Thursday, December 24, 2009

On The Eve of Hysteria

There is something about Christmas Eve that is more special than Christmas. When we stand on the brink of expectations, excitement, and even a bit of anxiety, there is much to treasure and cherish. There is a field of imagination yet to be mined and our minds dig right in and try to. That's the magic of it.

By the following day, we've had what we're going to have and it's over. Only to be wished and planned upon for another year.

At my home right now... we're wavering in between the Eve and the Day. It's warm inside, but cold and snowy outside. The boys are asleep in their beds. Santa has done his (and her) job. And only my busy fingers are flitting over the keyboard searching for memories and thoughts that remind me of some of my favorite years.

At about this time some 16 years ago I charged into my parents' home after a night out with friends to find Santa had done his (and her) job for the night. The house was dark but already I could see the bounty of what would be Christmas morning and my heart broke a little bit. It was the first time I had seen the workings of Eve into Day. Of course I suspected there was a little more to the process than a jolly fellow falling down the chimney. But I'd never peeked behind the curtain. And part of me still wishes I never had.

Rewind even deeper and Christmas Eve would have meant a tiring night of cousins, second cousins, and a bunch of uncles and sweet but alien aunts. Because Christmas Eve was always the night of my Great Grandmother's party cum talent show. There must have been 100 of us -- seriously -- from all over the country in her little farm house. We'd feast on homemade popcorn balls and candy while waiting for our turn in front of or at the piano. And then Santa would come -- who looked a lot like one of my great uncles -- and we'd each get a gift. Something my great grandmother would have sewn for us. Usually a slip with lots of lace, and always longer than any of my dresses and skirts. (I guess she knew what kind of girl I was going to become and was trying to send early hints.)

On the way home my brothers and I would slump in the backseat, sick on candy canes and hot from our party clothes, and fall asleep. But by the time we were home, none of us could sleep in our own beds. You might think this lasted until we were 7. But I distinctly remember staying up well past 4 a.m. on at least one Christmas Eve when I was in junior high.

I'm not sure how my parents decided what traditions we would follow. How they weeded through their respective families' customs to find their own is a mystery to me. I look at my own little foursome and I wonder what I should do. I thought I wanted to have and keep lots and lots of Christmas books. And now it's starting to seem like a storage issue to me, rather than a heartfelt tradition. I thought I wanted to keep the same stockings for my family year after year. But every time I see new trims and patterns, and baubles I want to remake the ones I've already created. (Plus, nothing fits in Cooper's.) I thought I wanted to be insulated from obligation and plans on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. But I felt a little lonely this evening.

One thing is for sure. I don't have to figure it out in one night, or one year, or ever. It's the most fluid holiday I've ever experienced. The only thing I'm hellbent on preserving is the magic. So, for my children I wish...

May you never see the strings that orchestrate the puppet show and may Christmas EVE live in your mind forever.

PHOTO NOTE: My Great Grandmother (when she was a child).


Stephanie said...

That was very sweet. Made me think of memories when I was a child visiting my grandparents. Merry Christmas Julia to you and your family.

Glenda said...

Merry Christmas to my loved ones far away. Love you much....and hope that you always BELIEVE.

Claudia said...

So so so well said. Last year was the first time Adam and I had spent Christmas sans-family (Claire was just too little to travel), and it was odd to think that someday (probably very soon as it becomes too expensive to fly and too difficult to travel) that it WOULD be JUST US. It is kind of strange trying to decide what we want for our own family...but as you so wonderfully said, we don't need to do it all at once.

Glad we got to "see" you last night. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and thank you for the wonderful presents! (I've actually been wanting to get cookie cutters, so your gift was PERFECT!!), and I love that I now have a JF original apron! Claire's outfit is darling!