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The Good, the Bad, the Hilarity of Christmases Past

When I think of Christmas, so many memories pop into my head. Some good, some bad and some downright hilarious.

Growing up, my mother always tried to make the holiday special. She made sure my brothers and I had the gifts we wished for and that each of us had the same number of them. But we always kind of spoiled our parents’ surprise. When they would go out for a holiday party days before Christmas, we went on the hunt. Of course, my parents did a terrible job of hiding the gifts. We always found them on the top shelf of a basement closet.

My mother didn’t wrap the gifts because she said Santa came down the chimney and left them there for us. If there was something we missed in our search, we still found out before the official unveiling. That’s because my brothers would sneak downstairs to the living room on Christmas Eve to see what was there and then come back upstairs to tell me. My mother knew we knew because of the way we each made a beeline for our respective pile of gifts. Busted!

I loved trying to make Christmas authentic for my kids. The week before the holiday I would write notes from Santa in red pen about things that happened to the kids throughout the year — a grandparent dying, some really great thing that they did, something bad they got in trouble for, etc. Then I would put them in the mailbox for them to get later that day. They were always shocked that Santa knew so much about them. It made them be on their best behavior, knowing that Santa was truly watching.

One year, my brother helped me pretend there were reindeer on the roof. We made a lot of noise and rang sleigh bells so the children would think Santa had arrived. We videotaped the shadow of Santa with his big bag walking through the house, stopping for the cookies and milk we left out for him. Of course, they bought it and told us on Christmas morning that they had heard Santa the night before. We showed them the video.

I’m glad that my kids were not little when the Elf on the Shelf trend began. But I do miss their smiling little faces and looks of surprise on Christmas morning. What I don’t miss — putting together a toy kitchen, a bike and ride-on toys, among others. It was often a job that lasted well into the night.
A memory that still throws my family into stitches is of the gifts that one of my aunts would get for us.

There were many things she re-gifted. The one that stands out the most is what she got for my brother one year. While at my mother’s house one summer, we had set aside some things that would go to Goodwill. One of those items was a button sewer that my father bought years ago for his own use. She declared that day that she wanted it and took it home. The following Christmas, my brother unwrapped his gift to find the button sewer. We all cracked up. That thing had been around our house for 10 years. We knew it well.

The hostess is often the busiest person on Christmas Day. And that’s usually me. I am busy cooking and giving out gifts and tending to a whole host of things. One holiday when Grace was about 15 months old, we actually lost her. My nephew was charged with keeping track of her. I don’t recall why. With all of the people coming and going and the commotion caused by gift giving, I suddenly noticed that Grace was nowhere to be seen. Panic ran through me. We looked everywhere. The last place we thought she would be is where we found her. She had climbed the stairs in the dark. I found her sitting on the floor in her sister’s room playing with her Barbie dolls. To this day, I have no idea how she did that, but I’m so happy she didn’t fall or get hurt.

This year, I am so looking forward to Grace coming home. She’s been in Italy for the last four months. And we will have a lawyer at the table to celebrate the day with. I am in for some lively discussions. I hope I’m up to it.

Happy holidays!

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