Christmas does not knock gently on our front door, it kicks it wide open like a tipsy old friend saying just a little too loudly, “Oh My God! I’ve missed you!!!”
It comes at us like a bear hug in a crowded grocery store, the kind you see coming out of the corner of your eye but aren’t sure you’re ready to receive. So, you catch your breath a little amid all that puffy-coated, old wool, stocking-capped splendor. And then? You lean in and say, “Ahhhhh! Ah, yes! This is the stuff!”
I hung our stockings Saturday afternoon, and then hauled up the big basket of Christmas books I always keep on the hearth. The mantle looked lopsided, though, with its bottom half jingling all the way and its top half looking frankly Ebenezer. So, I added the three Christmas Village pieces my Aunt Doris gave me to mark three special occasions in our life. Of course, I had to put our picture of Connie the Cookie Lady up there too, because our Christmas decor has not been the same since she gifted us with the six enormous stockings she had hand knit, adorned with bells, personalized and then surprised us with one year.
Even though I had only intended to hang those stockings for my afternoon chore, I could not stop the merry momentum. So, I switched out the artwork that hangs over the mantle for our three Christmas pieces and I sprung our stuffed Santa from his storage tub and set him up next to his Christmas cookies plate.
And then, ladies and all ye merry gentlemen, I hauled out the garland, which is a trickier operation than it looks since I added all those ornaments made from the sports buttons I’d collected through the years. I fuh- la la la-ed my way through that process, scooping up errant buttons like snowballs and packing them back into the string. At one point I took down a whole strand, flipped it, and looped it back up again, those blasted buttons bouncing off the slate floor with aggravating pings.
But, I just love the way that garland sings with memories when I finally get it situated.
I am lucky enough to live in the house that raised me. So, I can sit on those steps battling with that garland and remember sitting there one Christmas morning with my hands wrapped around my knees, waiting for the faintest blush of dawn because my dad told us no one could go downstairs to see what Santa brought until the sun had risen.
I remember the year Santa surprised us all (including our parents) and came through the front door on Christmas Eve with a startling “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
I can look at every button on that garland I wrestled into place and recall the season that inspired them — the T-ball team I coached with my friend Suzanne, the golf teams my daughter Katherine “Chipper” Biskupic played on because I wanted her to experience a high school sport and golf was the only one that wrapped up before the theatre season began, and all those muddy, nerve-wracking, hoarse-voiced, glorious football games!
Thanks to that enchanted wand wielded by grade school art teachers, I own a tiny snowman that hasn’t melted in 21 years (and I bet a lot of you parents whose kids got to learn from the magical Mrs. Wilda do too!)
I’m only two rooms into my Christmas decorating and I’m all ready filled with the real blessings of the season — the memories that warm your heart while you crank it open to make more. In that way, the older you get, the luckier you are because your collection of memories grows each year and you can treat yourself to a slow sift through them.
So, even though the Christmas that exploded all over our front hallway fills me with Myrrth because it makes no franken-sense, I know those crazy decorations I haul out every year are more precious than gold and I’m so happy to see them arrive in all their gaudy splendor.
Merry Christmas season. Let the bear hugs begin!