The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Christmas memories
I confess that I am still a big kid at heart when it comes to Christmas. I'll forever be grateful to my parents who, unlike some modern parents, didn't feel that there was anything wrong with creating a sense of magic around the holidays. I believed in Santa until I was nine years old and every Christmas during those years, was equally magical.

The first real Christmas that I remember, I was four years old. I got a plush lamb toy with an internal music box that played Brahm's Lullaby. I slept with that little lamb every night until one day it disappeared. I couldn't figure out where it had gone to, until one Sunday, I spied it in the toy bin at our church's nursery. Hmmmm. I suspected my mother of doing some precipitous house-cleaning. I wound up rescuing it and took it back, even though I had graduated from the nursery to the older kids' Sunday School class.

During those early years, we woke up at 5 am, no longer able to sleep. When I was five, my sister and I got a wooden doll bed and a doll to play with. I was so excited because it was just like the wooden doll bed that they had at the preschool! At our house, Santa brought the tree and everything. One night we went to bed - the next day, the tree was there, all decorated, with presents under it! We had the old-fashioned large candelabra-style light globes and my father uttered many a curse word as he tried to untangle them and find out which bulbs were burned out. Having the tree appear overnight was completely amazing to a five year old. Even as an adult, I marvel that my parents went to so much trouble to do this.

A couple of years later, tiring of doing it all in one night, my parents decided we would pick out a tree together as a family. Like the Griswolds, we made our way to a Christmas tree farm, where my father sawed his way through the trunk of the tree that we picked out. All of us stood there in the bitter cold, our feet numb. Frozen tree trunks are not easy to saw through. My father worked up a sweat sawing that tree down. My mother made sure the tree was full enough for our decorations. The tree sat in a bucket of water until one week before Christmas. Everyone waited to put their trees up. It was unheard of to see a tree up in early December back in those days. The "saw-it-yourself" thing didn't last through many Christmases.

Santa always seemed to bring us just what we wanted. I wasn't fooled by department store Santas, however. One year, we went to Sears to have one of those Santa pictures taken. I think I was five. I won't forget it, because Santa's breath was awful and I didn't want to look at him and speak to him. I knew he couldn't be the real Santa. My mother still has that portrait around, I'm sure - and there I am, with a sour look on my face. It was the bad breath. The real Santa could never have bad breath.

By the age of nine, I started to question the whole Santa thing, but still enjoyed opening the Advent calendar that my grandmother always sent, and setting up the little nativity set that my mother had. My sister and I would practise singing Christmas carols as we did the dishes, and later put on a little "concert" for my parents on Christmas Eve. I would have given anything for my sons to have done that for me. That gene obviously didn't get passed on.

Quite by accident, I found out who Santa really was. It was Christmas Eve and the neighbours had purchased charm bracelets for my sister and me, which they brought over after we were in bed. My sister and I eavesdropped on my parents and their company, during which we discovered what "Santa" was bringing us that year.

After that, Christmas was never as magical. Testing out our new theory, the next year, my sister and I snooped and discovered our parents' hiding place for gifts - in the rooftop crawlspace of the house. Talk about an anticlimactic Christmas! Lesson learned - we never snooped again. I did find out that I was getting the Tumbelina doll that I wanted, though.

As we got older, the tinsel didn't seem to glisten as brightly and the excitement died down. We got miniature twinkle lights for the tree and the old set was permanently retired. We slept in and didn't get up to open gifts until after the sun was up. One year, we nearly didn't have a tree. It was Christmas Eve and I begged my father for a tree. He and I went down to the local grocery store to see what was out on the sidewalk. We found a half-dead tree, spray-painted pink, and took it home. It had a huge bare spot, but we turned that to the wall. We had a tree by the skin of our teeth that year.

Things changed a little after that. Dad joined the Lions Club and sold trees in their charity tree lot, so we had a decent tree for a couple of years after that. Christmas changes as you get older. My sister and I always hated getting clothes for gifts - why would anyone give a kid clothes for Christmas? Of course, when we hit our late teens, clothes, makeup and records were all that we wanted.

Now that I'm officially middle-aged and my kids are grown, I have a hard time finding the "magic" in Christmas any more - except perhaps for today. Today, Dan was dressed in his Christmas Outfit: a red t-shirt emblazoned with an image of Santa, green and white board shorts, and red flip-flops. A Santa hat finished the ensemble, or as he explained to me, he was dressing in layers: "first a red layer, then a green one, and then another red one. It wouldn't be right with green thongs." He had this totally planned out.

We popped into a homewares store (much like the Sears of my childhood) where Dan received several comments about his Christmas attire. There was a store Santa who offered to sit with us to have our photo taken. We declined, as I explained that "I already have my personal Santa."

I almost believe again.
posted by Melanie O. at 8:28 PM -
  • At 1:15 AM, Blogger gardenbug said…

    I had forgotten about the lamb. thanks for remembering it. I guess our family didn't do too bad celebrating the holiday. Why not invite Dan's family to your house for a Christmas Carol sing? Beer improves the gusto of the singing.

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger LivinginOz said…

    We're actually going over to the in-laws tomorrow for lunch, and will probably watch the DVD I made of our trip to the US. Dan's mother plays the piano, but I don't know who besides her and me would actually sing - even with beer! *grin*

    I loved that little lamb - it was my favorite toy when I was a preschooler.

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About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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