December 25, 2020 – Home for the holidays.

Merry Christmas! And since it’s Christmas, what better topic to write about today! I have decades of memories to draw from, beginning with the late 1960s and continuing all the way up until today. Surely there is something I can share that will interest you! But where to begin? It’s all such a blur, especially the early years when I was a small child. I do remember a handful of things from way back when. I wish I could say they were all magical and joyous and full of love and family. And that every year an impressive dinner was prepared that included baked ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, fruit salad with extra bananas and whipped cream, and warm rolls right out of the oven. That part is actually true, that was the one thing we could always count on. Our Christmas dinner, throughout my youth, remained consistent as well as what my mom always put in my stocking each year.

I’m not sure why she decided this is what every child wants, but each year my mom would put the exact same things in my stocking, as well as my sibling’s stockings. I never had to guess, it never changed. What kid wouldn’t want a handful of unshelled assorted nuts that required a nutcracker if you ever intended to eat them, a mandarin orange, Palmer chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil that came in a little red mesh bag, a candy cane, tiny Palmer chocolate footballs (that tasted just like the coins), and some socks? I’m not trying to be ungrateful, but the only thing in that stocking that got me excited was the candy cane. Palmer chocolate? Have you ever had it? I’m not even sure it should be labeled ‘chocolate’. It tastes fake to me, like they’re using something other than actual chocolate but because it’s brown and it looks like chocolate, nobody’s ever questioned whether it’s the real thing. I don’t know. Whatever recipe they’re using, it needs to change. That’s some awful, waxy stuff.

What did I look forward to the most at Christmas? All of the holiday programs on TV. With the exception of a 4-year gap, right after my stepdad entered the picture, you could usually find me parked in front of the TV whenever there was a Christmas special being broadcast. Why a 4-year gap? I don’t want to stray off the course too far, so I’ll try to be quick about it. The reason why there were no holiday specials or any other TV for that matter for 4 years was because there was no television. Why? Because one afternoon, several of us kids were fighting over what to watch. We couldn’t decide between Gilligan’s Island, the Partridge Family or the Brady Bunch. Things got a bit heated and before you know it, my brother Wily Fox flew into a fit of rage and put his foot through the front of the TV set. My stepdad, who was none too pleased, responded with, “That’s it! No more TV for you kids!!”

As a result, that was the end of the TV viewing, up until my stepdad caved in and finally agreed to purchase another one 4 years later. And once we had our brand new, state of the art, console TV, I was over the moon! I couldn’t wait to watch all of the holiday specials once they returned in November! Even though I’m not particularly a fan of musicals, I always loved to watch the ‘Sound of Music’. The songs from the soundtrack continually played through my mind and it was a lovely story, too. To see the ‘von Trapp’ Family outwit the Nazis and emerge triumphant was a wonderful way to wrap up the story. And I adored ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. There were so many memorable scenes, from the selection of the most pitiful tree (that somehow grew extra branches after it was already dead), to Linus (blue blanket in hand) giving his touching speech about the meaning of Christmas, to the kids and Snoopy all dancing around while Schroeder played the piano.

Beyond ‘Sound of Music’ and ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, there were countless more! Christmas wasn’t Christmas without watching the nasty ol’ Grinch try to spoil everything for all of the residents of Whoville. And to see his transformation when his heart grew three sizes that day? That was pretty miraculous! It happened none too soon. I was getting ready to report him for animal abuse. Did you see the way he treated his poor little dog? Not ok. And who could forget all of the other specials that were oh-so-delightful? I never missed a chance to watch ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’, even though I thought he got way too much credit in that movie. Those other eight reindeer that helped pull Santa’s sleigh kind of got a raw deal. And there was ‘Frosty the Snowman’ with the nasty magician continually trying to get his hat back and put Frosty out of commission. And who can forget ‘Santa Claus is comin’ to Town’? My favorite part is when Santa and the Winter Warlock sing, “Put one foot in front of the other.” So, so good!

