One of my best Christmas memories is of the year my girlfriend and I earned money doing odd jobs for our neighbors. We ironed curtains, wiped walls, greased baking pans - anything we could do in the five other houses on our cul-de-sac for a few dollars. I don't remember how much we made or what we bought, but I remember well how happy we were with our ingenuity and our earnings.
Christmases on Newton Close were always great. Even before my parents finally got divorced, and were still pretending for my sake to be happily married. My father would always come for the holidays bearing a bounty of gifts - absentee parent syndrome maybe. Now, I wonder how uncomfortable it must have been for my parents. I knew things weren't perfect, but I was always happy to have them both.
As I got older, shopping for Christmas gifts and sneaking out to holiday parties took priority over family time with my parents. I remember when going 'uptown' was the main thing to do during the holidays, particularly on Christmas Eve. It was just about the only night when most teenagers had carte blanche to go out with their friends until the wee hours of the morning. To not go, or to have to go home before midnight was social suicide. One year my mother decided I wasn't going. I don't remember why, but it is fair to assume the sanction was deserved. My cousin/big brother Ken interceded on my behalf and got me released into his custody so I could go on the plazas. As soon as we got into town I was off with my friends, ignoring his instructions to meet him at a certain hour.
When I remember Christmases back home, I remember visiting and be visited by friends and enjoying serving after serving of sorrel and fruit cake. Auntie Judy's fruitcake continues to be the mark by which all other fruitcakes are judged. Mom's sorrel is the yardstick. I remember there was always a big spread on our table. Mom always had the classics - roast beef, curried goat - but also tried to have something atypical of the Jamaican holiday feast - turkey, rock cornish hens. Whatever it was it was always good and we always had guests.
This year, far from my family and my friends I see more than ever what Christmas really means to me. To steal a line from the popular carol "Christmas just aint Christmas without the ones you love." I miss consulting with my mother and my girlfriend about the menu for dinner. I miss plotting with G about what gift to buy for my mom. I miss a house bustling with people.
The best Christmas present I can give my sons is memories like mine. Next year, wherever mom is, there we will be also.