I think I blinked and suddenly it's December. Where did November go? Oh yeah, it was lost in the after-Halloween shuffle, evaporated in online holiday shopping and disappeared in a 2-week trial that I still have not recovered from. It's gone, and into December we must go.
As I was driving to work this morning, after driving my Birthday-girl to school (yep, as of today, I'm the mom of a 3-year old. YIKES!)... where was I? Oh yes, driving B to school, listening to the all-Christmas radio station (Thanksgiving to the 26th, gotta love it), I was reflecting on life before Hanukkah. Well, that's not fair, of course, because I still do Christmas with my family, and deciding to celebrate Hanukkah (i.e. converting to Judaism) wasn't really the change in the seasons for me. It was that whole becoming an adult thing that did in the holidays.
Life was so much simpler as a kid. The only responsibilities I had between Thanksgiving and Christmas were to write the perfect letter to that jolly man in red, and to pray (and pray and pray and pray) that the Barbie Dream House or Pink Corvette were under my tree on Christmas morning. I must have been doing something wrong, because the corvette and dream house never materialized under the tree, but you get the idea. As I got a little older, I had to worry about buying gifts for friends and family, but never anything that major. I remember a few years when we were little that my Grandma took my sisters and me to Ben Franklins, a little discount store in our hometown. I'll never know how she did it, but she let us wander around the store and pick out little gifts for each other and for mom and dad. I still remember the package of gumballs that Trix and I got each other, shaped like an actual gumball machine. We thought we were so cool.
I say that life was simpler then, and maybe it was. Then again, maybe it wasn't. After all, there were those years when Dad, for some inexplicable reason, refused to allow us to put up a Christmas tree. There was the year (I was in the 8th grade), when he refused to let us open our gifts Christmas morning. We went off to Grandma's house in old clothes (we loved wearing any new clothes that Santa brought us on Christmas day), and we had to wait until about 8:30 that night to open our gifts. Even then it was a fight to get him to let us, and then he sulked and pouted and refused to open his gifts. I know what you're going to ask, and no, I have no clue why he did that.
After dad passed, there were a few Christmases that were really good. We lived in town, and on Christmas Eve, Trix and I wandered down the street to Jess' house. There ended up being about 15 or 20 kids there, juniors and seniors (and a few little brothers and sisters), and we played board games and just hung out. (And I think one year we built a drum set.) No parents, just hanging out, with the snow softly falling outside. Then after midnight (or 1 or 2 a.m), we'd wander the block and a half home. By then Mom had gotten everything wrapped and put under the tree, and we'd peek through the stack to see if we could figure out any of our gifts, before we wandered upstairs and went to bed. Those were good Christmases.
Christmas in Rochester was pretty good too, if you don't count my begging to be paid early so that I could afford gas to drive home, or my bumming $20 off of Adam, the bouncer at one of the bars where I worked, again, to put gas in the car. I worked, alot, during those years, but even with Victoria's Secret and the 2 or 3 bars where I waited tables and tending bar, I couldn't make the ends meet. But I still managed to get gifts for friends and family, and one year, even had a holiday party with a bunch of friends, at this random apartment that I shared with a few other girls. Those were good times. Simpler times.
My first Christmas in LA was not good. I didn't have the money to fly home until January, and I was living with a very odd family. Aside from cooking their Thanksgiving dinner (because the mom had absolutely no clue how to stuff and cook a turkey), they were looking to me for Christmas dinner as well. And then my Grandma Norton passed away. I had to hoof it home quick and ended up getting there the day after Christmas. I think her funeral was on the 27th. Still weird. I don't think my mom likes Christmas much these days either.
I think it was at that point that Christmas started to get complicated. Not because of the holiday itself, but just because of life. The carefree existence started to slip away at some point, and here I sit, a parent, responsible now for someone else's joy and excitement at the holidays. Now I have a mortgage and property taxes and credit card bills. And I still have to put gas in the car, although I'm not driving 3 hours to get home in a car loaded full of presents. Now I try to get a plane ticket, but even that's not simple anymore. Now I have to buy 3 tickets instead of 1, and prices are much higher than they used to be.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go back to that time when I didn't have all of the worries that tend to drag along with the "holiday spirit." I can still picture the quiet darkness of West Jefferson Street, with the trees tall and silent lining the way, and the street lights shining down through the snow, falling softly onto the snowy street. I shiver thinking about the cold, and remember curling up on the couch in a blanket when I got home. My favorite time of the holidays was late at night on Christmas eve, with all of the lights in the house turned out, except for the tree, and the candles in the windows. I miss that time. The carefree attitude of those days is certainly gone, and my mom sold the house and there are no more candles in the windows.
Then again, there's nothing quite so fun as watching B get all excited. I still listen to Christmas music and this morning, she was trying to sing along with "Do You Hear What I hear," too darn cute. It's hard sometimes to look back, and to see all the different versions of "holidays" that I've had. I long to return to some of those times, seemingly so much simpler than what I have now. But I wouldn't trade B for anything, and I know that she will love this time of year as much as I do. My job now, I guess, is to give her those times, so that she can look back in 20 or 30 years and remember them fondly. I hope that she won't have any holidays (or any other times) that she looks back on and wonders about, like I do. I guess that's my responsibility now. Not so much the bills and the presents and the wrapping, but the memories.
And yes, she does want the Dora bike and the princess vanity set and the Aurora that she saw at Mickey and Minnie's house that is as big as she is. But we'll get to that.