Also, there is a giveaway on my previous post. If you are a US resident, there is an excellent audiobook of Hilary Mantel's Bringing up the Bodies. (This is the first time I've used Rafflecoptor so if you have any problems with it, let me know.)
* * *I've seen a lot of Christmas holidays and frankly most of my memories are a blurr of frenzied shopping, holiday cards, and overeating. It's work trying to fit all the holiday tasks into your regular schedule. I can't recall many of the presents I received or gave over the years except the two quarts of wine my parents gave me on my 16th Christmas (it was on my Christmas wish list). That gift left an indelible mark on my memory because I and my step-sister each polished off a quart on Christmas day. I was sick and happy, and she was very, very sick and miserable. (Mogan David would make anyone sick.) My parents thought Christmas was as good a time as any for a lesson on social drinking.
When we hit our teens, my parents strove to make Christmas less stressful by drawing names to reduce the amount of gifts. Their theory was that it was better to have one nice, thoughtful gift rather than a half dozen crappy ones. But having only one or two presents to unwrap on Christmas day was not real popular with us five kids.
We strove to make Christmas a family day by sharing a grand meal together and playing charades. I do recall my stepmother trying to act out Captain Kangaroo. Pretty funny. I also recall a holiday ham without its requisite maraschino cherries. (My stepmother always hid certain things in her closet or under her bed to prevent us children from finding and consuming them, but we found almost everything.) One holiday she had a few too many cocktails and couldn't remember where she had hidden the cherries (and we hadn't found them either). How I would love to remind my parents of that incident this holiday season, but sadly my stepmother passed away in April and my father followed her in May.
I don't clearly remember most of the holidays with my own children either because they were the usual, unremarkable rushed event every year. I do recall when my oldest daughter was four and my stepsister's husband dressed up as Santa and loped across the backyard to make his grand entrance. None of her cousins were buying it. They all knew immediately it was Uncle Bob, but my daughter was beside herself with joy. She was a true believer. Gosh. I just got hit with another memory. I remember when I was eight years old and just before Christmas my mother took me aside and explained that there was no actual Santa Claus and that the holiday was for celebrating the spirt of Christmas or some such rubbish. I was furious with her. Couldn't she have at least waited until after Christmas to make this earth-shattering announcement? Why did she have to spoil my Christmas? Up until that moment I had been a true believer too.
To be honest, there was one Christmas that stood out from all the rest. My father had built an A-frame hunting cabin deep in the Shawnee National Park in southern Illinois on the only acre of private land. Some how the federal government had overlooked that parcel and so my father bought the land and cleared it. He tore down the old, single-room, country school that was there. It was situated next to a small cemetary that dated back to the Civil War era. Life must have been hard back then because one family had several graves--all their many children had died by their second year.
I was a sophomore or junior in high school when my parents decided we would all make the trek to the Shawnee Forest and have an old fashioned Christmas. No radio. No TV. No phone. No indoor plumbing. The only heat was from a Ben Franklin wood-burning stove. We're talking primitive. Cold and snow. We trekked through the woods to find our Christmas tree and chopped it down and drug it back to the cabin. We all strung cranberries and popcorn for decorating the tree. I can still recall my brothers leaning over the loft and looking down on the kitchen/living area below and me sitting at the table stuffing my face. I don't think anyone remembers presents or what we managed to cobble together for our Christmas dinner, but we all recalled the simple pleasures of being together and tramping through the snowy woods. Everyone always said it was the best Christmas, the only one anyone cares to remember. If I could go back in time, I would travel to that lost place, long since burned down by vandals, and take my own family there to walk in in the crisp, cold air amongst the snow-laden trees, past the barren dogwood, and the frozen persimmons hanging from naked branches. I would pause to watch for a deer cautiously picking its way through the woods as I now carefully stalk my Christmas memories.
What is your favorite Christmas memory?