It’s been a quiet week up here on the mountain, my little slice of heaven in the great northwest.
This is Christmas week, and kids are out of school, dreaming about what the fat man in the red suit might bring them. Some people are thinking about traveling to relatives for the holiday. Though, this year, due to the raging pandemic, many are opting to stay home with close family members instead.
Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time, peace on earth good will towards men and all that. However, for many, it is a time of anything but, myself included. I stopped celebrating soon after coming back from the Persian Gulf. I was flown out on Christmas day, and I will not relate here anything I saw on the plane that day, but I have lived with those memories ever since (a chapter of my book, Escaping a Life of Quiet Desperation, has the details of that flight, for those who are curious). I will, though, talk about Christmases past; those wonderful days of youth, when you dream of nothing more than what you might get on that big day.
It was told to my sister and me, that Santa came four times a year. The first time was to put up the tree, which somehow managed to happen when we were either sleeping or gone from the house to look at Christmas lights. He would then return the night of the 23rd to fill our stockings for the next morning. He would visit again on Christmas eve, bringing and setting up our gifts while my sister and I waited in a bedroom with our grandmother, who would read us The Night Before Christmas or some other book for the season. His final visit would be New Year’s Eve, to check to see if we were taking care of the gifts. If he found that we were not, he would add us to his naughty list and we would be assured of getting coal the following year. My sister and I made sure all gifts were well taken care of, at least until after New Year’s Eve. After that, all bets were off. In my family’s case, we celebrated on Christmas eve, having received our stockings that morning, and waited with anticipation for darkness to fall, fidgeting all through an agonizing Christmas meal, then the washing, drying, and putting away of the dishes.
As we got older, even though we knew that it wasn’t real, we didn’t want the magic to end. So, mom and dad humored us, in our last vestiges of our childhood, until I joined the Navy, and my sister went into high school. One year, when we were in our teens, dad was working in Boston, while mom ran her gift shop in the Newington mall, an hour’s drive away. Mom knew she would be late, and dreaded putting up the tree. Unknown to her, we had gathered the neighborhood friends, procured a tree (the less said about from where, the better for all involved as I don’t know what the statute of limitations is for tree theft), put on some Christmas music, pulled out the decorations from the attic, and set to work. At one point, mom called to check on us, I hushed our friends while lying to her about how things were going.
When we finished, it was late and mom and dad were on their way home. We sent our friends home, turned out the lights and waited. As soon as they drove into the driveway, which was right in front of the living room window, we turned on the tree. It was the best gift we could have given to our bedraggled parents that year. It often, to this day, gets talked about in the family, part of our Christmas lore of bygone days.
Well, that’s all the news for the week. Bye for now.