Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Christmas

I miss the Christmases of my childhood.  Christmas was always such an exciting time.  And yet so simple.  We never had a fancy Christmas.  Or big expensive gifts.  But our house was always full of  love, usually an argument or two, and lots of good food.

I loved helping with the tree.  My dad would haul all the decorations out of the attic.  He put the tree together and strung the lights.  Then he left the decorating to the girls.  When we were younger, my sister and I would hang the home made ornaments and the wooden ornaments.  My older two sisters would hang the glass balls.  Our tree never looked like it was out of a magazine.  There were wooden hand painted ornaments, school pictures glued to canning lids trimmed with bits of fluff, styrofoam shapes covered in glue and glitter, reindeer made out of clothespins, hand beaded ornaments made by my grandma and tons of other treasures.  Then there were the glass balls in a variety of colors.  Then my mom would string up the tinsel and the beads.  It was never perfect, but in hindsight, I loved it.

Now my parents tree is much like mine.  I always dreamed of having a picture perfect tree.  One that was color coordinated, matched my living room, and looked absolutely perfect.  For years mine was burgundy and gold, now it's silver and gold.  My mom's tree is red and gold.  It's tall and skinny.  And is no longer covered in tinsel, I'm guessing due to too much teasing from me and my sisters about her love of tinsel.  (My tree has tinsel on it now).  And I miss a simpler time when our ornaments were filled with love and memories.  They were more beautiful than any store bought tree.

My parents home burned down when I was in college.  In that fire we lost almost everything.  Everyone got out safely.  There are a few small things that we still have, were somehow able to save.  Their new home is gorgeous.  It's bigger.  It's nicer.  There are more bathrooms.  But it is not the home I grew up in.  It's never had shag carpet.  That house didn't see us grow up.

I am lucky enough that I still have some of the ornaments of my childhood because I had taken them to college with me.  There are three ballerina ornaments from the days of dance lessons.  One from my aunt, one from my babysitter, and one from my oldest sister.  There's a Veggie Tales ornament from a time when I was way too old for Veggie Tales but still thought they were amazing.  And then there's the ornament that has the biggest place in my heart.  My mom found it somewhere the other day and gave it back to me, I'm still carrying it around in my wallet.  It's a tiny pair of ice skates made out of red felt, with paper clips as the blades.  My name is on one skate in white puff paint, the other skate has 1991, the year I was in third grade.  They were made by my third grade math teacher, one of my mom's best friends.  She was one of the kindest, most caring, generous people you would ever meet.  She passed away my freshman year of high school after a long and terrible battle with breast cancer. 

I miss that old Christmas tree and all of the memories it held.  I miss how Christmas used to be.  I loved waking up early and running to see what was in my stocking.  Even though Santa was always pretty consistent with what he put in our stockings:  socks, ink pens, a note pad, a little candy, a pack of gum, toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant when we got older, and sometimes a tape or a CD.  And still, at 29, that's usually what's in our stockings.  We all still used the same stockings we'd had since we were tiny.  My two older sisters had handmade stockings made from felt with their names stamped onto them.  My other sister, who was born at Christmas time, had a tiny stocking that said baby's first Christmas.  Mine had Sesame Street characters on it.  We were never too old for those stockings.  Now we all have fluffy red stockings that are just alike.  As much as I love things to match, I think I want my kids to look back and remember their stockings like I do.  Something that is individual to them and special.

The Christmas after my parents lost their house they were living in my grandpa's house.  It was a tiny two bedroom house with one bathroom.  That Christmas the house was packed, there were eight of us.  My three sisters and I all slept in one bedroom.  Two of our boyfriends slept on the living room floor.  We made new Christmas ornaments.  I really hate those ornaments.  We shouldn't have even tried.  We were trying to recreate what we had lost.  It felt like a huge failure.  My mom still hangs them on a tiny tree.  I wish we could just give up on them until there are more little kids to make real homemade ornaments again.

I try so hard every year to get into the Christmas spirit.  And every year it just gets harder.  I used to love wrapping presents and decorating my house.  This year, I decorated in a hope of making myself feel Christmasy.  When I went shopping on Friday, it just wasn't as fun as it used to be.  I always loved planning my shopping list and finding the perfect gift.  Anymore, it feels like a grocery list.  I miss the spirit of Christmas.  Sometimes it's hard to be a grown up.

Please don't worry about me.  I'm not depressed.  It probably sounds like I am.  I think I'm just a little melancholy for how Christmas used to be.

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