Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Dreams

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. It's late evening of the Christmas of 2008, and I, full of cookies and kidnoise, am taking a minute to write.
I am at my niece's house, and have watched my three grandnephews and one grandniece tear open presents and make a cheerful mess. Everyone should have kids around on Christmas morning. If you haven't any or yours are grown, go borrow some.
The word "glee" seems to best describe their faces as they tear into the pile of presents. Their parents stand by grinning, as well they should, for they are making memories, magic.

My parents knew how to make the magic. They loved playing Santa, and I think were disappointed when we were finally too old to believe. Our stockings were flannel, homemade and filled with hard candy (which always stuck to the cloth and was slightly fuzzy), fruit ("Santa Claus" apples were the big red ones) and nuts in their shells. The stockings drooped on a chair, for we had no fireplace to hang them on. The rest of the armchair held all the presents that Santa had left. I remember specific presents, the ones that stood out. One year a Chatty Cathy doll, once a doll dressed in the same flannel pajamas my mother had made for me ( a collaboration between her and Mrs. Claus, no doubt), once a jewelry box with music and a tiny twirling ballerina, once a beautiful three speed bike, always books and some clothes. My brother and I had to line up behind the closed hall door, dancing with anticipation, before being allowed to run into the living room and find our stuff. Each year, the proof Santa had been there was obvious; there on the coffee table was the half full cup of coffee and the one remaining half cookie with his very teeth marks.
Christmas Eve had its own ritual - the reading of the Nativity story in Luke, followed by 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, then the singing of Christmas hymns. I still love those hymns and sing them in the car the whole month of December.
I will always love my parents for the Christmas dreams they encouraged and fulfilled. They had very little money, but they made our happy morning the best they could. When I finally asked the question about Santa, my mother explained gently that, well, no, there wasn't actually a jolly old elf, but that he represented love on Christmas. That parents played Santa for their children because of that love. Somehow I was not disappointed, but understood and loved them for it.
I loved playing Santa for our sons.
Love begets love. If one is loved, one learns to love. I hope you've loved a child this year.

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