We put up our Christmas tree last weekend. I’ll admit I’m pretty bahumbug about the process. It seems ridiculous to drag all that stuff out for less than a month. The house is a wreck the day of. There’s boxes everywhere. Eli is in trouble constantly because he can’t remember that all this stuff is breakable and he wants to touch every single piece that emerges from the boxes. Everybody gets hungry because we put off lunch to try and get it all done. Stuff gets broken. The new tree sheds so we have to run the vacuum. It’s just generally not a fun day.
But then it’s all done. Every morning when I get up I see my small army of snowmen on top of the piano and am delighted by them. The Christmas dishes sit on the counter so we have a little seasonal cheer at every meal. Eli demands the Christmas tree be turned on as soon as he wakes up every morning so he can see Darth Vader in the Tie Fighter light up. He has finally twigged to the whole Christmas stocking thing and he’s fascinated by what might be in them. Eli is patient, like his dad. Instead of demanding constantly to see what’s in them, he only asks about twice a day. He’s also this year, for the first time, started listing the things that Santa might bring him (a trampoline and an air gun are the current items he’s listing, good thing they’re covered!).
So this week I’ve been trying to remember what made my childhood Christmases special. We didn’t have much religious celebration when I was little so my memories are all of traditions that my mom either brought from her childhood or created for me. She played Christmas songs on the very piano where my snowmen sit now. I remember the Christmas when I was eight or nine very specifically because I wanted a Bible of my own and a Barbie. It’s hard to recall which I was more excited about. I had a whole batch of Christmas stories that we only read after Thanksgiving and before New Year’s. One is a story cut from a magazine that my mom has preserved over the years. Eli and I are going to sit down and read it this year.
And I remember the cookies.
My mom cooked when I was little but at Thanksgiving and Christmas she really pulled out all the stops. I thought the store only sold cream cheese during the holidays because that’s the only time she made this really yummy pumpkin cake roll with cream cheese in the middle. And then there were the cookies. She didn’t just make boring old chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies. There were at least 12 kinds of multi-step cookies that she would spend an entire weekend working on. Our dining room table would be covered with cookies at the end. There were sugar cookies made with the cookie shooter, baked and then jam in the middle of them. Chocolate covered things that defy description. Cookies cut out with cookie cutters and then iced to look like art.
I know it couldn’t possibly have been as elaborate as I remember. Thinking back on it, it seems like excess to match a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In my memory it is that fantastical.
So that’s the magic of Christmases past for me. And even though I am bahumbug the day we are getting Christmas out of the attic, I hope that we are creating some fantastical memories for Eli and Liza as well. Maybe I’ll see if my mom still has that cookie shooter.