One of the (many!) reasons I love this time of the year so much is that it makes me feel like a kid again. There are only two things that make me feel like I'm 8 years old again: Disney World and Christmas. I get giddy and excited. I love giving, and surprises, and kindness, and generosity, and joy, and having reasons to visit with those we hold dear... and Christmas wraps all of that into one season.
And, now that I am grown and have a child of my own, I have a whole new understanding and appreciation for all my parents sacrificed for us kids all year, and especially at Christmas.
I had a good childhood. We had everything we needed, and a lot of what we wanted, in life. Both of my parents worked throughout most of my school-age years. I remember when Dad worked as a driver for a bakery, he'd be up and gone well before we rose in the morning. It didn't matter how cold it was, or how tired he was - even when he was sick - he was up and off to work every day. And for many years, Mom worked at a school bus company as a driver, a dispatcher, and eventually a manager of some sort. I remember her working some 12-14 hour days, and that was hard. But she had summers off with us kids for many years, and she took full advantage of that, which was awesome.
We weren't drowned in luxuries at Christmas time like some of our friends were. I remember one year in particular that my 'big gift' was a really nice new coat that I desperately needed. It was red and had a hood and it beat the pants off my old coat! And when you live in Alaska, that's a big deal. I like to think I wasn't jealous of my friends who had more extravagant Christmases; in fact, I don't remember being jealous, but I probably was, as kids so often are.
Point is, my parents worked their fingers to the bone and we knew exactly how much we were loved and treasured. Maybe we didn't get snowmachines for Christmas like some other kids did, but we always knew that Mom and Dad the very best they could and I admire them to this day for that. They certainly went without, many times, so that us kids would have a few more packages under the tree. And now... I totally get it. I get why it was okay that Mom and Dad only had one or two gifts apiece when my brother and I each had a big pile.
Nope, not a little boy! That's me!
Turns out that's the whole nature of parenthood - it's a lot like the spirit of Christmas. You give of yourself to make sure your kids are healthy, taken care of, and hopefully happy. You wear your work shoes for a little longer so that your kid can have that nifty new thing that will put a smile on their face. Six months later, you'll remember Christmas morning, and your feet won't even be a thought.
I thought I would share a few of my most loved Christmas memories with you... like how on Christmas Eve, after dinner, we would open a gift from my grandma who (still!) lives in Seattle. She always sent us turtles from See's Candy, and usually another box full of homemade goodies too. It was the only time all year that we got either of those things, so it was really a special treat.
And like how I would be so excited on Christmas Eve that even though I knew Santa wouldn't come until I was asleep, I would lay there awake nearly all night. You see, we always had Christmas lights on the outside of the house, but they were shut off at bedtime to save electricity (that stuff is expensive here!). But Christmas Eve was the one night that they were left on all night. That was so special! I would lay in bed and stare out the window at those giant multi-colored bulbs for hours, listening for the *thump* of Santa landing on the roof.
We weren't allowed to leave our bedrooms after lights-out on Christmas Eve night. No exceptions... except if we had to pee. Which, naturally, I had to do a lot. Between dying to know if Santa had been there yet, and the fact that I was awake most of the night, I made a lot of trips to the bathroom. (The bathroom was close enough to the living room that if I made a beeline, I could catch a very brief peek at the tree on the way!) I cannot even tell you the number of times that my dad chased me back to my bedroom in his undies to make sure I wasn't peeking.
When the pre-arranged time came on Christmas morning that we were allowed to get up, I would fly into Mom and Dad's room and make the announcement. Mom and Dad would groan at me and ask for more time. I would say no and probably whine a lot. (Now I know why they needed the time - they were completely exhausted from all the working, shopping, assembling and wrapping, baking, prepping, and chasing me back to my room 47 times during the night! I finally get it!) Eventually Mom would drag her tired self out of bed. It was at that point that she'd tell me to go back to my room until a pot of coffee was ready. Holy TORTURE!! I would do it, only because I had no choice. Finally, when the coffee was flowing and the kids were (undoubtedly) obnoxious, it would be time to open presents. We usually did stockings first and then everything else.
I remember that gifts from Santa always came in special, fancy-looking paper. I remember one year (or maybe more?) it was a beautiful red foil paper with some sort of pattern on it. Even the paper seemed magical; there was no doubt which presents were from Santa!
In my younger years, we would head over to my grandparents' house after all our gifts were open, breakfast was eaten, showers were taken and toys were christened. There we'd get together with all the extended family, have a casual Christmas dinner, and open more presents. Grandma and Grandpa's house was extra fun at Christmas, too. I swear their tree was 25' tall and professionally decorated.
Yup, that's me there in the red tights. And my grandma taking pictures of me and my cousin. Isn't that tree amazing?! (Okay, I know, it's just a regular Christmas tree. But it wasn't. Grandma and Grandpa made it so much more.)
I could go on all day about all my amazing memories of Christmas. Point is, maybe we didn't have the most extravagant things under our tree, but we had so much LOVE, all year and at Christmas. My parents worked hard and made sure I knew what was important. I can only hope I'm doing the same for my son.
To all of you, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I wish you ALL the best in 2013.
Thanks for keeping me in your circle this year.