25. December 2008 · Comments Off on Christmases Past · Categories: General

Mom was always an early riser – I think she was incapable of sleeping beyond 5am on most mornings. Christmas was no exception. We kids would try to stay up late the night before, but she would chase us to bed, and threaten to cancel Christmas if she found us out of bed or on the staircase. Family tradition was to not put presents under the tree until after the kids were in bed, to keep the illusion that it was Santa bringing them. We could put gifts we’d bought or made for each other under there earlier, but that was all.

Christmas eve was Mom’s big cooking/baking day (on top of all the baking she’d been doing since Thanksgiving.. several 25lb flour tins filled to the brim with different types of cookies, assorted pies lining the back of the counter, stacked 2-3 high on makeshift shelves). So on Christmas Eve morning, we’d get to open our stockings. The big treat (to me) was the little box of cereal – we even got to eat it out of the box instead of having to use a bowl. There was always some type of toy in the stocking, as well. We would then amuse ourselves in the livingroom or the basement, while Mom cooked and baked.

Christmas day, she’d wake us up, and we’d go tearing downstairs to make sure that Santa had really come. The presents would be overflowing the space under the tree. But the rule was that Dad hands out the gifts – no mad rush to the tree like you see in so many tv shows and movies. Dad, of course, was still in bed, sound asleep (or so he pretended). So we would carry him a cup of coffee, stepping oh-so-carefully as we navigated the staircase to the 2nd floor. Knock on the bedroom door, tiptoe inside, set the coffee cup on the nightstand next to the bed.

“Wake up, Dad! It’s Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Dad!”

No response.

Timidly touching him on the shoulder, trying to shake him. “Daddy, Santa came! Come and see the presents!”

Mumble, mumble, roll over.

“Mom! He won’t wake up!”

It was his annual game, although deadly serious to us. He HAD to wake up – it was Christmas! The game went on forever, although that probably means about five minutes in real-time. Then he would wake up, and Mom would chase us out of the room so he could drink his coffee and get dressed.

When he came downstairs, we were all near the tree, excited and expectant. Still in our pajamas, heads uncombed, ready for Christmas joy. He would take one package at a time from under the tree, and read the name on it out loud, handing it to the appropriate recipient. He did his best to rotate it so that we each got one at a time, but that depended on how they were stacked under the tree.

Later there would be a dining table almost groaning under the weight of the food Mom placed on it, and maybe visits to or from our cousins, but it’s the Christmas mornings that I remember best, with Dad pretending to sleep while we grew increasingly agitated, needing him to come downstairs so Christmas could begin.

Those Christmas mornings are 30+ years behind me, but they live fresh in my memory, and in my heart. Here’s hoping that you and yours are making memories today that will last as long, and that you are also finding comfort in the memories of Christmases past.

Merry Christmas!

Comments closed.