Christmas Stories: Day 17
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Tradition is the fabric of which my life is woven. I can remember special trips to Hancock’s to buy a shiny ribbon of color for my fresh-pressed ponytails, and special moments as a child—from picture day at school to the annual Easter morning moment when my brother and I would recite ‘speeches’ we’d been practicing at home. There were Friday evenings with my parents, as my brother and I would run around Murray’s Lock and Dam Park – greasy lips and all – after we’d eaten Chinese take-out from our favorite restaurant in the Heights. And then, yes. Yes. There was always Christmas.
A green-mittened Santa waved ‘Hello’ from our front door for many years. He was the kind of faux-felt paper figure with pin-holed arms and legs that moved. My mom had taken a brown shoe-polish bottle and diversified the old Kris Kringle; first she rimmed his eyes and then finished his entire face. A white resin tree (that was surely older than me) studded with plastic, red pegs glowed from our living room table. I still have it, though it glows no more – too many pieces of electrical tape adorn it now. Downstairs in the den, our tree stood next to our fireplace and hundreds of little newspaper logs that my mom had made with thread. The tree was adorned with her handmade velvet bows as well. They were replaced intermittently, as she desired to ‘change it up’ over the years. There was the annual Christmas Eve drive to look at lights down at the Capitol and along winding streets off Kavanaugh. And who could forget sitting in traffic to creep past the nationally-known Osborne light display?
Christmas was and still is my favorite time of year. The traditions of my childhood have become the foundation upon which I am building more memories with my own kids. Let’s see, there are the Christmas Eve ornaments they receive – usually a hint of what the morning will bring them. There are the cards – the result of two anguish-filled hours out of every December – during which we take pics for our Christmas yuletides to all those we love. A box of metallic, gold, wire-edged ribbon from our wedding comes down from the attic – it trails our big tree with special touches and memories from the day we became one. I say ‘big tree’ because it is one of many that are perfectly situated about the house for some special reason or another – with an antagonizing Russell ‘ba-humbugging’ somewhere nearby. And last year, a cute little elf began making his way to various vantage points in the living room, as Jon-Jon runs around each evening leaving him M&M snacks, while Russ makes ‘footprints’ in dusty surfaces.
During this time, I think a lot of my grandmothers. They were such a huge part of every Christmas in my life. I can remember lying in bed with my Granny, Hannah Lewis, as she challenged us to go to sleep as fast as we could. Her finger would wave over our heads to ask if we’d heard something on the roof above. My amused eyes would glance over at her with a smile, just as my brother sank beneath the covers—clearly terrified. Or my grandmother, Willie Mae Seay, who’d go out on her property and chop down her own tree, which she ‘swagged’ out like ole Charlie Brown and his best buds. Every year, my mother and I would take one Saturday to hang with her, as she wanted to go to ‘town,’ and buy every child, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandchild, and great grandchild a gift. She’d spend the next few days amassing piles and piles of newspaper-wrapped tokens of love – chittlins’ wafting through the eves. And a lamenting duck was about to be prepared for his crash-dive landing in a massive pot of her dressing. Oh, how I miss them, so.
When you are small you don’t realize that some Christmas traditions are only for a season. The gleam in beaming little eyes on Christmas morning is something I wish I could find on a shelf at Target. Christmas Wonder, it would be called and could even have a scrumptious fragrance–something like candied-cinnamon cider apples. It’s the magic gift-giving is made of…it’s the element of innocence…it’s the joy of Christmas. This is what we sit and discuss on Christmas Eve as we read Luke and recount the moments around Christ’s earthly debut. He is the ultimate gift, we tell the kids, the gift that keeps on giving.
So, when the Christmas commercials drift back into advertising files until the following September; two or three black bags of wrapping paper sit at the curb alongside a fallen tree shivering with bits of tinsel amidst browning pine needles; and Christmas hustle and bustle has given way to determined resolve about the proceeding new year—it is the memories that we will take with us until it’s time to do it all over again. That, and the everlasting, overwhelming gift of His love which carries us the whole year through.
One aspect that Melia didn’t mention is that Charlie Brown and his peeps really do live somewhere on a fictional street in America, in her mind. A street where you can still hear the piano trills of the shedding little Christmas tree and Pig Pen has still not mastered personal hygiene in time for the annual play. She absolutely loves the Peanuts clan, her Stevie Wonder Christmas CD, the stuffed Grinch that hangs from her rear view mirror each year, her husband, Russell, and their three elves: Drummer Boy, Josh, 13, a sugarplum fairy named Aijilán, 11, and a little wise man, Jonathan, 6.