Christmas is celebrated all over the world. Not in every country, but it’s not just an American holiday.
(Dino's picture is so pitiful this year, I had to include it. He loves Christmas, just not the hat.)
Growing up we all read about the traditions of our ancestors, sometimes we were told around the dinner table on Christmas Eve or during our big Christmas day lunch. I remember a lot of Christmases and I remember a lot of things we did, but mostly I remember the terrible time-management issues that arose for Clare and I on each and every Christmas. Keep on reading, you’ll see what I mean.
I grew up in a little town on Lake Superior. Ashland sits on Chequamagon Bay. We can see the lights of Washburn across the bay at night. We always had snow for Christmas. Heck, we ususally had snow for Halloween. I remember thinking that the only people who really sang “White Christmas” were people who lived in Hawaii or something.
Christmas day in our house began early. Normally between 6 and 7 AM, Clare and I would spring up out of our beds like we had springs attached to our feet. We would put on our slipppers and go and wake up Mom & Dad and announce “It’s Christmas!!!!!” . As we got to the top of the stairs we would link our arms, and then count down “one, two, three..GO!!” and we ran downstairs as fast as we possibly could.
We ran into the dining room and there it was a bountiful pile of gifts. More than the night before and all of our careful stacking and sorting was all undone. Santa must want you to have to look for your gifts all over again. Clare and I would sit patiently waiting for Mom and Dad before we opened any gifts. We would just sit there, whispering excitedly looking to see if our names were on any of the big boxes.
When Mom and Dad finally appeared the bedlam began. We tried to be good, but please, we were kids, this was the most awesome day ever, presents before breakfast and no school. What more could you ask for?
As we opened our gifts we would run and show them to Mom and Dad who were stumbling around the kitchen trying to make coffee in between our hugs of thanks and our begging them to open their gifts.
We would just finish opening our gifts and our stockings when Mom & Dad would call us in for breakfast. A necessary break I guess we were starving. So we ate happily and quickly before we could go back to get under the tree. Unfortunately our duties were not over. We had to go upstairs and get dressed for church.
The only bad part of the day. We had just finished opening our gifts and we had to eat breakfast. Then we sat back down to play with our new toys and we had to stop to get dressed and go to church.
So we got dressed and went up to our Christmas services. Unfortunately Christmas services are long because of the extra songs and sometimes they did the whole baby Jesus thing with the Three kings. It was fun, but when you’ve had about 10 minutes to play with your brand new Barbie and she has a case and new shoes, it’s awfully hard to get your heart into “Away in The Manger”.
The teachers always cried when the little kids choir sang. I suspect it was because after practically pulling out their own hair and begging us until they were red in the face to “sing together!", they cried tears of joy when we actually followed their direction. I think a few of them had to be sent to a Lutheran Sanitarium after the extra rehearsals right before Christmas. It was just too much for gentle Norwegian women who didn’t ever use bad swear words and always gave you Kool Aid and sugar cookies even if you were acting like a little heathens during all of those choir rehearsals.
As chuch finally ended, we ran to our car and waited for Mom and Mary and Mike. Clare and I would have run home in our little dresses if they hadn’t hurried. We had a lot of new toys and we wanted to play with them.
After the drive home, we ran in the house and upstairs to change into our play clothes. Then we went and brought our new toys to the family room and started to play. And then it happened, it was time to clean up and change back into our dresses because our grandparents and Aunt Susie and Uncle Mac were coming for Christmas dinner.
So back upstairs we went. Since we hadn’t really taken care of those new dresses, they were wrinkled and in a heap, but we got them back on and although the knees of the white tights were already turning brown from crawling around under our beds and stuff, we brushed our hair and skedaddled right back down to the family room.
Finally we could play. We each had new Barbies and each had new cases and extra clothes and shoes. We had only changed the clothes once and Mom came and said we had to go greet Gramma Al and Grampa Jack, Aunt Susie and Uncle Mac.
Gramma Al always hugged us and left a pink lipstick smear on our cheeks, we didn’t mind that though. So we sat and told them what we got for Christmas and thanked them for the gifts they sent. We even got to show them a few of the presents, but then it was time for Christmas dinner.
