I miss Christmas. I miss spending time looking for the perfect present – hoping it was perfect, anyway – and the look of joy when someone opened a package and delighted that I knew what to get for them.
My brother in law loved chocolates. I bought him home made chocolates from a lady who made them in her kitchen and sold them from her home. They were amazing – and not terribly expensive – and he loved them. I told him that Emily Post said that if someone gives you something like that, you don’t have to share it, you just have to mention it when gifts are shown around – as they always were in my family. “What did you get?” “ohhhhh! that’s so cool!” He opened the box of candy with great delight, tucked it under his chair and would bring it out whenever anyone new came around, saying, “Susan gave me these” and tucking the box back under the chair without offering anyone a sample.
It annoyed my sister no end. It made me laugh, and it’s a memory that’s made me smile today.
My mother made chocolate covered creams every year. It was a three day process, and she loved it. Everyone looked for those candies every year – I ate my fill while she was making them, looking totally innocent and proclaiming that someone had to make sure they tasted as good as last year’s batch!
We spent days wrapping. Christmas Eve always saw the frantic rush to sew on buttons, cast off that last stitch, sew that last seam because it seemed like a really good idea to make that something last week, and now the hours are counting down.
We spent the day traveling – brunch with one sister, then back home to unload the car because THAT sister loved to shop and loved to give presents and there would so much to bring home. Reload the car and off to the next sister, who had so little that her kids sometimes didn’t have a gift till we arrived.
The oldest sister was last. She had no Christmas spirit, and could suck the joy out of the day for everyone else. One year she put up an artificial tree in a spare bedroom so she could shut the door and not look at it when no one was around. The Grinch had nothing on her. Still, I gave her presents. I made her placemats one year – she used them till they wore out and even though she didn’t express any gratitude, the sight of them on her table made me smile, because maybe just once, I did something that pleased her. It happened very rarely.
“Just give me money,” is the refrain of the last few years. It saddens me. I have so many things that I hold, and look at, and remember who took the time to choose that just for me. I have turtle necks that my sister bought for me and I still remember how we laughed the day we went shopping and she bought them without me knowing they were for me. I have a small glass bottle, with a tiny ceramic pig inside, that one of my nephews gave me – it makes me think of him every time I move it, and I remember the year he gave it to me. “A pig in a bottle?” “Yes, Auntie, you NEED a pig in a bottle!” And so I have one.
Will they someday look at a one hundred dollar bill and think, “wow, I remember the year I got that for Christmas! It was awesome, I spent it all at Starbucks!”
Sadness, melancholy, missing days that were sweeter, and simpler, and more joyful – and trying not to ruin what’s left of the day for others.