These trying financial times coupled with the holiday season made me wonder how my family was able to make Christmas so good for me as a child. At any given point in time, there was usually only one person in the household with a full-time job. I can barely feed and clothe myself right now on this student budget I’ve got. How in the hell did my grandmother and ‘nem put so many gifts under the tree and food on the table? As a good friend recently said, clearly people were making sacrifices. I guess the baby gotta have a Crimmus!
I lived on the second floor in a duplex apartment so there wasn’t any fireplace. There was barely room for the freakin’ tree. I’ve never had a real Christmas tree in my life. Growing up, we had one of those artificial trees you put together by sticking the color tipped branches into the color coded holes on a stand. Then we’d decorate it in multi-colored lights, bulbs, candy canes and tinsel, complete with a peaceful Black angel at the top. My grandmother would hang up my stocking by tacking it to the wood-paneled wall. Other Christmas touches included a wreath on the door and lights on the balcony.
I knew there was no Santa Claus. I don’t know when I knew, but it was pretty early. No one had to tell me. I was the kind of child who figured things out very quickly by putting things into logical order. Clearly grandma was buying things and hiding them. Besides, that whole Santa story didn’t fit into my life at all. There was no chimney! Right then and there I knew that was a wrap. Oh, and presents would be under the tree days before Christmas. So… what was left for Santa to do?
Before going to bed, I’d slip into my footie pajamas. Oh, let me speak on those footsie jammies for a second. You had to be kinda cautious when putting them on, yo. Don’t get overzealous and think you’re going to zip them up with the quickness! That zipper starts at your ankle and has to travel up your leg and torso to stop at the collar bone. Without the proper care, you are bound to catch some skin in the zipper. OUCH! I learned that lesson a couple of times as a youngin’. Other than footie pajamas, I’d always have a long nightgown with ruffles on the end, sort of like this. I loved those things. You think my sexy would suffer if I brought ’em back today?
It was always hard to go to sleep before Christmas. Waiting for the toys, grandma up cooking things the night before. When it finally did get to Christmas morning, the family would get there early so we could tear into gifts. Then everyone would watch me (and my sister after she was born) tear into the holiday paper. There would always be a designated paper collector too. It was fun when I finally got the gift open and I did my best Barker’s Babe impression, showing off my new Barbie Doll or Game Gear. Usually, A Christmas Story would be on in the background.
I always got so much for Christmas as a child. I didn’t have any idea how much work must have gone into make the holiday a happy time for my sister and me. I have a lot of gripes with my childhood and I know we didn’t have holidays like a lot of people, but when I look back, I appreciate how my family made something out of nothing and did it so well that it seemed like the best thing ever to me.
Christmas in my family kind of ended when my grandmother passed in 1994. I have not had a family Christmas since then. No tree. No dinners. No decorations. No gifts exchanged. If anything, I’ll go out to the mall with my aunt and she’ll pay for something I want and say, “Ok, that’s you Xmas present”. Mostly X-mas means a little more money in my bank account, but that’s it. I’ve pretty much come to accept that as the way it is. However, I plan to do Christmas really big when I have a family of my own. I can’t wait to bring that same type of experience I had as a child to my own kids.
Maybe one day, when I’m done with school and I get all settled, I’ll have my family over to my place for Christmas like my grandmother would have done it.
Have a safe and happy holiday with you friends and family. And if you’re like me and won’t be doing the family thing, I hope you take some time to relax and be sure to watch a Christmas Story at least twice during the annual 24 hour marathon!