Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Christmas music . . .

. . . plays semi-softly in the background. Outside, the rain is falling. Glad I'm not in Chicago . . . or anywhere else where snow is socking them in and giving them a splendidly white Christmas. Okay, I would love a white Christmas. It just rarely happens in TN.

I grew up outside of Chicago. Snow was part and parcel of Christmas. I remember only one year where we could actually see the grass at Christmastime. Ahh, the days of childhood when I would romp all day in the snow - bundled up (long underwear, jeans, snow pants, quadruple layer of socks, sweaters, jackets, mittens, scarves, hats, face totally protected from the cold) and braving the huge drifts of snow, tunneling from yard to yard, building snow forts and snowmen, and having snowball fights. Oh, then there was the creek behind the house. Ice skating everyday as well. Oh, did I mention I had a tendency of finding the only thin spot on the ice and falling through.

Once upon a time, in the days of childhood, I fell through the ice - repeatedly - on a single day. Well, after the umpteenth time, my mother had enough. "If you fall through the ice again don't bother coming home." Ahh, the joys of childhood when you take your parents words literally. I fell through the ice again.

Darkness falls. I'm not home. My parents, sisters and brother, bundle up and beginning searching for me. No sight nor sound to be found in the winter wonderland that was the Chicago suburbs at that time. Finally, mother opens the garage door and there I am - soaked to the bone, shivering (probably blue, but she never mentions that part when she tells the story).

Well, years later we can laugh about the story. I always tell Mom "careful what you tell your children". Oh, and I have no true memory of the event. I guess it is true that you block out the traumatic events of your childhood. Still, those were the days.

Where do our childhoods go so that we no longer truly enjoy snow? Or Christmas for that matter! We lived in a two story house growing up. The one Christmas tradition I remember clearly, is the four of us (two sisters, my brother and I) perched at the top of the stairs waiting for Mom and Dad to wake (okay, they'd probably been awake since 4 AM hearing us whispering outside their bedroom door) up and allow us to go downstairs. We'd make slow treks - one at a time - down the stairs to peek around the corner into the living room to see what we could see. Then, in a mad - probably earth-shattering dash - we would scurry back up the stairs and perch at the top, expectantly looking at Mom and Dad's room. Again and again, we would repeat this action until finally Dad would emerge. Were we allowed to run pell-mell down the stairs? Oh, no, that would be too simple. Dad meandered his way down the stairs. Mom had yet to emerge. the wait was eternal. Everything was eternal at that age. Finally, Mom would emerge in her robe. "Merry Christmas. Wait here." She would go down and make coffee. Finally, Dad would appear at the bottom of the stairs with his camera. "Now," he would say, and we would rush down while he snapped a picture. Year after year, the same situation, a little less wild the older we got, but the picture - two girls, two boys, in pajamas and robes, rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning - filled the photo albums.

Bottom of the stairs, Mom blocking the way to the living room where Santa's presents lay exposed for all to see except for us. Around the corner into the family room where the overflowing (mostly with fruit, I might add) lay on the fire place where - thankfully - the fire had finally burned out to allow Santa entry into the house. We dug into the stockings with hurried fervor and only then were we allowed to dash into the living room and see what Santa had left us.

Mom and Dad let us play with our Santa gifts while Mom fixed breakfast. The same thing every year: blueberry muffins, bacon, scrambled eggs and orange juice. To this day, we all still make the same thing on Christmas day. Tradition. After breakfast, we could open the rest of the gifts. Chaos. Paper everywhere. "Thanks Mom and Dad". Phone calls to grandparents and then off - do we have to???? - Church. Back home from Church. Play with the toys. Christmas Dinner! Merry Christmas!

Childhood is gone. My brother, sisters and I are grown. We all have our own families and lives. No more running down the stairs in pell mell fashion. No more Dad snapping the pictures at the bottom of the stairs. Still, near or far, the memories remain forever in our hearts.

Merry Christmas!!!