Yesterday I promised a funny Christmas story, and this one is one of my very favorites. This is not the first time I have written about it, in fact, it is a favorite of many in my family.
The first time I sat down to write this story was a Christmas Eve, my 36th Christmas Eve.
Even now, several years later, I fondly remember so many a Christmas Eve in great detail. My parents always allowed us to open one present on the night before Christmas. It was like the big tease for the next morning. And every single one of the Christmas mornings that I remember were magical.
I love Christmas really, the entire season. And over the years, I’ve seen my share of fun and sentimentality. But that Christmas Eve eight years ago seemed more poignant than the others, probably because it was the first Christmas after my divorce, and it was also the year that my first born decided he no longer believed in the magic of Christmas.
My son was so wise for his age, he always has been. Even at three years old he had sorted everything out. His sister was just an infant when he was three, and convincing him that babies needed special care was difficult. He knew all about babies, or so he said.
“Babies aren’t made of glass, Mommy.” He retorted when I tried to tell him to be careful with his new sister. I assured him that he was correct, they were not made of glass, but still, they were fragile and could be broken if not careful. “Don’t be ridiculous!” He snapped back in his wise little voice. “Everyone knows babies are made of wood!”
This was, of course, during his Pinocchio phase.
Only ten years later he had discovered the true origins of “you know who” and somehow that upset me more than when I myself discovered the truth. My only saving grace was my daughter, who still believed, and would for, I hoped, at least for a few more years. As I learned when I was my son’s age, as long as someone in the house still believes, there is still magic. It’s not quite the same, but it’s all we have.
I have discovered that the older you get, the more important the memories from your childhood become. I used to think that the people who were sad at Christmas must have had terrible childhoods, wrought with misery and bad presents. But, I’ve since had reason to re-think my logic. I now firmly believe that the sad people at Christmas are the ones who had wonderful childhoods, and great memories, and are simply coming to grips with the fact that no matter how hard you try, you can never go back. And the magic of Christmas, regardless of how much you wish for it, cannot be recreated after the spell has worn off. Until recently, my younger sister didn’t even put up tree anymore. She hadn’t had one since her children still believed. I find that to be one of the saddest things of all. She seemed almost angry with her memories for showing her that place she can’t get back to. I think she has made peace with those memories in recent years.
Me, I try to get back there every year, living vicariously through the children and clinging to every Christmas decoration from days gone by, and adding to my collection with an assortment of Santa figurines, and snow covered villages.
But as much as I love Christmas, I still wish I could have selective memory, giving me the option of believing in Santa yet again. My mother has a similar gift, often times completely forgetting a moment in time and finding herself laughing hysterically at the joke she was in on and yet has no memory of.
Curiously enough, the moment that most comes to mind is a Christmas memory from the not too distant past. It was the year my sister and I were both expecting (my first and her second), and for the first time in several years, we were spending Christmas altogether at my mother’s home. My sister woke up that particular Christmas morning and informed her husband that she had had a very vivid dream. She dreamed that our Aunt Phyllis had presented us each with a carefully wrapped package that turned out to be a single Italian Christmas cookie. It was the cookie that reminded us most of our aunt, the kind she made each holiday season by the dozen. Yet, my sister dreamed that she gifted us each but one. Of course, she told the same story to me when we arrived at our mother’s home for the Christmas festivities.
It wasn’t unusual for my sister to have strange dreams. She often said she believed herself to be somewhat psychic after dreaming about a plane crash that did in fact occur. A strange coincidence, we all believed… well, until that Christmas day. My aunt arrived in full holiday attire as she did each year, laughing and giggling like a round elfin woman, bearing gifts for everyone, my sister and me included.
In fact, she handed each of us a tiny gift that eerily resembled a wrapped Italian cookie. I admit that I felt a slight chill run down my spine. It was very strange. Too creepy to imagine, really. My sister looked over at me with her mouth slightly agape, and then back to the small gift. I took her queue and opened my package.
It was a single Italian cookie.
What happened next could only be explained as electrifying. My sister, seven months pregnant with her second child, began jumping up and down, exclaiming over and over again, “Oh my God, I’m psychic!”
I was no better, repeating her words, “Oh my God, you’re psychic!” She continued by describing her dream in each minute detail. She held up the wrapped cookie as ironclad proof, and then retold the story of the plane crash she had dreamed of years earlier. I backed her every word, as convinced as she that she was indeed, psychic!
We were in a whirlwind of chatter, completely oblivious to the laughter across the room. I don’t remember how long before it set in, and I can’t remember the exact words that were said at that point. But, the gist of it was this … my brother-in-law (the infamous Uncle Paul) had called my aunt in the early morning hours and relayed to her the strange cookie dream. The two of them concocted the idea of staging a harmless Christmas prank. It was a good one too. It always brings back fond memories of Aunt Phyllis, who has since passed on. To this day, more than twenty years later, we still toss out the line my sister was so fond of that day, “Oh my god…you’re psychic!”
I wish I were as lucky as my mother, though. She got to enjoy that story twice as if she’d never heard it before. And she was there for the whole thing.
I guess getting old isn’t that bad.