the things they wanted

Christmas with my family took a definitive change nine years ago with my second older brother (and middle child) married his wife. He had been out of college for almost two years and our eldest brother had married the year before him. It was that first Christmas of 1996 that looked different than any Christmas I’d known.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I know that many people love Christmas, some hate it, but I’m known for my love of Christmas. I don’t do an overproduction of decorations, I don’ t insist on cheesy Christmas songs, I lean more toward the Martha Stewart of it all where sometimes you have to stay up all night to bake cookies to give away and Christmas cards go out at the latest the second week of December. That’s how I love Christmas, through baked goods, elegant decorations, good (Ella and the Blind Boys) Christmas music and quality Christmas cards (Cranes when the wallet is not lean). This particular time of year lifts my spirit and my mind like nothing else all year can. It is the season that I believe in and nothing else. It’s not about gifts or parties or perfect bows (though who doesn’t love those), it’s about the traditions and the family.

Christmas Eve 1996 found my mother and father and I alone in our house for the first time. It had never been just the three of us. There had always been myself and older brothers to wake with and pretend to be excited about what Santa had brought to us. I was the last stronghold for Santa with one brother 12 years and one brother four years older than I; I was the lone believer for several years. But, even after the believing years were over, my brothers and I were still made to wait on the front hall steps while our mom and dad finished (or sometimes began) the readying of our respective spots were Santa left our presents. And the stockings had to be stuffed with a magazine or book, some candy, and an orange, always and orange. In 1995, it was just my second older brother and I and I’m sure we still did the old routine though later in the morning as we had learned to sleep in through his four years at college and my one. I’m sure it was strange then too like a little bit of Christmas magic had left, like Santa had left the building, this time for real.

But, nothing would prepare me for the Christmas when only three remained. My parents’ house was beginning to no longer be my house and yet it was still technically my permanent residence. When I came home for Winter Break I helped (or was forced to help) my parents ready the house for my brothers and their new wives. The tree had already been put up and decorated by the time I made it home in late December, a task I didn’t mind missing (my mother being a bit particular about lights and ornament placement), but the cleaning wouldn’t end until Christmas Eve. And that Christmas morning I suddenly felt the pressure that every only child must feel. I waited on the steps as per our family tradition and listened as my mom said things to my dad like, “Where did we put ____?” and I would say, from around the corner, “Don’t forget the orange,” to which my mom or dad would then plod into the kitchen through the back hallway to retrieve the traditional item. Christmas that morning was just different, my parents’ eyes were solely on me and their piles of presents were small because I would be the lone present giver for several hours and I was a college student on less than a budget. That year, piles of presents would remain under the tree until my brothers arrived and we would first eat a fancy dinner that my mother had fretted about all day and then we could open the remaining presents, Santa nowhere in sight.

This Christmas there was no waiting on the stairs, a first. All presents were wrapped, none left by Santa, and the stockings had been reduced to one, mine, and this year as I approached it with my mother standing beside the fireplace, coffee in hand, I said, “And the old orange,” to which she replied, “I think we forgot the orange,” and she had though my father had bought some especially for me the day before.

None of this change has dampened my love for Christmas and the sparkle in the air that lingers from Thanksgiving to New Years, but I guess my Christmas love, the magic I used to feel has just shifted a bit. It’s not imperceptible; it’s full of cacophony and flying wrapping paper. Because now, the family Christmas presents may be opened the day after Christmas, but those presents are torn into by children ages 9 months to 8 years and although there is no longer a Santa leaving presents as I wait on the stairs, there are five children who spends restless Christmas Eve night tucked in beds hours away and make phone calls on Christmas morning to the three left in my parents’ house saying, “I can’t wait to come to Roanoke,” and that, though it’s not surprising, is the most wonderful Christmas magic there is.



christmas is my baybay

One of my favorite Christmas songs finds Ella Fitzgerald singing in her silky voice, “It’s Christmas tiiiiimmmme.” The way she draws out the “time” let’s this southern girl linger in the vowel a little longer that I should. She’s singing to her baby, whom I can’t empathize with, but I feel her song nonetheless.

I was driven past houses tonight with lit candles in every window and Christmas trees with white lights. I’m a white lights girls. I dig the simplicity that counters the chaotic array of ornaments strewn about. And I like ornaments strewn. Themes to me are anti-Christmas because, like a charm bracelet, your tree should tell the story of your life. I could write a novella from my mine and my mother's, forget it, it’s a trilogy.

