In this pandemic year, filled with sadness and fear and prayers for it all to end, I find I can smile remembering past good times. To that end, I’m re-running an Inkspots Christmas column I wrote years ago, in hopes that it will spark similar happy memories for all of you.
December 24, 1992
When my sister and I grew too old for Santa Claus, we didn’t.
Grow too old, that is.
My mother would ask each year, “Wouldn’t you just as soon have your presents under the tree now?” The “now” meaning now that you’re in junior high, or now that you’re in high school, or now that you’re in college.
Even when we were out of college, we clung to the wonderful tradition of coming downstairs Christmas morning to find our stockings filled with candy and nuts and oranges, surrounded by presents Santa left.
The presents changed as we changed, of course. The dolls and teddy bears and toys became lockets and diaries and sweaters.
The stockings never changed, though. Sheila‘s was red velvet with a white cuff that looked like fur. My stocking was red with white trim and a tiny bell on the toe.
The first year that Sheila was away from home for Christmas, she was far away, working in Germany as a recreation director for the US Army. She wrote of the holiday parties she planned for the homesick young enlisted men, who were hardly more than boys.
I thought she seemed so sophisticated, writing of the games and decorations she dreamed up to try to make the young soldiers forget how far they were from their families that Christmas.
Later, she wrote of opening the box of presents we sent and finding, at the bottom, her stocking filled with candy and nuts and oranges. And much later, she told of how she cried and cried when she saw it. This was the first clue I had that my much-admired big sister was not quite as grown-up as I thought.
The first Christmas I was married, I must have talked a bit too longingly of our family Christmas tradition. Poor Bing, who comes from a much more practical family, must have indeed been puzzled at his Irish bride’s sentimental attachment to childhood dreams.
He rose to the occasion beautifully, however – that Christmas morning, I awoke to find my old stocking filled with candy and nuts and oranges and surrounded with Santa gifts.
Our children have grown up with the same tradition and now history is repeating itself. The older three girls, Heather, Erin and Meg, are out of college and well into their 20s. Amy is in high school and Wade is a grown-up fifth grader.
Yet each year when I ask, “Wouldn’t you just as soon have your presents under the tree now?“ I get the same response Sheila and I gave a generation ago.
This year, once again, all will be home for Christmas. Their stockings have already been hung on the mantle, with a new one marked “Scott” for Erin’s new-since-this-summer husband. He’ll probably be as surprised as Bing once was to find that his bride, a poised Chicago third-grade teacher, still clings to childhood dreams, at least at Christmas time.
But that’s okay. Christmas is all about dreams and families and childhood.
After all, if it weren’t for a Child, there would be no Christmas.
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