I can see those early Christmases as if through the hazy sepia-gold filter of a 1970s photograph.
The day would begin early as I crept out of my room to eye the presents under the tree. I would note which ones had been there the night before, and which had magically appeared overnight. I would check to see that the stockings had been filled.
I was a bit scared of Santa – a strange man, appearing in the middle of our family room, possibly wandering around the house – and at first I would peer nervously around the room to make sure he was no longer there.
I did, of course, like that he left presents behind. Presents I didn’t even realize I wanted, didn’t even realize existed prior to receiving them. One year, a life-like doll lying in a wicker cradle, another year, another doll, this time with shoulder length auburn hair, in an antique doll’s stroller. And stuffed animals; a Peruvian llama, a large panda bear, a soft polar bear.
But before the presents, I had to wait for my parents to get up.
I can almost hear my mother now, coming down the squeaking stairs from their bedroom up in the attic.
“Finally!” I would think.
By the time she appeared, though still early, I would be getting hungry and, more importantly, eager to open my stocking.
My mother had made each of us a special stocking. Mine was red with a quilted Christmas tree on the front, little sequins of different shapes and colours sewn on to mimic tree decorations. It said my name in felt block letters. Hers was green, with two blond angels, their faces a satiny cream colour, and “mommee” written across the toes. My dad’s was red, with two little mice sniffing each other’s noses, holly tied to their tails. I think his name was spelled equally quirkily.
They would be hung on hooks, as per the poem, in front of the fireplace the night before. The next morning, the three would be filled and spilling over, and Santa would have lifted them down and laid them across the floor.
At long last, my mother would emerge, petite, her short black hair softly curled, perfect, framing her fair face, looking strong but delicate. She would be dressed in the long, Egyptian style housecoat she had made before I was born. It was floor-length, with green and dark turquoise and purple stripes running up to a high velvet collar, where gold brocade fasteners hung open.
My father would come down soon after, his black hair tousled from bed, his coffee eyes still blurred with sleep. He would be bare footed and wearing the grey velour housecoat he used to wear back then. The neck was rimmed with plum coloured brocade and it closed with matching buttons.
I wonder when he stopped wearing it. It seems that through those early years, when he wore that house coat, he still enjoyed Christmas. Some of it, anyway.
My parents would tell me I had to hold on, that we would have breakfast first. I would peer desperately at the tree, the stockings, and then do the only thing I could; I would wait, my fingers twiddling impatiently with the long, dusty fibers of the white shag carpet in the family room.
My father would get the fire going in the fire place, while my mother grilled grapefruit halves, their red faces sprinkled with brown sugar, and made bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. The coffeemaker would be turned on, and there would be orange juice for me.
After what felt like an eternity, the fire would begin crackling merrily in the grate and my mother would bring breakfast upstairs on a tray.
We would sit on the floor, on the shag carpet, and eat our breakfast from the heavy wooden coffee table beside the fire. I can still smell the thick, dark, oiled wood of that stocky coffee table.
I think my mother wanted to draw out the anticipation for as long as possible. I think she knew that once we started opening gifts, the activity would take on a life of its own and would sweep the day away.
But just before she gave in, there was an expectant calm in which the three of us had a special breakfast as a family. It was a tradition. A ritual.
When she ran out of reasons to stall, she would smile, her green eyes twinkling to tell me it was time.
The stocking was my favourite. She packed so many little surprises and mysteries and small wonders into it. Even the socks seemed exciting.
As far as the presents, the ones under the tree, were concerned, there were the dolls and stuffed animals. And strands of pearls, which I still treasure and wear. These are presents which hold a fond place in my memory and heart. Presents which my mother had clearly spent energy and time selecting. I couldn’t open them until my grandparents and my great aunt arrived, sometime later in the morning. And they would bring presents too, mostly clothes they had painstakingly and lovingly made – nightgowns and sweaters and hats and mitts – and always one piece of a set of silverware my great aunt built for me over each birthday and Christmas for as long as she lived.
My maternal grandfather, like my mother, was the giver of magic presents. His were always the smallest, almost hidden, but always special; a little gold heart ring, a little gold locket to match…
When the presents had been opened and the wrappings cleared away, I would sit with my grandfather, my father would disappear into the garage, and the matriarchs of the family would prepare dinner.
As I got older, there were specific things I wanted. This and that. Sometimes I got them, sometimes I didn’t.
But getting what I wanted, or not, isn’t really what has stayed with me all these years and I have no idea now whether there was every anything I desperately wanted that I never received.
What has stayed with me is that breakfast together, and my grandparents walking through our front door, and having my whole family there by the tree or at the dinner table.
