At RevGalBlogPals Jan writes: “Tell us about five Christmas memories you have.”
1. 1. Almost every year that I can remember from the time I was four or five, we’d have either Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas afternoon dinner or both up in Tarrytown at my Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Harry’s home. My mother, my grandmother and I (and once I was married, Max) would gather there with my most of my grandmother’s sisters and brothers and their families and often my Aunt Eleanor’s extended family as well. People would sit around the tree and talk for a while and, once everyone had arrived, exchange gifts. Then we kids would go upstairs to the attic or down to the basement to “explore” while some of the adults finished up dinner prep stuff. We’d all gather back together around the dinner table for lots and lots of food- turkey and ham, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, two or three vegetables, homemade rolls, gravy, stuffing, and then several homemade pies and various cakes and cookies. Depending on how many people were there, children might or might not be at a separate “children’s table.” If the “family highchair” was out (one that most of us of several generations around the table had sat in during our babyhood) people would comment on the new addition. After dinner, the women of my grandmother’s generation would go into the kitchen to clean up and chat more. Then most of us would gather again around the dinner table to play the card game “pennies” (that each of us would save pennies for for weeks ahead of time). I loved these intergenerational, extended family gatherings and have always wished that I had had a way to do something similar for my children.
2. 2. I was about four months pregnant with Dan at Christmastime. I’d just begin to feel him quicken at the time and was still in awe of the experience. Feeling him bouncing around as we sang Silent Night at the end of that year’s Service of Lessons and Carols surrounded by the stars from the slideshow has always stayed with me at later Christmas Eve services
3. 3. From the time Dan was about six I’d let him go on the Christmas Eve Midnight Runs with Frantz and me. We’d go in a series of cars to about four or five stops – outside the United Nations, at the Bandshell in Central Park, in Riverside Park, at St. Thomas’ Church, and a few other places that’d vary each year--and distribute pieces of hero sandwiches, homemade cookies, mulled wine and eggnog, and gifts of hats, thermal underwear, and gloves to the homeless poor living on the streets of New York City. One year, when Danny was about eight, Max was with us and driving us in his Jeep. The radio was on playing Christmas music and, as we pulled into the 79th street Rotunda in Riverside Park, the announcer said that Santa had just been spotted flying over Philadelphia and was heading up the east coast toward New York City. Danny got so worried about not being at home before Santa got to New York that we had to quickly get into our car and head home so that he could be in bed before Santa got to our apartment.
4. 4. The year that Becca was about three, I’d promised several of the men who I’d gotten to know on the streets of New York City that I’d bring her on the Christmas Eve Run. Max agreed that we’d all drive down to the city together and do just the first two stops in Central Park, stops where people would be expecting Becca. That same year Max and Dan decided to get me a dog from the pound for my Christmas gift. They came home with a white collie mix that was about five years old. Becca named her Christmas Joy (Joy for short). The day of Christmas Eve they brought her home to me at our apartment and promptly freaked out our cat, Midnight. The two just couldn’t get along. Joy was spooked by noises from neighboring apartments and barked. Midnight was spooked by Joy and hissed over and over. That spooked Joy who barked. It became a vicious circle. I headed out to the 5:30 service hoping things would get better before I returned. They didn’t. It was clear that leaving Joy alone in the apartment barking while we were out on the streets of New York wouldn’t work so at 11:30, as we bundled Becca into the back seat, we also put Joy next to her. Stop by stop, not only were the men delighted to be greeted by Becca, but they were also happy to have a dog standing beside her, wagging her tail as one person after another came to take a Christmas cookie from Becca’s hand.
5. 5. Our first Christmas together, the winter before we bought the place we’re currently living, Kathy and I had agreed to have Christmas at Kathy’s apartment. Between the end of the Service of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve and daylight Christmas Day it snowed a huge amount, though, and the streets were from my perspective impassable. I wasn’t sure how to get to Tarrytown to get my Aunt Ruth, the one remaining sister of my grandmother still alive and in the area, much less how to get her and my children to Bronxville to Kathy’s. Kathy, less skittish in the snow than I am, agreed to come get us all. We slid our way over to Bronxville and were joined by her younger son, who came up from the city by train. The snow continued to come down. Just after Christmas dinner it became clear that all the roads back home were closed and, except for Jon who quickly left to walk the block to the train before it stopped running, we would all have to spend the night. At about 7 pm Aunt Ruth announced that it was time for her to go to bed. I suggested she take one of the two twin beds in the one bedroom, saying Becca could sleep in the other bed. She said she wouldn’t sleep in the room with “the little girl”. I asked if she preferred to share a room with Dan or with me. Her answer was no to either suggestion. That meant she had to take Kathy’s bed away from her to have a room to herself, that Dan would sleep on the living room couch and Becca, Kathy, and I would have to sleep on the two twins pushed together. After a few complains about the height of the bed Aunt Ruth finally went to sleep. About 11 or so, Becca went to sleep and around 12:30 or so, Dan, Kathy and I did the same. I was exhausted. At 4 am I awoke to a noise. It was Aunt Ruth standing beside me, saying that she was rested and getting up now and “only needed a little breakfast”. I put on my glasses and headed out to try to fix her something before she woke anyone else up, but she made enough noise heading through the living room and then complaining that there weren’t any of her usual breakfast foods, she’d soon awoken Dan, and then everyone else with him. Even “the little girl” who usually slept through anything once she got to sleep, was awake.