Growing up, Christmas was a magical time for me, but not in the sense that you might think. It was simple by today’s standards. My mom and dad fought a lot, and this was one time out of every year that my dad tried to be on his best behavior. We always went over to my Memaw’s for a big Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and Daddy knew how to play the part. No more ranting(at least not every day of the week like usual), staying out late, and never taking time with us as a family. Yes, he might still occasionally sleep all day from a cocaine binge, but my brother and I found ways to ignore him. I mean, after all it WAS Christmas and Santa was coming!
My mom would go up in the attic and bring down a huge box of assorted ornaments she’d collected throughout the years and let my brother and I help decorate the tree. My two favorites were an old glamour Barbie doll in a pink dress. She was sophisticated, unlike the Barbie’s you see today. My other favorite was a small house with blue shutters that had a light inside that lit up the windows when it was turned on. Even if my dad didn’t come around much the next few days or weeks, I could look at that beautiful tree, its pine fragrance filling the living room, and everything was alright. The living room wasn’t quite so drab anymore or empty. Before I go any further, I guess I should tell you that my dad wouldn’t let my mom paint any walls, so everything was dull beige. At Christmas time, Mama would put several candles in the window that had red bulbs in them. Next, was the beautiful doll with a red coat trimmed in white fur. She held a candle that moved back and forth. Her eyes seemed to dance when I looked at her, and I was always mesmerized by her.
For me, Christmas didn’t mean spending lots of money on gifts. (We always had more than enough thanks to generous family members.) It meant cherishing the time with the people who love you the most. Every year, we would always make cookies for Santa with Mama and go look at Christmas lights through the neighborhood. Through those Christmases, even though it hurt me deeply not to have my dad’s involvement and knowing he didn’t possibly pick out the gifts we got because he didn’t spend enough time with us to know what we wanted or even liked, I learned you have to surround yourself with people and things who make you smile. Life is too short to let anyone steal your happiness, and I’m sure mine and my brother’s excited squeals on Christmas morning waiting to find out what Santa had brought us, moved something deep inside my Daddy even if he didn’t want to admit it. He might not have gotten all excited watching us open our gifts, but when we went outside to play with our big toys: A Barbie convertible and yellow Jeep saying “Look, Daddy!” as we whizzed around the yard, I could see a faint smile on his face. That confirmed that Christmas was indeed magical because, if only for a moment, a man hardened by pain and loss, was able to experience joy like none other: the joy of a child.
Image Credit © Tammy Sanders