Monday, December 24, 2007

Waiting for Visions of Sugar Plums

Ah, Christmas Eve.
Anticipation. I remember living the waiting feelings long before I knew what the word anticipation meant.

On the night before Christmas, we would wait until darkness. At darkness, we would wait until we ate dinner. Then it was, wait until we cleaned up the kitchen and the dishes were all clean and put away.

No longer waiting for worldly things, we waited then for Dad to come home from work. Gosh, he was unpredictable to a child who wasn't talented at waiting.

hmmmm. I'm still not talented at waiting yet.

I seem to remember my younger, older brother making up games that set me walking around and around the dining room table. I sort of remember tasks that my mother devised for me that involved preparing and organizing for my dad's arrival.

When my dad came, finally!!, we would gather around the Christmas tree. The tradition would be that we opened one present from our parents and the presents from us, the children, to each other. The one from our parents was carefully chosen, especially mine. The criteria for choosing was what would keep me busy for the rest of the night.

hmmm. I wonder whether my mother actually bought something with that in mind. Knowing my mom, she did just that.

The rest of the night would be blurry . . . midnight Mass at the church, breakfast after at my cousins's house, home to bed at nearly 3 a.m. on Christmas morning. The dark house was romantic. Ah, what a memory! On tiptoe through the silence, as my mom started the turkey, I would get myself into bed.

Then the waiting began again. I would wait for the time when I could get up again. I would wait for sleep to come, wondering why it always took so long on Christmas Eve. I would wait for visions of sugar plums to dance on my head . . . but only see boring ornaments hanging from a boring tree.

I would fall asleep still waiting for sugar plums to dance on my head, still wondering what I would do if they did.

--me liz strauss, letting me be


Chris Brogan said...

We had some really solid holiday rituals growing up.

On Christmas Eve, we'd go to my Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane's house for a gourmet meal and subtle jazz music. My grandparents would give joke gifts every year, like Avon soap on a string. My uncle and aunt would have various animals, new every year, or so it'd seem. I'd never remember the dogs' names.

Then we'd go back to my grandparents' house to get ready for midnight mass, but before going over, we'd stop at Maud's across the street. Maud was a little old lady with a tiny apartment stuffed to the gills with Hummels and other knick knacks. She'd serve cheese and Ritz crackers and grapes, and Mogen David wine.

After mass, we'd go home and vibrate with an inability to fall asleep. How could parents do that to us? Let us stay up until 1AM, knowing that the big guy was coming any minute now?

We'd have our Christmas at our house, and then we'd go visiting all day long. We'd visit my Aunt Manie and Uncle Clyde for one big family cluster. We'd go out to visit the Gleasons', friends of the family, and then the Chadbournes, and then someone like Sue & Jerry Thomas. Six or seven Christmases a year is how I remember growing up.

Now? Well, most of those people are dead, or moved on, or not in the same relationship as they were.

So now, I do my best to smile for my kids and remember to be a dad full of traditions for THEM.

Thanks for the great post, Liz.

ME Strauss said...

Oh Chris,
I love your stories. I love Maud.

Yeah, I swear they kept us up like that hoping it meant we would sleep later on Christmas morning. It never worked, though, did it?

Ironically, in our family, it's been our son who has created the traditions for us.

Ron Southern said...

Merry Christmas,little mouse!

Dr.John said...

I bring no sugar plums but I have come to wish you and yours a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Ron!
Merry Christmas to you! May you always have plenty of cheese!

ME Strauss said...

Happy Christmas, Dr. John,
Your visit brings light better than sugar plums. :)

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping Liz that your Christmas was truly blessed. Much good fortune to you and yours in the coming New Year.

ME Strauss said...

Ah Easy!
I'm thinking 2008 is going to be a fabulous year for both you and me. Yep. I do. :)

bettygram said...

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

ME Strauss said...

How wonderful to see you!

Happy New Year and Blessings on your whirling world.

Trée said...

Happy New Year Liz. :-)

ME Strauss said...

Happy New Year Tree!
I love you. My leather chair is always here for you. :)

Cheryl said...

Christmas is (or was) so different in the UK - nothing on Christmas Eve but anticipation - no presents to open (nor even on display) until Santa had been, in the night.

In the UK it seems stockings at the end of the bed (not on the fireplace) replaced your Christmas Eve gift - a bundle of small things individually wrapped, to keep a child occupied until daylight if they woke at the crack of dawn - which was fairly usual!

Happy, happy New Year

ME Strauss said...

Hi Cheryl!
How wonderful it feels to see you around the old blog again. Every Christmas tradition from childood that brings us back to who wes once were, when we once were filled with wonder, is something special.

When we were all here is one of them. :)