Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone

Well, it's already December 23rd.  Already. As a child it was such a long day that was filled with anticipation for the arrival of cousins and the magic candlelight church service and presents that would be happening tomorrow on Christmas Eve.  As a lame adult with responsibilities, this day has come too soon but I am still excited for the upcoming celebration and I am filled with nostalgia.  I think tomorrow is the day that the Grand Forks newspaper publishes the traditional column by a certain woman in her 80's who is known for reviewing boring chain restaurants and writing letters to her sister in Arizona or somewhere.  The regular columns can be tedious but the Christmas one that they run every year is quite moving to me and it must be to plenty of other people too or they wouldn't publish it every year.  For those who don't read that paper, the column tells how the woman, although her parents are long dead and her childhood farm is only a memory that she hasn't visited for 40 years or something like that, still returns there in her memory on Christmas and remembers with clarity as though she were there.  This has extra meaning for me this year now that the home of my childhood where I will visit in my memories as the years go by is sitting in a field as a pile of rubble.  At least the surroundings of the farm are the same.  That's a lot more that many people get to keep of their childhood home. 

If I were going back in time to Christmas Eve I would recall the excitement when we saw our aunts and uncles cars coming down the gravel road and running out to help them carry food and presents or wrangling the dog so she didn't jump on the little kids and hearing my uncle and dad greeting each other with a deep and identical sounding "Merry Christmas" in the bass voices.  We would mess around and play a white elephant gift stealing game and then head to church where we would meet my grandparents and giggle about when the donkey is referred to as an "ass" in one of the verses of "Silent Night" and try not to start anyone's hair on fire with our candles.  I'm sure there were some close calls but it never happened.  Then we would go and have supper and then endure the longest kitchen cleaning ever before we could open presents from our grandparents and each other.  Usually everyone ended up hanging around late into the night until around midnight before they would pack up all the boxes and fight over who was taking what leftovers and head home.  I remember seeing the Big Dipper in the stars directly above the house late at night on Christmas Eve when I was a teenager  and at that time in it's nightly rotation it was pointing straight up so whenever I see it like that I always think of Christmas Eve.  I know that Jesus most likely wasn't actually born on Christmas and there are many theories and hints in the Bible about when it actually happened but it is still fun to imagine Mary and Joseph that night under those same ancient stars. 

The next morning I always woke up way too early and regardless of how early it was my brother, who's room was across from mine, was always up before me creeping around the house.  Actually, he probably woke me up.  Most of our present opening on Christmas morning happened before the sun was up and then the whole routine started again as my mom's family appeared in the distance on the gravel road.  What a bunch of chaos, wonderful chaos.  At least it was for a child.  I don't diminish the work my mom did in having two separate parties in 24 hours.   And, actually, until I was in high school and even college, some of these celebrations happened at my grandparents' houses but I will always associate Christmas Eve with the farm.  I feel like there is no place more "Christmasy" to be than a farm in winter on Christmas Eve.  Now I get to share it with my kids, although it will probably be a few more years before they feel the significance.  Now all they care about is fighting and screaming.  They are fighting over a cup with SpongeBob Squarepants on it right now.  Sigh. 

Well, anyway, Merry Christmas everyone. 


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