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October 29, 2011 / sharoncopy

Growing up with the holidays

When I was young, Christmas was the best day of the year. Birthdays were great too, but on Christmas, everyone participated, and everyone was happy, not just me. I would think and think about what to get for each sibling and each parent and grandparent. I’d save up the little money I had and manage to get something for each person. I would play a video in my mind where I imagined them opening the gift and being surprised and delighted with what I had chosen. Gpa got a can of tobacco every year, pretty much, but always managed to look like nothing could ever be better. Gma would exult over slippers, or a brooch or whatever. My biggest triumph one year was a beautiful candy dish with a lid that I bought her that stayed on her dining room cabinet forever, always filled with some kind of candy. Whenever I saw it, I knew that I had made her happy and done well that year.

We would get up early in the morning and open our stockings, hung from various pole lamps and door handles, depending on the furnishings at the time. It was so nice to get a small gift or coloring book and of course, more candy than a day usually brought us. We’d nag Mom and Dad out of bed, and Mom would have to have a cup of coffee before we could start. (That’s pretty much why I decided never to drink coffee – didn’t want to need it in the morning. ) All in pajamas, and in later years with hair combed (or Mom still in rollers), we’d gather in the living room to see, for the first time, the PILE. Such excitement! Such beauty! Such anticipation. I don’t think we had a special arrangement for who handed out the gifts, but they went around and it was rather a frenzy of opening things at once and shouting, “Sharon! I got Stratego!” Or “Look at my new record player!” Wrapping paper tidbits and wads littered the floor liberally as we continued until there were no gifts left. In between opening my own, I watched as each person opened their gifts from me. Everyone was happy. Everyone had given and received new stuff, and time to use it was just ahead. But not now.

Because Gpa and Gma were coming at 10 a.m. and we had to clean up the living room and put our gifts into piles under the tree before they arrived and we started all over again. “They’re here!” someone would shout. A couple of us would throw on coats and boots and head outside to help them carry in the packages – hoping they needed a LOT of help! Maybe we were dressed by then – I don’t remember. This round was just as much fun, if not quite as long.

Then Dad headed into the kitchen to start making his “big breakfast” with Mom assisting and insisting that my sister and I get in there to help set the table. The kitchen wasn’t very big, and the dinette was tiny, but we squashed the 7 or 8 of us (depending on which year we’re talking about) in there and the eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and pancakes feast began.

After we helped clean up after breakfast, we had time to play and visit with the grandparents, and then it was time to set the table again, and eat, and clean up again and then play or watch TV. Gpa and Gma would go to my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve and sometimes stay overnight there. They would come to our house in the morning and then leave to go back there for dinner at 3 pm. We usually didn’t have company for Christmas dinner – sometimes Dad had to go to work, sometimes one aunt or another was involved in the plans – that part varied.

The Sunday closest to Christmas was when we celebrated the Lord’s birth at church, with Christmas pageants (I played Mary once – all I did was walk on in costume, sit down behind a moveable cardboard “stable” wall and pick up a doll and then sit there holding it while we all sang. I was about 11 and fine with having no lines.) Mostly there were choirs and cantatas and songs and candy given out at the end of it all. Once I was in high school, I was in it all the time, and it was joyous.

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