My Own Personal Christmas Carol

December 1, 2009

It doesn’t take a visitation from a long-dead colleague, moaning and wrapped in chains, to make me intro- and retrospective this time of year.  I suspect the holiday season makes us all look back on Christmases past with fondness, whimsy, sometimes regret and very often longing.  I could drag this preface out with more pseudo-philosophical meanderings, but I see no reason for that, especially since I’m so bad at it.  So without further adieu, friends, I give you my Ghosts of Christmas Past:

The first Christmas I remember, I was a toddler – just turned two.  I remember the silver Airstream our family of four lived in, and I vividly remember my presents.  One was a stuffed dog in red velvet pajamas, promptly named “Sleepy Dog” and a play suitcase of sturdy cardboard and covered with Mattel’s logo and the word “Barbie” stamped all over in pink script.  I remember how thrilled I was and how completely unable I was at that age to express my delight.  But I’ll never forget turning around from the tree to show my parents what Santa had brought me and seeing my mother in tears.  I didn’t find out until years later that the toys were second-hand, purchased at the local Goodwill store, and my mother was upset that they couldn’t afford to do more for my sister and I that year.  I also will never forget my father leaning over her, patting her shoulder and telling my mom that everything was going to be okay.

Ah, the gripping disappointment of third grade Christmas, too old for Santa, too young for parties.  Our parents were doing quite well financially by then and my sister and I were showered with gifts, including suede jackets and skateboards.  The neighbor family opened their presents on Christmas Eve, so we convinced our parents that was the only sensible thing to do.  By seven that evening the anticipation was over and all the Christmas magic had worn off, and we still had to drag ourselves out for the mandatory Lutheran Christmas Eve service, which was glum in a way that only Lutherans can achieve.  Not to cast aspersions on Lutherans, but we weren’t exactly known for raucous celebrations and demonstrations of holiday spirit.

Then I was seventeen, and the magic was back!  I had my first serious boyfriend.  There’s nothing more wonderful than Christmas when you think you’re hopelessly in love with someone you wouldn’t give the time of day to twenty years later.  Young love – what a marvelous Christmas present that was!

Christmas with a child of my own, cooking a lavish turkey dinner in my own oven with my own two hands and a Betty Crocker cookbook – wonderful!  Every year that my son was young was magical again.  I’d buy the biggest tree we could afford (and that would fit in whatever narrow apartment we were renting at the time) and pile gifts four and five deep around it.  Unfortunately, the Santa gig was up the year Andrew was seven.  Some second-grade cretin put a bug in Andrew’s ear that his parents were Santa, so he stayed awake long enough on Christmas Eve to peek around his bedroom door and watch me fill his stocking with pencils and candy and the requisite Life Saver “book” of suckable treats.

About the time one would expect there’d be a grandchild to share Christmas with, I had another fabulous family member instead – my mom.  She was with me for her last three Christmases and she was as excited as a child.  It wasn’t dementia; until just a few months before Mama died, she never lost her childlike enthusiasm for holidays and, frankly, life in general.  We had a huge tree for Christmas 2003 and the entire house was decorated in a modified Nightmare Before Christmas theme.  My son and his wife were there; my ex-husband was invited and showed up with all sorts of diamonds for me (I think he wanted me back, lol – just a guess.), and after a fabulous morning of opening presents we all headed to the casino for an afternoon of Christmas gambling.  My mother came out about twenty dollars ahead and you would have thought she’d broken the bank her joy was so intense.

Ah then, Christmas of 2005.  I’d had a falling out with my ex, which resulted in a falling out with my son and his wife.  My brand-new husband (he still had that new-husband smell) left me after a record seventeen days of marriage and I was spending the holiday alone.  The restraining order I had against my ex resulted in a not-entirely-unexpected spate of unemployment leading up to Christmas; we owned a company together and it’s pretty hard to work with someone who’s not allowed within 100 yards of you.  I had no money and the furnace was broken.  I’d lost my mom, my brother and my forever-dog Buddy that year.  I recall spending that Christmas wrapped in blankets, self-pity and empty Bacardi bottles.

The past few Christmases have been charming and warm in a way that I thought was gone.  I was single and living alone, and I spent Christmas Eve with my best friend and her family, all of whom treated me like a long-lost member of the family.  Since I now live 2000 miles away, I sent presents to my son and his wife, taking extra care to pick out things that I knew they would need that would still convey how very much I love them.  My new forever-dog, Slevin, and I have spent the past three Christmas Days enjoying each other and the beautiful peace of Christmas on the prairie.

Now this Christmas…and I’m seventeen again!  Yes, it’s a happy déjà vu, but I’m sure that I’ll be giving him much more than just the time of day if I’m lucky enough to have twenty more Christmases with the man I adore.

As they say here in Oklahoma, “Merry Christmas, y’all.”  And as they say in my home state, “a totally happy New Year, dude!”

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8 Responses to “My Own Personal Christmas Carol”

  1. avlgal Says:

    Lovely, Debi. You are such a gifted writer! I used to love Christmas, but then it got so commercial, I came to dispise it. So many people I know have bought into the buy, buy, buy mentality. This year, I’m hoping that a silver lining to the current recession will be a return to the idea that “it’s the thought that counts”, which is how I was raised. Since I’m not a Christian, I am into the “spirti of giving” aspect of the holiday. Anyway…. I hope you don’t get any used electric shavers this year, dearie. Thank you for a good start to the holiday/Christmas season!

  2. Amy Says:

    Life gives us many memories…from horrid to joyously memorable. You’ve given another wonderful peek into your life and it’s great to see that we CAN survive and move on to end in a delightful way. I’m big into the spirit of giving too and will always feel the greatest gift is love. Merry Christmas Debi!

  3. Mickey Says:

    When life gives you mistletoe, make gingerbread and put on the Christmas Story DVD.

    Bah Humbug, my ass!

  4. Melissa Says:

    Thanks for sharing Debi!

    I hope you have a FABULOUS Christmas!

  5. janet Says:

    Ah, the lifesaver book! Ah, young love! Ahhhhhhhhhh, mature love. And everything in between …. ****satisfied sigh*****

  6. Cherie Says:

    Life is good.


  7. This moved me deeply, Debi. I appreciate your willingness to show your vulnerability in such a graceful way. You go girl!

  8. Evelyn Says:

    Christmas as a child was such a disappointment and became something to just endure. The joy began for me when Nico was born but sadly it ended when she left home. She WAS Christmas in our house – she coordinated the decorating, painted the windows, kind of sprinkled her fairy dust everywhere. She also arranged the most wonderful surprises. When she moved away from home, Bree and I did the best we could but it was never the same. This year, because of little Van and Clara, the joy is back. Tomorrow we will be putting up our tree – the first one I have had since 2002 – I am very excited about it. Nice to see how things can come back around. Merry Christmas!

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