The following is a tale based on my Christmases of the past. The stories are based on factual events but I doubt they all ever happened in the same year. They seem... and well they are... a distant memory of Christmas Past.
I'm not sure what time I finally fell asleep but it was after midnight for sure. I'd watch the time tick down until it was actually Christmas. All holidays meant so much back then but Christmas was the king. A day full of presents so plentiful I'd forget some stuff I got until days later. As a kid with little to no income most of the stuff you want comes either on your birthday or Christmas. My birthday was in April so the long gap had my list often pretty full of action figures, playsets, sports gear... ya know the important stuff.
Despite the late falling asleep the second I awoke there was no way I was going back to sleep even if that was like 5 am. I'd sit in bed and wait til I heard the first noise from my parents room. Then I might go to the bathroom to let them know I was up. I'd never head down to the living room until they were up. I wanted to give the vibe that I was chill but really I wanted to get at the Christmas fun.
Eventually we'd head down there and my Mom was usually trying to take pictures. Advancing film and grabbing pics of a pajama'd me with orange eyes due to the way film worked back then. We'd start with stockings and despite it being just my mom, dad and me we always seemed to have more than three stockings. My Snoopy had one, Jacee (our dog) had one later other stuffed animal friends had them too. I never thought of our family as small then. Because of what was to come the rest of the day...
We'd move to the tree and start with me playing "Santa" handing out gifts to my mom, dad, and me. I'd get Ninja Turtles and Starting lIneup figures. A jersey was a sure thing and is what started my vast collection back in the 80's when jerseys were harder to come by than they are today. Eventually we ended the gifts portion and I consumed candy from my stocking while playing with the spoils of war and occasionally sipping Tang while rubbing Snoopys paw. (seriously... if that sentence doesn't emit even the semblance of a tear from the eyeball of my mother I'm hanging up my blog.) I'd have at least one gift I was convinced was awesome for both of my parents. They'd range from homemade things to stuff they'd buy the other and I'd poach to say was from me.... This year Dad got a Brett Favre jersey that I gave to him in a box I wrapped with duct tape (duct tape had a great publicist for awhile back then and it was everywhere) Mom for sure got at least one mug, one ornament, and some lighthouse based item oddly that formula still holds often to this day but back then occasionally there would be a Carousel based thing or socks. Then we declared it was time to go to my grandparents house. Tough to pull me out of the house on such a day but unless it was my year to be difficult (more on this in a moment) I usually slapped on a Broncos jersey or Bills shirt and got ready to go. Whichever of my teams was dominating the AFC at the time, but not winning the Super Bowls... at least it was a message to my uncle and cousins about how going with the Dolphins was a bad choice (I knew then that Dan Marino was overrated and that the Dolphins franchise was garbage... how many Super Bowls have they been to since that one in 1985? Oh none you say? Yikes)
So off we went to Pennington drive for lunch and gift exchange and such. My uncles and aunts and all of my cousins would be there. The cousins consisted of seven of us in total. And every year one of us had to be difficult. We didn't have a text chat going then about who it would be but we all took a turn. Especially when it came time for photos. Sometimes it was inner family sibling rivalry like my cousin Mike riling up his sister Missy and other times it was just someone acting in a sour mood. This wasn't my year to be that guy so I enjoyed interacting with my cousins a lot. We'd play games, play pretend, put on shows sometime... this happened to be a show year. Despite coming off a loss in a highly contested game of Skipper (Barbie's younger sister). I always found myself in the middle of whatever production we did. We rarely planned much out but we thought they came out ok. This year we don't have to listen to Allison sing "Tomorrow" for some reason despite a Christmas tune making more sense, because it was her turn to pout. My cousin Jamie is making me laugh with some new word that enters my vocabulary. This year it happens to be the idea of calling someone you dislike a "Stain." I recall my giggling interrupting a milk and cookies situation I had going that ended up coming out of my nose. With my cousins and all the uncles and aunts its hard to keep track of everyone even in a small house. My grandfather often challenged the older cousins in chess and some of the younger ones in checkers. I recall him eventually teaching me to play when I got older. He always did such a good job teaching and never belittling anyone for not knowing something. It's a trait I think I've learned from him. The adults might play cards or simply watch the Lions game. I think the girls are in the basement helping wrap gifts but when they are done we going to get in some pool (billiards) down there no matter how cold it is. Eventually we do gifts which is a tall order with a group this large. My grandfather is always the last to still be opening gifts. Then as a kid, we thought it was odd but looking back I see how he sat back and watched us all... he soaked it in... then he unwrapped by undoing the paper at the tape spots and claiming to save the paper for reuse next year. We might have only been there for 4 hours before we are off but not without my grandmother making sure we had enough to eat and took some leftovers. Sometimes I'd snag a Little Debbie snack cake for the road... hey I'm a growing boy and plus and oatmeal creme pie sounded like the healthy option back then. I wish I had learned to sit back and take that all in better like my grandfather did... then this paragraph might have been longer... I'm sad I don't have more memories of those times but what I have I cherish.
