The fantasies of our recalled anticipations create excitement. The satisfactions of our recalled anticipations create joy. They both are treasured memories. Come along with me as I wander through the Christmas memories of my childhood and adolescence.
▪ Decorations on lampposts and in the stores.
▪ Christmas music everywhere.
▪ Store windows with moving Christmas figures. Toyland in each department store with displays of electric trains going through miniature farmlands, villages and towns. A visit to Santa Claus.
▪ Singing Christmas carols at school. Classrooms and the school auditorium decorated for the holiday. Excitedly talking with other kids and relatives about what we want for Christmas.
Christmas is coming!
▪ Shopping for the Christmas tree and bringing it home. Carrying it into the house and setting it up. Mom putting the sparse side against the wall and the fuller side facing the room. Dad getting the decorations down from the hall closet shelf. The delight and wonder as they emerge in sparkling joy from their yearlong seclusion.
▪ A fire in the fireplace (an unusual treat in Los Angeles). Decorating the tree. The icicles on first, then the garlands and beads. The largest bulbs go on the bottom; the smallest at the top. The others and figurines in between. Depending on our preference that year, either an angel or a star will top the tree. All with unrestrained enthusiasm and excitement.
▪ Mom playing the piano and we sing Christmas carols.
▪ Hot chocolate, chilled red apples, peppermint candy canes, cookies and Mom’s fruitcake. One cookie and two bites of fruitcake for Toby, our little, red cocker spaniel. As always, he rejects our offers of apple slices.
Christmas is coming!
Fantasies of opening presents with frenzied delight on Christmas morning.
Coffeecake or cinnamon rolls. Raffia trays of dried and glacé fruit; walnut-stuffed dates; tangerines; nuts; and the silver dollar that Dad always put at the bottom of my brother’s and my big, red Christmas stockings with our names on them.
▪ Friends and relatives coming by. Later going to our aunt and uncle’s house. Playing with our cousins and everybody showing their Christmas presents.
▪ Christmas dinner at our grandparents’ house. More relatives. More cousins to play with. The adults telling me how nice I look, how big I am getting and asking what I got for Christmas.
▪ Christmas turkey with Grandma’s incredible stuffing that everybody talks about. It includes chestnuts, sausage and oysters all ground so finely and mixed in so well that you can’t taste each one. My mother said their blend was what gave the stuffing its rich and distinctive taste. Bringing some of the leftovers home with us and having them for dinner the next day – including enough for Toby.
▪ Over Grandma’s protests, Grandpa giving me a puddle of dry white wine at the bottom of a glass.
▪ Aunt Tessie joking and playing with us. Handsome and friendly Uncle Al asking about school. He and Grandpa smoking cigars. Aunt Anna will give us some of her marvelously buttery, rich spritz cookies. Sweet and gentle Aunt Polly will talk with us with sincere interest about the latest events in our lives. (Even at the age of 5, I realized you can tell who really cares and what a difference they make.)
▪ There are See’s chocolates; ridged, pastel mint patties; different kinds of crackers; dips (Mom will bring her popular clam dip); cheeses; fruit; nuts; and cookies of all kinds.
Christmas is really coming!
I can still see my 5-year-old self at my bedroom window on Christmas Eve, searching the night sky, then crawling into bed certain that I had seen Santa Claus, his sleigh and reindeer go by. Even more certain I heard jingling bells and the “ ... pawing of each little hoof ... ” overhead as I dozed off to sleep.
Tomorrow it would be Christmas Day!
Don Farris is a licensed clinical social worker in Fresno, providing counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples and families. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.