It’s fun to reminisce. Now the boys are older, we frequently look back on times gone by, and I bask in the warmth of childhood memories I know I’ve provided for my sons.
“Remember the year you wrecked Christmas for me?” asked Ari, 18. We’d been talking about Christmas ornaments, not destroyed childhoods, so I’m not sure where this came from.
“I do not,” I replied, as Christopher, 21, started laughing.
“I was 5, and I slept in the rec room on Christmas Eve because Aunt Rozzy was staying over. I peeked out of the door and saw you carrying hockey pads downstairs. And the next morning, sure enough…hockey pads from Santa!”
“You were supposed to be asleep! Why were you peeking?” I asked him.
“Because you told me not to.”
“I’d already been telling him, but he didn’t believe me until he saw you,” said Christopher. You will have the longest Santa time with the oldest; the younger kids are beat. Ari said he went to school and told all his classmates.
Christopher’s girlfriend Pam, 20, nodded, adding her story to the pile. Apparently believing in Santa, and having that belief busted open is a coming of age thing they never forget. My mother had it nipped in the bud: if you didn’t believe in Santa, he didn’t come.
It got harder over the years to pull off Christmas miracles. One year a six-year-old Christopher stood amidst a pile of presents from Santa, and asked how come I didn’t get him anything. As the boys got older, they started staying up later than I did, and I would finally just tell them I was going to bed, and they couldn’t go in the living room. I know they did.
I’ve watched the little things drift away over the years. My mom was the heart of Christmas, and this will be the 12th one without her. I put up fewer decorations later and tell myself the boys don’t notice. I still have to make sure we have Pa sausage for breakfast; my father always insisted on the Westphalia garlic sausage from Denninger’s, and the kids renamed it for him when they were small. Every year I stand in that store, holding that little number and getting all teary. Some traditions never change, though breakfast now happens closer to noon.
With the basement turned inside out this year for renovations, my attempt to find the Christmas boxes was admittedly half-hearted. I finally found the stockings in Ari’s closet a week ago. Buried in the bag are the cats’ stockings that Ari made. He didn’t tell anyone he was making them, because he wanted them to be a surprise for the cats. A 6-year-old’s rendition of a calico in felt still makes me smile.
I was away for work when I got a text from Ari. He wanted to put up Christmas lights. Where did we keep them? It has been so long since I put up outdoor lights; I paused before telling him to root around in the garage, or just go buy some if he couldn’t find any. Of course he went directly to the store and bought some. When I got home he had stapled several strings all over the roof above the front door, in a fashion that would make Clark Griswold proud. Every night he plugs them in, and every night his brother complains that they shine in his room like Las Vegas. And Ari smiles. Pam has announced when her exams are done we can go get a tree.
It seems the kids I wrecked Christmas for are bringing it back for me.