I’ll take my tree down tomorrow (so to avoid the Feb. decay) and a little bit of me will go with it. Christmas wraps my soul up like a present and protects it a little. I feel like the whole of the year is pushing toward Christmas and New Year’s explodes it like a Jack-In-The-Box. I don’t like New Years because everything is suppose to be all perfect pretense when really it’s the same and a bit hung over and tired.

So, goodbye tree, goodbye Christmas and Noel and Joy. I’ll be pushing toward next year this time when Ella says, “Bring my baybay, bring my baybay, bring my baybay back to meeeeee.”



protecting this heart

It’s hard not to envision him with every turn of my head. In every new direction, a split second of him flashes, sometimes with a mustache, sometimes without. It’s hard not to think of all the eye contact and conversations where “How are you?” really meant that. I feel like I let something slip through my hands and yet I’m not completely sure how I did it. Right now, I just feel a little mourning. The email said, “he’s still dating ___” and my stomach lurched. That makes it at least a year now and knowing that it’s Christmas I have a feeling, a feeling that this one might stick, that this one might be the one for him. She’s seen him through one of the hardest times in his life and that is not nothing. Something is telling me a question might be asked soon just like something in my head said, “I could marry you. We could be happy and live together and yet keep our identities. I would accept you, every bit of you,” on one of the first nights we met. I remember it because we were in a foreign country and everything seems so much more magical away from home. And now I think about all the signs I might have misread, the “I wish we had had more time,” emails, and the “I want to see you when you come to town again.” I brushed them off and littered my replies with “friend.” Maybe I shouldn’t have because now I feel a loss. And the girl, I even told him, “She’s a good egg,” with a smile before he ever thought of dating her. I miss those blue eyes, that red hair. If he reads this he’ll know it’s him. He’ll know the foreign country, the eye contact, the emails, and he’ll know we’ve never crossed that bridge. Maybe he never wanted too, maybe he did. But now, now I have a feeling I’ll never know.



a little bit whoops

It's 2:47am and I can't sleep. I came home after work to rest and ready for a party and I fell asleep. Late day naps mean no sleep at night. I've got two weeks of vacation and the ability to sleep all I want and I slept through a party on a Friday night. Priorities, right. And, whoops.

So, what do I plan to do for these two weeks? Well, I don't know. I've got a list a mile long of things to get done, people to catch up with, friends to nurse back to health after surgery, presents to buy, family to see, travel to make, and well, craziness. But, first, first I'm starting with a massage tomorrow. Wish me rest. At 2:47 this morning, I need it.

The writing and posting thing has clearly fallen by the wayside, but I've just signed up for a fiction writing class that starts in the new year. Let's hope they teach me something and that that something can be shared with you. Pictures, I'll work on pictures for you in the meantime. Merry merriness.



ba humbug and all that noise

I look around at my house and the place is still a mess even though I vowed not to begin Christmas decorations until I cleaned up. My tree is up, packages wrapped, toffee made, cards sitting waiting for postage, and yet mail is also strewn about and things need to be put away. It's like Christmas after a tornado hit. But, the mess clearly hasn't stopped me from readying.

I'm a bit of a Christmas freak. I've calmed in my old age, but I love this season like nothing else in life. And Christmas cards, well, they're one of my favorite parts. I buy them at the after Christmas sales and last year I was so in love with two types of cards that I bought both. This means that I have cards for this year and next. It's OK, I don't need to do any after Christmas items this year anyway. Every year the culling of addresses is a pain that I put off until almost the last minute. A week ago I wrote and sealed the cards, but there they still lie, under (or near) my tree. There is a pile of cards for addresses I know and a pile of ones of people who've moved or who are new friends and address have not been exchanged. As I went through my address book I erased and rewrote about 10 addresses. At least 10 people in my life have made big changes in the last year. And there are the new additions too, the babies.

It's the first Christmas where all of life is swirling a bit around me. Babies and houses and important grown up stuff and I'm just sitting in my apartment wondering whether or not to get a cat.



my own millions

You know you have an amazing friend when she says, "I don't know if I like the idea of you dating a rocket scientist. I don't think I want to hang out with him." Only true, true friends give you truth like that. Don't worry, there is no rocket in my scientist.



careful what you wish for

Snow day. I spent the day decorating my Christmas tree with my nieces. There are several ornaments clumped together at waist level and we had one shiny ball casuality. I spend so much time with these precious girls that the four year-old once said, "Annie, it's kind of like you're my sister." My heart melted, much like the snow outside has done. We go back to school and work tomorrow, but since this make-a-Christmas-wish-on-the-internet thing worked. I'm making another one.

My Christmas wish; win millions in the lottery.

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