I wake early Christmas morning and sneak from my bed. Creeping down the hall, I sidestep the squeaky wooden floorboards, and sit just outside the living room. A mound of colorful packages lay clustered at the base of the tree. The tree is decorated with stringed popcorn and cranberries, colorful paper chains, nostalgic ornaments, lots of tinsel, and colored lights. The smell of pine permeates the room. I am the first to wake up. The rest of the house still slumbers. I sit in the pale light of dawn and breath in the magic of the morning, anxiously waiting for everyone else to wake up. Then, the happy chaos will begin.
That was me as a child. Now, forty-plus years later, I still remember clearly those magical Christmas mornings. With a family of my own, I’ve lived away from the place of my birth for most of my adult life. Living mainly in Asia, I don’t make it back to the States very often for Christmas.
Today, I finished packing our Christmas decorations into a red, blue, and white Hong Kong bag and stuffed it behind my daughter’s bedroom door. It officially marked the end of the holidays for another year. As soon as the bag found its new home, my mind took me back to Christmas’s past. For most of us, when January rolls around, it’s common to reflect on the past year. However, my reflections this year took me much further back.
Growing up, my mom made Christmas a time of magic for my four siblings and I. From decorating our tree with homemade or meaningful ornaments to decorating baked cookies with colorful icing and sprinkles. While my dad created the fudge, my mom made “buckeye” chocolate-peanut butter balls and more. I happily rolled around the house with a full to bursting belly.
On Christmas Eve, we piled into the wood-paneled station wagon and made our way to walk among the livestock at the living nativity set up outside the courthouse. We drove through neighborhoods looking for yards and homes lit up with Christmas lights and decorations. We were dressed in our Christmas bests, the boys in suits and the girls in festive red or green dresses. We attended late-night church services. Singing the last song, “Silent Night,” while attentively holding our lit candles was enchanting.
When Christmas morning arrived, I woke early to stare at the beautiful piles of packages, lovingly wrapped by my mom, that sat under the tree. As the day got underway, she patiently sat on the floor handing out our gifts. She wore a smile as each child took turns ripping open their presents. I remember the excitement of receiving an Easy Bake Oven and a Chatty Cathy doll. As I grew older, my gifts included psychedelic colored bell-bottom pants and mini-skirts. My mom made sure everyone received what they asked Santa for. Her beautifully handstitched Christmas stockings were saved for last. Excitedly, we unloaded the treats and small gifts that were stuffed inside.
Our Christmas turkey dinners were a feast, including my mom’s famous oyster stuffing. In the most recent years, I have missed those turkey dinners immensely. Not only the food, but the camaraderie. The remainder of Christmas day was usually quiet, or as quiet as it could be with five kids all hyped up on Christmas joy and sugar.
I not only feel nostalgic today; I also feel thankful. With five children, my mom refereed and organized the ebb and flow of the household. It was no small feat. She created home, and I am forever thankful for the underpinning of security and love that was found there. It has made me into the person I am today. All my appreciation and an abundance of love go out to my mom!
This photo was taken in May 2017 at my mom & dad’s 60th wedding anniversary celebration!
**A tiny tidbit … The red-white-blue bag (Chinese:紅白藍膠袋) or laundry bag is a carriage bag made from nylon canvas. It originated in Hong Kong in the 1960s and has become a representative of Hong Kong culture. Because the nylon canvas is known for its light, firmness and durable usage, it is commonly used as hand-carry luggage and transport between Mainland China and Hong Kong. (Wikipedia)