Weekly Writing Challenge: First, we want you to go back through time, to the December 23rd of years past — one year, five years, ten, twenty; it’s up to you. Where were you on those days? Who were you with? What was happening in your life?
I cannot say that I have memories specifically of December 23rd. I have a hard time remembering December 24th of years past. I am choosing to focus instead on the holiday season for this challenge – in the form of chapters – the season of Christmas as a child, as a wife, and as the person I am today with a cat lady story thrown in for good measure.
Chapter One: I Believe in Santa Claus and the Power of Shaking Presents
The first memory of Christmas comes at the age of four. It is Christmas Eve and I am taking a bath. I hear jingle bells. My mom smiles and asks “What is that?” I am excited beyond reproach as I know “that” is Santa coming for a visit. My memory fades at this point, but I know that my excitement turned into the best Christmas a child could ever have.
There are other memories of the Christmas season growing up: Picking out our tree, dragging it across the carpet, needles everywhere, my mom’s look of disdain at the mess. Watching a Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on TV. Waiting until the sun went down, fighting with my brother over who got to plug in the tree lights. I always thought our tree was the most beautiful tree of any home. It always sat in front of the picture window and my dad was never afraid to add plenty of multi-colored lights. The tree was magical in my eyes.
One evening, when the parents were out shopping, my brother and I sneaked into their bedroom and found wrapped presents in the closet. We were naughty children on a naughty mission. My brother and I shook each one and I remember that we tried to carefully unwrap the paper to see what was inside (or perhaps that was another time on another naughty children mission). Talk about ruining the excitement on Christmas Eve…wow. While we were being bad kids in my parents’ closet, I also happened to notice a box of sanitary napkins (I was still naive and prepubescent). I looked at this box and had two thoughts: 1) “Those are really odd looking napkins,” and 2) “Why is my mother keeping napkins in her closet? Don’t they belong in the kitchen?”
I loved the Christmas season as a child. Mom and dad loved it too and did it right. The memories I have of jingle bells, Christmas trees, special gifts and sanitary napkins are forever mine.
Chapter Two: The Scrooge Years
The ex-husband tolerated Christmas. Barely. He was extremely happy being the recipient of gifts and his wife’s cooking and baking. Shopping? No. Count him out. His wife did most of the Christmas shopping, and yet she would be scolded for spending too much time at the store trying to buy gifts for two sets of parents and him. Wrapping? Another no. Help only came in the form of a tabby cat named Harley, who LOVED Christmas. More on Harley in a minute. The ex-husband and I argued about the appropriate time to put up the tree and when to take it down (more on that in Chapter Four). He grumbled about Christmas music when it was heard on any day other than Christmas Day. He was a Christmas downer. I finally bought him a pillow that said “Scrooge” on it, but he didn’t seem to find the humor in that.
Enough of this chapter, it’s too depressing.
Chapter Three: The Christmas Kitty
Harley LOVED Christmas (see Chapter Two). LOVED! I’m not sure if the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree attracted him, but he would lay by it for hours on end. (He was a sleeper, so that wasn’t hard for him.) Once in awhile I would awaken in the middle of the night to hear him ring one of the silver bells hanging from the tree. That would make me giggle. Harley was a very cool and laid back cat who never ran from the vacuum cleaner and never cried on his way to the vet. The one thing that would drag Harley away from the tree would be the wrapping of presents. Specifically, he wanted to play with the ribbon and bows. They were magical cat toys to him, bright shiny objects meant to be pawed and thrown about. His mom spoiled his fun, though, as the playfulness would always turn into a wanton desire to eat ribbon. After I would yell at Harley to stop, he would sit on one of the kitchen chairs and peer intently at his prey. I could see his urge to pounce on occasion and would stop him in his tracks with a parental “NO!” Eventually, Harley would give up the notion of eating ribbon and head back to his Christmas tree for another several hour sleeping session.
Chapter Four: It’s My Christmas and I’ll Decorate if I Want To!
This is the fifth Christmas on my own. My red and cat Christmas tree is up and I vow to leave it up until Valentine’s Day…because I can. Scrooge is not present to tell me otherwise. My last four Christmas seasons have been joyous. I am a child again, decorating a magical tree and listening to Christmas songs as often and as loud as my neighbors and co-workers can stand it. I bake too many sugary, buttery cookies with glee, excited to hand them out to friends and family. I buy far too many Christmas decorations – Santas and reindeer, new ornaments, glittery Noels, silky poinsettas. I search out the perfect Christmas cards and perhaps a new outfit for the season. I dream of big white flakes on Christmas Eve and the love of my human brothers and sisters as I finish my shopping at the mall. Life is good, no matter what else happens in the month of December. It’s a time of love, hope, faith and gaining weight. I have spent the last four Christmas seasons happily with family and friends, never the anxiety of adult years past.
This year, I didn’t send out cards and didn’t shop the mall, but I’m still cranking the Christmas tunes. My cats chase around the tree, I continue to eat too many cookies and bad things in general, and I look forward to spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the ones I love. My brother now has the scrooge pillow (because he thinks it’s hilarious) and I wait anxiously for the sounds of jingle bells on December 24th. Life is good, so very good.
To read of others’ December 23rd pasts, click here.