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.