So far, we hadn’t even had one solid hour of playing with our toys and we were getting awful antsy. It was always hard to sit through that dinner. The food was wonderful and was a roast with mashed potatoes and rutabaggas and corn and even a big dessert. But we could barely eat at all and with so many extra people at the table, we were able to leave before we had eaten very much.
Clare and I happily took our plates to the kitchen and high tailed it right back to the family room. As we sat there on the floor setting up our Barbies in their cases, we compared the clothes and the shoes and made up stories about what our Barbies did for a living. We were children of a working woman and I just loved Mary Tyler Moore. I wanted to grow up and move to Minneapolis and live in an apartment just like Mary and have a good friend like Rhoda. Angie and I would have been happy in that life. Our Barbies were going to have to get jobs.
One year, we also received remote control motor cycles and they looked like they were big enough for Barbie even though she couldn’t bend her legs. They had sirens on them, but we wanted to put Barbie on the bikes.
So we pryed off the plastic cops and put Barbie on the motorclycles and ran them straight into each other and then we took them to the Barbie Hospital. This was the greatest Barbie game we ever concocted. We got extra dishtowels for blankets and we made an ambulance out of a shoe box.
Sometimes Barbie would die and it would be sad. But most times she just went to Barbie Hospital which was in her case. We used kleenex and yes once we used feminine napkins because we just thought Barbie needed a softer bed because she broke her leg. That was funny now that I think of it.
When we were getting ready to operate on one of the Barbies, Mom came in and said we had to kiss everyone good bye and thank them. So we went out to the living room and said good night and thank you to our Grandparents and Aunt and Uncle we loved so much. And then after they left, “girls it’s time for you two to go to bed”.
We had opened a pile of presents in record time and due to all of the events of Christmas, we had little more than one hour of playing time. Plus Barbie was critically injured in a motorcycle crash while she was going to the beach! What were we supposed to do, let her wait overnight before we operated? Was this the first form of HMO???
Clare and I were both too exasperated to complain. We had a lot of nice gifts and if we acted badly now, it would be bad later if we ever wanted another toy. So we brushed our teeth and kissed them goodnight.
Lucky for us, that year, we had a couple of new toys waiting for us, hidden in my dresser. We each received Viewmasters from our lovely Auntie Marilyn and Uncle Glenn who lived in New Mexico. They had sent us each a Viewmaster with several different disks. And these Viewmasters had batteries, because they lit up when you pressed the button at the top!!! I put them in my dresser thinking we could play these at night because of the light. I didn’t know that we would have so little time with our other toys, but thank goodness I thought to hide these toys in our room. They didn't call me clever Annie for nothing. Well, OK I"m the only one who ever called myself that. I"m just a big dork, I know it and I'm not afraid of my inner/outer dork anymore.
Right after we were tucked in, I jumped out of my bed and got the Viewmasters out of my dresser. I handed one to Clare. We both lay in our beds looking at pictures of mountains and oceans and Snow White and eventually we fell asleep.
Time management, who would have ever guessed it would play such an important part in the life of a kid on Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe that church is good for you and singing in choirs and hugging your relatives are all important. But now that I’m an adult, I try to make Christmas more about the people and the enjoyment of the day and a little less about the gifts or the spotless house or the dog hair on the couch and I won’t be wearing a dress again this year.
Christmas is different now that I’m an adult. I don’t hook arms with my sister and run down the stairs, I don’t lay on the floor under the tree at night and shake my gifts. I probably would have to have someone come and help me back up if I layed under the tree. But I still shake my gifts when no one is home. Especially those that are delivered during the day when I’m the only one here.
And in my prayers I still wish my Grandparents, Gramma Al, Grampa Jack, Gramma Berg and Grampa Berg and Uncle Palmer, Uncle Mac and my Dad a very Merry Christmas and I thank them for all the gifts I’ve received in my life.
And tomorrow night when I’m hosting my Mexican Fiesta for Christmas Eve, I know that they’ll all be here with us in spirit wrapping their love around all of us, just like they did all those years ago when I was a little girl and Clare and I got our Viewmasters.
Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas.
Thanks for listening.