Christmas with Mama

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mama loved Christmas.

She could hardly wait until Christmas morning to open her gifts.

Actually, she didn't always wait. I've known her to secretly open the end of a package, peek inside, then carefully retape the wrapping paper.

She was always like that.

In later years, her children learned not to give her a gift until the last minute.

At a pre-Christmas gathering when gifts were exchanged, she would unwrap hers on the way home in the car. She wasn't about to wait until Christmas Day.

We always celebrated Christmas on Christmas morning, never on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve was the night Santa Claus made his appearance and helped himself to milk and cookies we had left on the table.

He wouldn't make his appearance until we were fast asleep. Oh, how we tried to fall asleep!

Even now, I won't unwrap gifts on Christmas Eve. That just wouldn't be right. I wait until Christmas morning, as always.

There were four of us kids in my family. We didn't get a lot of presents, but we were never disappointed. There was always something that we wanted. One year my father went to a local jewelry store and bought a gold bracelet for me. He knew that's what I wanted. It was a band with a clasp closure. The intricate etchings sparkled when the light hit them. Buying that bracelet was out of character for my dad. He left the Christmas shopping to my mother.

Somewhere in all the military moves, I lost the bracelet, though I had kept it for years.

A couple of years ago I went to an indoor flea market and there in a glass case was a gold band similar to the one my dad bought for me. I couldn't resist; I bought it. Actually, people don't wear those solid bracelet bands anymore. But when I was in high school, most of the girls wore them. The flea market bracelet brought back memories of Christmas long ago.

On Christmas morn, each of us kids had a stocking filled with an orange, an apple, a candy cane and an assortment of walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts.

My mom always said that my dad, like Scrooge, didn't like Christmas.

But I now know that on Christmas Eve he would spend hours putting a bicycle together or erecting some toy with a hundred parts.

Maybe, in later years, he didn't like Christmas, but I remember that he delighted in playing tricks on us at Christmastime.

He would disguise the gifts he wrapped for us.

There was the time he wrapped a large box of corn flakes to hide the real gift inside.

And he would add some nuts and bolts so that the gift would rattle when we shook it and tried to guess what was inside.

Once he added a tool which made the package heavy.

There was the time my dad bought a silver tree with one of those revolving color wheels that cast red, green and blue lights on the tree. As the tree turned full circle, Silent Night played from the base.

Doesn't that prove that my dad liked Christmas, just a bit?

True, he didn't care if he received a gift or not.

Often, he would leave his unwrapped gifts for days before he bothered to open them.

He knew it would be a work shirt or work pants and he would open it when he needed it.

I remember the time I bought him a forest green suede shirt that was really soft.

It pleased me that when I visited him he would be wearing that shirt, time and time again.

O Holy Night! I had found something he liked.

And that was Christmas, many long years ago.

May you and your family be blessed this Christmas season.