like the corner of my mind.
Misty water-colored memories
of the way we were.
With it being Christmas time and then New Year’s Eve following behind it, I think we have a tendency to look back and reflect on the past year, our accomplishments, our follies and hopefully look forward to the New Year. I think this makes people a little nostalgic; at least it does for me. So, like I did at Thanksgiving, I want to share with you some of my Christmas memories.
When we lived in Nebraska, like everyone else, we had a basement. So when Christmas time came around we had two trees. Looking back on it as an adult, this seems decadent, but this was just how it was. The upstairs tree was real and was displayed in the large front window of the living room. You know the room that we weren’t allowed to go into unsupervised? That tree held all of the ornaments we received growing up. They were the best ornaments in the collection. This tree also had all of the gifts for extended family. It had the star on top that blinked and the twinkle white lights. It was damn near picturesque.
The tree down stairs was in the family room, you know the room we were allowed in? That tree was fake and held the leftover ornaments, the ornaments made in school, the ornaments made for the dog and the mismatched colored lights. This tree also held all of our family gifts. So while the tree looked beyond sad, it was next to our fire place where our stockings were really hung with care and probably duct tape and it looked like Christmas bounty on Christmas morning. We used to have to sit at the top of the stairs waiting for Mom and Dad to make sure Santa and the elves where gone. This was probably a parental ploy to bought time making sure everything was put together right or take a picture of us all in our matching pjs.
When we moved to Arizona my Dad, the sheet metal worker, made a cactus out of sheet metal. We covered that stuccoed, army green, metal cactus in lights all those Christmases we drove home to Nebraska for the holiday. Less fire-hazard you know. Those years that we drove back to Nebraska for Christmas, we would pack up all five of us plus one dog in the diesel chugging two-tone blue suburban. Loaded to the gills with luggage and gifts. We drove from Arizona to New Mexico, short jaunts through Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, and cleeeaaarrr across Kansas in freezing temperatures, blowing snow and sleet. We did this probably the first three or four years after we moved to Arizona. These memories are sprinkled with eggnog milk shakes at McDonald's in New Mexico. Listening to The Yellow Rose of Texas so many times we dubbed it a Christmas carol. The smell of bitter cold, snow, and diesel from the various truck stops along the way. The blowing winds of I40 through New Mexico, the stockyards in Dalhart, TX, Hooker OK where everyone (but me) has been pulled over and the nothingness and time suck of Kansas. Growing up I couldn't imagine it any other way. But, now, with the benefit of time and looking at it as a parent, that must have been hell for my parents. No wonder they fought all the time.
When we started staying home (Arizona home) for Christmas, we started our own traditions. Opening certain gifts on Christmas Eve and calling family. Eventually my Mom's parent's joined us for the holidays and then those trips became longer and longer over the years until they bought a trailer and officially became Snow Birds. The winters with my grandparents are wonderful memories. Baking so that Grandma wouldn't. Grandpa sneeking a pocket knife out to start slowly opening his gift when it wasn't his turn. And Dad getting so tickled at Grandpa when he got caught. Mom getting so excited about the big old prime rib my grandparents would bring with them. Grandpa picking all of the grapefruit off the tree. When my grandpa passed away in 2004, I was so thankful that I have those memories. If we hadn't moved to Arizona, I can't say that we would have ever had that relationship with them. Grandma is still a snow bird and still with us this Christmas.
When I went away to college, for one year mind you, it was the first time I missed out on the tree trimming party and all of the festivities that come along with Christmas in my family. I was home for the actual Christmas Eve and Day. My roommates decorated our apartment and hung little stockings, including one for the cat. We made sugar cookie dough, ate most of it and then make cookies. It was the first time I created my own Christmas memories. When I moved back to the Valley, I moved in with my other sister. We chronologically three years apart but we’ve had this connection since we were little. It’s similar to what you expect from twins. As little girls we were inseparable. As teenagers we could battle it out like the best of Jerry Springer. But with less baby daddies and paternity tests. When we decided to live together in our early 20s I’m sure it was a shock to my parents. We lived together for two years, successfully most of the time.
Our first Christmas together we went to the tree lot and bought a cheap, sad little tree and strapped it to the roof of my Saturn. We hauled it up the stairs to our apartment and I trimmed off the lower branches with a kitchen knife. We sang Christmas carols and laughed like we always do, and decorated our tree together. This was my first independent Christmas and I love the memory of it.
When Juanito and I moved in together I don’t know if he fully grasped the love I have for this holiday. And really, without him reining me in, it has grown quite a bit since then. I think that the older I get the more child-like I get about Christmas. Or perhaps its because I have a child... I'm not sure and I don't care the reason. Christmas gets better and better for me. And even though this weekend might break us between the grocery store run for baking supplies, then the actual baking, SCUBA diving Santa trip with Cee, taking Red to Annie (I know, how fitting is that!?) and then tamale-a-thon with Schmacey on Sunday. I know its crazy and hectic. I know that we squeeze everything out of ourselves and our bank accounts to do all the things I want to do. But I don't care. I am making the memories that The Boy will cherish and share with his friends and future family. See Juanito, its totally justifiable.