Friday, December 24, 2010

My Childhood Christmas

Growing up, my parents would prepare for Christmas Eve. “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” was always on the menu. My grandma and dad would cook their asses off the day before the big event, well into the night of Christmas Eve. It was an amazing process. The party always started around 6 pm. Our Christmas tree was this huge, fake and tacky monstrosity full of candy canes, tinsel and those big bulbous Christmas lights that could produce enough heat to fry a couple of eggs on. Guests would start packing in, some wearing huge fur coats, four inch heels and flimsy low cut dresses along with the strongest musks omitting through every pore. Their diamonds could blind you if you stared long enough. The same “construction crew” would come in with their fancy clothes, all smelling like they showered in Old Spice. I always went to bed smelling that way because everyone would wanna “pick up the baby” and pinch my cheeks or pull my hair - anything to annoy and scare the living bejeebers out of me. My mom always insisted I call the “976” number so I could see where Santa was. The recording would say something like, “Hello! Santa Claus is now in North Carolina and heading up to your area soon!” If you called again, he’d be in California. His route was dicey, but I didn’t care, as long as they said he was coming to my state soon, I was happy. Of course, hours later knee deep in seafood, Santa Clause would come waltzing into the living room, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merrrrrrrrry Christmas!” We’d all clap while I sat in the corner scared to death because Santa was way bigger than I had expected. All my sisters knew who it was, except for me. Santa went over to sit on the rocking chair near the fireplace. “Come here Debbie, tell Santa what you want!” I hesitantly crept over near Santa as he quickly grabbed me up onto his lap. I looked straight into his eyes. Soon after that, I started tugging on his beard. “Daddy?” I asked, wondering why he was dressed as Santa. “Ohhh your daddy is in his bedroom changing his shirt. He spilled a drink on himself.” He said, hoping I’d be gullible enough to fall for it. I looked again, but those green and yellow eyes didn’t fool me. He has the most amazing eyes in the world. After making a couple of requests, he put me down and headed off...into my dad’s bedroom. “Mommy? Why is Santa going into your bedroom?” She looked guilty and said, “Oh he climbs back out through our window sweetie.” I didn’t buy it. Four years old or not...you couldn’t fool me. As he walked closer to the door, I noticed his pants were ripped right down the middle of his butt and I let out a scream, “Daddy’s pants are ripped!” And everyone, I mean every single person in that room started laughing hysterically. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Half appeased with Santa’s visit, mom would carry me into my room to sleep with grandma. While grandma stayed with us, she would sleep on the pullout bed in my bedroom. It worked out well for the most part, even if she did suck in the curtains with the intensity of her loud and earth trembling snores. I felt safe with her, because I had just recently stopped sleeping with my parents. I was the luckiest of all my sisters because grandma put a black and white TV inside my bedroom so she could watch her “programs”, as she called them. No one else had a TV other than my parents and the living room area. I’d always have a hard time falling asleep because I knew the next morning, we’d all be tearing apart wrapping paper hoping to get whatever we begged mom for that year. Grandma would always get up hours before me, just in time to make coffee and put out sugar cookies for everyone. I was always the first one of my sisters to get up and skippy on out into the living room. Grandma would just shoot me a look as though I was this desperate little monster waiting for my presents. And I was. They all wanted to rest, unwind from last night’s activities and have a cup of coffee before the chaotic rustling of gift opening started. They never had a chance with me. “Well go wake the girls so we can all open the gifts together.” my mom would say, hoping the girls were way too tired to even move. I ran as fast as I could up the stairs, hoping my sisters were wide awake. They already heard the tippidy-tap-tap of my little feet hurrying up the stairs and swish over in my feet pajamas to wreak havoc. They would all play possum and make believe they were sleeping. “Come on! Hurry! Wake up! Santa left the presents in the closet!” See, our family never put Christmas gifts under the tree like normal people, because my sisters, including me were all impatient, sneaky lil’ critters. My mother started placing all the gifts into this closet that had a lock on from the inside out it in the corridor of the upstairs bedroom area. Only mom had the key. Mom said that’s where Santa puts them because it was on the top floor so he had easier access. It always baffled me because the fireplace was in the same room as the Christmas tree...but whatever, right? They all voted me to open my presents first since I was the youngest, and of course, the most impatient of them all. They’d all watch as I open the first gift, perhaps a pair of socks and chuckle to themselves, knowing this wasn’t what I had in mind. I’d viciously tear apart another gift among the twenty boxes I had left. Each one got better and better. The last one of course, was the one I agonized my poor mother with. Back then, I didn’t say thank you to my mom or anyone, because Santa was the one who brought them...right? After everyone else opened their presents and oddly thanked my mom for some reason, we’d all hang out till noon and and stuff ourselves leftover seafood.

It was always sad to see Christmas end, but then again it wasn’t too long until New Year’s Eve arrived, where the same chaotic guests would pile into our home and make our huge living room into a dance floor. Every single person had a tumbler of scotch in their hands and a swing in their step. It was always fun watching them until mom would tuck me away after the ball would drop. Holidays were always a fun time until later in the evening when nobody remembered their names anymore. I didn’t understand exactly what happened, but I know it had something to do with the glass of carmel colored liquid my mother always told me not to touch.

I truly miss Christmas when I was younger, but so grateful I still have everyone here to celebrate it with. Merry Christmas to everyone & Happy New Year! May it bring beautiful, nostalgic memories as it does for me.