I wish I was 7 years old again.
But only at Christmas time.
Because believing in Santa Claus still was real.
Mom and Dad would load up the Jeep with all the presents, and the cookies. There was never a shortage of both growing up. Mom used to make the cookies while my sister and I were in school. We developed a bad cookie dough snitching habit. My sister still loves raw chocolate chip cookie dough, while I love old-fashioned soft sugar cookie dough. Grandma Frances would be sitting in between us, so we kids wouldn’t fight. Mom and Dad always took forever getting ready…
Eventually, we all buckled up and headed to my uncle’s house in Rockford. 45 minutes seemed to take forever getting down there. But when we got there, it took the same amount of time to unload the Jeep.
All the presents would go to the living room, where my uncle’s tree stood. It was 8 feet tall, artificial white with over 200 blue lights and an equal number of bird ornaments on the branches. The room was always dimly lit, so the tree would glow.
My aunt’s Italian and Polish heritage has the custom of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. At seven, it was a strange custom, since we only had fried fish at Tibbie’s restaurant, so all the different fishes and preparations were not what we were used to. But at seven, is when we had scalloped clams for the first time. They were served on clam shells with seafood forks, lemon wedges and hot sauce. I wanted a second clam, but they were the first course…
After dinner and desert, when the cookies are left out well after the coffee pot is empty, we’d all migrate back to the living room. My sister, my cousins and I would stake out our places. Garth, my younger cousin, handed out the presents. My place was by the carpeted stairs, where my cousins and I use to race each other by sliding down them…not to mention get yelled at.
That Christmas, after all the presents were opened, we heard a knock on the window. It was Santa! My cousin Garth bolted from the living room to his bed. My sister bolted to the kitchen and I bolted upstairs until Santa left. My other cousin had no idea what happened…she was in the bathroom the whole time.
We did make it home, albeit around 11:30p. Our presents from Santa were waiting for us. All were merry and bright…
My grandma Frances died over 20 years ago. I still miss her sitting on the red velvet chair in the living room with her lap afghan around her legs. My uncle died 6 years ago September, of a sudden heart attack. Christmas hasn’t been the same without them. My aunt continues the Christmas Eve traditions, but she didn’t have my uncle’s entertaining flair. The Christmas tree still stands, but it’s not as majestic as it once was. All the cousins aren’t as close as we once were, now that we’ve all gone our separate ways and they all have spouses and kids of their own, while I’m the family eccentric because I’m without both. I figured out who Santa was when the note was left with my presents the next Christmas. It was the same type used on my Mom’s typewriter. She was bummed to realize I figured it out, but she saved money buying extra presents.
As for me, I’m secretly hoping I never get to the point where I’m given the infamous soap-on-a-rope gift sets for all sorts of god awful cheap men’s cologne. I’d rather smell Tim McGraw than smell like his cologne. I’ve watched my nephews and niece, then my cousin’s kids all carry on the same excitement we cousins had when we were their age. The gifts become less materialistic and more carrying on the traditions and dreams of wonder and excitement. But every once in a while…
This year for Christmas, could I relive what being 7 years old was like all over again? Could I be with my grandma and my uncle one more time? Could I look forward to your visit on Christmas Eve with the hopes of getting presents from you for being good…or at least trying hard to be good? If I can’t actually relive it, could you make incredibly real when I imagine it?
I’ve been very good this year. I haven’t touched a cigarette in 15 years. Thanks to citalopram, I don’t drink. And I hardly drop the F-bomb anymore.
Thanks, and Merry Christmas!