I remember the Christmas I got the bicycle with the pink and white tassels and the white wicker basket. My dad didn't put the training wheels on and helped me learn to ride that very day. I remember the Christmases before the divorce when my parents squelched their own feelings enough to give me a family Christmas. I remember the suit my mom gave my dad that was not to his liking, and I remember the hurt she felt when he told her so. To this day I believe that exuberant thanks is the only appropriate response to a gift from a loved one. I remember the Christmas my mom tried to bring the new family together. The cornish hens did not go over well with three teenagers intent on being surly and unpleasant. I remember the Christmas my cousin Ken promised my mom he would keep an eye on me so that I could go Uptown with my friends - only to let me go off to meet my boyfriend. I put my belief of exuberant thanks in to practice that night when the boyfriend gave me a bottle of god-awful perfume. I remember the Christmas Georgia and I greased cake pans, wiped walls and ironed drapes and curtains on our cul-de-sac to earn money for Christmas gifts. I don't remember what we bought, but I remember how industrious and responsible we felt. I remember my first Christmas back home after moving to Florida. The Luria's stores were closing down and I cleaned up with Christmas presents for everyone on my list. I remember our friend Sean's last Christmas. I remember my Uncle Claude's last Christmas.
For me, Christmas is defined by those memories. Christmas is a house filled with extended family, a not-so-stylishly decorated tree, visiting friends and sampling fruit cake and sorrel at every house, shopping for and hiding gifts, menu planning and preparing days in advance, new clothes for Christmas Sabbath, staying up late on Christmas Eve to wrap gifts and to start the cooking, a big Christmas morning breakfast amid the smells of dinner well on its way.
It has been a while since we've had a Christmas like that. That makes me sad, particularly for the kids. More than anything I want them to have wonderful Christmas memories like I do. When my 5-year-old declared recently that there is no such thing as Santa Claus it just about broke my heart. I felt my mommy star tarnish more than a little bit. I have been so busy pining over my memories and all I miss, I neglected my responsibility to create memories for my boys. I had foolishly forgotten that there are many ways to have Christmas.
My husband and I don't share the same reverence for Christmas, but we both realize that it is important to create traditions and memories for the boys. Though he thinks I over do and I can't convince him that simplicity is Christmas sacrilege, we are finding a merry medium. So far this Christmas, I've convinced at least one son to send his wishes off to Santa, the tree is up, and I have started work on the Christmas Day dinner menu. I will dial back the more-is-more Christmas and I will not whine about not being with my mother. My husband hopefully will not ask why as he is prone to do and will roll his eyes less. All we want for Christmas are great memories for our boys.