Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I was thinking the other day how differently I used to look at Christmas when I was a kid, compared to now, when I’m considered to be in my “golden” years. It’s amazing how time can change things.

For example, when I was five, I used to count the hours until Christmas. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sit still. I was completely in the Santa zone. Nothing else mattered but him. Every hour seemed like 100 years.

But now, I look at the calendar and think, “Oh, no! Only 10 days until Christmas! I haven’t even started my shopping yet! I have to bake cookies! I have to dig out the Christmas decorations and untangle 9,000 lights! I have to lose 25 lbs.! I have to buy an outfit that’s dressier than my sweatpants with a hole in the seat and my sweatshirt with no armpits! There’s not enough time!”

When I was a kid, my Christmas stocking was one of my favorite things to dig into on Christmas morning because it was bursting with candy, candy and more candy. By 6 a.m. I was guaranteed to be biting off the head of a chocolate Santa or leaving a sticky candy cane lying somewhere on the furniture.

Now, chocolate makes my gallbladder flare up and peppermint gives me heartburn.

When I was young, I was up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. Last Christmas, I was so exhausted, I slept until 3 in the afternoon and then stayed in my pajamas all day. Unfortunately, I’d promised my husband a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. By the time I got around to cooking everything, it was time to go back to bed.

At least I was already in my pajamas.

Christmas shopping also was fun when I was a kid. My dad and I would head to downtown Manchester and buy gifts for my mom. Elm Street was strung with thousands of beautiful colored lights, and there were Santas on every corner. After we were done shopping, we’d always stop at Verani’s restaurant for hot chocolate (with extra whipped cream) and I’d play a few songs on the jukebox. I really looked forward to it every year.

Now, I sit in front of the computer and order gifts while staring at my half-dead poinsettia.

Wrapping all of the gifts my dad and I bought was fun, too. I would make gift tags out of construction paper and then paint them and put glitter on them. I’d carefully wrap every gift and make certain all of the corners were neat and flat. And I always had a big bag of bows handy so I could match the color of the bow to the color of the wrapping paper.

Now, I usually cut the paper too short or really crooked, but slap it on the gifts anyway, or I just forget about the paper and stuff the gifts into a gift bag with a wad of tissue paper on top. I haven’t bought a bow since Nixon was president.

One of my very favorite Christmas events when I was a kid was my family’s Christmas Eve tradition of taking a ride to look at all of the Christmas lights. We would ride all over town for hours, “oohing” and “aahing” at the colorful displays.

The last time I managed to convince my husband to take me out to see the lights, he drove about three miles and then said, “Seen enough yet? I’m missing my evening nap!”

And then there was the Christmas tree. My mom and I would go pick it out, then Dad would come home from work and set it up and we’d spend the night decorating it. I loved hanging all of the beautiful ornaments and tinsel. I also loved the smell of a freshly cut tree. It gave the house that true Christmassy scent.

Now, I think of a live Christmas tree as a needle-shedding fire hazard that costs way too much for something that’s going to be brown and bald in a week. And a couple years ago, I found my box of Christmas ornaments buried underneath 100 pounds of junk out in the storage shed, which had reduced them to a pile of glass rubble. I still haven’t gotten around to replacing any of them.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls, so my Christmas wish-list was always filled with Barbies and all of the clothing and accessories for them.

Now, 50 years later, my Christmas wish-list is filled with…Barbie dolls and all of the clothing and accessories for them.

It’s nice to know that at least some things never change.