I ruined Christmas dinner. I almost didn’t make it on time but I did. After about ten I got over the cheap relatives with the Christmas/Birthday presents. For my mom that story about the first time I saw you as a baby was: The Christmas lights were shining in on your little face when the nurse held you up the first time. Not a bad start. There’s a photo of me a year later with a cake that I think is supposed to look like a Christmas tree. I look suitably unimpressed but I wasn’t old enough to put my foot in my mouth and say that. It all goes on from there.
When I was young Dad was usually laid off in the winter. He laid bricks and the mortar won’t set right if it’s cold. In classic A Tree Grows In Brooklyn form we never knew anything about this. These are the kind of things you do as a mom. When she was six and my Grandfather was working at the Navy Yard they had been so broke that he went to the Christmas tree lot and gathered up branches for their tree. On the way home with the branches he stopped at a Package Store (That’s the old time way of saying liquor store) and talked the clerk into giving him the Santa display. I figured it out just now. Cardboard Santa is 75 this year and he’s still being put out. You manage Christmas with no money for your kids.
When I was about six I wanted a dollhouse. This was not 2015 where parents pick out carefully non gender presents to raise well-adjusted *snicker they’re going to be just as screwed up as us* children. I have no idea what the conversation must have been like but I got a dollhouse. Never wanted to play with the dolls only the house and I grew up to be an Architect so yay mom for winning that argument. I did get a Bozo the clown punching bag thing that year too so maybe it was a compromise. That’s what a good relationship is about right?
One of those broke years I really wanted a sled. One of those plastic jobs you could get going fast enough to kill yourself on. (Broken Collarbone) Santa couldn’t afford the sled. Little kids aren’t good at being disappointed although I was good enough to do brave face. Would you know that Santa dropped that sled on the way down the chimney and my Mom didn’t find it until four days after Christmas? Yeah that one is a tear jerker but only when you figure it out sometime in your mid-twenties and feel like an ungrateful bastard. When you’re nine you just want to go to the sled hill.
There was that bad Christmas vacation in college when I wasn’t doing too well with the six year hazing that Architecture school turned out to be. She showed up with a pizza and a bottle of coke and just put it down and let me watch TV till I got the holly jolly going again. It’s always the little things I remember about Mom. She’d wait till almost midnight to give me my birthday present to make sure it wasn’t mixed in with the Christmas things everyone else got. It was the kind of house where if you got up at five in the morning you were late for breakfast so that was always just the two of us and a special moment at the exact moment I was born X years ago.
Things fall apart. Neither my brother nor I ever had any kids to keep these traditions going. I try to secret Santa kids who have parents that are laid off or just having trouble making ends meet. I have a few elves that starting helping after I got sick and couldn’t afford it but the rule is always the kids never know. It wasn’t just my Mom that inspired me to do this; Dad actually put a Santa suit on and went around delivering presents to houses that didn’t have any. (Once when I was helping with this a guy got furious at “Charity” and got taken out back to be told you don’t screw up Christmas for the kids. My Dad was a big guy but he talked to this guy. I think he “loaned” him money. It was another kind of Christmas lesson but this story is about mom)
I could go on. That last year when she was so sick and fragile there wasn’t much I could do. People die no matter how much you love them and you can’t catch up with all the good things your mom did for you because she has a wicked head start. My brother couldn’t come up to Maine and my father was long dead so it was just the two of us. We put cardboard Santa out and I put Christmas lights on the little tree where she could see it outside her room. I like to think that surprise was a “little thing” like the sled that Santa lost but who knows.
That year was the first the local radio station started playing Christmas songs 24/7 and my mom always asked for it to be turned up whenever The Gift by Aselin Debison came on. I’ve included that song as a gift to you and yours from my Mom and I. Merry Christmas everyone!