This Christmas

I've always been nostalgic, but as the holidays bear down upon us I seem to be even more so than usual. I blame Facebook, and the way people from my distant past have been adding me at an unprecedented rate over the past few months. I'm not complaining - it's been really nice even if one or two of the requests were puzzling. I guess enough time has finally passed for me to forgive and forge... well, forgive anyway. I also blame the innate nostalgia of the holiday season, which is always pushing us to figure out a way to fit our memories into the collective holiday experience (and spend money).

Christmas was always a big deal in my family, and though we didn't have a lot of money you'd never know by looking in on our Christmas. It started weeks before, of course, with my mom baking cookies and pie crusts, and dad getting the tree and putting up the lights. Frank Sinatra sang in the background, or maybe Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. My brother and I would sit on the couch armed with the current Sears catalogue and color coded magic markers. I want this! Oooh, I want this! Me too! The bizarre thing is that my parents pretty much ignored everything we circled but still managed to figure out something we'd like even better.

Christmas day was, of course, crazy. We'd get up early and fidget while my dad got his coffee and mom looked for the Instamatic. We'd open the presents and clean up the mess, then get ready to go to my grandparents' house for dinner. After dinner we'd drive out to Fairmount to my other grandparents' house, sometimes when it was already dark and the Christmas lights looked extra magical. Then it was home, to play with our new toys for as long as we could hold out before falling asleep.

Our Christmases followed the same basic template for my entire childhood, and now when people ask me if I remember a particular Christmas, I have to say no because they all blend into one. Sure I remember the year we got stuck in a blizzard less than 200 feet from home, or the year it was warm enough to play basketball in our driveway, but I can't remember if it happened I was 4 or 14.

Now, decades later, Christmas is another beast entirely and that's not a bad thing. It's still madcap, and I still love each and every one.

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