Friday, December 19, 2008

All I Want For Christmas...

To quote one of my favorite Christmas movies, “A Christmas Story”, it is that time of year when I begin to anticipate Christmas – “Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.”

As a kid, the countdown to Christmas began the day the tree came down. Many of my memories of Christmas involve the family traditions we kept year after year. One of those traditions is so odd that I cannot believe it stood the test of time: each year, when the artificial Christmas tree box was drug up from the basement, we all signed the box. It is so fascinating to see the progression of my and my siblings’ handwriting from year to year. There were even years, to my recollection, that I wrote things like, “I love Scott” – a boyfriend of mine in my late teens. I understand that my sister still keeps this tradition by signing the box when my parents set up their tree – even though none of us still live at home anymore.

I also remember the “Ralph Parker” method of campaigning for Christmas presents was protocol for each of us kids. One year, I might have been 13 or 14 years old, I was set on getting a pair of brown leather boots – you know, the kind that Blaire wore on “The Facts Of Life”? I was relentless. The very last present I opened (Mom always dictated the order in which we could open presents, usually a graduated process from boring and predictable to most desirable – i.e.: underwear was first) was a large box containing my gorgeous boots. I think I wore them until the soles became too thin.

Christmas morning was always eagerly anticipated by myself and my brother and sister. So much so, that my parents, after years of early morning frustration, finally placed a “baby gate” at the end of the hallway which separated our bedrooms from the living room. We were not allowed to cross the gate barrier until the living room clock chimed 6 a.m. This was a very strict policy in our home…and I recall a few Christmas mornings where my brother and I sat at the gate for a half an hour waiting for that clock to chime.

I also remember our annual church Sunday School Christmas program – a big deal for me, spending Christmas Eve at the Fergusons, singing “Silent Night” at the conclusion of the 10:30 Christmas Eve service while they rang the church bell, and always getting a new pair of pajamas. This was what made Christmas so magical for me as a kid.

As an adult, I am now part of the Christmas planning process. The season brings with it the stress of planning a holiday that meets or exceeds the expectations of family and friends while maintaining a festive and calm exterior as we maneuver our way through it without forgetting anyone or any activity. Balance schedules. Balance checkbooks. Balance sanity.

But, every year, it has become very important to me that I incorporate a few holiday traditions of my own so that my kids can grow up remembering some magic of their own. Each Christmas Eve is spent at one of the earlier church services, followed by a hearty dinner at the local Chinese food restaurant, playing a “Rob Your Neighbor” game with my family, and orange rolls on Christmas morning.

But there are two traditions I give myself. I always try to give myself a few moments of peace on Christmas Eve. When everything is done and the kids are asleep, no matter how late, I always like to sit in a quiet place, listen to some Christmas music and reflect on all the joys I have been blessed with during the past year. It is Christmas in stillness. It is probably the only moment when I can clearly experience the magic – as an adult – of the holiday. Myself. My faith. The peace.

And new pajamas.

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