Today is my amazing Mom’s birthday. I love her so much!
It’s also officially Christmas season. In our family, right after Thanksgiving dinner is over, we all troop outside, count to three, and switch on the Christmas lights. Hooray! Game on! December 1 really kicks it into high gear. In addition to celebrating the birth of Christ (love those little Nativity scenes!), Christmas means whipping up a huge batch of nuclear-strong eggnog (John’s family recipe!), singing along with Frank Sinatra singing carols, classic kid’s movies like The Grinch and Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, sparkling lights and secret purchases, baking up amazing sweet treats to share with neighbors and friends, and wearing Santa hats for no reason.
I love the feeling of joy that started when we were all little… and never goes away.
I get very nostalgic at Christmastime. I have positively magical childhood memories of the holiday. I would gaze from my bed at the palm tree in the front yard, a string of big, bright lights drooping from its leaves, dozing into dreams of Santa Claus. We spent every Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house with uncles, aunts, cousins. We kids would patiently wait through tolerate the elaborate and never-ending meal, eyeing the crazy present pile under the tree.
As we settled in for the youngsters’ gift time, my grandpa would start talking about sounds on the roof. Had we heard that?! It sounded like REINDEER. Inevitably, there’d be a knock on the door, and Santa would be standing there with a big sack of GOODIES. (We never questioned why the chimney wasn’t involved in his arrival.) One by one, we’d hop on Santa’s lap, telling him (and the video camera in our faces) what we wanted for Christmas. He’d give each of us an overflowing stocking of toys. He’d say something about having to get on with his evening, to share his time with other good little girls and boys. My grandma would lead him to the door, slyly shoving a handle of bourbon in his hand on his way out. Turns out, it was a neighbor.
Every few years, the neighbor wasn’t available. My Uncle Bill stepped in once or twice, and one year, my dad even put on the ratty old costume. I was old enough to see that it was my dad- the costume left much to be desired, truth be told- but my little brother was dazzled by Santa Claus. He was about 4 years old at the time, and about halfway through his turn on Santa’s lap, he started laughing hysterically. In the video, you can hear my mom ask him what was so funny. He kept laughing his little head off, and finally whispered loudly to me: “Amber! This is our DAD!” It was as if he’d figured out the biggest joke EVER and was cluing me in. I could watch that video over and over.
Christmas morning was just our family of four. My brother and I would get up at an unacceptable hour, RUN past the doorway to the living room to my parents’ door with our hands over our eyes (we didn’t want to spoil our own surprises!), and wake them up by yelling, “He came! He came!” My mom would pop Christmas cassette tapes by Ann Murray and Barbara Mandrell into the tape player while my dad groggily set up that blasted video camera. Thus began Round Two of gift insanity, followed by a big family breakfast.
Last year, I hosted Christmas at my place. I was living in a two-bedroom condo, totaling a whopping 750 square feet. That’s plenty of room- until you incorporate my family. (We kind of come on like a freight train.) We had five adults, plus my brother’s Italian Greyhound, a teeny Cholula, and John. Madness! It was awesome.
Since we’ve been home from our honeymoon, the weather hasn’t been very Christmas-y. I wore flip flops two days ago! Here’s what Cholula has been up to.
Yesterday, I got our first Christmas card in the mail. I ripped open the envelope like there was a winning lottery ticket inside! I decided it was time. I pulled out some boxes marked “Christmas” from the garage. I did a drive-by of the tree lot, Sirius XM “Holly” on the radio, to see what options there were for when John gets home. I found a huge, beautiful wreath, which I hung on our deck (shoo-ing Cholula away from stealing the pinecones out of it).
I contemplated how we should hang the Christmas lights on our new home. You can tell a lot by a person by the way they do their Christmas lights. There’s the “white only” kind of person, every tree branch covered.
There’s the very simple, evenly spaced, all-bulbs-facing-the-same-direction kind of person (yawn).
There are those that love color, be it the classic rainbow-hued bulbs or the newer, neon-ish LED version.
And then, as we stumbled upon last year in my old neighborhood, there’s always one we call CRAZY TOWN.
Me? Well, I prefer the old-school colored lights, the big old bulbs and true color. I’ll have to look for those this year- they seem to be getting harder to find- because we have a pine tree in our front yard that is BEGGING for lights! I also love the teeny white twinkly lights, inside and outside- the more the better. I can just imagine what they’ll look like in the snow this year!
Whether we get snow or not, whether there are 10 gifts under the tree or just one… it won’t really matter. I have so much joy in my life right now! I look forward to celebrating the holiday with my new hubby and Cholula, just the three of us. I’m hoping that throughout the season, I can remember to keep that childhood wonder, where every little thing is something to clap about.
What are your favorite holiday memories as a child? What kind of Christmas light person are you?