.
Since I am a child of the 80s, it was inevitable that for one Christmas I got a pink radio. Ohh, how I loved that radio. I have many memories of listening to Debbie Gibson on that thing. Early that Christmas morning, Dad showed me how to use the radio. He turned the dial to 90.3 FM and we listened to an instrumental bit of Christmas music while Dad sipped on his first of many cups of coffee.
After Christmas morning and the excitement of the presents, our grandparents and other family would drop in for Christmas lunch. One Christmas I vividly remember a conversation between my grandmother and my great grandmother as they reminisced on stuffing intestines with sausage for Christmas dinner. I don’t think I was as keen on eating after that.
Now that the kids are six and four, I am very aware that these are the Christmases that they will remember. This crazy feeling of excitement is what they will savor when they’re older. They’ll look back on this Christmas as the year everybody had the flu, and that’s okay. Neither the flu or hospital visits or unusually cold living rooms can dampen that awesome thing that is Christmas.
I will also rest easy knowing we have carbon monoxide detectors placed in strategic locations.