December 24, 2014

'Twas the Night Before


      It is the night before Christmas. What memories that stirs. I recall my childhood when we visited my Uncle Leo and Aunt Margie at their beautiful Malibu home. They had, over the years, taken a small house and expanded it as their children multiplied. In the little original living room they had a sparkling Christmas tree and the room was filled with gifts. I never wanted to leave there. My maternal grandparents had new pajamas for all of the hordes of grandchildren and my grandmother made flannel nightgowns and matching pajamas for her sons and daughter and their spouses. We would run through the rumpus room and outside around the house in the warm green of the southern California winter.

My maternal grandmother

      When my own children were growing up they would become more excited and thus increasingly impossible as the holiday approached. Long before today's pressure of being under the watchful eye of an elf on a shelf, they could barely contain themselves trying to behave before Santa arrived. Even after I learned the secrets of the jolly old elf I still loved the magic of the tales and still today will find something special under the tree from “Santa”.

      For a few years after my youngest daughter had moved out of the house she still came home early Christmas morning with her husband in tow. She wore her pajamas under her coat to travel through the bit of snow we often get around late December to be a little girl again on Christmas morning. One last year, after her first son, Michael was born, she came again with him in the baby carrier. After that we moved the operation, and the mess, to her home. Now my husband and I rise early, I am often up at 5 a.m. that day. I still crank up Nat King Cole crooning The Christmas Song and plug in the tree while I dress warmly and we haul out the big basket and boxes filled with gifts. The streets of town are mostly quiet, except for the local coffee shop, and we drive the several blocks to her home, hoping to be there before the grandchildren arise. We settle in with juice and coffee, sticky buns and fruit. We have elected a Santa to pass out the gifts ahead of time. This year it will be my grandson, Michael. He reads now. He’ll be schooled on how to know the difference between To and From on the gift tags so we can avoid confusion and learn how to mix up the gifts so we all take turns unwrapping. He’ll wait until each gift is opened before selecting the next. By midday the house will be filled with empty boxes and neat stacks of each person’s treasures and we will be bleary eyed and tired. We’ll build a Ninja Turtle house or scratch our heads through the workings of a microscope and the children will have an emotional crash and one of them will get cranky and need a good hug. It is tradition full blown and it is a gift we give ourselves once a year. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Baskets of gifts

Michael and Grandpa playing Smoke on the Water

Michael and Thomas - Christmas morning 2013

Love Park Christmas Village 2014 

      May your own holiday celebration be the very best, no matter how you make merry. Happy holidays readers. Each and every one.  

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