Christmases Past

My homies and I were talking about Christmas traditions the other day, which really got me thinking. You know those traditions when you are a kid that you dream will never change. Those things that really make Christmas special, so “Christmas”? And then you get older, and traditions evolve. They have to. Life evolves and changes, the situation is different, there are different people involved (and lots of them!) … Still I think it is cool to take a few moments to reflect on where we’ve come from, memories and traditions from childhood, and to remember what is important and special about Christmas now.

Ahem.

My childhood. My earliest Christmas memories as a kid are at the old, old house (we moved from there when I was 5). I remember the Christmas tree in the corner. I remember sneaking down the stairs to see it. I remember matching pajamas (the pictures do help jog that memory). And that’s about it from those earliest memories. Just some random snapshot Christmas moments in that house.

As I got a little older, we always drew names among the siblings (or at least since the timesI have clear memories). We would try to keep it a secret, who had who, but someone would always squeal. And I used to find out who had who on a regular basis. Information is power. Or not, but it was always kind of a thrill to know when not everyone knew. And we would open our gifts from each other on Christmas eve. Oooh ahhh. I remember the excitement and anticipation– gifts were simple and inexpensive, but important. We would agonize over what to get each other and enlist help, and sit barely able to wait our turn to give our gift to our beloved sibling.

I remember years of going to Mass on Christmas morning, and then loading the station wagon, the red van, the blue van, the red and gray van (so many vans) and hoofing it to Monroe for brunch and presents with my mom’s family, and from there heading to Dearborn for Christmas with my dad’s family. The whole day was a delightful flurry of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, car rides listening to Christmas carols, presents, candy… all around magical… for us kids anyway.

Some Christmas gifts really stand out in my memories:

I remember being quite young and participating in the Christmas pageant at my mom’s family Christmas. One of the uncles was the donkey, I was Mary, Kathleen was an angel, Collin was Joseph, and my brand new Christmas doll Rachel got to play the baby Jesus. Vivid and important memories. Rachel was the first brand new doll I’d ever gotten and when you turned her over, she cried “waahh.” I was thrilled. Coolest toy ever. I still have Rachel. Her hair isn’t nice. The original clothes are long gone. The “waaahh” became a faint sqeak only when you punched her stomach, and eventually became complete silence. Her lips are still a faint green from the time my brother and his friends colored them green with a marker. And yet that doll still carries some important memories for me and I can’t quite give her up (though I don’t attempt to sleep with her anymore).

I remember the year we got our puppy on Christmas- best Christmas ever (I was 9 at the time)! Holly was a black lab mutt (this habit started young). I remember opening the big mysterious box in my grandparent’s basement and how excited my dad was. A puppy!! No one had even hinted about a puppy!! Our very own puppy?!?! I remember riding from Grandma’s to the other Grandma’s passing the dog between the big kids and discussing names. Kathleen wanted to name her Black Beauty. I don’t remember what I wanted. And then my dad suggested Holly. Perfect!! So Christmasy and yet the perfect dog name. I loved that pooch from the start and she quickly became “my dog.” Oh she was everyone’s dog but very much my dog at the same time. I remember my two year old brother Neil spending a lot of time torturing her and eating her food. Those early weeks of potty training, she endeared herself to my poor mom by consistently pooping under the Christmas tree. And as she got a little older, I loved training her. Teaching her to sit, to walk on a leash, to roll over, to stop jumping up. Gosh I loved that dog. She gave me a lot of purpose in life. She was one of the first real “projects” I remember truly investing in and I remember being so proud as she’d learn new tricks and pass important milestones. Holly was such a faithful dog right to the end. The gift that keeps on giving for years and years and years.

And here’s a random one: my parents often gave us really useful gifts like towels, pajamas, and socks. I remember the year Kathleen and I got large brand new bath towels. They were light blue striped and matched the wall paper in our room (which had light blue stripes on it). I know it’s ridiculous, but I remember those towels vividly and remember hoarding them proudly, keeping them hanging in our bedroom away from the little boys who would use whatever towel was closest when they ran naked out of the tub. Our very own towels!!

Okay, I’ll let it go there for now… thanks for walking down memory lane with me. What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?

One thought on “Christmases Past

  1. We would go to my aunt's house in Grosse Pointe on Christmas eve, then to the Vigil Mass at CTK, and go to bed late. In the morning, we'd have to sit on the steps and weren't allowed downstairs till my mom had her coffee and camera ready, and my dad read a few Bible passages. Then, in this exact order: opened stockings, ate pound cake and drank apricot juice, opened “Santa presents”, cooked and ate breakfast, then opened “family presents”. The rest of the day was play time at home, and we'd drive to visit my Grandma and relatives the next day in Niles.

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