I love Christmas. Maybe that’s the problem … I love it too much.
I have such fond memories of my childhood Christmases that every year I try to recapture that same magic. The anticipation — and the little disappointments — start immediately after the Thanksgiving dinner dishes are cleared; that’s when I put up the Christmas decorations.
I have two Christmas trees in my little apartment. One in the living room with retro mercury glass bulbs in the prettiest jewel tones. Another, smaller tree, sits perched in my bedroom with white lights and a country theme.
I’m hoping to add a third tree this year. An aluminum tree with a color wheel — just like the one my grandparents used to have. My parents, being more traditionalists, had a green tree (albeit fake) when we were growing up. Adorning the top of their tree was not a star or an angel, but a crown. It was decorated with what was supposed to look like stained glass designs of the three wise men and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. A light bulb was the crowning jewel. When the tree topper was plugged in, it spun slowly around with a dull, sleepy, whir and created dancing shadows of color on the ceiling. My sister and I used to lie under the tree and stare up at those designs for hours. That’s probably why I enjoy going to sleep with my little country Christmas tree in the bedroom to this day. And why, regardless of my parents’ fear that it will catch on fire and burn my apartment down, I will always go to sleep each holiday to the twinkling lights of my bedroom Christmas tree.
Last year at this time, while enjoying some holiday cheer with my co-workers, I spied a cutie at the other end of the bar. My friend went right up to him and introduced us. He and I chatted for a while. We shared the same childhood glee and excitement about the upcoming holiday. I was sure we were destined for each other. This guy had not two trees…not three or four trees…but seven Christmas trees in his house! I was convinced that Santa had brought me an early Christmas present until my latest future husband-to-be began to tell me in great detail about how each of the seven trees was decorated — including the one that sat in his bedroom with a pink boa for garland and little shoe ornaments. He was certainly someone’s Mr. Right – just not mine.
But Santa has a way of always coming through. It was Santa who brought me a Lite Brite and a Big Wheel when I was five. It was Santa who brought me that white princess desk that I used all through grade school and middle school. And Santa who brought me my favorite doll – the one who wore a purple skirt and beret and sang “It’s a Small World,” in English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Japanese.
I still believe in Santa Claus. Always have. I believe in the spirit of Christmas that he represents. Even when my sister and I were well into our teens we’d wake up early Christmas morning and go through our stockings together. At that age they were filled with costume jewelry, shampoo, deodorant and socks rather than toys, Lifesaver Storybooks and Mad Libs, but we’d jump on our parents’ bed at dawn nonetheless and show them our loot. (And God bless them, they’d act like it was all new to them!) To this day I’d still rather get a stocking left on my bedpost after midnight than even the biggest present under the tree.
I don’t care what people say, Christmas is about presents. Giving them and getting them. It’s a tradition as old as the holiday itself. And I’m not just talking about gifts for the kiddies.
I truly enjoy Christmas shopping. I like writing out my lists, pre-shopping for gift ideas, running around town to this store and that to get the best price. Loading up my Subaru with bags from Derby Street Shops, the Independence Mall, and Colony Place. Making trip after trip up and down the stairs to my apartment (there’s no elevator!) arms heavy with bagfuls of what I hope are the perfect gifts.
I’m deliberate in the gifts I choose, wanting to bring a smile – or maybe even tears — to the recipient.
One year I bought my niece an American Girl doll she had been pining for. In that cruel way that adults have we hid the present. It wasn’t under the tree with all the others. And after everyone had opened their gifts, kissed each other on the cheek, swept the broken boxes and ripped wrapping paper into trash bags, only then did we bring out the special doll. My niece tore through the wrapping, and when faced with the blond-haired, blue eyed doll starting visibly shaking, her eyes welled up with tears: “I’ve wanted this dolly my whole life!” the 6 year old exclaimed. That’s the reaction I shoot for every time I give a gift. That’s the excitement I hope will overcome me each time I reach under the tree and see my name on a gift tag. So you can understand my disappointment when what’s revealed is a gift card – regardless of the store it came from (or the amount).
I know my expectations are high. I know that Christmas is just one day amongst three hundred and sixty four other days of the year. But if I can’t hope for magic on this one special day, then when can I?