Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmases Past

I had a pretty idyllic childhood. We didn't have a lot of stuff but we had so much fun. A big part of that was Christmas. My mom went all out. We had a big old tree covered in ornaments and tinsel. I know that there are lots of people that hate tinsel, but not me. I love it, the cheaper the better. I knew all of the words to every single Christmas carol practically before I could speak. We would spend an entire weekend making cookies. Cut outs, oatmeal, peanut butter, spritz, rocks, and then four or five others that sounded good after reading the recipes. Mom, dad, Heather and I would be covered in flour and sprinkles, singing Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and The Partridge Family Christmas tapes at the top of our lungs. We had a big ugly, brown bowl that we made the dough in. Once all the ingredients were in we'd hand the bowl over to my dad with a wooden spoon and he was in charge of stirring in the flour. It was so much fun being with my family.

But the one thing that makes people stop and stare at me like a I suddenly grew a horn was our Christmas Eve tradition. We would head over to my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Kenny's house. All of my dad's family would be there, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandpa plus extended family. You know a married in uncles parents and siblings. There would be about 50 people crowded around each other. We would eat a big dinner, always the same foods, ham, better corn, multiple kinds of potatoes, buttery rolls, yule log and cookies for dessert.

But all we kids could think of was the tree exploding with presents. My Grandpa played Santa and handed out the gifts, amidst the squealing and wrapping paper wars. Showing off our spoils. Then when we were much littler we'd all strip down and get into our pj's. The it was time for the main event. Caroling. This is my favorite part.

We would squeeze into the den. I fire would be roaring in the fireplace. Matty and Dave would pull out their guitars and warm up with Metallica tunes while the sheet music was passed around. We'd fight over what to sing first even though we always sang every single song. There wasn't enough space to sit so people sat on laps, on the floor, on the stairs. We were so close that you were touching every single person near you. Shoulder to shoulder, legs laying across the next persons. And we would sing. All together. It was hot and uncomfortable but they are some of my favorite memories.

I can still hear my Grandpa's deep bass and my Jewish uncle singing every carol word for word, usually off key but he was gung ho about it. I can remember my parents proud faces when people around me realized that I could sing. We I was asked to sing Silent Night all by myself. The tears in every ones eyes remembering past Christmases and the people that were no longer with us and missed so much.

Then Christmas Day with the presents piled high from Santa. My Gram would spend the night so that she could see us open gifts. A big breakfast, an even bigger dinner and then out to the movies. My memories of my childhood Christmases are perfect. They are happy and jolly and enviable.

I didn't know back then how much all of my happy memories hurt my parents. How much my family only pretended to love each other. How much my mom disliked Christmas because of her own sad upbringing. The pasted on smiles, though my mom says that many of those smiles were genuine.

I hope that Annabelle will love Christmas like I do. I hope she loves it because of me, just like I love it because of MY mom. Knowing all that I know now makes Christmas a little bit more bittersweet. I get sad around this time of year sometimes when I think back on all of this. I know this year will be hard because I lost an uncle and my Aunt Kathy this year. And while I can never go back to those times, I cherish the happiness and the joy. I love the new memories and the new traditions that I'm making with my little family. I hope for only happy tears in the future when I think of my pretty little childhood Christmases.

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