As we approach the holiday season I often think of Christmases of my youth. I was raised by a single mom with an impulse control problem. This often resulted in the holidays starting as early as October with Christmas carols being sung around the house and stacks of holiday books being brought out. Part of this rush to the season was, back when I was a kid, it actually got colder earlier and there was the subtle cue of the seasonal shift.
While I like to think I can blame the rush to the holidays on the weather, the push really does rest with my mother. She would holiday shop early and then hide presents, for a day or two. Then she would bounce around like a little kid practically bursting with “I’ve got a secret” on the tip of her tongue. Often, by December 1st, she would be unable to contain herself and she’d offer, “Would you like to open a present?” And what kid can say no to that? Certainly not me. What I loved about these presents is they were often books. Sometimes I’d get the newest Stephen King in hardcover, or a great Judy Blume that would be reread for the whole upcoming year.
I remember one year I yearned for an ET doll that was astoundingly hard to get. My mom did manage to get one and she was so proud of herself that I came home from school on December 3rd and she practically flung him at me all the while doing a song and dance about how awesome she was. I loved the doll and still have it to this day. It was the really nice leather one that sits up by itself. The irony is I’ve never seen the movie, but I loved ET.
The real kicker of the early holiday was the year that all the Christmas shopping was done by December 15th. Our cat, Mittens, had decided to shimmy up the tree and knock it down. This pretty much made my mom think that we should just start opening presents right then and there. I was 13 and my mom was 35 and we dove into our presents like three-year-olds. We even opened our stockings. It was fun. Grand fun. Until December 25th came.
It was quite a sad little morning when we realized there was nothing to open. Mom had decided that since it was just the two of us we didn’t really need a big meal. So we had a tiny chicken and some mashed potatoes. While it was sad to have nothing to open on Christmas Day itself, we did have our books. After our quiet meal, we changed into our jammies and just read, all day. And it was bliss.