The holidays have been a very special time for me for as long as I can remember. When I was little B.D. (before divorce) my parents and my little brothers and I would make the trip to Gramma and Grampa’s house for Thanksgiving. We’d all eat till we were stuffed. I would run around with black olives on each of my fingers or drag my antique baby doll who was as big as I was up from the family room in the basement. I’d then proceed to re-introduce everyone to Charlotte, the worlds ugliest doll. She had been found on the side of the road by my Grampa, with on arm broken off. That deterred him not at all and he cobbled her back together like some child’s forgotten Frankestein with a bolt that went through both arms. To this day she still survives as a somewhat grisly reminder of my wonderful childhood.
When it came to Christmas, things were different. My parents stopped celebrating Christmas for religious reasons after I turned 3 and so we didn’t celebrate per se. This lack of celebration never stopped my grandparents in Michigan from sending us several boxes of goodies and as December came I began my watch for the much anticipated UPS truck bringing its wonderful surprises. Always there was at least one box of homemade cookies and candies- oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, peanut butter, ones with gooey candied cherries in them, and many flavors of candy both homemade and store bought. The presents were still opened on and Christmas always yielded a Barbie or two and often ponies as well as homemade clothing and barettes or jewelry. My grandma never failed to make this a special day for us.
I remember as well my birthday that would always come a week later with more gifts and often a family get together. One year in particular I got one of those dolls that actually wet her diaper, a little table just my size. Another year a homemade piggy bank, my first embroidery set, and a doll with jewels in her hair. The cake was memorable in that it was frosted to look like a gumball machine with skittles stuck into the icing. That was a particularly special year.
Holidays A.D. were a much different affair and I remember both halves of that first Christmas very well. My parents were both broke and we had just moved into a tiny basement apartment in a rough part of town. My dad was having a very rough time of it having lost his whole family in such a short time as well as a lot of money for the court costs and other bills. I’ll never forget staying at a friend of the family’s house one Saturday while my dad had to work and making an enormous paper chain of different colored papers. I was so proud of it and was very surprised when we got home that day to be taken out in the woods with my dad to find a Christmas tree. My little brother proudly hacked away at the trunk with his little hatchet and then let daddy do the last little bit of work. *wink wink* I was 7 which means he had just turned 5 and he was so proud to be helping.
We took our sad little spruce home and wrapped it round with the paper chain. From somewhere hidden in the basement my dad produced an old box of cherished Christmas ornaments and lights and we decorated the tree as best we could with the little that we had. I don’t remember what he held it up with- maybe there was a tree stand too- but I do remember that the tinfoil star didn’t want to stay on the top because the tree was a little crooked. To this day I can’t see a Charlie Brown Christmas tree without thinking of that one.
Someone donated a tree to my mom- just a little 3 foot artificial tree and it stood on a box in our little living room. I don’t remember much about the decorations except for one little handmade angel that hung at the top in place of a star.
Gifts were sparse that year. Someone adopted our family and I got Barbie tennis shoes and an amazingly intricate crocheted Barbie ball gown. My dad got me a little digital diary/organizer and it still resides in a box of special childhood toys along with that dress.
I have been thinking back on that day this year as I decorate my tree with ornaments that we have bought as well as a few that I have made. It makes me thankful for what I have now and also reminds me that I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for how I grew up. I am thankful for that too.