I remember as a young boy the snow crunching underneath my winter boots which held my small feet which themselves were covered in three different pair of socks as a challenge to the freezing biting Minnesota cold. The air that escaped from my mouth gave the impression that I was smoking as white wisp of air escaped every time I exhaled.
The sun had already made her exit and in its place was Mr. Moon being stingy with his light. It didn’t matter because I was standing in front of my house, a house covered in brightly multicolored lights that blinked at me and every few seconds the lights that trimmed the house would dance for me.
Sitting inside the warm house was the tall regal tree covered in colored balls and on it more lights, the ones that won the lottery as they didn’t have to entertain those outside. It was Christmas and like the words in the song it was the best time of the year.
Actually the best thing about Christmas was the gifts that were under the tree. My brother and sisters would count each package to see who had the most as each one was picked up and shook as we tried to guess what was hidden inside.
We knew that no matter what was in them Santa didn’t bring them as our mother who raised us alone and lived during the civil rights era refused to give credit to a white man in a beard as she was the one who worked overtime to make sure we had gifts.
Christmas Eve seemed like it was lasting forever. But we knew the day was close. The smell of glazed Ham and the sweetness of sweet potato pie danced in the air as the dinner for tomorrow was getting a head start. We had to learn to guess the smells of what she was cooking as mama had one rule, “Don’t come into my kitchen!”
We were content with the bowl of nuts and oranges that sat on the living room table. In the background on the television Frosty the Snowman was playing, he was never my favorite. I much preferred the animated ‘The Little Drummer Boy.’
Christmas was a time when my siblings and I called a truce. No name calling, punching each other or fighting over the remote control. We were all in agreement that Christmas was a day of love for each other.
We anxiously looked at the clock as if staring at it would make the hands move faster. We were waiting for midnight as it was a tradition that we could open up one gift. When the midnight hour would come our mother would tease us and make us wait an additional minute which might as well have been another hour. When permission was given we raced to the tree. For some reason we always picked the small box as we knew the big box was meant for Christmas day. We learned early how to become good actors at a young age as sometimes you opened the gift and as a child you’re asking yourself “What am I supposed to do with socks, I already have some.” But you don’t show that emotion on your face instead you take your smile out of your pocket and thank ma.
We eventually had to go to bed but we laid in bed determined to stay awake until the morning, but each year we lost the battle to the Sandman.
We seemed to have the same clock as we raced to the bedroom and asked our ma was it okay if we opened up our gifts. In her half sleep mode she would tell us to go ahead and off we ran, running past the kitchen, briefly noticing that there was now chocolate cake and homemade apple pie next to the sweet potato pies, where did those come from?
It was a brief thought as we tore into the gifts, paper flying everywhere, the tree looking down at us make a mess. Each opened gift we stopped and marvel our gifts to the others. Sometimes showing a brief jealousy at what they got but then satisfied when we saw something we wanted.
“Hey I need some D size batteries!”
Afterwards the tree was embarrassed as it was now naked, no longer teasing us with wrapped boxes but instead surrounded by torn paper. And the unity we had before was on hold as we were off in different areas of the house playing with our gifts.
We were never the perfect family but on that day we seemed to be what we should have always been. Yes the day was about Christ and not about material items but in a child’s eye Christmas is not only about the gifts but also the one day when peace on earth also existed in our house if even for just that day.
As an adult I have to draw on those memories as the excitement of Christmas becomes replaced with worries about bills, money and loves lost and gone.
We forget about the peace but if we allow ourselves for one day to reflect on peace, although we may not have the wrapped gifts, we’re still left with a gift.
Corrine Cochrane on Hurt/Hate/Heal Anonymous on Life’s Lesson with … gerard riveron on Christmas Wish Anonymous on Happy World AIDS Day Anonymous on Happy World AIDS Day