The wide-eyed wonder time of the year is upon us. People are out bustling around, coming out of stores with shopping bags hanging from their arms. Walking around with steaming cups of hot chocolate or coffee wrapped in mittened hands. Smiles abound, Christmas tree stands everywhere, Christmas music playing everywhere, even from my laptop.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and I can feel the spirit of the season—even embrace it. As we get closer to December 25th, memories are flooding into my mind of Christmases past.
I remember as a little girl money was very tight—some years worse than others. I remember several Christmas eves my mother would send my brother up to get a free Christmas tree that the vendors no longer knew what to do with. What a great time we had decorating those Christmas tree stragglers—some years we’d have a Charlie Brown tree, sometimes something better—whatever was left. I remember my mother coming home some years with a brown paper bag filled with smokey chestnuts purchased from the corner vendor. So I really understand the song Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. I remember being so excited that I wasn’t able to sleep. The remedy, a little brandy in some egg nog. My brother, sister and I standing in line to get our little taste treat of the season. Everyone knew it would not make us go to sleep—we were just too excited,but boy did it taste good and warm our body. I remember hearing my mother, brother-in-law and older sister bringing the toys in to put under the Christmas tree. They’d had a little of that brandy in egg nog too, so they’d be laughing and shushing each other. As soon as they’d left, and my mother finally put her head on her pillow, we’d call out “Has Santa Claus been here yet Mama, can we get up?” “He hasn’t been here yet, children—I’ll wake you when he has” she’d call back, desperate for a few hours sleep. Finally after a few more attempts, she’d let us get up—still dark out I can still hear our squeals over a bike, a new dress, a doll—whatever we could afford that year. Oh, precious memories.
I remember trying to duplicate the wonder of my childhood Christmases for my children. I remember the wonder in their eyes, the excited energy that emanated from their bodies, the joy when they got exactly the video game, or Lego set they’d wanted. I remember how happy they were when I promised that Santa would be able to find us at Grandma’s house in New York and knew not to bring the gifts to California . I remember a day care provider's tradition of having a birthday cake for Jesus so that the children would remember just who’s birthday we were celebrating. Oh, precious memories.
I remember when Lateef had a family of his own, that he would dress up like Santa Claus. I remember the call I got when Jade was 3 ½. An excited little voice on the phone said “Grandma, guess what? The black Santa Claus visited me and brought gifts. Grandma, I wish Daddy could have been here to see.” I said, “Wow, Jade, that’s great..You’ll just have to tell Daddy about it.” I remember that Rashida always wanted stocking stuffers, even well after we no longer piled the Christmas tree up with gifts, even today…. I remember that Ted would hold out shopping until Christmas Eve, when he’d finally break down and go Christmas shopping for a last minute gift—I remember that Rashida always had to tell him what I’d like even though I’d been dropping hints for at least 2 months. Oh, precious memories.
This Christmas season is different. My mother, Ted and Lateef are not here, but I have my wonderful memories and they are heart warming—almost like they’re really here with me. This Christmas we're building new traditions and keeping some of the old. Rashida and I will go to visit the Christmas windows on Fifth Avenue on Christmas day. That’s new. I will cook an abbreviated Christmas dinner. That’s old. We will see Alvin Ailey. That’s old. We will light candles for Ted, Lateef and my mother. That’s new. We will give a little more to Salvation Army and the homeless. That’s new. We will see, really see some of the sickness and sadness in the world and look for ways to help. That is enhanced…
What will the holidays mean to you? To me, they signify hope, joy and love and yes, Gerri, there is a Santa Claus—he is alive in all of us--no matter what.
Peace, love and the blessing of the holiday season to you all--today and every day.