Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Memories

These are my most vivid Christmas memories:
My father's parents had an aluminum tree with the revolving fan light that made it change color. They lived next door to us, and on Christmas Eve, when grandma turned on the tree light, we knew it was time to go visit. The cousins and I got to drink Cokes from little glass bottles.
Mass at St. Augustine's. The full choir sang Christmas songs and the organ thundered so it felt like Heaven opening up. The music was so loud I was half afraid, and totally in awe, and I always thought, "This is surely how the shepherds must have felt when the angels proclaimed the good news."
The family Christmas at my mother's parents' meant the door to the formal living room would be opened up. The room was always cool and pale and beautiful--and strictly off limits to my cousins and me every other day of the year. A white tree glistened in front of the big picture window and the huge dining table where the adults would eat was set in sparkling Fostoria ware. There were dishes of ribbon candy and divinity that looked too pretty to touch, but no one ever told us to leave them alone.
My siblings and I went around in the weeks leading up to Christmas with our eyes trained to the sky hoping to see Rudolf. We knew Santa was secretly watching our every move, and we knew we were regularly naughtier than nice. But still, somehow, we knew that Santa loved us and was all-forgiving. The proof was in the presents, and none of us ever got the parentally threatened lump of coal--even though I was pretty sure one or the other of us deserved it some years.
The strain of a carol, the twinkle of a light, and it all comes rushing back. Thanks for all the Christmases past; thanks, too, for Christmases to come.

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