Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Nostalgia

Last week, my sister took me to task for this post, and I defended my views by claiming that I would not succumb to nostalgia. On the other hand, moments of nostalgia, especially for Christmas are certainly not bad. I have great memories of Christmases past, and I would like to share a few of them here, plus the moment when I realized that Christmas in our house would never be the same, and how sad that made me.

These are all reflections on Christmases past. Since becoming an adult, my thoughts about the holiday are quite different, and my memories less tinged with the rosiness but special in a different way. I think that is true for most of us.

My parents' house has a big bay window in the living room, and our tree always went there; sometimes it was so big and full the top would brush the eight foot ceiling, and the branches would be well out in to the room, with the base sitting past the edge of the bay. Packages would circle 'round back and out to the middle of the the living room floor. When we were all still younger, we would march down the back staircase (we had two), and my father would plant himself in the doorway, not allowing us to peek until we had breakfast and entered the room together.

One year, when my oldest sister was in college, and I was, probably, in third or fourth grade, I woke up at the crack of darkness, to fetch my stocking. I immediately went in to my sister's room, to wake her up to show her what I had. I am quite sure her head was still fuzzy from whatever gaiety she had been a part of the night before, but I have always remembered how she sat in bed, indulging her loathsome little brother's joy, smiling and laughing with me. Yes, Sis, this is you we're talking about.

My favorite Christmases happened when I was in fifth and sixth grades. Plenty of snow, everyone home for the holidays - no moments to tarnish the memories. Except, alas, for Christmas, 1976, when I was in sixth grade. My sister, Sis, was to be married the next month. On Christmas Eve, after candlelight, we would gather in the living room, where my father would read Luke 2 to us from the King James Bible that had been a gift to him from our bastard great grandmother. After this reading, we would sing a couple Christmas carols. Then, the young ones (by this time, that meant me), would be trotted off to bed, while the rest relaxed, and that year, my mother and Sis baked pies. I remember, as clear as if it happened yesterday, right after my mother told me it was time for bed, her also telling my sister she wanted her help in the kitchen to do some baking. My sister agreed, and as she was looking off to the kitchen, it hit me like a windshield hitting a fly - this was the last Christmas we would be together. Sis was to be married and, presumably, would be spending the following Yuletides with her new family.

That was a sad, indeed, almost heartbreaking, moment. I think it colored my memories and thoughts of Christmases for years to come (I know it did for at least two). We had been whole, together, and now, we would be apart. This was the first realization for my young mind that change happens. It was also my first wrestling with the emotional impact of change. I don't think I have had a Christmas as big or important or as special as that last Christmas when all five of us, and our parents, sat around the living room that year.

Incidentally, I always liked the fact that our Stable scene was not in the main living room, but in the front living room, a room that doesn't even have a ceiling lamp. It was just like the Bible stories - the most important event wasn't in a place of honor, but nearly forgotten, in a small corner of a much busier world.

I also liked my mother's attempt at being crafty - a mirror with glued together cotton balls around it featuring a few iron or lead die-cast figures skating. That sits, I think, on the sewing-machine table in the back of their kitchen each year.

Do you have any significantly nostalgic moments from your childhood Christmases? I think the rule here should be - from your childhood, when emotions and impressions are far more important than thoughts and actual events.

Virtual Tin Cup

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