Memorable Memories

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This is my favorite time of year.

I was a little afraid when I first moved to California that I’d miss hoping for a White Christmas and it would freak me out a little to not be able to wear one of my several thousand Christmas sweaters because it would be too warm.

Well, none of that has happened, although I do tend to not wear the sweaters that look like they should be worn while ice-skating. They just look silly with jeans and flip-flops. I could really just drive up to Big Bear to see the snow there and yet I really like seeing the bright blue Pacific Ocean every day and being able to walk on the beach at any time without bundling up with hat, scarf, coat and gloves.

This past weekend I finally got to see my friend Roz perform. She belongs to a chorale group at a local community college and for once I was actually on the left coast during one of her events. It was enormous fun and as I sat in the dimly lit auditorium, truly enjoying the sounds of the season and the orchestra and the whole ambiance of the stage decked out with poinsettias and Christmas trees.  I found myself thinking about Christmases past. Marley’s ghost didn’t appear rattling chains or anything; I was just sort of missing the excitement that was always present in my house when I was raising three kids. Christmas was a huge event for our family.

My kids found out there really was no Santa Claus when The Ex accidentally dropped a large gift box as we were retrieving them from their hiding place in the attic. It bounced down the stairs at about 2 a.m. Christmas Eve. It made such a racket that apparently my “terrible trio” heard  my “subtle whisper” of “Be careful! You’ll wake the kids and they will know it’s really us!”

I guess that was more my fault than his. No one ever really talked about that happening until they were in their teens; apparently they just kept up the pretense of leaving cookies and milk and a carrot for Rudolph just to keep Mom happy. I appreciated that.

My youngest has been the source of many funny Christmas incidents.

I loved taking my kids to a live performance of The Nutcracker. We had a local community theater in New Jersey that put on a great show. Then, when they were older, we took them to Lincoln Center to see how elaborate it could be.  When my littlest one was about three she finally got to come with the “big kids.” She’s always been the shortest in the family and this first time when the theater darkened she climbed onto my lap for a better view. As the curtain rose and the ballerinas appeared in their sparkly costumes and tightly held chignons at the napes of their necks she turned to me and said in a very loud whisper (I guess like mother, like daughter), “Mommy, all those ladies are bald!

She was always gracious whenever she received a gift, no matter how odd it seemed to her. My father-in-law was given to practical jokes with his grandchildren and one Christmas wrapped up an industrial sized mozzarella (the kind at the deli counter at the grocery store that is sliced by the machines) and presented it to my Number Three. She tore off the paper, looked at it and in her sweet little voice exclaimed, “Poppa! A mozzarella! Just what I always wanted!” He laughed for what seemed hours and we made lots of pizzas for quite awhile after that!

Christmas Eve was always a big day in our house; many years even bigger than Christmas Day.

As the years went by, the group that came to celebrate with us got larger and larger. There were times we had 75 people partying with us. Santa always made an appearance (The Ex was very good at that, especially after a few martinis!) and there were gifts for everyone. As the younger ones grew up they became more interested in who was behind the fake beard so we had to substitute friends on occasion just to throw them off the scent. There was nothing more wonderful to me than preparing for that big night for days and days, baking cookies for dessert, planning the menu, shopping, wrapping…I enjoyed every minute of that.

Things have changed somewhat now that my kids are all grown and they have their own families. The first couple of years I lived in California I used to fly back on Christmas Day morning or the red-eye that night so that my girls could enjoy the day with their families without Mom hanging around. One of my granddaughters was born on Christmas Day and one just four days after so there is always that double celebration going on in New Jersey in December.

Now I’ve decided that it’s time to just make my own memories here. I’ll go back for a week to visit friends and my girls for a couple of days and see the east coast grandkids, and this trip even go into New York City to see the Rockefeller Center Tree and Fifth Avenue all decked out, but I’ll be back here in California for the big day.

I’ll thoroughly enjoy the Boat Parade in Dana Point Harbor, the palm trees wrapped in lights, kids enjoying trucked in snow at the holiday events and have a nice visit with my college-age grandson and maybe even a dinner date with his brother, the 14-year-old.

No matter how old you get there is always time to make new memories while still enjoying those of times gone by. That’s one of the most special things about life. I am a lucky person to have that ability…but I guess we all are.

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