(The "it" could be one of two things: my copy of Stacy Julian's new book or Christmas, and since I'm slowly reading and thoroughly savoring Stacy's book, I can't write about it yet, so this thread must be about Christmas!)
What makes me know for certain that it's here, when I don't have a stitch of Christmas decorations up and am right now mortified to realize that I have visitors coming tomorrow morning and my house is still decorated with Thanksgiving turkeys and harvest scarecrows (o! the humiliation!)? Well, right as I type, I'm eating a dish of peppermint ice cream with a little chocolate sauce drizzled on top. And suddenly I'm feeling it, that tingly, something-really-great's-on-its-way feeling. So I'm going to celebrate my Christmas-is-here tingles by responding to Sophia's Challenge.
Early Childhood Christmas Memory
When I was really little, we'd go to my grandma Kay's apartment for Christmas Eve dinner. I know that several years' worth of memories of that event are now one conglomerate, but it's a favorite memory anyway. The memory starts with my three sisters and me playing in the bedroom; Michele's at the add-em-up machine (one of those old till machines my grandpa had), Suzette's on the floor, and Becky and I are each sprawled across one of the beds. I've just returned from standing in the tiny hall, trying to eavesdrop (I always was the snoop), and now Suzette is mercilessly hounding me: "Jeans! Did they say anything about getting me jeans?" and I'm sad to report that they were speaking their secret language that I didn't understand. (My mom and her parents really did have a secret language that they'd use when they wanted us---or maybe just The Snoop---not to hear.) Next, we are eating, roast beef, mashed potatoes, my grandma's gravy that is browned until it's nearly bitter. The adults have wine and we have milk. We're eating on Grandma's special table, the one that most days is a respectable sofa table but tonight is showing its secret depth, as it unfolds into a dining room table. After dinner, there are candy-cane cookies and peppermint ice cream, and then we open a present: nightgowns. Then, finally, we are going outside, on our way home. My dad is carrying me; I'm in my new nightgown and it is snowing, and the six of us all stand still and listen to Santa's sleigh bells. To this day I don't know how that magic happened, who rang the bells. Maybe it was Grandpa from his second-story apartment. But it sounded to my childish ears like each snowflake was a tiny bell, and all together they made a chorus that I return to every time I hear a bell, even now.
Adolescent Christmas Memory
The summer I was fifteen, I discovered the group Alphaville and was forever, eternally, and completely addicted to alternative music. I'd not discovered that an alternative music station actually existed (if you're cool and you're from Utah then you totally get what "KJQ" means), so I kept a top-forty station on continually, trying to hear "Big in Japan" just one more time. So you can imagine how absolutely thrilled I was to find an Alphaville record under the tree that Christmas! That record and the first two Clan of The Cave Bear books are the only gifts I remember from that year. Once the day was nearly over, and we were all back home from the festivities, Dad lit a fire. I think Becky was also downstairs. I put my Alphaville record on Dad's stereo, the one with enormous speakers that boyfriends would later admire me for, sat by the fire, and read my new book. European alt pop and blond cave girls are now inextricably intertwined in my memory with the simple happiness of hanging out and reading with my dad. This is one of the memories I wish my dad wouldn't lose.
Christmas with Kids --- I have to share two!
1. Three years ago, Nathan and Jake both begged me for light sabers. B.E.G.G.E.D. As in, that is all they talked about. Well, I'm more than a little anti-the-whole-weapon-arsenal thing, so I think they were unsure as to whether or not it'd actually happen. It only DID happen because Kendell won that particular showdown at Toys R Us (what mother can argue skillfully about violent toys when standing in a three-hour line at 5:30 in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving?). So, we go through the whole present-opening thing. I saved the light sabers for last because I knew once they saw them, that'd be it. And it was---they opened their light sabers and Nathan had the magical look on his face, the one that says "this is it. My every wish is fulfilled. Magic is real, Santa is real, and life is sweet." The one that makes all the Christmas effort worth it. I looked at the rest of their pile of presents and realized: the boys who say they want a light saber for Christmas only really want a light saber for Christmas!
2. Haley was SO into Barbies when she was little. (You have to know how Barbies grate on my feminist perspective. One day I'll share a poem to make my point, but suddenly I'm realizing that this post makes me sound like THE LAMEST MOM EVER!) This was great---except when I was little, I was so not into Barbies. I was into baby dolls and blankets and strollers and high chairs (and even newborn nightgowns, even then). Barbies were my little sister Becky's department. So, it's Christmas, Haley is three and she's been dying for the Barbie horse, the Barbie corral, the Barbie who rides the horse, the comb that brushes the horse that Barbie rides. I bought it for her, of course, but was just SO not looking forward to putting the whole thing together. Well, not twenty minutes after we finished unwrapping gifts, who should show up but my sister Becky, Barbie Lover Extraordinaire! In two seconds she was sitting down with Haley and they were doing the Barbie thing, and my daughter was so, so, so happy to have her cool Aunt Becky playing Barbies with her. And I was so, so, so happy that I had my cool little sister to play Barbies with my daughter!
(And, yep, I really DO sound like a lame mom now!)