At those times, there was a magic in the air. It was almost palpable, a sort of tinkling as though we had been sprinkled with fairy dust.
My memories of that earlier time are still so clear in my mind. I hold on tightly to them and revisit them often. But they are memories, sepia-toned, and just slightly out of reach.
And rather than becoming sad or too nostalgic, I turn my attention to making equally special memories for the next generation, to creating our own traditions and rituals, our own magic. I hope that my son will one day remember these moments fondly, too.
Today’s Daily Prompt asked, “Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received?” These are my fellow bloggers’ responses:
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | Under the Monkey Tree
- of hangups « Anawnimiss
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | Diary of Dennis
- Desire | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
- My very own Auto Bookie Pro | Now Have At It!
- To trust: worth more than a thousand toys | alienorajt
- My.Vivid.Visions | Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach – Dream Love
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach…..walking in darkness | timzauto…. in search of the blond haired kid
- Feeding a street cat | Alex Markovich Digital Art
- “Desire” | Relax
- There Was Nothing For Christmas, But I Received Everything | The Jittery Goat
- Date with Dream Lake Manasarovar | Life is a Vacation
- Daily Prompt: The Mini Me | readingwithafeather
- Um. No. Wow, that was a simple entry! | thoughtsofrkh
- Toy Envy | Kate Murray
- The Lurker’s List | The Beat That Was Not Meant For Me
- Absence of Desire | Finale to an Entrance
- Out of Your Reach | Geek Ergo Sum
- out of reach | yi-ching lin photography
- Author | crookedeyebrows
- Out Of My Reach
- Out Of My Reach | Flowers and Breezes
- White-hot | Bullet holes in the wall
- dream for a future | The Frozen Tears
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach « Mama Bear Musings
- Barbie House | Poetry by Nowelle
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | kimmiecode 🙂
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | Awl and Scribe
- Out of Reach But Still Happy Trails | Kansa Muse
- The Number FiftyTwo
- How much is that doggie in the window? | Louie Behogan
- Out of their reach | Braised Pork on Rice
- ‘Covet’ doesn’t begin to describe it … | 365 And Counting
- Daily Prompt – Out of your Reach | Kate Frazer Writes
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | Finding Life
- dəˈzī(ə)r/ | Randomlyabstract’s Blog
- Guest Blogger- Jann Alexander “Holiday Expectations” « Dancing with Fireflies
- Daily Prompt: All I Want | One Starving Activist
- To Veal or Not to Veal, That is the Question . . . | meanderedwanderings
- The bike | Life is great
- Out Of Your Reach | johnny ojanpera
- Desire – Daily Prompt | L5GN
- Eros Goes Global | Travel with Intent
- Breaker Breaker Calling Father Christams, over! | Many musings blog’s Blog
- Childhood Desire | Active Army Wife
- birth of an angel | peacefulblessedstar
- Out of Reach | A mom’s blog
- Out of Reach | The Nameless One
- Christmas Wish | HardWriteTurn
- All Good Things | Retrofocus
- My Grown Up Christmas List | A Sober Head Full Of Confusion
- birth of an angel | peacefulblessedstar
- Daily prompt blues | Rob’s Surf Report
- Desire | Words ‘n Pics
- Nothing Was Really Ever Out Of My Reach…It Just Felt That Way | Eccentric and Bent
- Daily prompt: Desire | Words ‘n Pics
- Love | Stories from aside
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach – A mother’s peril | littlegirlstory
- Everything I Need…..(wp daily prompt) | Daily Observations
- Always Blessed ! | Dreams to Reality !
- Perfect Parents? Baloney. | Parents Are People Too
- Daily Post: Palace of Earthly Desires | Light Words
- December Blog Challenge… Desire | Chuckle at Chaos
- The Daily: Out of Your Reach | Patty Ryan Lee
- Clothes for Ken | It’s all Bananas
- Fire and Desire | anonim0us
- Healthy Desire | Whispered Words
- Sugar! | unaware but underlined
- Not walking tall | Emotional Fitness
- But I want… | 2 times pink
- Dear Santa (A Grownup’s Christmas List) – Compass & Quill
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | SIM | ANTICS
- Out of Reach… | Kawanee’s Korner
- Desire – | Destino
- The Tempting Tater | Diary of a quirky girl
- Red Shoes to Make You Fly! | Chasing Rabbit Holes
- Desire | Words on a Page
- To Give Is To Receive | Wiley’s Wisdom
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | Moonlight Reflections
- Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach | A Weary Mind
- Barbie’s Electric Car | Chasing A Dream