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Rated: E · Short Story · Emotional · #2287393
Remembrances of a long-ago Christmas
Christmastime, like the sweet cream blended into the warmed cup of coffee, stirs memories of family. Thoughts of our own childhood rise first to the surface, bobbling like a marshmallow in our head. If we were blessed with a caring group of souls with which to intermingle during our youth, human nature often causes us to romanticize past events and people. Sweetness and nostalgia float through the scenes playing out before us. We remember the little old lady that baked us cookies, and in our mind's eye, her beauty rivals the best of life's offerings. The myriad of troubles and tribulations of childhood fade into the background of our images. We cling to the memories of good, and we embrace the past portraits of our comforts. Through our reminiscent teardrops, we can envision our loved ones just as they were, once upon a long-ago era.

The center of my world was my mother, whose loving traits I could endlessly list, but it is enough that she united us as a family. She built strong bonds and stressed the importance of their longevity. We are the core from who we stem and the flowers from which we bloom. Our brothers and our sisters share a lifetime that we shall never recapture, but for the memories entwined. We fought, we played, we argued, and we dreamed. There were games to win, flags to capture, and marbles to scatter. There were school classes to consume, books to read, and dance steps to learn. We shared, we cared, and we grew. Being one of the best lessons learned in life, as we each took our step off the childhood carousel into our adulthood, we remembered, and we continued to love one another. Through the years, we cheered each other's triumphs and mourned the other one's trials. But the years passed so quickly, with distance, hardship, and busyness taking their toll. Yet, we still gathered in the memory of a lady that managed to teach us the right lessons. Family is the greatest gift.

So this Christmas, I will choose to remember my sisters teaching me how to play hopscotch and pinochle. I recall all the homework help and the meals cooked while Mom was at work. I remember being just a bit spoiled by their attention, sharing bedrooms snuggled in the middle of them, listening to my Peter Pan record over and over. I remember the hand-me-downs and them trying to dress me up, if I let them. I remember all the haircuts and makeup tips, the sisterly advice and whops upside the head when I needed them. There were two brothers that guided me on my path as well. The oldest brother set an example of strength for me to look up to and mirrored the value of an education. My brother, closest in age, taught me how to play baseball, rescue strange creatures, and climb trees. He allowed me to hang with his buddies while playing the role of annoying little sister. These people taught me to stand on my own two feet and to give voice to my thoughts when it mattered. They sent me out into the world knowing I wanted the same thing I cherished as a kid, a family to love.

Engrained in my mind, is the memory of waiting for Mom to come home from work on Christmas Eve for our holiday to begin. There was last minute wrappings and a meal to prepare. There were twinkling lights buried under a tree of tinsel with a nativity scene poised gracefully under its branches. Bright color packages lined the tree skirt. Sitting in the center was one chocolate orange wrapped in golden foil for each of us scribbled with our names. It was the sweetest of chocolates. After the meal, I plopped on the floor with my legs crisscrossed, waiting for my mom to send the signal to begin. There were the many times my excitement got the better of me scooting as close to tree as I could to glimpse a peek, only to be scolded by the older crew. The wait seemed unbearable in the moment, and if I close my eyes, I can still feel the excitement of it all. There were times I would close my eyes, as my own kids opened their presents, hoping to recapture the feeling. It wasn't the quantity of the presents that I remember, but the joy of being together. Some years, there were only one or two gifts for each of us, but there was always an orange dipped in chocolate. I remember certain presents that I received through those years, a 40lb doll that cried and peed, a cookie monster puppet, a loom making kit, and a pair of white patent leather go-go boots. There was a little red wooden stool that I was convinced my father made at the V.A. hospital and I cherished it carrying it around with me for a solid week. I told that story to anyone that would listen, even to the point of getting into a fight with my best friend when she claimed it wasn't true. There is a definite strangeness in the things we choose to remember.

After the presents, came an attempt to sing Christmas carols. Some years, our enthusiasm for the task was better than other years. Back in those days, the newspaper printed the songs with their holiday edition, or we opened our missalettes from church for the sing-a-longs. I can picture us sitting on the itchy plaid sofa attempting to harmonize. We were squeaky and unorganized, but the fun was undeniable. We would then play the games we were gifted or fall back on our old favorites until it was time for midnight mass. The church was always so beautifully decorated, and the lights were mesmerizing. If I managed to stay awake through the mass, I stared at the choir loft listening to the beautiful voices. I remember praying for snow many times and praying that my mom would always be safe.

Christmas Day usually found us lounging in our PJ's and munching leftovers. If my prayer for snow came through, we headed outdoors to play in the fluff of winter. Once inside, we would sip from the pan of hot cocoa mom had made and play games. The games usually led to arguments, with Monopoly being a great one for causing grief. I was always the first to cry about losing and mom usually snuck me some of her money. Being the baby certainly had its benefits.

My siblings probably won't share the exact same memories, because it wasn't until I had been around for a few years that life got a bit easier for our family. Their thoughts of Christmas conjure up scant and sad images, because when they were little there was even less money to go around. I do think they remember these same years, as they were teenagers and starting to go their own way. Mom tried her best to make it nice.

As I stare at my Christmas tree today, I smile and my heart melts a bit, because the same nativity scene I had as a child graces our tree. The glass figures are worn from the years of use, but it is comforting to know that many a child's fingers have touched them and marveled at their beauty. This nativity sings of family and tradition, and love through the years.

Merry Christmas

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