We then headed for Weaver Street where my grandfather has actually stayed in Vermont this year instead of being in Florida and he and my grandmother host our family and my 2 uncles and aunts and 1 cousin Kyle who is still quite young. My Uncle Donnie is cracking jokes and watching his Cowboys in the second game while I avoid questions about how school is going. Can this Kyle grow up already and take some the 'Questions for Kids Heat' off me? He is the star in the living room as this is the year he learns to dunk in a playskool hoop. And continues to do over and over because we cheer every time he does it. My grandmother leads the charge in the kitchen churning out whatever anyone needs for food. When I was younger I'd pass on some her delicious homemade grub for things like frozen pizzas, which she always had ready to go. I left some good food on the table in the early days... I was raised by a very picky man... worry not... I'd make up for it in later years as I shot to a healthy 6'4" and 235lbs.
We'd eat and do gifts. Pie was consumed and my speed for devouring it would concern the nearest onlookers. While the aunts drank wine and did dishes we'd prep for gifts. The top gift from this year is the game Fireball Island which had a cool 3D board and actual rolling marbles! Yeah we didn't have tablets and smartphones back then... but still it was a cool game. I sold it on Ebay for $150 decades later while prepping for a move. I hoping making some money on it makes my Aunt Rita happy. Bing Crosby spins on the record player and a good time is had by all. Eventually my Uncle Damien sneaks off for a nap, my Aunt Gloria finally gets the scoop from me on how school is in fact going and we eventually head home.
Despite starting this day at 5ish I'm not tired when we get home. I want to play with the new toys and gather the day's haul under the tree. Even then I knew when I eventually passed out that I was lucky and fortunate. If I didn't get something I wanted I never sulked about it. On this particular fictional year I made up for this story, the only things I didn't get that I wanted were things like Denver Broncos season tickets, or Every Upper Deck baseball card in existence and other stuff that would have been nearly impossible. I always felt like my expectations were reasonable. I mean I knew I wasn't going to get a horse or anything... we had enough trouble with the dog when we first got her.
Here's the deal... That wasn't the best constructed story I've ever put together... Just a collection of Christmas past memories. Since those days... family moved away, passed away, and eventually started their own family's. I guess I always figured I'd at least be and Uncle at someone's version of this story, or maybe a Dad. I haven't had any Christmases like those when I was younger... maybe thats the way they are supposed to be for adults... nowdays I'm usually just excited for a day off and usually to catch up with or at least see one parent. My one solid tradition is watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve while I write a "theme" aka Blog. Usually it recaps the year but I need more time to sum up 2020... don't we all?
I am sad this Christmas, but it will be ok. If I had ever bothered to stop moving around enough to start a family maybe I'd get excited for Christmas again. I mean I try... I wear the Santa hat, I deck the halls... I guess I mostly just enjoy it more for the memories of Christmases past versus anything in the way of new ones.
I'll just close now because I'm starting a 3rd time of A Christmas Story and I'm getting tired. If you are a member of my family and Christmases past from this tale I hope you read something that made you smile. If you've been a part of my Christmases since then take no offense most of my Christmases have been merry and bright and thanks for being a part of them. One Christmas not long ago I enjoyed watching my friends kids enjoy the day and it brought me back a bit.
I should have set this thing up as an "It's a Wonderful Life" parody... damn I could have gone with the past, present and future thing... Damn...
Ok we can end with the future at least. I need to make better moves in the coming years to assure Christmas returns to a day of great importance, and joy instead of just a day off during the busy season. Alright I opened a rink at 7am this morning and it's 2am and I only had one short nap so I'm out without a proper witty callback to the first paragraph or a Christmas based Dad-level joke... just assume I had one here and enjoy your Holiday!