Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Hope It Will Be the Little Things...

Much like I have done for the last four Christmases that Mike and I have been parents, I have been surveying the items that Santa has been able to check off of the kid’s Christmas lists and I wonder if the big guy has done enough. When it is all wrapped and under the tree will it look like as much as the receipts claim it is, or will it seem like much less? When the kids come down Christmas morning, will their eyes light up with excitement when they see all that Santa has brought? I hope that they feel that Santa was good to them, because I know that he did everything that he could to give them as much as possible, not that it will be an avalanche of gifts by any means. But while I was obsessing about the gifts and their quantity, I started thinking back to my childhood Christmases and I realized that none of those memories ever include a tally of what Santa brought. Those memories are about so much more.

I remember how excited my sisters and I always were to start decorating. Dad would be busy stringing the lights on the tree while we paced anxiously waiting to load every inch of free space with our most favorite decorations. There were the decorations that looked like cotton candy on long sticks, and the straw lady that Mom always made sure had a special place of honor. We each hung our baby ornaments from our first Christmases and we never forgot the shredded wheat wreaths that we had made in school.

Once the tree was done, we continued to spread the Christmas joy all throughout the house with the set of three snowmen snowballs that always sat on the coffee table and the green ceramic tree that lit up and found its place on our TV. The decorating was never finished until the gold sleigh, complete with reindeer, was set out on the window sill in the kitchen; I saw it there yesterday when Aaron and I went to Mom and Dad’s to tag along on a shopping trip.

Some of the strongest memories are from all of the Christmas Eves that we spent at my Grandparents house. We always went to Christmas Eve mass at the church down the street and then went back to their house to eat, open gifts, and tell stories. My grandmother, “Gum Gum,” always made a huge pot of rigatoni and you were never finished eating until you had at least one piece, but usually more, of her famous poppy seed roll. I remember how special the night seemed as we all said our goodbyes and headed out into the cold Christmas air to get into the car and head home to get ready for Santa. The sky was always so dark, but clear and there was no denying the magic.

I was never able to sleep on Christmas Eve, my mind swirling with thoughts of what Santa might bring, but I strained to drift off because I knew that he wouldn’t come until I was asleep. At the crack of dawn, we dragged our parents out of bed and when we came down the stairs and walked ran, into the living room we were always, always overwhelmed by the realization that Santa had actually come. I can still see our living room and how beautiful the tree looked the first time that we saw it on Christmas morning.

Of course there were gifts, but it’s not the quantity that sticks out in my mind. To tell you the truth, except for a few random presents, I really don’t remember exactly what Santa brought each year. But I remember the Santa cookie cutter that we used to make sugar cookies; Mom gave it to me to make the same recipe with my kids. I can see Dad sitting in the living room surrounded by pieces of our artificial tree, trying to put it all together despite the fact that Angie and I kept stealing large branches to make t-pees. I can see Mom sitting on the couch with her morning cup of coffee, trying to take in the intense excitement that overflowed in the room at six o’clock in the morning, and the looks on Mom and Dad’s faces as they met each other’s gaze from across the room while they watched the three of us girls tear into our Christmas loot.

There are so many more memories that I could go on and on about; things that were really special and made a lasting impression, but in the grand scheme of things, to most everyone else, were quite insignificant. I hope that when Aaron and Elyse look back on their Christmases, they remember how we went to my Mom and Dad’s house every year, the weekend before Christmas, to make the same sugar cookie recipe with the same Santa cookie cutter that I used when I was a kid. I wonder what decorations will stand out in their minds as things that were a must when decorating our house. Will they ever notice the way that Mike and I look at each other while we watch them revel in the magic of Christmas morning? There will always be gifts, though the quantity may vary, but I hope that it will be the special things, the little things that they remember most when they look back and remember our Christmases together.