daisyfae at 7: [bouncing up and down beside my sister’s bed] “C’mon! Get up! GET UP! He’s been here! It’s CHRISTMAS!” i remember when i still believed in Santa Claus. My friends were skeptics, but i wanted him to be real, so i resisted. i didn’t give it up until my older brother spilled the beans a year later – leading my two older sisters to bark at him for being such an asshole.
At seven, i remember getting a “Chatty Cathy” talking doll from Santa. It scared the living shit out of me. “i don’t want it! There’s a SCARECROW inside it!” Mom orchestrated the ritual overindulgence – only stockings could be opened on Christmas morning, and we could investigate the “Santa Gifts”, unwrapped presents for each of us under the tree.
She wanted Christmas to last, so we had to have nutritious breakfast first – often a treat of Strawberry PopTarts. One of us would be an elf, and presents were distributed in piles to each of us in the cramped living room. As Maestro, she then instructed us on which gifts to open – one at a time, waiting so that we could see others open their gifts. Directed chaos. i was happy.
daisyfae at 16: [slogging down the hallway, looking for coffee] My older sister and brother were already married with babies. These marriages were already showing signs of implosion, but it was cool to have little kids around for the holidays. Mom’s orchestrated ritual continued, but didn’t start before sunrise – my older siblings showed up later in the day, sugar-buzzed and over-stimulated children in tow. Stockings? Treats and plastic toys were replaced by deodorant and lip balm, but they were still overflowing.
It was during the teen years that i finally let my sister, T, know i’d figured out that “lesbian” thing, and that my best friend, JW, was gay too. The gift i left for her under the tree was a pile of 35mm film*. But the day before, i’d given her a couple of books – “Rubyfruit Jungle” by Rita Mae Brown and “The Front Runner” by Patricia Nell Warren. Good teen gay-lit, given to me by my friend JW. It was a turning point for us as sisters.
daisyfae at 21:[waking up in a strange bed, alone] It was my first Christmas away from home. i’d been living with EJ for a couple years, and agreed to make the “parent trek” to Florida. My first dinner with his family was memorable. It was so quiet i could hear myself chewing! A sound i’d never heard before at a family dinners because my clan yelled, threw dinner rolls and argued everything from music to philosophy over meals. His parents were very sweet.
Their house was perfect, uncluttered and understated. i found myself missing the chaotic Christmas mornings of my childhood. Just a little bit… Returning to the homestead for a Christmas visit the next week, i was comforted when i dumped out my Christmas stocking to find travel-sized toothpaste, shampoos and deodorant, along with candy and a smattering of cheap plastic crap.
daisyfae at 30: [dragging ass outta bed as my young children tumble excitedly down the stairs, after i’d been up until 2am assembling kid toys] We kept some of the same rules – no presents opened until we were all there, but stockings and “Santa Gifts” were fair game. Breakfast of cookies and milk was perfectly acceptable. i was in my “Super Working Mom” phase, and generally exhausted myself the weeks before Christmas with shopping, baking, decorating and wrapping – but i truly enjoyed it!
The downside was always the travel. My husband and i agreed – “As long as we have parents to visit, we will travel on Christmas.” And so we did. Never mind the fact that we never went ANYWHERE when we were young, our parents expected to see us for the holidays.
Every other year we went wherever his folks were – usually Florida. Palm trees with twinkie lights, Santa wearing shorts. Waking up in strange beds on Christmas morning – for us and our children. Typically driving 16 hours, we’d always have to anticipate weather challenges – dodging ice storms in the mountains of Tennessee.
Alternate years? Home for Christmas morning, but on the road to The Trailer Park by noon for the family visit. Mom had taken the “directed chaos” to an entirely new level – attempting to pull off the same “one-at-a-time” gift opening ritual with a crowd now numbering close to 20, and in a living room more cluttered (and far less organized) than the interior of the International Space Station. We returned home reeking of cigarette smoke, hauling trash bags of mostly “off target” gifts and generally very crabby.
daisyfae at 47: [bouncing up and down beside my children’s beds] “C’mon! Get up! GET UP! He’s been here! It’s CHRISTMAS!” Not an over-abundance of gifts, but they are thoughtful. Sometimes disgusting, but thoughtful. Santa still shows up, reliably delivering ‘scratch off’ lottery tickets in the stockings. We just hang out. We eat junk food, watch movies, drink and nap. Friends drop in to eat junk food, watch movies, drink and nap. “Dog Wrasslin’” is the sport du jour. i am happy.
It’s just another day, but it’s an annual pinning point. Tripping us backwards through the joyful, the broken and empty. The sweet and the bittersweet.
The New Year has us looking forward…. but Christmas makes us time travelers.
* i worked at Photo Bug and used my employee discount to buy gifts for all of my friends with cameras. Like a FotoMat, it was a drive-up photo-processing facility. We shipped film out and promised “next-day” service. It causes me great pain, but i have been COMPLETELY unable to find photographic evidence of a Photo Buggery. A 15’ x 15’ box with windows in a parking lot, and a 5’ tall smiling bee on the roof, spinning merrily while holding a camera. Surely someone, somewhere, has a picture?!?