Christmas past, Christmas present

In spite of my dysfunctional family, several of my early Christmas memories are magical. Yes, our privileged white place in the South made some of those memories magic. There was the Christmas party held by First Federal Savings and Loan in which my daddy at one time was president. It was festive, drinks were poured, Christmas music blared, attire was dressy and Santa came in with a bag full of presents for each child. I can’t imagine who was sober enough to drive us home, but here I am writing this blog.
One of my aunts (once removed) Sybil and her husband, put on a Christmas Eve party each year that was not to be missed. Although, one year daddy got too drunk early in the evening for us to go. It as a sad night. I remember, my older brother trying to make for some kind of normalcy or magic. He took me for a drive to see all the Christmas decorations. Some neighborhoods were known for putting on a show. Some streets each house had a tree lit with white lights. Another street might have a tree lit with all colored lights at each house. One street had large decorations with twelve different houses representing the the twelve days of Christmas starting with a partridge in a pear tree and ending with twelve drummers drumming. All of it was quit pretty. I loved it.
Back to the party we missed one year. Valet parking was offered as we drove up to Aunt Sybil’s house that was lit up with class. Each of us four children wore our new Christmas dresses and outfit. After entering, my parents made their way to the open bar where a cheerful black bartender said, “yes sir, Mr. Scott coming right up, Merry Christmas to you.” I would find the nearest cousin and we made our way to the buffet table full of holiday food, the makings for roast beef sandwiches with a horseradish sauce to be downed by eggnog and a perfectly decorated sugar cookie. There were a couple of bedrooms that the children congregated in for games or to watch a holiday show on tv. Santa appeared at this party as well. He entered the front door bellowing, hohoho. All the children gathered round to hear him call each name and receive our present. Each night ended with sparklers being handed out. Children ran outside to light them, dancing around or trying to spell a word with the moving light.
Christmas morning, we had to stand in the hallway until given the OK to go into the living room where the tree was surrounded by a pile of presents, usually one thing for each child was not wrapped, that was from Santa. It was all a flurry. Then over the neighborhoods and through State St. to granddaddy’s house we go, where brunch was served and cousins gathered to count the dollars in our envelopes that granddaddy had placed on our plates. And then Christmas lunch at either our house or Aunt Wilkie’s. Cousin Wilkie, a year older, and I would show off our presents to each other having lined them up all in a row.
Is it a wonder that by the time I had a family of my own, my daughter and her step dad, we opted for a quieter Christmas. I’d roast an eye of the round with horseradish sauce while Christmas carols played in the background. After dinner we’d walk a couple of blocks to the historic Masonic cemetery where neighbors gathered to sing Christmas carols by candlelight and Santa would appear from somewhere among the gravesites with a present for each child. At home, we snuggled by the fire, each getting to open one present before bed. The next morning we’d lazily open presents savoring each one, one at a time. Christmas brunch or lunch was shared with my sister, her husband and son. It was all fairly sane and calm.
Christmas has not been the same since my daughter’s step dad and I divorced twenty years ago. There has been no semblance of a family Christmas since then. I wouldn’t want the Christmas’s of my youth with all the chaos but I’d like something in between. Maybe a quiet morning, then a visit with my grandchildren watching them unwrap the presents I have brought them, something they have wished for.

Love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us. Anne Lamott

“Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” ~@ANNELAMOTT

This holiday season, I’m believing it Anne. Holidays have become so different from what I was brought up to believe they are all about. Lots of decorations, lots of presents, parties, food, family and sometimes drunk daddies. All of that did feel magical at times, the anticipation of Santa and what he would bring was real and exciting. No matter how old I get, I can feel that on Christmas Eve, as ridiculous of an idea that it is. Maybe I kinda like that feeling for a moment though. Is it possible that there is magic, is it possible a gift will be left tomorrow, even if it is a phone call from a loved one?
Even though we did have a pile of presents before us as we entered the living room on Christmas morning, I don’t remember what the presents were, except for the sting ray bike. I still have a picture of me on it. We did some miles together and made some memories. A few fond Christmas memories stick with me: the year we had children from the orphanage over to make cookies and the times we visited the orphanage after that. Our time with orphans was a project my mama was involved in through the Junior League or church. I’m not sure which one, but it was her duty to society none the less. I loved it. I also love the memory of running around Christmas eve day delivering presents of baked goods or the like to friends and neighbors. And Christmas Eve service at church was always calming with the candles lit and carols being sung.
Aside from those memories, it all felt like a lot of show. Once I moved to Montana in the 80’s, my older brother lived here in Missoula as well. Christmas Eve, we shared a meal then geared up for a cross country ski at the neighborhood golf course. Silently sliding across the glistening moonlit snow ❄️ I felt warmth, peace and love.
I have a little bit of Christmas in me this year for whatever reason. I won’t be buying any presents. I will be hiking with friends, gathering greenery to decorate with. Some baking will happen. Baked goods will be delivered to dear friends. There will be warmth, peace and love. Wishing you the same.