Best Christmas ever? When I was growing up, I l-o-v-e-d dolls! I loved little dolls, I loved big dolls. I couldn’t get enough of them. And at some point during the year, my mom and I stopped by Frederick and Nelson (a high-end department store in the area). When we kids were younger, my mom used to take us there to get a picture with Santa. And we also went to buy their extra delicious and melty Frango mints each year. But on this one particular occasion, when I was 10 years old, as we were walking through the toy section, I came upon the most beautiful baby doll! It was wearing a bonnet and a lovely, long, lacy, light blue dress. When I picked it up to admire it, I realized it even had an ‘extra’ feature. When I turned it over, it made a sound like a baby crying. “Mom, please?!” I begged her. “I want it so bad!!” I didn’t get it that day, but when Christmas day arrived several months later, there was an extra special present with my name on it! And after I picked up the present and shook it a few times, it was pretty obvious what was inside when I heard the familiar ‘cry’.

Worst Christmas ever? When I was 13 years old. Why was it so terrible, you ask? My parents didn’t beat me and make me sleep outside. No, it wasn’t anything like that. But they did make a major decision that had a direct impact on me as it related to the amount and quality of gifts I was to receive from that point on. “We’re going to do things differently this year,” my mom announced one day, a few weeks prior to Christmas. “We’re going to start drawing names from a hat. Everyone’s name will go into the hat and whatever name you draw, you will purchase that person a gift. From now on, everyone will just get one gift.” Wait a minute! I still have 5 more Christmases to go! What genius dreamed this up?! One gift? I didn’t agree to this!! It didn’t matter that I didn’t agree, the decision was made. And come Christmas Eve, there was still nothing under the tree with my name on it. I was starting to get downright upset! I know I wasn’t a perfect child by any means, but no presents whatsoever? Then came a knock at the door and I ran to open it. No. It wasn’t Santa or one of his merry elves. It was my brother Wily Fox. He greeted me and then high-tailed it into the kitchen, where my mother was at the time.

“What’s he doing here?” I thought to myself. Wily Fox didn’t come by very often, unless he needed money. I heard my brother talking quietly to my mom. They were in the kitchen and I was in the livingroom. I couldn’t help myself. I moved closer so I could hear what they were discussing, but stayed out of sight. The gist of the conversation was that my brother had picked my name from the hat but didn’t have any money so he hadn’t bought me a gift. Figures! I’d get the one person that was always broke. As was commonplace, however, my mom took care of it. She gave him $25 and told him to run over to the drug store across the street and buy me something. When I heard that, I knew I was going to be disappointed. The store was about to close so I knew little thought was going to go into the process. And the next day, when I unwrapped my gift, it was apparent. I got a plain lime green t-shirt with a pack of iron-on letters that I could add later and two acrylic photo cubes. Man, did I feel special! Merry %$#)&%!! Christmas!!

What’s Christmas like today? I have to admit, it sucks. But that’s okay. It’s just like any other day in our household. Since the kids are all grown and it’s just the two of us, we don’t get worked up about it. There are no gift exchanges or card exchanges. There really is no need. We’ve been married for decades and neither of us really ‘need’ anything at this point. And I don’t like buying stuff unless it’s useful or practical. And, hey! Who needs gifts anyway? I got a new/used kidney last year. Every day is a gift. So here we are. Maybe we’ll make an extra effort if our kids come out sometime and spend Christmas with us? Or maybe if we ever have grandkids? But I’m not going to get my hopes up. My husband is going to cook an apple pie this year, so that’ll be lovely. And for dinner, he’s got ham, mashed potatoes and gravy and asparagus on the menu. Yum. Cannot wait! Other than that, maybe our day will include a little TV? Maybe even a Christmas classic? Yes, that would be nice. Aside from that, no other plans, except for maybe catching up on some laundry.

Whatever you have planned for Christmas, I hope you and yours have a wonderful day! I hope it is filled with love and family and good food and meaningful gifts and leaves you with memories you can treasure for years to come. Much joy and blessings to you, my friends!! And I will see you again very soon!

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