There was a time I didn’t mind fighting December crowds at the mall, was being the operative word. In more recent years, my policy has been if Amazon doesn’t carry a product, I don’t need it. (The mall isn’t quite as accommodating about bringing their products to me.)
As Christmas Day draws nearer at hand, my excitement heightens thinking about family members who’ll be coming for a visit! Whether they’re guests for a day or guests for a week, their presence is my present, the gift I most cherish.
I think this sense of excitement has its roots in my childhood. Our family (my daddy, mama and siblings) always rose early on Christmas Day and gathered around the Christmas tree (still dressed in our pajamas and robes) for a leisurely gift exchange. Mom would have the turkey baking in the oven and scrumptious fruit pies already made. The wonderful aroma wafting out from the kitchen is usually what woke us … since the stairs to our bedrooms led upward directly from the kitchen.
By the time we’d shared our gifts – amid oohs and aahs of adoration for everyone’s unique stash – my daddy might warm up the organ and play Christmas carols. My siblings and I would play on the carpeted floor with our new toys, or read our new books, or move to the kitchen for a bite of breakfast. (We didn’t eat much for fear of being too full to enjoy the anticipated turkey dinner!)
Eventually, there’d be time to tidy up all the wrappings, don our Christmas “outfits,” and sit at the dining room table for our dinner. Then, when all those preliminaries were complete, we’d gather everyone into the green (two-tone) Plymouth station wagon (similar to the one pictured) and make the thirty-minute trip to Grandma’s house.
An integral part of our car-trip reverie was the same eagerness expressed in Lydia Maria Child’s iconic poem Thanksgiving Day: over the river and through the wood … No, we didn’t go over the river and we weren’t actually riding a sleigh, but we could imagine the scene and sing the familiar song (even though it was Christmas and not Thanksgiving)!
Once we arrived at Grandma’s house, that’s when the fun began in earnest, because this is where all the aunts, uncles and cousins congregated and made for a lively afternoon and evening! What merriment! What precious memories were created in that small house crammed full of relations!
Now that I and my Beloved are on the other end (the grandparents), there’s no less anticipation of a houseful of relatives … and whatever good friends we may be privileged to greet. But as we prepare for the convivial gathering, we also take a few moments now to savor the quiet and relish a brief calm before the storm. The poem below conveys something of the pre-Christmas expectation.