I would tell you that today I’ve got Christmas songs in my head and wish the weather were a bit cooler. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, though the magic has changed a lot over the years.
I’d tell you that when I was young, Gene’O and our other brother, Brian, would build up my anticipation of Santa’s arrival (Gene’O most of all, and I think sometimes it was just because he could) until I was just Too Excited To Sleep. They are a lot older than I am—12 and 8 years respectively–and we all slept in the same room on Christmas Eve for many years. Now, I think that was because my parents needed help corralling me while they were playing Santa, but back then, it also made a wonderful tradition for little girl who missed her adult brothers once they left home.
And the trees, oh the trees—There was always a big one in the living room, and it was always very eclectically populated with plastic, paper, and beautiful glass ornaments, a tree full of things we’d made and bought and attached significance to…little French horns and violins that I would pretend to play; small dioramas
of the nativity built of cheap plastic; Santa Clause made of a toilet paper roll, Q-tips, and cotton; Winnie-the-Pooh and Snoopy and plastic Hallmark mice doing all sorts of Christmas-y things. We always had our own trees, too, small trees that were decorated with ornaments that we liked, each in our own bedroom so that we could fall asleep with the lights on. For many ears, the ornaments on mine were pink Christmas balls and carousel horses, delicate birds and Disney characters…At some point I switched to snowmen, something I still collect.
And stockings for everyone—when I was very small, they were these huge, long, crocheted stockings that had to be turned over and shaken to get the presents out. As the family grew (and as Mom got tired of using those old ones), Mom decided to make a whole new set, smaller, with each of our names cross-stitched onto our own stocking. There was also a Christmas village, large and sprawling, little ceramic houses and people that my middle brother and I constantly rearranged throughout the season, moving a mailbox here and a tractor there, pretending to be annoyed at one another when we rearranged the tableau.
I’d say that there are 11 stockings now, and more trees than I know what to do with. It’s always a bit like a forest has grown up inside Mom’s house, trees sprouting in the dining room, living room, and bedrooms, garland overtaking the banisters and mantles. There’s a tree with our old ornaments, and there’s also a tree with beautiful gold baubles. There’s one with just Disney characters and another with food-themed ornaments. Generally, there are at least half a dozen.
And so I guess it should be no surprise that when I tell you that I’ve already plotted out the spots we’ll put our two Christmas trees this year or that we’ll likely spend all day tomorrow Making Christmas. There are a few changes, to be sure. We’ve one traditional tree, and our second tree is of the 1950’s aluminum sort, complete with color wheel. Like the lighted Christmas camper that is the only Christmas village piece we own, the aluminum tree is Sam’s, but I find it
kind-of magical. The traditional tree has a top-hat topper, and you’ll find Batman, Worf, and the Grinch hanging there, as well as artisan-made blown glass animals and vintage birds perched on the branches. There are only 3 stockings, and they’re simple black with houndstooth accents; they were sewn by Mom.
We’re not decorating on Thanksgiving night, which was the tradition when I was young. We’d wait until everyone left on Thanksgiving night and then decorate for Christmas, the cheer and nostalgia of the moment obscuring that emptiness that happens when your home is full and then suddenly it’s not. Little Jedi is away this Thanksgiving, though, and so we wait. Tomorrow, he’ll come home to see all the boxes upstairs, and we’ll decorate, thinking of the season we’re entering and putting off the entrance of Monday morning and business as usual a little bit longer. Traditions change a bit, but they go on.
What would you say over coffee this week?