Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ghosts of Christmases Past

We went to Midnight Mass, and in a real departure for our family we even opened our presents before Mass so that we (meaning mrangelmeg specifically) could all sleep in this morning.   Well then, what am I doing up at quarter past why the heck am I awake?  Maybe it is the fact that unlike the last four or five years, we actually have snow this Christmas (boy have we had snow).  Maybe it is because this is the first Christmas since our oldest daughter moved so far away and she couldn't get back this year.  Maybe because this is the first Christmas since my mom died and I am really missing her.  But I am sitting here on Christmas morning and remembering absent family members and Christmases past.

We opened presents on Christmas Eve most years when I was little, because we went to Midnight Mass and we could all (meaning my dad specifically) sleep in on Christmas morning).  We always got crisp new jammies on Christmas,  they were never wrapped, but would magically appear on our beds somehow while we were eating dinner on Christmas Eve.  The Jammies were supposed to help us sleep better on that magical night.

On the occasions that we didn't open gifts on Christmas Eve,  we would still have gone to Midnight Mass, so our parents had a rule about when we were allowed to wake them to open presents in the morning.  We had to wait patiently,  or as patiently as nine anxious children could, until the streetlight out in front of our house went out.  it was then and only then that we were allowed to knock on their door and tell them the exciting news that we had already discovered;  Santa had been to our house.  

I remember waiting anxiously, sitting on the radiator by the front window in the living room willing with all my might that the light would go out.  We carried this forward for our children by telling them that they weren't allowed to wake mrangelmeg on Christmas morning until the security light in our driveway went out.  

On the sleep in mornings we were allowed to wake up any time we liked, but we were not allowed to wake or disturb our parents on Christmas morning.  We had to play with our newly received loot as quietly as possible.  This was always much easier for me, who usually got books than my brothers who got GI Joes or Rock-em Sock-em Robots or Slot Hockey games.   Inevitably, they would get really noisy.  

The lasting memory I have of those Christmases though isn't the gifts, but having the family all together.    One year, we went into Midnight Mass with just a few flakes wafting through the air, and came out an hour and a half later to a total blanket of white, that by morning was one of the worst blizzards the area had ever seen.   The snow was so deep that hardly anyone drove on the streets for days.   We lived about seven weeks from Church and the entire family, all eleven of us walked through the two feet of snow to Mass the following Sunday.  

Christmas was a time to be together.   Another of our spectacular Christmases was the year my oldest brother came back from his Naval posting to Okinawa to spend Christmas with us.  We were so happy to see him, and he decided to "share the wealth" with his military pay that year.  The very large living room seemed to be buried in gifts.  But we were so happy to have Mike back that our bountiful harvest didn't seem to matter.

Our greatest gift on Christmas was family, which isn't a surprise at all to me since the real gift of Christmas was the Christ child.   For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.  The greatest gift of all was a gift of Divine Family. It's not the Christmas presents that we love so much, it is the Christmas Presence.

I think I will call some of my siblings today. 


1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I've been getting around to reading more and more of the blogs again. I cannot believe how I got away from some great posts..this being one! Beautiful story of great memories. Hugs to you..I relate to so much of what you are expressing here. Sigh.