“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” clay sculpture by kayti sweetland Rasmussen
As Christmases go, the 2013 version was exceptionally nice. Stretched over a three day period, it was delightfully non-stressful, with plenty of time to enjoy family, food and friends. The clan gathered on the 22nd, (that is, the half which did not enjoy the Thanksgiving turkey). I have friends who sent out the parental command for each holiday or special occasion, and it worked wonders for them. My own mother-in-law who lived around the corner, assumed that we would all be present each Sunday as the dinner bell rang, and most of the time we complied.
The only sour note on the big day was the sudden realization that the date was Charlie’s 7th birthday and no one gave him a gift or sang happy birthday. I have a friend who has a charming little black poodle named Penelope, for whom she throws an actual party on each natal day. To be perfectly honest, Penelope is quiet and polite, lying on her human “mother’s” lap, nibbling on a tidbit here and there, while Charlie, by virtue of his Jack Russell heritage and an obscene amount of bonhomie, simply wants to chase a ball through the house.
It’s true that holiday celebrations change as you grow older. As a child in Long Beach, we often spent Thanksgiving with my great-aunt and uncle, but we stayed home on Christmas. I remember thinking that Auntie’s Christmas tree was not a friendly happy tree all dressed in blue and silver, while ours had lots of colored lights, and old ornaments from years past. I was a strong believer in the Santa myth, and was suitably surprised to find that he had delivered the tree all decorated on Christmas Eve after we were all asleep. How he got our old ornaments I never figured out. I was a believer until the age of eight, when I was awakened by a walnut being dropped on my head by my father as he was filling my stocking on the headboard of my bed.
I was a Navy child, and we spent a few of those early Christmas days alone in another port. Some were better than others, and one was definitely not a festive celebration. Our orders had come through and we were packed and ready to leave on the day after Christmas, so there was no tree, no big dinner, and the few gifts we exchanged were simply handed to one another with no particular ceremony. Strangely enough, I remember my gift, which is not always the case. It was a gold locket engraved with my initials, KLS, and opened to hold pictures. I have it still in an old jewelry box, and it contains small photos of my parents, who were approximately 30 years old that Christmas.
Christmas 1941 was somber, since the United States had just gone to War, but it would have been much more painful had we been aware that my father was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii during the attack. In fact, his ship, the U.S.S. Bagley, was moored across the channel from the Arizona, which took such a dreadful pounding from the Japanese.
As the years passed, and children arrived, we used new tricks every year to convince them of Santas’s existence. One year, Dr. Advice tracked ashes on the carpet in front of the fireplace. If there was snow, we tracked flour on the hearth. I wonder if it really ever fooled the kids, or if they simply humored us.
The thing about Christmas Past, is that it prepares us for the New Year and all that Resolution thing. I refuse to make any guarantees about life style changes, since people usually make the same promises every year, and have broken each one by the end of January.
However you choose to approach the New Year, I wish you the very best of health, with enough wealth to get you through the month with a little left over for a rainy day!