Every Christmas Eve our next-door neighbors had their party. Mr. Wronski would get so excited to sit us girls down at his bar in the patio room that extended their 1300 sq foot house and mix us Shirley Temples. Then we’d be ushered off back to our house and the teenage girl from across the street would make sure we stayed in bed as she smoked and talked to her friends on the phone while my parents extended their fun with all the adults.
One year our babysitter walked down the hallway with her bracelets jingling and I could have sworn the reindeer had just landed on our roof. I was a true believer. I remember peering up to the sky on Christmas Eve hoping to see movement. I never did, but it was fun to imagine.
For me, it’s always been fun to imagine the good, the magical, the extraordinary. I like to believe. It gives me a sense of hope.
The year I was married, my parents divvied out a list of things us girls were responsible for to bring to Christmas Even dinner. I was given the punch. My first adult Christmas I made an ice wreath with cinnamon sticks and cranberries and orange slices. I bought special spiced rum, and the punch bowl that year was definitely spiked.
My first year after moving away from family to Washington state, the traditions and festivities were replaced by two people expecting their first baby, sitting quietly in front of a fire, dreaming of the life to come.
Christmas. Besides the obvious celebration of the birth of Christ, it’s also the memories created that help define our lives.
When I was 8 there were so many presents in the room that no one could walk. 23 or so members of our family gathered together and opened presents for hours. When I was 13 we started the drawing and the insanity became a little more manageable. I remember red bicycles, and black shiny boots, and a yellow skateboard. I remember tinsel on the tree, and feeling bad that one Christmas when my mom said, Livvy has one more present but I can’t find it. I was so hopeful, but she never did find it. I found out later it was lost in the shed for years and was a jewelry box. I was an adult and my parents were moving away from my childhood home and packing up the memories when it was found.
Back then there was meaning attached to almost everything. It was all important. I cared about it all. The symbolism, the stories and myths, the traditions, the people, the presents.
We spend a lot of money trying to create these special memories. One year we not only got a real tree but I strewn real garland from every mantel and doorway I could find trying to create the picture perfect Christmas for my family. Why all the effort? Why all the expense? Why care so much?
I’m asking myself this question without any real answers except to think of the word hope. Christmas is truly about hope. The hope we have in Christ and his promise to save mankind. The hope we have in his return bringing peace on earth. The hope we have in each other to love and give and hold dear. The hope we have in our future. We do all this crazy stuff this time of year so we can hold onto the dream that hope is real and worth believing.
And so this Christmas my husband hoisted a gigantic tree over his head in the lot and made my daughter and I both laugh. We held our breath as we drove home with it on top of the car listening to Johnny Mathis sing “It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas” on the radio. We unfolded the gorgeous ornaments his mother chose with love throughout her short lifetime and placed them on our family tree. And we hope. For our lives, our love, our future. We hope.